THE REAL TRIAL OF OSCAR WILDE

Merlin Holland, Author, John Clifford Mortimer, Foreword by THE REAL TRIAL OF OSCAR WILDE With an introdu Fourth Estate $27.95 (340p) ISBN 978-0-00-715664-1

In 1895, Oscar Wilde was sentenced to two years of hard labor for "committing acts of gross indecency with other male persons." Wilde's story became a cautionary tale for homosexuals in Victorian England; in the century since, he has come to be celebrated as a martyr of the gay struggle for recognition. This volume, with an introduction and commentary by Wilde's grandson, Holland, publishes for the first time the unabridged transcript of the first of the three infamous trials that resulted in Wilde's destruction. The irony, as Holland's introduction makes abundantly clear, is that Wilde courted his imprisonment, suing his inamorata's father, the Marquess Queensberry, John Douglass, for libel when Queensberry left a card for him at the Albemarle Club that read, "For Oscar Wilde, posing sodomite." Wilde might have been best served by tearing up the card and forgetting it; instead, he pressed charges. But Wilde's riskiest step was treating the witness stand as a theatrical stage. When a prosecutor asked him if he had kissed a certain young man, Wilde joked, "Oh no, never in my life. He was a peculiarly plain boy." With that one flippant comment, Holland's text suggests, the die was cast. But the transcript and Holland's judicious notes also reveal how ill-served Wilde was by his counsel. Some of the same letters that were later used to convict Wilde were introduced by his own lawyers in this first trial as evidence. The general reader might find a work that condenses all three trial transcripts into one narrative, such as Moises Kaufman's stage adaptation, Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde , more accessible, but this volume is invaluable for the Wilde enthusiast, the legal scholar, the champion of human rights and the student of English literature. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/27/2003
Release date: 11/01/2003
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Paperback - 340 pages - 978-0-00-715805-8
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