Tomorrow is the anniversary of Oscar Wilde’s death. I visited his grave in 2014. Below is an extract from ‘De Profundis’ written after his release from jail.
“All trials are trials for one’s life, just as all sentences are sentences of death, and three times I have been tried. The first time I left the box to be arrested, the second time to be led back to the house of detention, and the third time to pass into prison for two years. Society as we have constituted it, will have no place for me, has none to offer; but Nature, whose sweet rains fall on just and unjust alike, will have clefts in the rocks where I may hide, and secret valleys in whose silence I may weep undisturbed. She will hang with stars so that I may walk abroad in the darkness without stumbling, and send the wind over my footprints so that none may track me to my hurt: she will cleanse me in great waters, and with bitter herbs make me whole.”
[Oscar Wilde, De Profundis]
Before everyone gets all mushy and teary eyed, out of fairness to his ‘panthers’ (rent boys in plain English) I’ll also post here a transcript of the testimony of just one, Charles Parker. As for Taylor, he procured boys for the social elite.
Charles Parker was examined by Mr. C. F. Gill
Parker–I am 21 years of age. I have a brother, William. I have been engaged as a valet and my brother as a groom. At the beginning of 1893 I was out of employment. I remember one day at that time being with my brother at the St. James’s Restaurant, in the bar. While there Taylor came up and spoke to us. He was an entire stranger. He passed the compliments of the day, and asked us to have a drink. We got into conversation with him. He spoke about men.
Gill–In what way?
P–He called attention to the prostitutes who frequent Piccadilly Circus and remarked, “I can’ t understand sensible men wasting their money on painted trash like that. Many do though. But there are a few who know better. Now, you could get money in a certain way easily enough if you cared to.” I understood to what Taylor alluded and made a coarse reply.
G–I am obliged to ask you what it was you actually said?
P–I do not like to say.
G–You were less squeamish at the time, I dare say. I ask you for the words?
P–I said that if any old gentleman with money took a fancy to me, I was agreeable. I was agreeable. I was terribly hard up.
G–What did Taylor say?
P–He laughed and said that men far cleverer, richer and better than I preferred things of that kind. After giving Taylor our address we parted.
G–Did Taylor mention the prisoner Wilde?
P–Not at that time.
G–Where did you first meet Wilde?
P–Taylor asked us to visit him next day at Little College Street. We went the next morning. He said he could introduce us to ‘ a man who was good for plenty of money, and that. we were to meet him at the St. James’s bar. We went the next evening to the St. James’s and saw Taylor there. He took us to a restaurant in Rupert Street. I think it was the Solferino. We were shown upstairs to a private room, in which there was a dinner table laid for four. After a while Wilde came in and I was formally introduced. I had never seen him before, but I had heard of him. We dined about eight o’clock. We all four sat down to dinner, Wilde sitting on my left.
G–Who made the fourth?
P–My brother, William Parker. I had promised Taylor that he should accompany me.
G–Was the dinner a good dinner?
P–Yes. The table was lighted with red-shaded candles. We had plenty of champagne with our dinner and brandy and coffee afterwards. We all partook of it. Wilde paid for the dinner.
G–Of what nature was the conversation?
P–General, at first. Nothing was then said as to the purposes for which we had come together.
P–Subsequently Wilde said to me. “This is the boy for me! Will you go to the Savoy Hotel with me?” I consented, and Wilde drove me in a cab to the hotel. Only he and I went, leaving my brother and Taylor behind. At the Savoy we went first to Wilde’s sitting room on the second floor.
G–More drink was offered you there?
P–Yes, we had liqueurs. Wilde then asked me to go into his bedroom with him.
Let us know what occurred there?–He committed the act of sodomy upon me.
G–With your consent? [Parker did not reply.]
Did Wilde give you any money on that occasion?
P–Before I left Wilde gave me £2, telling me to call at the Savoy Hotel in a week. I went there about a week afterwards at eleven o’clock at night. We had supper, with champagne. Wilde on that occasion committed the same acts as on the first occasion. I stayed about two hours. When I left, Wilde gave me £3. I remember subsequently going with my brother to 13 Little College Street. We slept there with Taylor. Taylor told us on that occasion that he had gone through a form of marriage with a youth named Mason.
G–Did he say who acted as the woman?
