"Be Yourself; Everyone Else is Already Taken."
Much has been said and written about Oscar Pingal O'Flarty Willis Wilde, an Irish writer, poet, journalist, playwright, and fashion magazine editor - The Man and the Art - Dandy in exaggerated clothes, who loved all his life and this world, and paid a heavy price for it.
I will not repeat the beautiful and wise words already written by scholars; it would be a waste
of time. I'll "ride the wave" of The Importance of Being Earnest and take a little look at Wilde's philosophy of life, his character, the society in which he worked, and how he became
a persecuted saint of the monastery—a man who suffered humiliation even in his death —although his life was anything but shameful and sad.
"Give a man a mask, and he will tell you the truth."
25 May 1895. "You, Wilde, are condemned for the deeds of Sodom, and I have fought the wickedness! The Crown sentences you to two years for work in Reading Gaol!" This is Oscar Wilde's verdict of being 'gay,' a term invented in those days as an expression of a negative value attitude toward the character of the Dandy man, attracted to their company and the bodies of suspicious young people. In those days, same-sex acts were banned – a law that said men who had sex “not naturally” were sentenced to 10 years in prison. But Wilde has relationships with several young boys, some of whom are poets, some are middle-class boys, and some are male prostitutes. His greatest love and most significant relationship was with Lord Alfred Douglas.
Drawing: Liu Ling
From the perspective of 2020, it is difficult to say whether Wilde was gay or bisexual. Definitions of gender, sex, and body are social constructions, changing and fluid according to the social lens through which we look.
During Wilde's era, according to the Victorian decree, social codes and individual oppression reached a summit: what was allowed, what was forbidden, and how to behave, dress, and speak. Strict dress codes (women with a corset) and punishment for "unnatural" sexual expressions,
Beware of women are either "cold bitches" deprived of sexual desire or malicious and seductive "femme fatale." Women should be protected from themselves and the men they will seduce. Courts can punish a partner's infidelity as well as homosexuality. Extraordinary persecuted, tried - imprisoned!
Wilde was intelligent, brilliant, and famous for his twists and funny predictions. However, when his homosexuality came to light, the Victorian
society was stunned. He was persecuted for his homosexuality, thrown into prison, and died shortly after his release. The scandal made his name forbidden in the public and his works for blasphemy. His trial closed the closet's doors on homosexuality more than ever before.
It is important to note that Wilde was also judged by how he chose to live as "irresponsible," his artistic beliefs and style of writing, his imagination, and his love for beauty. Oscar argued for creativity and openness to truly appreciate art. Wilde identified and lived the expression "art for art,
" a term from the aesthetic movement that art does not need any justification or purpose beyond its work itself. In the second half of the 19th century, British poets, painters, writers, and architects began to turn to aesthetic concerns, emphasizing ornaments and past art. Painters, for example, began to observe Renaissance paintings in which the male body was stunned by its beauty and strength. From the belief that beauty should permeate every area of life, the cry of aesthetics was "Art for Art." The movement sharply reviewed the "stimulating" length of life of that period based on the Industrial Revolution and the growing working class. Wilde, a charismatic fellow of the aesthetic movement, became one
of the most famous figures of the late 19th century with his turbulent dress and colorful lifestyle.
"We are all in the gutter, but some of us look at the stars."
Wilde believed in elegance, beauty, and inner inspiration and that art needs to express anything but itself. He saw in the artistic act a supreme value and saw in life a kind of art form to be lived like it, beautiful. If the work is not good for the artist himself, it is not suitable for anyone else.
"A true artist does not pay attention to the public; the public for him does not exist." Wilde even argued that the audience had to adapt to the artist and not the opposite: "The public should be more artistic."
Artistic for Wild also means disagreement with governmental power, rules, or authority. He disagreed that art should have a moral or ethical character and serve periodic codes and stereotypes. At the time, the British government was at the peak of colonialism and wanted to force the Christian religion, culture, and English language over the occupied territories, thus leading to the beginning of uniformity in lifestyle and values worldwide. It has destroyed local societies and cultures and erased their history – in some places, even with massacres. Systems were invented
to support and justify the colonial ideology, according to which the values of the settlers (English) were more enlightened than those of the natives. Whole civilizations were crushed, erased, or drowned under the knees of colonialism.
But precisely in an age when the conquest and control of the other and the oppression of various forms of sexuality supposedly have reached the summit, there has never been more intense talk about sex, beauty, and looks. In London, there were networks of recreational places for men to connect, theaters and clubs, train stations, parks, and museums. Although Wilde's judgments may appear unique to the public's response to homosexuality at the moment, they have been part of a much longer history of surveillance and harassment of men's intimate acts.
Yet each man kills the thing he loves, By each let this be heard, Some do it with a bitter look, Some with a flattering word, The coward does it with
a kiss, The brave man with a sword!
Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854, the land of the British Empire, where long dresses, bonnets, and corsets were worn, gentlemen and ladies - and Queen Victoria - the young Oscar, talented and educated by his mother, who wore him in girls' clothes until the age of ten. His father, the doctor, had a successful career and managed many romances outside of his marriage. Her mother was a poet and translator, an elegant woman (1.82 meters), and with an appetite for excitement, an activist in the movement for independence of Ireland. In the late 80s of the 19th century, Wilde began to explore the dangerous territory of a man's passion for a man, both in his personal life and as an object of artistic expression.
