the Yummy Boy who Ruined Oscar Wilde

February 1, 2012

Few days ago, watching a remarkably accurate Oscar Wilde biographical film (inventively entitled “Wilde”, if you wondered) , I developed yet another spontaneous and futile crush on a man who’s been well dead for the past 67 years. And to those of you who’ll imply that my heart throbs just because this character’s played by popularly considered hot Jude Law, hide your heads in the sand like the ostrich does for you are embarrassingly wrong.

Jude Law as Bosie

Superficially judging by appearance or sex-appeal, I find the actor (no offense to his fans) less attractive than the historic original. Eyes deeper, hair fairer (though his photos are mostly monochrome…), more enigmatic, fascinating and playful, not to say incredibly talented, the old he’s-better-due-to-my-infatuation story. An ivory Dorian Gray brought to life from the pages of his lover’s novel (I did some accidental alliteration here…), whom Wilde himself described “quite like a narcissus – so white and gold… he lies like a hyacinth on the sofa and I worship him.”

Bosie

But let’s not be shallow and reduce the poor boy at his mere looks (certainly not inconsequential themselves). He has a name and a dynamism increasingly adding to the mottles of his charisma which he anyway had galore by my humble opinion: say hello to poet/author/ translator/ spoiled Brit aristocrat Lord Alfred Douglas, suggestively nicknamed Bosie.

Born at Ham Hill House, in picturesque Worcestershire, as the third son of  John Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry, and wife Sybil (née Montgomery), on a fine 22 October, 1870, Alfred experienced a rather unconventional childhood in the gloomy atmosphere of the Douglas house which seemed to have had a real propensity for dubious deaths, suicides, manias and unfortunate career decisions nicely illustrated by the profiles of his uncle James, Archibald or Francis.

Despite being Sybil’s favorite offspring, the one she fondly called Bosie (note, meaningful and also fitted derivation of Boysie), he never had a proper relationship with his rigid father whose interests in boxing and sports were polar opposites to Alfred’s bohemian personality. This would lead to many inconveniences later in their lives, much regretted by both parties.

Bosie

Bosie received a traditional education at Winchester College between 1884 and 1888, continued by the typical Oxford Magdalen College he attended for another 4 years period and left before obtaining a degree, which was obviously an extra causeto his increasing conflicts with the Marquess. On top of that, it was in this time young Bosie, escaping the rigorous parental supervision, unleashed his predilections for same-sex partners, engaging in promiscuous adventures with the luring creatures of vice, or the homosexuals as we presently label them. Subsequent poems will make allusions at the all boys schools and their underground happenings of less innocent nature. Bet the old John Douglas was fuming at that too and, frankly, I don’t even know why they kept sending their heirs to those ‘corruption” nests.

Bosie

Odd common sense to let your son mingle with dodgy rental boys yet scold  him for the stable love of Oscar Wilde, which occurred in 1891, while the latter was happily married and father of two, don’t you think? I mean, would you lend your kid money to pay male prostitutes for evidently doing things you condemn yet call him “miserable”, “crazy” or “demented” if he dares to involve in romantic love?! I understand he lost his future successor, Lord Francis, who had had a dangerous liaison with Prime Minister Lord Rosebery, and planned a brighter destiny for Alfred, still,  bipolar much?

No wonder Bosie (whose nickname means “a cricket ball bowled as if to break one way, actually breaking in the opposite side”)  was distinctly temperamental- the family trait!

And that’s an actual plus on my list of why I like him so much: his flaws were perfectly explainable through the psychological pressure constantly put on him by Lord John, rising juicy contrasts between Bosie’s lewd image and genuine sensibility, passionate adoration and cruelty, gentleness and outbursts which stressed his forced duality. Don’t you believe it’s both sweet and sexy to watch his interiorised frustration projected in such variable sins?

