Tag Archives: wilde

More on sex and Wilde trials.

That’s called ‘click bait’,

Getting a bit distracted with the trial of Oscar Wilde or is it procrastination but the deeper I dig into Wilde’s trial the more I find it has relevance today. In the context of the MeToo thingy in which a man’s life can be destroyed with a single and unsubstantiated allegation of having placed his hand in the wrong place, what would Wilde be charged with today? Reading the transcripts I would say multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault.
The other thing, and as I said before, that gets up my nose is the contempt Oscar, and his social peers had for his rent boy
s if indeed it was they he was referring to when he wrote,

I grew careless of the lives of others. I took pleasure where it pleased me, and passed on.

Most people believe Oscar was tried on account of his relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas, ‘Bosie’ and placing the blame of Alfred’s father the Marquis of Queensberry. What many don’t know is that Alfred had an older brother – I could look up the details but don’t have time right now – who was the boyfriend of a government minister and was killed in a ‘hunting accident’ when that minister became prime minister. Queensberry was terrified a second son of his would suffer the same fate and understandably must have hated these gentlemen who believed they could get away with anything. He was not the insane homophobe many today like to believe he was, but rather a father prepared to go to any length to protect his son. Today nothing much has changed with regard to protecting the rich and powerful from allegations of underage sex, a year-long Met police inquiry into male prostitution in London in the eighties was mysteriously called off with one phone call from somewhere above.

I can understand Oscar’s feelings and insatiable desire for beauty and how those feelings were intertwined with his art and to the point where you cannot have one without the other. Proof of that is he was unable to complete any work during the three years he lived in Paris. He had projects, but they all stalled a long way from completion. As Thomas Mann wrote in “Death in Venice” on the subject of what inspires great art,

Never had he felt the joy of the word more sweetly, never had he known so clearly that Eros dwells in language, as during those perilously precious hours in which, seated at his rough table under the awning, in full view of his idol and with the music of his voice in his ears, he shaped upon Tadzio’s beauty his brief essay – that page and a half of exquisite prose which with its limpid nobility and vibrant controlled passion was soon to win the admiration of many”.

Mann continues – for those who still don’t ‘get it’ I imagine,

It is well that the world knows only a fine piece of work and not also its origins, the conditions under which it came into being; for knowledge of the sources of an artist’s inspiration would often confuse readers and shock them, and the excellence of the writing would be of no avail”.

The ‘sources of an artist’s inspiration referred to by Mann is of course and again the ‘beautiful boy’ combined with the artist’s desire for closeness with what he sees as an uncompromising expression of beauty. Aschenbach, Mann’s hero, dies on the beach in sight of the beautiful Tadzio, Michael Angelo depicts himself as the giant Goliath defeated by the boy David, as did later Caravaggio, and so on through the ages and it is ‘well the public knows only a fine piece of work’ because when that source of inspiration is revealed, indeed the public is likely to be ‘confused’.

Oscar tried to get around the public’s confusion with explanations such as the one below,

“Human life is the one thing worth investigating. Compared to it there is nothing else of any value. It is true that as one watches life in its curious crucible of pain and pleasure, one cannot wear over one’s face a mask of glass nor keep the sulphurous fumes from troubling the brain and making the imagination turbid with monstrous fancies and misshappen dreams. There are poisons so subtle that to know their properties one has to sicken of them. There are maladies so strange that one has to pass through them if one seeks to understand their nature. And yet what a great reward one receives! How wonderful the whole world becomes to one! To note the curious, hard logic of passion and the emotional, coloured life of the intellect—to observe where they meet, and where they separate, at what point they are in unison and at what point they are in discord—there is a delight in that! What matter what the cost is? One can never pay too high a price for any sensation.

Off the mark today is today’s LGBTQI attempts to ‘rehabilitate’ people such as Wilde, Caravaggio, Michael Angelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Mann – and the list goes on and on and on – as ‘gay’ and as understood today. These people were not and in today’s hysteria whipped up by persons unable to accept they are not the object of all male desire, these greatest of artists and to whom we owe the highest achievements of western culture would be jailed for life as dangerous pedophiles.

Joining in the debate at the time of Oscar’s trial were people such as French writer and dramatist, Octave Mirbeau. He wrote,

“A great deal has been heard about the paradoxes of Oscar Wilde upon Art, Beauty, Conscience and Life! Paradoxes they were, it is true, and we know that some laid themselves open to the charge of exaggeration, and vaulted over the threshold of the Forbidden. But after all, what is a paradox if not, for the most part of the time, the exaltation of an idea in a striking and superior form? As soon as an idea overleaps the low-level of ordinary popular understanding, having ceased to drag behind it the ignoble stumps gathered in the swamps of middle-class morality, and seeks with strong, steadfast wing, to attain the lofty heights of Philosophy, Literature or Art, we at once stigmatize it as a paradox, because, unable ourselves to follow it into those regions which are inaccessible to us, through the weakness of our organs, and we make to scotch it and put it under ban by flinging after it curse-laden cries of blame and contempt.

And yet, strange as it may seem, progress cannot be made save by way of paradox, whilst much vaunted common sense—the prized virtue of the imbecile—perpetuates the humdrum routine of daily life. The truth is, we refuse to allow anyone to come and outrage our intellectual sluggishness, or our morality, ready-made like second-hand clothes in a dealer’s shop, or the stupid security of our sheepish preconceptions.

Looked at squarely, that was the veritable crime in the minds of those who sat in judgment on Oscar Wilde.

They could not forgive him for being a thinker, and a man of superior intellect—and for that self-same reason eminently dangerous to other men. Wilde is young and has a future before him, and he has proved by the strong and charming works which he has already given us that he can still do much more in the cause of Beauty and Art. Must we not then admit that it is an abominable thing to risk the killing of something far above all laws, and all morality: the spirit of beauty, for the sake of repressing acts which are not really punishable per se.

For laws change and morality becomes transformed with the transformations of time, with the changeing of latitude and longitude, but beauty remains immaculate, and sheds her light far over the centuries that she alone can rescue from obscurity.

Octave Mirbeau.

Blessings.

Difficult Subjects.

As further proof if indeed there needed to be any, that we appear to be regressing in intelligence. Below is the preface to a 1906 book on Oscar Wilde’s trials.

“It is wrong for us during the greater part of the time to handle these questions with timidity and false shame, and to surround them with reticence and mystery. Matters relating to sexual life ought to be studied without the introduction of moral prepossessions or of preconceived ideas. False shame is as hateful as frivolity. It is a matter of pressing concern to rid ourself of the old prejudice that we “sully our pens” by touching upon facts of this class. It is necessary at all costs to put aside our moral, esthetic, or religious personality, to regard facts of this nature merely as natural phenomena, with impartiality and a certain elevation of mind.”

 

Here in Australia, and elsewhere, the list of verboten subjects in art and literature never appears to cease expanding.

 

“I blame equally as much those who take it upon themselves to praise man, as those who make it their business to blame him, together with others who think that he should be perpetually amused; and only those can I approve who seek for truth with tear-filled eyes.”

Pascal

 

 

Oscar Wilde. 30 November 1900

 

oscar wilde portrait

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.
G–And then?
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?
P–Yes.
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?
P–Yes.
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?
P–Yes.
G–Orgies of the most disgraceful kind used to happen there?
P–Yes.
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?
P–No, never.

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.

Jason

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.

Blessings.