Last update:
September 13th

living room logo

Transcript of the "Libel Trial" Prosecuted by Oscar Wilde
(April 3-5,1895)

Testimony of Oscar Wilde on Cross Examination
(April 3,1895) (Factual Part)

Wilde was questioned on cross-examination by Queenberry's defense attorney, Edward Carson

Carson - Were you living at the Savoy?

Wilde - Yes, I was there for about a month, and had also my house in Tite Street. Lord Alfred had been staying with me at the Savoy immediately before I wrote that letter.

C - How long had you known Wood?

W - I think I met him at the end of January, 1893. I met him at the Cafe' Royal where he was sent to find me by Lord Alfred Douglas who telegraphed from Salisbury. Lord Alfred asked me to do what I could for Wood, who was seeking a post as a clerk. I do not know where he was living at that time. Taylor was living at 13 Little College Street, and I have been there to tea parties on many occasions. They were all men at the parties, but not all young men. I took Wood to supper at the Florence Restaurant in Rupert Street, because Lord Alfred had asked me to be kind to him.

C - Who was Wood?

W - So far as I could make out he had no occupation, but was looking for a situation. He told me he had had a clerkship. At that time he was about twenty-three years of age.

C - Then, do I understand that the first time you met Wood you took him to supper?

W - Yes, because I had been asked to be kind to him. Otherwise it was rather a bore.

C - Was Taylor or anybody else there?

W - No....

[In response to a series of questrions from Carson, Wilde denied that he had been guilty of gross indecencies with Wood.]

C - Had you a private room at the Florence?

W - Yes. I went there so that I could get a cheque cashed because the next day was Sunday.

C - How much did you give Wood then?

W - 2.

C - Why?

W - Because Lord Alfred Douglas asked me to be kind to him. I don't care about different social positions.

C - I suggest that you first had immoral relations with him and then gave him money?

W - It is perfectly untrue.

C - Did you consider that he had come to levy blackmail?

W - I did; and I determined to face it.

C - And the way you faced it was by giving him 15 to go to America?

W - That is an inaccurate description. I saw that the letters were of no value, and I gave him the money after he had told me the pitiful tale about himself, foolishly perhaps, but out of pure kindness.

C - I suggest that you gave him 30. Did you give him 5 more next day?

W - Yes; he told me that after paying his passage to America he would be left almost penniless. I gave him 5.

C - Had you a farewell lunch at the Florence?

W - Yes.

C - It was after lunch that you gave him 5?

W - Yes.

C - After Wood went to America did he ask you for money?

W - No.

C - Did he call Taylor by his Christian name?

W - Yes.

C - Did Wood call you "Oscar"?

W - Yes.

C - What did you call Wood?

W - His name is Alfred.

C - Didn't you call him "Alf"?

W - No, I never use abbreviations.

C - Did you not think it a curious thing that a man with whom you were on such intimate terms should try to blackmail you?

W - I thought it infamous, but Wood convinced me that such had not been his intention, though it was the intention of other people. Wood assured me that he had recovered all the letters.

C - And then Allen came with a letter, possession of which you knew he had secured improperly?

W - Yes.

C - What was Allen?

W - I am told he was a blackmailer.

C - Was he a blackmailer?

W - I never heard of him except as a blackmailer.

C - Then you began to explain to the blackmailer what a loss your beautiful manuscript was?

W - I described it as a beautiful work of art.

C - May I ask why you gave this man, who you knew was a notorious blackmailer, ten shillings?

W - I gave it out of contempt.

C - Then the way you show your contempt is by paying ten shillings?

W - Yes, very often.

C - I suppose he was pleased with your contempt?

W - Yes" he was apparently pleased at my kindness.

C - Were you staying at the Albemarle Hotel about 26th of February, 1892?

W - Yes.

C - At that time were Messrs. Elkin Mathews & John Lane, of Vigo Street, your publishers?

W - Yes.

C - Did you become fond of their office boy?

W - I really do not think that that is the proper form for the question to be addressed to me in. I deny that that was the position held by Mr. Edward Shelley, to whom you are referring. I object to your description.

C - What age was Mr. Shelley?

W - I should think about twenty. I first met him in October when arranging for the publication of my books. I asked him to dine with me at the Albemarle Hotel.

C - Was that for the purpose of having an intellectual treat?

W - Well, for him, yes. We dined in my own sitting-room, and there was one other gentleman there.

C - On that occasion did you have a room leading into a bedroom?

W - Yes.

C - Did you give him whiskies and sodas?

W - I suppose that he had whatever he wanted. I do not remember. He did not stay all night, nor did I embrace him....

C - Did you ever give him money?

