In 1891, Oscar Wilde fell in love with 21-year-old Oxford undergraduate Lord Alfred Douglas, or as friends affectionately called him, “Bosie.” Their love blossomed. Wilde wrote Bosie in one letter, “You are so dear, so wonderful. I think of you all day long, and miss your grace, your boyish beauty, the bright sword-play of your wit, the delicate fancy of your genius, so surprising always in its sudden swallow-flights towards north and south, towards sun and moon — and, above all, yourself.”
But when Bosie’s father learned of the relationship, he accused Oscar of sodomy. Oscar countered with a suit of libel. The lawsuit revealed gay relations in Oscar’s personal life, leading to a criminal case against him.
In May of 1895, Oscar received a prison sentence of two years. His crime was gross indecency. His punishment, while severe, was less than what the judge wanted. “It is the worst case I have ever tried. In my judgement it is totally inadequate for such a case as this. The sentence of the Court is that you be imprisoned and kept to hard labor for two years,” said the judge.
Upon his release, when others recommended he forget his time and the reasons for his imprisonment, Oscar wrote that “To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.”
“The love of Oscar Wilde and Bosie” notes and sources:
- Photograph of Oscar Wilde and Bosie was taken in 1893.
- British Museum Shelfmark MS 81783 A / Wikimedia Commons
- “De Profundis” by Oscar Wilde, published in 1997 and transcribed from the 1913 Methuen & Co. edition by David Price – Project Gutenberg
- Story updated on June 4th, 2021.