Lord Alfred Douglas|
(October 22, 1870 - March 20, 1945) U.K.
Poet and writer
Lord Alfred Douglas was the lover of Oscar Wilde. Bosie, as he was known to his friends, married Olive Cunstance in 1902 and they had a son, Raymond, that same year. The 1997 film Wilde tells the story about his relationship with Oscar Wilde. Douglas died in Lancing, Sussex.
Known to most as the friend of Oscar Wilde, Lord Alfred Bruce Douglas or "Bosie" as he preferred to be called (a nickname gained in childhood), was an accomplished poet, writer, and editor. Some of the most well-known people of his day had the highest praise for his work. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, compiler of The Oxford Book of English Verse, believed that Douglas wrote the finest sonnets of his time, sonnets that few other English poets had ever equalled. Frank Harris also gave him extravagant praise as a sonneteer, comparing him with Shakespeare; and George Bernard Shaw compared him with Shelley.
"He is quite like a narcissus - so white and gold... he lies like a hyacinth on the sofa and I worship him."
Author Caspar Wintermans has written a biography of Lord Alfred Douglas that is scheduled for publication 2000. This edition, as of yet untitled, may include a number of annotated and unpublished poems from Lord Alfred Douglas. He is also deep into the editing and compiling of what should be a sensational new book, The Selected Letters of Lord Alfred Douglas. This book holds much promise of new and fresh insight into Bosie and his life. If that wasn't enough, Douglas Murray's new biography simply entitled Bosie is poised for release in England this Spring. It promises to include new information on the Churchill Libel suit, excerpts from newly discovered correspondence between Lord Alfred and his wife Olive, and a strong focus on Bosie's poetry.
- Oscar Wilde, describing Bosie
The publication of Oscar Wilde: A Plea and a Reminscience by Lord Alfred Douglas has been delayed and actually may be forthcoming sometime during 2000. This book will be published by The 1890s Society and is the long-suppressed tome that was originally published in France shortly after the three trials.
"I am passionately fond of him and he of me. There is nothing I would not do for him and if he dies before I do I shall not care to live any longer. Surely there is nothing but what is fine and beautiful in such a love as that of two people for one another, the love of the disciple and the philosopher."
Lord Alfred on Oscar Wilde, in a letter to his Mother
1870 - Lord Alfred Bruce Douglas "Bosie" is born on October 22nd.
1880 - Sent to Lambrook, a preparatory school.
1881 - Transferred to Wixenford.
1884 - Enters public school at Winchester.
1887 - Historical records indicate that Bosie may have met Oscar as early as August of this year, at Rouen.
1889 - Travels to France, the Cote d'Azur, and has his first love affair with an older divorcee.
1889 - Begins university with entrance at Magdalen College, Oxford.
1891 - Bosie is formally introduced to Oscar Wilde by Lionel Johnson. Oscar becomes so enamored of Bosie he writes a sonnet to him, The New Remorse
The Sin was mine; I did not understand.
So now is music prisoned in her cave,
Save where some ebbing desultory wave
Frets with its restless whirls this meagre strand.
And in the withered hollow of this land
Hath Summer dug herself so deep a grave,
That hardley can the leaden willow crave
One silver blossom from keen Winter's hand.
But who is this who cometh by the shore?
(Nay, love, look up and wonder!) Who is this
Who cometh in dyed garments from the South?
It is they new-found Lord, and he shall kiss
The yet unravished roses of thy mouth,
And I shall weep and worship, as before.
1892 - Bosie introduces Oscar to his father, the Marquess of Queensberry, at lunch in the Cafe Royal. Bosie edits and writes for The Spirit Lamp.
Douglas sent Wilde a sonnet entitled In Sarum Close (1892). Its third and fourth lines read:
I thought to cool my burning hands
In this calm twilight of gray Gothic things.
1893 - The "prose poem" below is written by Oscar Wilde and sent to Lord Alfred. It is later translated to the French in sonnet form and published.
Letter 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.
Why are you alone in London, and when do you go to Salisbury? Do go there to cool your hands in the grey twilight of Gothic things, and come here whenever you like. It is a lovely place - it only lacks you; but go to Salisbury first. Always, with undying love,
The letter was subsequently translated into French by Pierre Louys and published in the May 4, 1893 edition of the Oxford undergraduate magazine The Spirit Lamp edited by Douglas.
It was later stolen, used as material for attempted blackmail against Wilde, and finally read in court during the trials.
by Oscar Wilde
(Translated to French by Pierre Louys)
Hyacinthe! O mon coeur! jeune dieu doux et blond!
Tes yeux sont la lumière de la mer! ta bouche,
Le sang rouge du soir où mon soleil se couche...
Je t'aîme, enfant calin, cher aux bras d'Appollon.
