My Friendship With Oscar Wilde: The Autobiography of Lord Alfred Douglas
Review by Lauren
source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own
Official Summary: “No other living creature has been treated as I have been treated, and has invoked in vain, as I have done, the law of his country to help him against a conspiracy of persecution and blackmail which has gone on for more than thirty years, and is still going on to this day.”
So writes Lord Alfred Douglas in his memoir, originally published in 1929, in which he sought to rehabilitate his name and that of Oscar Wilde.
One of the most notorious celebrities of his day, he was the amanuensis of Oscar Wilde and son of the man who ruined Wilde, Lord Queensbury. Recently the subject of the play ‘The Judas Kiss’, and portrayed in the film ‘Wilde’ by Jude Law, the man nicknamed ‘Bosie’ writes of his life and times, including a prison sentence for libel and the cause of Wilde’s incarceration at a time when homosexuality was an offense.
Seeing himself as the victim of the Wilde scandal, Lord Alfred married and settled down to life as a poet, writer and magazine editor.
He went bankrupt in 1913, was prosecuted for libel, notably against Winston Churchill, and spent time in the courts fighting to clear his damaged name.
In his memoir he offers his own view on the events of the previous sixty years of his life using letters and articles. He also refutes the rumours spread by Wilde himself, including one where he denied receiving any money from his old friend in his final years.
Almost a century on, and in a world where men can marry whomever they please, the life of Lord Alfred Douglas stands as a history of England before the modern era.
Review: Man, that summary could be most of the review if I wanted it to be. However, I do recommend you read it if you want a clearer look at when the original autobiography was published and why. Douglas had worked with another writer before this book where he allowed lies about his relationship to Oscar Wilde to be published. This autobiography, on the other hand, is Douglas much older and trying to finally reveal the truth of what he had gone through.
I will admit it’s easy to see certain moments in this book as if Douglas is being self-pitying, but at the same time, he has a right to be in certain cases. Wilde told people that Douglas never helped him after he left prison, but Douglas denies this, saying he often gave Wilde money when he could. This book does make it seem as if some of Wilde’s others friends used the Wilde name for their own use and that they treated Douglas badly because they blamed him for Wilde’s arrest and subsequent incarceration.
I don’t know as much about Wilde’s history as I would like, but I do find it interesting, and in that, I have always been curious about Lord Alfred Douglas. I was excited that this autobiography had been released to the public again as it does add more to the overall history of the Wilde story. It’s a difficult book to explain fully, and it can read a bit like a history textbook at times. Douglas also has a tendency to repeat himself at times, especially because not all of his stories are in direct chronological order. Despite this, I really enjoyed the book and I would recommend it to all those who are interested!
As for the Douglas/Wilde affair, Douglas is never really explicit about anything, but he does essentially admit to engaging in acts that he no longer agrees with later in life. He ends up getting married and becoming Catholic in the future. In the end, it seems that no matter which historical figure you believe or what you think of Douglas as a man, I believe it’s obvious to see that Douglas did have problems after getting caught up with Oscar Wilde and this continued for many years to come.