Know Your History – 22nd October – Lord Alfred Bruce Douglas born

know your history - writingOn this day… 22nd October 1870 – Lord Alfred Bruce Douglas born

Lord Alfred Bruce Douglas (22 October 1870 – 20 March 1945), nicknamed Bosie, was an English author, poet and translator, better known as the friend and lover of writer Oscar Wilde. Much of his early poetry was Uranian in theme, though he tended, later in life, to distance himself from both Wilde’s influence and his own role as a Uranian poet.

On Writing

Douglas published several volumes of poetry; two books about his relationship with Wilde, Oscar Wilde and Myself (1914; largely ghostwritten by T. W. H. Crosland, the assistant editor of The Academy and later repudiated by Douglas), Oscar Wilde: A Summing Up (1940); and a memoir, The Autobiography of Lord Alfred Douglas (1931).Alfred Bruce Douglas

Douglas also was the editor of a literary journal, The Academy, from 1907 to 1910, and during this time he had an affair with artist Romaine Brooks, who was also bisexual (the main love of her life, Natalie Clifford Barney, also had an affair with Wilde’s niece Dorothy and even, in 1901, with Douglas’ future wife Olive Custance, the year before the couple married).

Did You Know?..

Douglas was found guilty of libelling Winston Churchill and was sentenced to six months in prison.

Churchill had been accused as cabinet minister, of falsifying an official report on the Battle of Jutland in 1916 when, although suffering losses, the Royal Navy drove the German battle fleet off the high seas. Churchill was said to have reported that the British navy had in fact, been defeated; the motive was supposed to be that when this news was flashed, the prices of British securities would tumble on the world’s stock exchanges, allowing a group of named Jewish financiers to snap them up cheaply. Churchill’s reward was a houseful of furniture, valued at £40,000. The allegations were made by Douglas in his journal Plain English and later at a public meeting in London.

Know Your History – 25th May – Oscar Wilde sent to prison

know your history - writing

On this day… 25th May, 1895 – Oscar Wilde sent to prison for indecency

 Just a few days after the victory in Ireland, today’s literature history fact highlights the antiquated views that are now being overcome.

Playwright Oscar Wilde is taken to Reading Gaol in London after being convicted of sodomy. The famed writer of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest brought attention to his private life in a feud with Sir John Sholto Douglas, whose son was intimately involved with Wilde.

Homosexuality was a criminal offense and serious societal taboo at this time in Britain. Wilde had gone back and forth oscar wilde quotebetween hiding his sexual orientation and attempting to gain some measure of public acceptance. After Douglas, a furious homophobe, began spouting his objections to Wilde’s behavior to the public, Wilde felt compelled to sue him for libel.

In his defence, Douglas argued that Wilde had solicited 12 boys to commit sodomy between 1892 and 1894. On the third day of the proceedings, Wilde’s lawyer withdrew the suit, since there was abundant evidence of his client’s guilt. After that, the Crown issued a warrant for Wilde’s arrest on indecency charges. Rather than flee to France, Wilde decided to remain and stand trial. At a preliminary bail hearing, chambermaids testified that they had seen young men in Wilde’s bed and a hotel housekeeper stated that there were stains on his bed sheets.

After more trials he was convicted and imprisoned, the judge remarked at his sentencing, “It is the worst case I have ever tried. I shall pass the severest sentence that the law allows. In my judgment it is totally inadequate for such a case as this. The sentence of the Court is that you be imprisoned and kept to hard labour for two years.”

Wilde served his two years and then spent the last three years of his life in exile. He died at the age of 45 and was buried in Paris.