Columbia Library columns (v.39(1989Nov-1990May))

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  v.39,no.1(1989:Nov): Page 3  

Lord Alfred Douglas and the
Winchester College Pentagram


Lord Alfred Douglas is probably best remembered as the
close friend of Oscar Wilde responsible for his being placed
in the dock, found guilty, and sentenced to two years at
hard labor. The year was 1895. Wilde was at the height of his fame.
Two of his brilliant plays. An Ideal Husband and The Importance of
Being Earnest, were running simultaneously in London theatres.
When he was convicted they were withdrawn. His books were
removed from the booksellers' shelves. Wilde's disgrace had all
the implications of a Greek tragedy, one in which he played fop,
wit, victim, and martyr—and at which he looked on as a befuddled

Anyone who reads De Profundis is struck by the bitterness he felt
for his former friend at the time. Not only did "Bosie," as Douglas
was called affectionately by his family and friends, escape punish¬
ment, but it had been his father, the Eighth Marquis of Queens-
berry, who had initiated charges against Wilde in the first place.
Then, too, during Wilde's notorious trials, one of Bosie's works,
"Tvo Loves," was entered into evidence. Ending with the words "I
am the love that dare not speak its name," the poem was used
against Wilde by the prosecutor for the Crown.

Just how responsible Douglas was for Wilde's downfall is still
matter for debate. In his poem "The Destroyer of a Soul," Lionel
Johnson fixed more of the blame on Wilde with the memorable
line: "I hate you with a necessary hate." In his cactaceous and apol-
ogetical autobiographical volumes, Oscar Wilde and Myself (\9\\),
The Autobiography of Lord Alfred Douglas {\9 29), and Without Apol¬
ogy (1938), Douglas of course defends himself at Wilde's expense.
Douglas, in fact, was always a self-defender, as the many enemies he
made over the seventy-five years of his life can testify. He is a prime
example of a man of letters who expended more time and energy
  v.39,no.1(1989:Nov): Page 3