March 1, 2012
She was shortly named Jeanne Louise Armande Élisabeth Sophie Septimaniede Vignerot du Plessis (1740 – 1773), the interesting offspring of the age’s most notorious womanizer, duke de Richelieu, with an equivalently devoted wife, Élisabeth Sophie de Lorraine, and he was a Northern God, Gustav III, King of Sweden, Grand Prince of Finland, heir to Norway bla bla.
She was born in Languedoc county and sent to the Benedictines for a conventional education, marrying the elderly Don Casimir Pignatelli, Count of d’Egmont (loutish, plump, clumsy, the best match ever) when barely turning 15, as the 18th century fashion dictated.
He had troubles with a sort-of Oedipus complex/ annoyingly shy consort, half-English Sophia Magdalena and the embarrassing rumors about his vacillating sexuality all his woman intimates spread around from quite trivial reasons, which, summing up, wouldn’t have harmed his public image if it weren’t for the two sons, Crown Prince Adolf (1778–1837), and Prince Carl, Duke of Småland (1782 – 1783) many proclaimed the King couldn’t have fathered due to his “anatomical problems” that, in the court twisted language, meant homosexuality.
She, as most bored and sexually frustrated girls in her age (thanks to their hubby’s impotence), used the only appreciated thing her spouse possessed, money, obviously, to became a famous salonist, gathering notable voices like that of Enlightenment writer Voltaire or the Romantic Jean-Jaques Rousseau in the privacy of her Paris Hotel. Unable to cheat physically, Jeanne Sophie committed all the impieties of adultery through long colloquies with these brilliant men who, like her, condemned Louis XV’s weakness for the vulgar Madame du Barry. Not beautiful or gripping in the carnal way that incites poets to prize woman’s “virtue” but certainly charming and seasoned with a witty mind, she was pretty appreciated at Versailles, where the Swedish painter Alexander Roslin first laid eyes on her, the result being a crafty work of art, her 1763 portrait in an ivory gown mixing elements of the previous dressing style (the pearl netting) with the modern, Marie Antoinette-ish one, and a dog at her side, symbolizing marital fidelity (a trait inherited from her mother).
And Roslin wasn’t the only Swed in her varied entourage: it was through ambassador U. Scheffer, her dear friend, Jeanne Sophie came to know Gustav III during his visit to Paris, in 1771, a meeting that connected the two so powerfully they continued corresponding long after he returned to Stockholm, exchanging political views and common ideologies, the platonic relationship she had always yearned to have if we judged by her fondly calling him “the hero of my heart”.
She encouraged Gustav to “repress the strife of the raging parties”, advocating a “monarchy restrained by laws” and gladly welcomed his 1772 coup d’état as it skilfully avoided bloodshed.
Her great influence on him makes us wonder pensively whether our King, engaged in profound personal connections with courtiers Count Axel von Fersen (the guillotined queen’s alleged lizard) and Baron Gustav Armfelt, was genuinely attracted to masculine grace or romantically involved with the Countess. One can never be sure when it comes to palace rumors in th1 1700s.
My romantic propensities, though, tend to imagine a lovely affair between the two parties at a certain point, especially because, let’s face it, vice imbued that epoch and it was near to impossible for a sane high-class lady to remain chaste and exemplary among so colorful delights.
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.
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.”
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 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.
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?
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:
“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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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…
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?