P–Yes; he said he did; that he was in woman’s dress, and that they had a wedding breakfast. . . I stayed with Taylor at Chapel Street for about a fortnight. Wilde used to call there, and the same thing occurred as at the Savoy. I had for a fortnight or three weeks a room at 50 Park Walk, Chelsea. At the time I was living at Park Walk, Wilde visited me there. I was asked by Wilde to imagine that I was a woman and that he was my lover. I had to keep up this illusion. I used to sit on his knees and he used to [censored]. . . as a man might amuse himself with a girl. Wilde insisted on this filthy make-believe being kept up. Wilde visited me at Park Walk one night between half-past eleven or twelve. He came in a cab, and drove away after staying about a quarter of an hour. Wilde kept his cab standing outside. In consequence of this incident my landlady gave me notice to leave and I left.
G–Apart from money, did Wilde give you any presents?
P–Yes, he gave me a silver cigarette case and a gold ring. I don’t suppose boys are different to girls in acquiring presents from them who are fond of them.
G–You pawned the cigarette case and the ring?
G–Where else did you visit Wilde?
P–I visited Wilde at his rooms in St. James’s Place. Taylor gave me the address. Wilde had a bedroom and a sitting room opening into each other. I have been there in the morning and to tea in the afternoon. [Parker described a sexual act which he said took place with Wilde on one of these occasions.]
G–Where else have you been with Wilde?
P–To Kettner’s Restaurant.
G–What happened there?
P–We dined there. We always had a lot of wine. Wilde would talk of poetry and art during dinner, and of the old Roman days.
G–On one occasion you proceeded from Kettner’s, to Wilde’s house?
P–Yes. We went to Tite Street. It was very late at night. Wilde let himself and me in with a latchkey. I remained the night, sleeping with the prisoner, and he himself let me out in the early morning before anyone was about.
G–Where else have you visited this man?
P–At the Albemarle Hotel. The same thing happened there.
G–Where did your last interview take place?
P–I last saw Wilde in Trafalgar Square about nine months ago. He was in a hansom and saw me. He alighted from the hansom and spoke to me.
G–What did he say?
P–He asked me how I was and said, “Well, you are. looking as pretty as ever.” He did not ask me to go anywhere with him then.
G–During the period of your acquaintance with Wilde did you frequently see Taylor?
G–Who else did you meet at Little College Street?
P–Atkins, Wood, and Scarfe, amongst others.
G–Did you continue your acquaintance with Taylor until a certain incident occurred last August? You were arrested in the course of a police raid on a certain house in Fitzroy Street?
G–Orgies of the most disgraceful kind used to happen there?
Mr. Grain (attorney for Taylor)–My lord, I must protest against the introduction of matter extraneous to the indictment. Surely I have enough to answer.
Mr. Gill–I wish to show that Parker ceased his acquaintance with Taylor after that incident…
When did you cease your association with Taylor?
P–In August, 1894. I went away into the country and took up another occupation.
Mr. Justice Charles–What was the occupation?
P–I enlisted. While I was with my regiment I was seen by Lord Queensberry’s solicitor, and he took down a statement from me.
G–Until you became acquainted with Taylor had you ever been mixed up with men in the commission of indecent acts?
Note how Piccadilly Circus boys (‘Dilly boys’) are described by Taylor the pimp as ‘painted trash’. That really gets up my nose. Many were in Oscar’s time and up until the place was mostly cleaned up, much younger than witness Charles Parker. Chatting with other boys when I was there in 1972, mention was often made of boys who went missing never to be seen again or, turned up dead. Fourteen-year-old Jason Swift as just one example was murdered in 1985. His body was found dumped in a field outside of London.
There are times when relationships between adult and teenager males are consensual, I’ve known myself many instances where that was the case and so believe that as a society we need to have a debate about the best way to accommodate the sexual rights of teenagers whilst at the same time providing a structure that protects them from abuse and exploitation. As one suggestion, get rid of ‘mandatory sentencing’ – increased punishment never decreased crime anyway – and give judges the ability to assess relationships on a case by case basis and, find if the case, that there is no abuse.
Not all boys at the Dilly were beaten black and blue in bad homes and had to flee. Many had good homes, Jason would send postcards to his Mum to let here know he was OK, but left because basically and calling a spade a spade, they were (and are) horny boys prepared to take huge risks to find what their bodies demand and often they want more than the ‘show me yours and I’ll show you mine and – wow! – let’s play sword fight’ little boy thing behind the garden shed. That’s where the danger often is, the prospect of having sex with experienced men, the idea of making porn with men and/or other boys can be very tempting especially if there is also money on offer but, few think of the other possibilities including, it’s not the fun they thought it would be and there’s gang rape, savage BDSM and even starring in a snuff movie.