Thursday, 23 September 2010

Oscar Wilde: A Letter of Little Importance

'There was something curiously touching about Oscar Wilde’s letters, revealed for the first time last week, to a young male magazine editor whom he evidently hoped to get to know rather better. In 1887, Wilde wrote numerous times to Alsager Vian, perpetually attempting to hook him for tea or something stronger, with promises of talks about a “journalism article”. In one letter, he suggests a dinner “at Pagani’s in Portland Street on Friday 7.30pm. No dress, just ourselves and a flask of Italian wine. Afterwards we will smoke cigarettes and talk over the journalism article. Could we go to your rooms? I am so far off, and clubs are difficult to talk in.” The hint to posterity that talk was not the priority was given by the flustered phrase: “Till Thursday night. This is all wrong, isn’t it.”'
This was Jenny McCartney writing in The Daily Telegraph on September 18th.
The unearthing of a new cache of letters from Saint Oscar made it into most of the broadsheets.
The Independent headed their story; 'For sale: letters from a love-sick Wilde to the object of his affection.'
'In one letter... Wilde suggests he write about amusing answers given by American school children. This part of the letter seems innocent enough, but the next paragraph reads distinctly like a proposition.
'Wilde invites Vian to dinner for two with wine at a London restaurant, going on to suggest the men retire after dinner to Vian's house, the address for which Wilde requests. Before he signs off, "Truly yours, Oscar Wilde," he writes: "This is all wrong, isn't it."'
Oscar Wilde had quite a way with words.
His letters to young men he felt passionate about were read out during his trials as proof that he was a sodomite.
In the newfound letter Wilde doesn't seem quite as lovestruck as the man who wrote to Bosie; 'My Own Boy, Your sonnet is quite lovely, and it is a marvel that those rose-leaf lips of yours should have been made no less for music of song than for madness of kisses. Your slim gilt soul walks between passion and poetry. I know Hyacinthus, whom Apollo loved so madly, was you in Greek days."
But still, what did he mean by that telling line; 'This is all wrong, isn't it?'
Today The Daily Telegraph publishes a letter from Donald Mead, chairman of The Oscar Wilde Society.
'SIR – Your report about Oscar Wilde’s letters to Alsagar Vian has Wilde writing, “clubs are difficult to talk in. Till Thursday night. This is all wrong, isn’t it,” and says this shows Wilde “struggling with his homosexuality”.
'Wilde is not agonising about his love life but complaining that it is hard to get hold of a copy of The Court and Society Review, the magazine that Alsagar Vian edited: “As usual I had to go to St James’s Street to get a copy. Even Grosvenor Place does not get the C&S till Thursday night! This is all wrong, isn’t it.”'

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