Bosie and Oscar

Yes, he was definitely a jerk; yes, he perverted morally sane Oscar Wilde with uncountable orgies in the shabby male brothels of London, sexual promiscuity which was to enhance their love, he claimed; yes, he wasted large sums on noxious gambling and fought everyone who rightly dared criticizing it; yes, he was the ultimate ass (with a presumably pretty ass) when, after falling ill with influenza and being nursed back to health by faithful Oscar, refused to return the favor, making a scene and moving to another Hotel instead (on Wilde’s 40th birthday, he sent him the bill…) . He took advantage of Oscar, who wrote that “I cannot see you, so Greek and gracious, distorted with passion. I cannot listen to your curved lips saying hideous things to me. You are the divine thing I want, the thing of grace and beauty!”. He even cheated, as these letters, sent to Maurice Schwabe, in 1893, confess:

letter of bosie

“I went to the Savoy Hotel with Oscar for two nights; and I was sentimental enough to go down to the old room 123 next to the restaurant where we used to sleep together.My darling pretty boy, I do love you so much & miss you every minute… I really love you far more than any other boy in the world, & shall always be your loving boy-wife, or your ‘little bitch’ if you prefer it.” (notice the bawdy teasing tone? in translation gives “I’m fully dedicated to you but, sorry, I screw another!” Freud would have had a sheer delight in analyzing the mental complexes revealed by these words…)

“Goodbye now my dear darling beautiful Maurice; I send you all my love and millions of kisses all over your beautiful body. I am your loving boy-wife, Bosie.” (again the “boy-wife” supplement- what a shrew!)

So YES, he was heartless sometimes and lead to Wilde’s downfall. You have all reasons to detest him! Isn’t it riveting?!

bosie and oscar

Bosie incorporated the colors which inspire writers with their torrid power and those who soothe them with their flimsiness: contrastive, capricious, delectable, of an ephemeral handsomeness that disarmed true aesthetes, like Oscar, who felt his “only hope of again doing beautiful work in art is being with” him. Begin to see why Bosie caught my attention?

In 18945, Wilde, harassed by the insistent Marquess and badly influenced by the avid Alfred, sued Lord John for an offensive card which accused him of sodomy (or buggery, in old-fashioned Victorian slang) . The following trials had a disastrous conclusion, sentencing Oscar with 2 years of incarceration.

the card

Again, you can blame Bosie for manipulating his lover into doing what he wanted, but considering the despicable things his father wrote (that he divorced Sybil not to “run the risk of bringing more creatures into the world like yourself”; “I cried over you the bitterest tears a man ever shed” at Alfred’s birth). Indeed, he was no angel, yet had he deserved such degrading words? An object of stimulation, like him? No wonder Bosie had replied with an “I detest you” line and persuaded Oscar to apply the charges which ruined both their lives.

Bosie and Oscar

Coming back to the main story, Wilde got 2 years of prison, plague to his existence. Bosie met him once more, for a brief period in Naples (1897), but definitively broke up as they had no support (financially…).

At Oscar’s funeral, in 1900, he fiercely disputed the role of the chief mourner with the writer’s former love, jealous Robert Ross. Keep this in mind.

On March, 1902, our Bosie married rich poet Olive Eleanor Constance, of 28, and their only son, Raymond Wilfred Sholto Douglas ( 1902-1964), obeying the family tradition, was diagnosed a schizo, rotting between the white walls of Saint Andrew’s mental hospital. Poor guy!

At this point, we don’t have records to attest why, Bosie concluded that he scorns Wilde, thus beginning to lead an ironically homophobic campaign of discrediting his persona. He refused,no, denied the association of their names in whatever situation and erased himself from any biography dedicated to the infamous writer. This from the man who insisted to be the chief mourner…

However, Providence successfully found its way to make them even and, in 1923, Alfred won his own ticket to prison by doing bad chinwag about Winston Churchill being-part-of-a-Jewish-conspiracy crap. Practically, the ordeal shook his sleeping conscience and Bosie remembered… he was the one who wanted to be the chief mourner! Oh, the dichotomy, the dichotomy!

bosie and his brother

He turned 180 degrees, converted to Roman Catholicism, as Wilde did, fortified his “most unlikely friendship” with Bernard Shaw and slowly subsided into oblivion, as his beauty began to perish.

