Irish Peacock & Scarlet Marquess: The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde by Merlin Holland (ed) - review by Thomas Hodgkinson

Thomas Hodgkinson

A Handcuff?

Irish Peacock & Scarlet Marquess: The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde


Fourth Estate 340pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

THE FACTS: IN 1895, the Marquess of Queensberry, enraged by what he took to be the corrupting influence of the playwright Oscar Wilde on his son Alfred Douglas, left a card at the Albemarle Club bearing the words 'For Oscar Wilde, posing as somdomite' (in his passion, the Marquess's spelling was erratic); Wilde sued for libel; the subsequent trial concentrated on his writings, both public, as in The Picture of Dorian Gray, and private, as in letters he wrote to Douglas, and also on his relationship with a series of young men of dubious character. The verdict: Queensberry was acquitted. The result: Wilde was accused, in a pair of criminal trials, of sodomy, found guilty, and sentenced to two years' hard labour. He died in Paris in 1900, aged forty-six.

This book is the transcript of the libel trial, edited with a smart introduction by Wilde's grandson. Merlin Holland says:

In 2000, as I was assisting the British Library to prepare its centenary celebration on Oscar Wilde, a longhand manuscript of the complete Queensberry trial was brought into the Library to

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