Testimony of Oscar Wilde
Wood was examined by Sir Edward Clarke
Wilde--In 1884 I married Miss
Constance Lloyd, and from that time to the present I have lived with her
at 16 Tite Street, Chelsea. I have occupied also for a time some
rooms at St. James's Place, which I took for the purpose of my literary
work, it being quite out of the question to secure quiet and mental repose
at my own house when my two young sons were at home. I have heard
the evidence against me in this case, and I declare that there is no truth
in any one of the allegations of indecent behaviour.
Clarke--Was the evidence you gave [in the libel trial] absolutely and in all respects true?
W--Entirely true evidence.
C--Is there any truth in any of the allegations made against you in the evidence in this case?
W--There is no truth whatsoever in any one of the allegations, no truth whatsoever.
Cross-examined by Mr. C. F. Gill-You
are acquainted with a publication entitled The Chameleon?
W--Very well indeed.
G--Contributors to that journal are friends of yours?
W--That is so.
G--I believe that Lord Alfred Douglas was a frequent contributor?
W--Hardly that, I think. He wrote some verses occasionally for The Chameleon, and indeed for other papers.
G--The poems in question were somewhat peculiar?
W--They certainly were not mere commonplaces like so much that is labelled poetry.
G--The tone of them met with your critical approval?
W--It was not for me to approve or disapprove. I left that to the reviews.
G--On the last occasion you were cross-examined with reference to two letters written to Lord Alfred Douglas?
G--You were asked as to those letters, as to The Picture of Dorian Cray and as to The Chameleon?
G--You said you had read Lord Alfred Douglas's poems in The Chameleon?
G--You described them as beautiful poems?
W--I said something tantamount to that. The verses were original in theme and construction, and I admired them.
G--Lord Alfred Douglas contributed two poems to The Chameleon, and they were beautiful poems?
G--Listen, Mr. Wilde, I shall keep you only a very short time in the witness box. [Counsel read the following poem from The Chameleon.]
"Last night unto my bed methought there
Our lady of strange dreams, and from an urn
She poured live fire, so that mine eyes did burn
At sight of it. Anon the floating flame
Took many shapes, and one cried: I am Shame
That walks with Love, I am most wise to turn
Cold lips and limbs to fire; therefore discern
And see my loveliness, and praise my name.
And afterwards, in radiant garments dressed
With sound of flutes and laughing of glad lips,
A pomp of all the passions passed along
All the night through; till the white phantom ships
Of dawn sailed in. Whereat I said this song,
'Of all sweet passions Shame is loveliest.' "
G--Is that one of the beautiful
Sir Edward Clarke--That is not one of Mr. Wilde's.
Mr. Gill--I am not aware that I said it was.
Sir Edward Clarke--I thought you would be glad to say it was not.
Mr. Justice Charles--I understand that was a poem by Lord Alfred Douglas.
Mr. Gill--Yes, my lord, and one which the witness described as a beautiful poem. The other beautiful poem is the one that follows immediately and precedes "The Priest and the Acolyte."
G--Your view, Mr. Wilde, is that the "shame" mentioned here is that shame which is a sense of modesty?
W--That was the explanation given to me by the person who wrote it. The sonnet seemed to me obscure.
G--During 1893 and 1894 You were a good deal in the company of Lord Alfred Douglas?
G--Did he read that poem to you?
G--You can, perhaps, understand that such verses as these would not be acceptable to the reader with an ordinarily balanced mind?
W--I am not prepared to say. It appears to me to be a question of taste, temperament and individuality. I should say that one man's poetry is another man's poison! (Laughter.)
G--I daresay! The next poem is one described as "Two Loves." It contains these lines:
Tell me why, sad and sighing, dost thou rove
These pleasant realms? I pray thee tell me sooth,
What is thy name?' He said, 'My name is Love,'
Then straight the first did turn himself to me,
And cried, 'He lieth, for his name is Shame.
