herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

I see that Oscar Wilde's lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, is coming into the picture again.

I see that Oscar Wilde's lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, is coming into the picture again.

Professor Stoneley of Reading University has unearthed new material in the archives at the Berkshire Record Office.

It was mainly because of Alfred Douglas's betrayal that Wilde had served his sentence in Reading jail in 1901. Wilde had fallen for him when he met him as a student while visiting his old college.

Douglas had a lot of things going for him. He was three-mile champion of Oxford, a good poet, a master of the sonnet and regarded as one of the best-looking men in England.

Yes indeed, his father the Marquess of Queensbury was the man who invented the rules of boxing. But Alfred had a hysterical temperament, and although he lived to be 74, and was recognised as a poet, he never really got over his betrayal of Oscar.

After Wilde's death Douglas lived out his life in a sort of a perpetual fury, embroiled in libel actions and bemoaning his lack of recognition as a poet. The climax came when Yeats failed to include any of his poems in the Oxford Book of Modern Verse (1936) and received a telegram from the indignant Alfred.

Absurd

"Your omission of my work from the absurdly named Oxford Book of Modern Verse is exactly typical of the attitude of the minor to the major poet; Shoneen Irish would be a more correct name for your book."

The sad thing is that 'Bosie' (the nickname Oscar had given him) was indeed a fine poet. His poems were included in anthologies compiled in the 1930s alongside the best in the language. A magnificent poem written about Oscar shortly after his death probably conveys his true feelings about Oscar.

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