He experienced his first homosexual relationship with a Cambridge undergraduate student named Robert Ross, which gave him partial inspiration to write an article on Shakespeare's sonatas and examine the theory that Shakespeare's creativity was derived from his love for a young actor in
his time. In 1891, Wilde came into contact with his most significant and famous love, Lord Alfred Douglas, who called him "Bosie."
Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie) was a young aristocrat and poet, the youngest son of the Marquis of Queensbury. He was an angel in sight: fragile, ashen skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes, almost a Tadzio from Thomas Mann's novel Death in Venice. But often, appearances can be misleading, and this would not be an exception. Bosie wasn’t the same “angel” he seemed to be, but he was pampered, reckless, brash, and flamboyant.
He used to spend money on gambling and boys and expected his elderly Oscar to support his spending. Bosie was the one who introduced Oscar to the circles of young escort boys.
Wilde, the lover, did nothing but satisfy Bosie's thirst for money, gold, fancy cigars, and other gifts. From 1893, Wilde preferred to stay discreetly
in a small hotel, closed doors, to avoid unnecessary scandals. Douglas, for his part, was not interested in hiding at all: he always entered the main entrance accompanied by escort men.
Wilde's friends were concerned primarily because Bosie's behavior exposed Oscar to severe risks - openly violating the "Criminal Law Amendment Act" of 1885 - an amendment that turned "gross indecency" into a crime in Britain.
After an angry break between them, Douglas left for Cairo, while Wilde hid in Paris and somehow returned to some peace. At that time, he also approached his creativity and wrote, among other things, The Ghosts of Cantorville. However, Douglas' sudden departure from Paris ended his desire to write.
Eventually, Wilde found himself charged with “unfair acts.” It was not difficult to find evidence. Three days after the trial began, on April 29th, Wilde wrote from prison a most exciting letter to Bowie, who has since been sent to Paris. On May 25, 1895, Wilde was sentenced to two years and three months of imprisonment. The prison regime was harsh: the poet/writer suffered from severe health problems, and his abdominal collapse led to
a wound in his right ear that was likely to cost him the same injury five years later due to the infection that deteriorated into meningitis.
Meanwhile, Wilde hoped in vain for solidarity and support from his beloved Bosie, who instead turned his back on him and proved a stone heart; he even told him, during his illness, that “when (he) is not in his best (he’s) not appealing.” Influenced and shocked by the attitude of his lover, Wilde wrote from prison a very long and one of the most exciting letters in the history of writing titled "De Profundis," expressing his sadness and disregard for Lord Alfred's misconduct and inconsistency while officially rejecting him. Wilde was not allowed to send the letter. When he was released from prison, he handed the handwriting to his friend Robert Ross. He requested to send a copy to Bosie, but the lover denied his whole life for receiving the letter. It was published in 1905, five years after Wilde's death.
The prison experience greatly affected Oscar, and with his release, he moved to France and lived in Paris for four months, trying to rebuild his life and forget the love that brought him to his ruin. Love is more potent than reason. He returned to contact with Douglas, and they decided to spend the winter together in Naples, Italy, and then on Capri Island. The lovers' events were not hidden on the island, and the two were again on everyone’s agenda. The scandal forced both of their relatives to find a solution. The British embassy was involved, and the two were financially deprived. Wilde was deprived of his small income from his divorce, while Bosie's money was cut by his mother.
In February 1898, Oscar left for Paris. The relationship with Lord Douglas is now over.
I am dying, as I have lived beyond my means.
In 1902, Bosie married Eleanor Costan, an heiress and poet. They had a son, Raymond, who suffered from severe schizophrenia syndrome.
The marriage ended later. For the last few years, Douglas mainly lived with his mother, the Marquise. After the outbreak of World War II, he left London and sought refuge with a couple of friends in West England, where he died of heart failure in 1945.
Wilde was penniless when he arrived in Paris in 1898. He wrote very little. His last work was a ballad recounting his experiences in prison.
He lived in Paris for only three years and died tragically of meningitis in 1900. He was only 46 when he died.
People always describe the relationship between Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas as a "destructive love affair." The implication is that the love affair itself was flawed - that Wilde's weakness for his young lover led him into this trap - I find it hard to believe that this is a fair way of looking at things. It can be assumed that Bosie was not kind to Wilde; they fought, broke up, and came back repeatedly, but this could also be the story of many other couples. Their love for each other was as natural and authentic as life but ahead of time.
To drift with every passion till my soul Is a stringed lute on which all winds can play
Wilde dressed up and celebrated the beauty of life; his unique figure became a style template for those who want to dress in extravagant and innovative ways - from actors and artists to pop stars and clubs. "No great artist sees things as they really are. If so, he would cease to be an artist.
' Art is about illusion and imagination. He believed that the artist's ability to transcend reality and create the sublime makes him exalted and appreciated. Art is the most intense form of individualism the world has known. Like Baudelaire, Wilde advocated freedom from moral restraint, social stereotypes, and society's limitations.
At his death on November 30, 1900, the idea that he would become a legendary figure was unfathomable to most commentators. Without a doubt, Oscar Wilde is still with us and will remain so for the foreseeable future. His iconic presence, meteoric rise, and abysmal fall (reminiscent of the fall of OJ Simpson) cast their spells in our time just as they did in his time. Wilde surely could not have guessed the extraordinary ways in which his spirit would live on in modern culture.