But I am Love, and I was wont to be
Alone in this fair garden, till he came
Unasked by night; I am true Love, I fill
The hearts of boy and girl with mutual flame.'
Then sighing said the other, 'Have thy will,
I am the Love that dare not speak its name'."
G--Was that poem explained to
W--I think that is dear.
G--There is no question as to what it means?
W--Most certainly not.
G--Is it not clear that the love described relates to natural love and unnatural love?
G--What is the "Love that dare not speak its name"?
W--"The Love that dare not speak its name" in this century is such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis of his philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets of Michelangelo and Shakespeare. It is that deep, spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect. It dictates and pervades great works of art like those of Shakespeare and Michelangelo, and those two letters of mine, such as they are. It is in this century misunderstood, so much misunderstood that it may be described as the "Love that dare not speak its name," and on account of it I am placed where I am now. It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it. It is intellectual, and it repeatedly exists between an elder and a younger man, when the elder man has intellect, and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him. That it should be so the world does not understand. The world mocks at it and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it. (Loud applause, mingled with some hisses.)
Mr. Justice Charles--If there is the slightest manifestation of feeling I shall have the Court cleared. There must be complete silence preserved.
G--Then there is no reason why it should be called "Shame"?
W--Ah, that, you will see, is the mockery of the other love, love which is jealous of friendship and says to it, "You should not interfere."
G--You were staying at the Savoy Hotel with Lord Alfred Douglas at the beginning of March, 1893?
G--And after that you went into rooms?
G--I understand you to say that' the evidence given in this case by the witnesses called in support of the prosecution is absolutely untrue?
G--Did you hear the evidence of the servants from the Savoy?
W--It is absolutely untrue.
G--Had you a quarrel with Lord Alfred Douglas in that week?
W--No; we never did quarrel-perhaps a little difference. Sometimes he said things that pained me and sometimes I said things that pained him.
G--Had he that week said unkind things?
W--I always made a point of forgetting whenever he said anything unkind.
G--I wish to call your attention to the style of your correspondence with Lord Alfred Douglas?
W--I am ready. I am never ashamed of the style of my writings.
G--You are fortunate, or shall I say shameless? (Laughter.) I refer to passages in two letters in particular?
W--Kindly quote them.
G--In letter number one you use the expression "Your slim gilt soul," and you refer to Lord Alfred's "red rose-1eaf lips." The second letter contains the words, "You are the divine thing I want," and describes Lord Alfred's letter as being "delightful, red and yellow wine to me." Do you think that an ordinarily constituted being would address such expressions to a younger man?
W--I am not happily, I think, an ordinarily constituted being.
G--It is agreeable to be able to agree with you, Mr. Wilde? (Laughter.)
W--There is nothing, I assure you, in either letter of which I need be ashamed. The first letter is really a prose poem, and the second more of a literary answer to one Lord Alfred had sent me.
G--In reference to the incidents alleged against you at the Savoy Hotel, are you prepared to contradict the evidence of the hotel servants?
W--It is entirely untrue. Can I answer for what hotel servants say years after I have left the hotel? It is childish. I am not responsible for hotel servants. I have stayed at the hotel and been there constantly since.
G--There is no possibility of mistake? There was no woman with you?
G--You knew that while the counsel for Lord Queensberry was addressing the jury, the case was interrupted, a verdict of "Not Guilty" was agreed to, and the jury found that the justification was proved and the libel published for the public benefit?
W--I was not in Court.
G--But you knew it?
W--No, I did not. I knew my counsel had considered it would be impossible to get a verdict on the question as far as the literature went, and it was not for me to dispute their superior wisdom. I was not in Court, nor have I read any account of that trial.
G--What is there untrue in the evidence of Shelley?
W--I say that his account of what happened is entirely untrue. It is true that he came to the Independent Theatre with me, but it was in a box with some friends. His accusations of impropriety arc equally untrue.
G--Do you see no impropriety in kissing a boy?
