Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

THE TRIALS OF OSCAR WILDE

Oscar and Bosie

A younger Lord Alfred Douglas
A younger Lord Alfred
Douglas

Oscar and Bosie, as his friends called Lord Alfred Douglas, met in Chelsea when Bosie was 22 and Wilde 15 years his elder. Oscar immediately became enamored with Bosie who was thrilled that such a literary genius was interested in him.

Bosie referred to Wilde as "the most chivalrous friend in the world" and was willing to forsake his birthright for the friendship. They exchanged letters, with some of Wilde's containing what could be interpreted as expressions of passionate love.

"It is a marvel that those red-roseleaf lips of yours should be made no less for the madness of music and song than for the madness of kissing," Wilde wrote to Lord Alfred in 1893. "Your slim gilt soul walks between passion and poetry."

Bosie was flagrantly and openly homosexual, a spendthrift and gambler, according to Wilde's biographer, Richard Ellman. He was a dropout at Oxford, a ne'er-do-well who was as loose with his morals as he was with his purse. He had his family's temper, which flared when he didn't get his way.

Bosie knew of Wilde's affection for him early on and succeeded in using it to his advantage. He relied on Wilde's money when his own ran out and would pout and threaten self-injury when Wilde complained of his behavior or criticized his literary skills. For the length of their relationship, Lord Alfred used Oscar's love for him as a means to get what he wanted. In the end, Wilde sacrificed himself to protect Lord Alfred, who remained a loyal, yet manipulative, friend.

For Wilde, who was much more low-key about his sexuality, it was a love-hate relationship, almost akin to the moth and flame. He lusted for Lord Alfred, but knew that Bosie would only hurt him. His head told him the cost of Bosie's love was too expensive, his heart considered it a bargain.

"Wilde wanted a consuming passion," Ellman wrote. "He got it and was consumed by it."

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