W - Yes; on three occasions-the first time 4, the second time his railway fare to Cromer, where I invited him to meet my wife and family, and the third time 5.

C - Did you think this young man of eighteen was a proper or natural companion for you?

W - Certainly.

C - Did you give him a signed copy of the first edition of Dorian Gray?

W - Yes.

C - Did you become intimate with a young lad named Alphonse Conway at Worthing?

W - Yes.

C - He sold newspapers at the kiosk on the pier?

W - No, I never heard that up to that time his only occupation was selling newspapers. It is the first I have heard of his connexion with literature.

C - What was he?

W - He led a happy, idle life.

C - He was a loafer, in fact? How old was he?

W - He seemed to me to be just enjoying life. He was a youth of about eighteen.

C - How did you make his acquaintance?

W - When Lord Alfred Douglas and I were at Worthing, we were accustomed to go out in a boat. One day when the fishermen were launching a boat on the high beach, Conway, with another lad, assisted in getting the craft down to the water. I said to Lord Alfred Douglas, "Shall we ask them to come out for a sail? "He assented, and we took them. After that Alphonse and I became great friends, and it is true that I asked him to lunch with me. He also dined at my house, and lunched with me at the Marine Hotel.

C - Was his conversation literary?

W - On the contrary, quite simple and easily understood. He had been to school where naturally he had not learned much.

C - He was a. simple country lad?

W - He was a nice, pleasant creature. His mother kept a lodging-house, and his desire was to go to sea. It is not true that I met him by appointment one evening and took him on the road to Lancing, kissing him and indulging in familiarities on the way.

C - Did you give him anything?

W - Oh, yes, but no money.

C - Did you give him sums amounting to 15?

W - Never. I gave him a cigarette case in which I placed a paper inscribed "Alphonse from his friend Oscar Wilde." I called him "Alphonse," but he did not call me "Oscar." I also gave him my photograph, on which I wrote "Oscar Wilde to Alphonse." I also gave him a book called The Wreck of the Grosvenor.

(These presents, and also a silver-mounted crook-handled grapevine stick, were produced.)

C - Were you fond of this boy?

W - Naturally. He had been my companion for six weeks.

C - Did you take the lad to Brighton?

W - Yes.

C - And provided him with a suit of blue serge?

W - Yes.

C - And a straw hat with a band of red and blue?

W - That, I think, was his unfortunate selection.

C - But you paid for it?

W - Yes.

C - You dressed this newsboy up to take him to Brighton?

W - No. I did not want him to be ashamed of his shabby clothes. He told me his father had been an electrical engineer, and had died young.

C - In order that he might look more like an equal?

W - Oh, no! He could not look like that. No, I promised him that before I left Worthing I would take him somewhere, to some place to which he wished to go, as a reward for his being a pleasant companion to myself and my children. He chose Portsmouth, as he was anxious to go to sea, but I told him that was too far. So we went to Brighton. We dined at a restaurant and stayed the night at the Albion Hotel, where I took a sitting-room and two bedrooms. I am not sure that the bedrooms communicated by a green baize door. We returned next day. I have never taken any other boy to the Albion. I am quite certain of that.

Second Day - Thursday, 4th April, 1895

Cross-examination continued

C - You told me yesterday that you were intimate with Taylor?

W - I do not call him an intimate friend. He was a friend of mine. It was he who arranged the meeting of myself with Wood about the letters at his residence, 13 Little College Street. I have known Taylor since the early part of October, 1892. He used to come to my house, to my chambers, and to the Savoy. I have been several times to his house, some seven or eight times, perhaps.

C - You used to go to tea parties there - afternoon tea parties?

W - Yes.

C - How many rooms did he occupy?

W - He had the upper part of the house - two stories. He had a bedroom, a sitting-room, a bathroom and a kitchen. I think he did not keep a servant.

C - Did he use to do his own cooking?

W - I don't know. I don't think he did anything wrong.

C - I have not suggested that he did?-

W - Well, cooking is an art.

C - Another art? Did he always open the door to you?

W - No; sometimes he did; sometimes his friends did.

C - Did his rooms strike you as being peculiar?

W - No, except that he displayed more taste than usual.

C - There was rather elaborate furniture in the room, was there not?

W - The rooms were furnished in good taste.

C - Is it true that he never admitted daylight into them?

W - Really, I don't know what you mean.

C - Well was there always candle or gas light there?

W - No.

C - Did you ever see the rooms lighted otherwise than by gas or candles whether by day or night?

W - Yes, certainly.

C - Did you ever see the curtains drawn back in the sitting-room?

W - When I went to see Taylor, it was generally in the winter about five o'clock - tea-time - but I am under the impression of having seen him earlier in the day when it was daylight.