W--In kissing a young boy, a child, of course not; but I certainly do not think that one should kiss a young man of eighteen.
G--Then as to Shelley's letters, there was a line in a later one which says, "God forgive the past; do your best for me now." Do you know the meaning of that?
W--Yes. Shelley was in the habit of writing me many morbid, very morbid letters, which I tore up. In them he said that he was a great sinner and anxious to be in closer communion with religion. I always tore them up.
G--Charles Parker--what part of his evidence is untrue?
W--Where he says he came to the Savoy and that I committed acts of indecency with him. He never came to the Savoy with me to supper. It is true that he dined with me and that he came to St. James's Place to tea. The rest is untrue.
G--Who introduced you to Wood?
W--Lord Alfred Douglas.
G--Did you ever take Wood to Tite Street with you?
W--It is entirely untrue that he ever went to Tite Street with me at all.
G--And these witnesses have, you say, lied throughout?
W--Their evidence as to my association with them, as to the dinners taking Place and the small presents I gave them, is mostly true. But there is not a particle of truth in that part of the evidence which alleged improper behaviour.
G--Why did you take up with these youths?
W--I am a lover of youth. (Laughter.)
G--You exalt youth as a sort of god?
W--I like to study the young in everything. There is something fascinating in youthfulness.
G--So you would prefer puppies to dogs and kittens to cats?
W--I think so. I should enjoy, for instance, the society of a beardless, briefless barrister quite as much as that of the most accomplished Q.C. (Laughter.)
G--I hope the former, whom I represent in large numbers, will appreciate the compliment. (More laughter.) These youths were much inferior to you in station?
W--I never inquired, nor did I care, what station they occupied. I found them, for the most part, bright and entertaining. I found their conversation a change. It acted as a kind of mental tonic.
G--Who introduced you to Taylor?
G--Why did you go to Taylor's rooms?
W--Because I used to meet actors and singers of many kinds there.
G--A rather curious establishment, wasn't it, Taylor's?
W--I didn't think so.
G--You saw nothing peculiar or suggestive in the arrangement of Taylor's rooms?
W--I cannot say that I did. They were Bohemian. That is all. I have seen stranger rooms.
G--Did you notice that no one could see in through the windows?
W----No; that I didn't notice.
G--He burned incense, did he not?
W--Pastilles, I think.
G--Incense, I suggest?
W--I think not. Pastilles, I should say, in those little Japanese things that run along rods.
G--Did it strike you that this place was at all peculiar?
W--Not at all.
G--Not the sort of street you would usually visit in? You had no other friends there?
W--No; this was merely a bachelor's place.
G--Rather a rough neighbourhood?
W--That I don't know. I know it was near the Houses of Parliament.
G--What did you go there for?
W--To amuse myself sometimes; to smoke a cigarette; for music, singing, chatting, and nonsense of that kind, to while an hour away.
G--You never suspected the relations that might exist between Taylor and his young friends?
W--I had no need to suspect anything. Taylor's relations with his friends appeared to me to be quite normal.
G--I may take it, Mr. Wilde, that you see no reason why the police should keep observation at Little College Street?
G--What do you say about Alphonse Conway?
W--I met him on the beach at Worthing. He was such a bright happy boy that it was a pleasure to talk to him. I bought him a walking stick and a suit of clothes and a hat with a bright ribbon, but I was not responsible for the ribbon. (Laughter.)
G--You made handsome presents to all these young fellows?
W--Pardon me, I differ. I gave two or three of them a cigarette case: Boys of that class smoke a good deal of cigarettes. I have a weakness for presenting my acquaintances with cigarette cases.
G--Rather an expensive habit if indulged in indiscriminately, isn't it?
W--Less extravagant than giving jewelled garters to ladies. (Laughter.)
G--With regard to your friendship towards the persons I have mentioned, may I take it, Mr. Wilde, that it was as you describe, a deep affection of an elder man for a younger?
W--Certainly not. One feels that once in one's life, and once only, towards anybody.
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