Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Oscar Wilde's jail time

One of my favorite classics that I read in my youth is Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. The idea of your sins being collected in a portrait of you while you walked around guilt-free is a fascinating one. Wilde saw one's public and private personae to be two very different things. The more I hear about his private life, the more I understand the book. I must reread it soon. Its been a couple of decades at least.

I knew he went to jail for sodomy and suffered a great deal while his lover, a wealthy guy with connections, Lord Alfred Douglas, stayed free. I just watched the film Wilde and it showed the details of the situation. I have been checking the details of the film with information on the net and it seems to be quite accurate so far.

First thing I learn is that Oscar was Irish, born in Dublin, not British. He first moved to English after getting a scholarship to Oxford. I thought he died in jail in England, but he only went to jail for two years (of hard labor) in 1895. When he got out of jail, he went into self-exile in France and died in Paris three years later of meningitis. He lived in Paris under the assumed name of Sebastian Melmoth.

The law he was convicted of gross indecency under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. His young lover's father, John Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry, hired several detective to follow him around London and documenting his activities. That was enough to convict him.

Stories like these remind you that progress really has been made.

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