Finished reading the Douglas Murray biography of Lord Alfred Douglas – Bosie – and what an incredible story it is and very well told I do believe. Couldn’t keep my nose out of it but rushed back to it at every opportunity so finished it in record breaking time: a continual fascination. Up to now all I knew about Bosie was what I have read in biographies of Oscar Wilde and also the films of course and little if anything of his life beyond Wilde’s death in Paris.
My remark in an earlier Blog about his being considered a second rate poet I am afraid is very far from the truth and I was greatly misled into thinking that. I believe now that in his maturity he was considered the finest sonneteer since Shakespeare. His last years were distressing, particularly because of money problems. He said he never earned more than £500 in total from his poetry, he was in very poor health and he died penniless. This was partly his own fault due, like this father before him, to his vindictive litigation of enemies, both real and supposed who were out to get him, which eventually led to a jail sentence and bankruptcy. In fact in later years he seemed to inherit all the crazy characteristics of the Queensbury family and it was only the experience of jail that changed him into a more reasonable, tolerant, and forgiving person. I can’t help feeling that much of his problem also stemmed from his conversion to the Roman Catholic Church which immediately made him intolerant and vehemently anti-homosexuality despite his own past; but probably his greatest grief was caused by his wife leaving him and his son Raymond being taken intro custody by Bosie’s father in law. The tug of war between the two men over the son, Raymond, must have triggered in some way or at least been partly responsible in bringing to the surface, another bout of the schizophrenia that cursed this family and Raymond was committed at an early age to spend the rest of his life, except for one brief period, institutionalised.
In his old age and in dire straights, this man, who as a gilded youth had everything before him, applied for a civic pension for his contribution to literature. In those days there was no social security and a civic pension, on the recommendation of the prime minister was in the gift of the sovereign. He was turned down twice. The second time it was almost granted but for one dissenting voice that brought up yet again the “Wilde affair”.
The book gives one quite an insight into attitudes of mind in Britain in that period and, despite all his faults, one can’t but feel great sympathy for Lord Alfred Douglas. A well researched and well written biography and I recommend it to any who might be interested.