The Oscar Wilde Trials

Taylor (my rad sister) was recently asking for a book to read, so I sent her off to the Gutenberg Project, more specifically I told her to get Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Grey. No real reason behind it, other than Gutenberg deals with manuscripts that are in the public domain, so it’s a better resource for older classics than it is any modern novels. But then I got interested in who Oscar Wilde was.

Oscar Wilde

I could only hope that I would have such swag if I were born in 1854.

Oscar Wilde was an Irish born writer and poet (born in 1854, died in 1900), most famous for a collection of original pithy sayings (and many more that have been falsely attributed to him) alongside the previously mentioned Picture of Dorian Grey. He was also quite a successful playwright. Later in his life, he was involved in several legal battles and eventually spent some time in prison, which contributed to his later death.

In any case, I found a site about his trials and thought that it was interesting enough to link to. The site is a little confusing (badly designed, some would say) so I’m going to link to the main page, which has various quotes, essays and transcripts related to the trial AND to what I felt was the main body of the site: “The Trials of Oscar Wilde: An Account”. In it, Oscar Wilde is a badass. Really:

In June of 1894 Queenberry, accompanied by a prize-fighter, showed up without warning at Wilde's house in Chelsea.  An angry conversation ensued, ending when Wilde ordered Queensberry to leave saying, "I do not know what the Queensberry rules are, but the Oscar Wilde rule is to shoot on sight."

It seems his prison sentence can be attributed to the fact he was a homosexual. It always saddens me to hear tales of the persecuted gay geniuses of yesteryear. People like Alan Turing who was, and I kid you not, a mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, pioneering computer scientist, mathematical biologist, and marathon and ultra distance runner on top of being gay. He was prosecuted for “homosexual acts” in 1952, was chemically castrated in lieu of going to prison and then died (probably of suicide) in 1954. In Britain. Way to fucking go.

There’s a long list of more people who were persecuted under anti-gay laws, with some pretty prestigious names on it.

Of course, we have moved past those sort of things in the modern world. Whoops! I meant we haven’t moved past those things really. Still, times are looking better than they did in ages past. I don’t think there will come a time where the fight for social justice isn’t needed anymore. The best we can hope for is keeping those who would trample the rights of others from gaining positions of power. We can learn lessons from the sufferings of those who came before us and apply those lessons to lessen the sufferings of those who live amongst us now.


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