Tu chantais, et ma lyre est moins douce, le long
Des rameaux suspendus que la brise effarouche,
à fremir, que ta voix à chanter, quand je touche
Tes cheveux couronnés d'acanthe et de houblon.
Mais tu pars! tu me fuis pour les Portes d' Hercule;
Va! rafraichis tes mains dans le clair crépuscule
Des choses ou déscend l'âme antique. Et reviens,
Hyacinthe adoré! hyacinthe! hyacinthe!
Car je veux voir toujours dans les bois syriens
Ton beau corps étendu sur la rose et l'absinthe.
1894 / 1895 - Queensberry threatens to disown Bosie, unless he ceases his association with Wilde.
Bosie's father, The Marquess of Queensberry sends a card to Wilde at the Albemarle Club, accusing Wilde of "posing as a somdomite" (sic).
The subsequent legal actions result in a two-year prison sentence for Wilde, at hard labor.
1897 - Wilde writes De Profundis, a long letter to Bosie which is not received by Lord Alfred.
Letter to Bosie
Oscar is released from prison; Bosie meets him in Naples, Italy on September 4th.
"I feel that my only hope of again doing beautiful work in art is being with you. Everyone is furious with me for going back to you, but they don't understand us. I feel that it is only with you that I can do anything at all. Do remake my ruined life for me, and then our friendship and love will have a different meaning to the world."
(following his release from prison)
1900 - Wilde dies on November 30th. Bosie is chief mourner and pays funeral expenses.
1901 - Bosie writes one of his most moving and finely written sonnets in honor of Oscar Wilde, The Dead Poet.
I dreamed of him last night, I saw his face
All radiant and unshadowed of distress,
And as of old, in music measureless,
I heard his golden voice and marked him trace
Under the common thing the hidden grace,
And conjure wonder out of emptiness
Till mean things put on beauty like a dress
And all the world was an enchanted place.
And then methought outside a fast locked gate
I mourned the loss of unrecorded words,
Forgotten tales and mysteries half said,
Wonders that might have been articulate,
And voiceless thoughts like murdered singing birds.
And so I woke and knew he was dead.
1902 - Bosie marries Olive Custance on March 4th and their only child, Raymond Wilfrid Sholto Douglas is born on November 17th.
1907 / 1910 - Becomes editor of the The Academy.
1912 - Bosie sues to protest the publishing of Oscar Wilde, A Critical Study, by Arthur Ransome. He loses the case, although disputed portions of the text were removed by the author in later editions.
1913 - Declared bankrupt on the petition of a money-lender. Bosie and Olive are separated, but not divorced.
1918 - Bosie is called to testify in a scandalous libel suit brought against independent MP Pemberton Billing by dancer/actress Maude Allan (who was slated to appear in a production of Oscar Wilde's Salome). Allan's suit maintained the MP's newpaper libeled her with a public accusation of lesbianism.
1920 - Bosie founds Plain English and serves as Editor.
1923 - Takes legal action again Winston Churchill, loses, and is sentenced to six months in prison following Churchill's prosecution for criminal libel.
1924 - During his incarceration at Wormwood Scrubs, writes one of his most important works, In Excelsis, a sonnet sequence. Released from prison in May, he travels to Belgium.
1926 - Bosie fell in love with the 18-year-old Ivor Goring, with whom he had a brief relationship.
1927 - Bosie's son Raymond is diagnosed as a schizo-effective and enters St. Andrew's Hospital, a mental institution.
1932 - Raymond is de-certified in April and released from the hospital, but suffers a breakdown and returns to St. Andrew's in June.
1935 - Bosie's beloved mother Sibyl, the Marchioness of Queensberry, dies at the age of 91. She is buried at the Franciscan Montastery at Crawley.
1943 - Delivers a well-received lecture to the Royal Society of Literature, entitled The Principles of Poetry, which was subsequently published in a limited edition of 1000 copies.
"All good poetry is forged slowly and patiently, link by link, with sweat and blood and tears."
1944 - Olive Custance Douglas dies of a cerebral hemorrage in February at the age of 67. Raymond is able to attend the funeral and in June is again de-certified and released from St. Andrew's Hospital. However, his conduct deteriorates culminating in a "brain-storm" and he is returned to St. Andrew's in November. (He is not released again and remains in the hospital until his death in October 1964).
Lord Alfred Douglas
1945 - Bosie died in Lancing, Sussex, of congestive heart failure on Wedneday, March 20th at the age of 74. He was buried at the Franciscan Montastery in Crawley on Friday, March 23rd. He is interred alongside his mother, one gravestone covers them both.
We have received:
Caspar Wintermans' biography of Lord Alfred ("Bosie") Douglas has been published in English, in 2007.
See cover's picture here at the left.