At 78, he died of congestive heart failure, leaving a heritage of many poems, non-fictions and even a memoir which revolved around Oscar.

auobiography of lord alfred douglas

Lover of men, lover of women, lover of art, is it a marvel that “those red-roseleaf lips of” his “should be made no less for the madness of music and song than for the madness of kissing”?

I’m madly bewitched by Bosie’s counterpoints; I fantasize about his thoughts, the tone of his voice according to the circumstances, the softness of his ivory skin, his source of cleverness and ingenuity.

While I was watching the movie (download it, really- it worth the two hours it’ll consume from your free time) , I leaped of excitement whenever Jude Law/Bosie screamed or shouted, as girls nowadays do whenever Edward Cullen gaily sparkles.  I even managed to fit in a “well, nobody’s perfect” line at his melodramatic “oh, Oscar, I was the bad influence on you!” jail scene…

Jail scene

Anyway, what do you think now you’ve heard the full version of Bosie’s life? Is he as dislikable as he sounded in the beginning?

You answer.

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12 Responses to “the Yummy Boy who Ruined Oscar Wilde”

  1. Alice Buican Says:

    the art of manipulation is as old as the Earth…


  2. Thank you for this view of a tortured love affair. Poor Oscar!

  3. bennythomas Says:

    Among those who have come under the magic spell of Oscar Wilde, I consider myself one and I still find his talent extraordinary. He put his genius into his life, by his own admission.
    Only that he lived at a wrong time and living among the hypocritical and feasting with the panthers he paid the price but his ‘talent’ proves more enduring than time and society which cannot get at him now. But what of Bosie? he was petulant rich and wasted his talent. Only glory he has left is that twisted connection with Wilde. Thanks for bringing it all back.

  4. Claudia Says:

    Very interesting article. I like your point of view.. I guess the true feelings of Alfred Douglas will remain undiscovered.. Though he had no reason to control Oscar Wilde like that,only to fulfill the purpose of getting even with his brutal father..
    And great blog,by the way! I’ll stick to it.

  5. what's in a name? Says:

    you mean ‘intend’, the verb, right?


  6. […] I’ve previously expressed in my post about Oscar Wilde’s splendid lover, bawdy poet Bossie Douglas, my yet again developing a fascination for a historical pretty boy should not imply any trace of […]

  7. Frannie Says:

    Bosie turned against Wilde because he discovered Wilde wrote De Prefundis, where Oscar pretty much called him a crazy bitch. Wilde wrote this while being angry and mad in prison, and repudiated it pretty much as soon as he got out. However, he instructed Robbie Ross to send the original to Bosie. here is a dispute to whether Robbie actually sent it (Robbie said he sent a copy and Osie told him he burned it without reading; Bosie said he never got a copy).

    Nonetheless, Bosie pretty much heard the entire angry “Dear Bosie” letter for the first time IN COURT, where it was offered as evidence against his character. He fainted. Then it was published partially in newspapers nationwide. He waged a campaign to ban personal parts of De Prefundis from publishing.

    After that, it was all out war between Bosie and the ghost of Oscar Wilde (and Robbie Ross). He converted to Catholicism too. Only after he went to prison himself, he realized prison can make people do angry things, and let go of his feeling of betrayal. He then spent rest of his life defending Wilde.

    (All this is from Wikipedia)

    PS: he actually was supportive during Wilde’s trials, as was his brother Percy (who was arrested after fighting with crazy Daddy over this whole thing).

  8. wendy Says:

    You should read De Profundis and you wouldn’t have wished this bitch on your worst enemy.

  9. dieselestate Says:

    I find it difficult to understand why anyone would empathise with Douglas Jr. Simply a wicked, nasty, narcissistic fop. I’ve too much respect for Oscar Wilde, who didn’t deserve the treatment meted out to him by that twit. No offence to you though, because you’ve written it very well.


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