C - Are you prepared to say that you ever saw the curtains otherwise than drawn across?

W - Yes, I think so.

C - It would not be true, then, to say that he always had a double lot of curtains drawn across the windows, and the room, day or night, artificially lighted?

W - I don't think so.

C - Can you declare specifically that any daylight was ever admitted into the room?

W - Well, I can't say as to that.

C - Who was there when you went in the daylight?

W - I think Mr. Taylor only.

C - Can you recall any specific time at which you saw daylight enter that room?

W - Yes; it was a Monday in March. Nobody else was there. In the winter the curtains would naturally be drawn.

C - Were the rooms strongly perfumed?

W - Yes, I have known him to burn perfumes. I would not say the rooms were always perfumed. I am in the habit of burning perfumes in my own rooms.

C - Did you ever meet Wood there?

W - I saw Wood there only on one occasion when I met him at tea.

C - Did you ever meet a man named Sidney Mavor there?

W - Yes.

C - How old was he?

W - About twenty-five or twenty-six.

C - Is he your friend still?

W - Yes....

C - Did you know that Taylor had a lady's costume - a lady's fancy dress - in his rooms?

W - No.

C - Did you ever see him with one on?

W - No. I was never told that he had such dresses. He is a man of great taste and intelligence, and I know he was brought up at a good English school.

C - Is he a literary man?

W - I have never seen any created work of his.

C - Did you discuss literature with him?

W - He used to listen. He was a very artistic, pleasant fellow.

C - Was he an artist?

W - Not in the sense of creating anything. He was extremely intellectual and clever, and I liked him very much.

C - Did you get him to arrange dinners at which you could meet young men?

W - No.

C - But you have dined with young men?

W - Often. Ten or a dozen times, perhaps, at Kettner's, the Solferino, and the Florence.

C - Always in a private room?

W - Generally, not always; but I prefer a private room.

C - Did you send this telegram to Taylor: "Obliged to see Tree at five o'clock, so don't come to Savoy. Let me know at once about Fred. Oscar"?

W - I do not recollect it.

C - Who was Fred?

W - A young man to whom I was introduced by the gentleman whose name was written down yesterday. His other name was Atkins.

C - Were you very familiar with him?

W - I liked him. I never had any trouble about him.

C - Now, did you know that Taylor was being watched by the police?

W - No, I never heard that.

C - Did you know that Taylor and Parker were arrested in a raid upon a house in Fitzroy Square last year?

W - Yes.

C - Now, did you not know that Taylor was notorious for introducing young men to older men?

W - I never heard that in my life. He has introduced young men to me.

C - How many has he introduced to you?

W - Do you mean of those mentioned in this case?

C - No; young men with whom you afterwards became intimate?

W - About five.

C - Were these young men all about twenty?

W - Yes; twenty or twenty-two. I like the society of young men.

C - Among these five did Taylor introduce you to Charles Parker?

W - Yes.

C - Did you become friendly with him?

W - Yes, he was one with whom I became friendly.

C - Did you know that Parker was a gentleman's servant out of employment?

W - No.

C - But if he were, you would still have become friendly with him?

W - Yes. I would become friendly with any human being I liked.

C - How old was he?

W - Really, I do not keep a census.

C - Never mind about a census. Tell me how old he was?

W - I should say he was about twenty. He was young, and that was one of his attractions.

C - Was he intellectual? Was he an educated man?

W - Culture was not his strong point. He was not an artist. Education depends on what one's standard is. . . .

C - Did you become friendly with Parker's brother?

W - Yes. They were my guests, and as such I became friendly with them.

C - On the very first occasion that you saw them?

W - Yes. It was Taylor's birthday, and I asked him to dinner, telling him to bring any of his friends.

C - Did you know that one Parker was a gentleman's valet, and the other a groom?

W - I did not know it, but if I had I should not have cared. I didn't care two pence what they were. I liked them. I have a passion to civilize the community.

C - What enjoyment was it to you to entertain grooms and coachmen?

W - The pleasure to me was being with those who are young, bright, happy, careless, and free. I do not like the sensible and I do not like the old.

C - You did the honours to the valet and the groom?

W - I entertained Taylor and his two guests.

C - In a private room, of course?

W - Yes, certainly.

C - Did you give them an intellectual treat?

W - They seemed deeply impressed.

C - During the dinner did you become more intimate with Charles than the other?

W - I liked him better.

C - Did Charles Parker call you "Oscar"?

W - Yes. I like to be called "Oscar" or "Mr. Wilde."

C - You had wine?

W - Of course.

C - Was there plenty of champagne?

W - Well, I did not press wine upon them.

C - You did not stint them?

W - What gentleman would stint his guests?

C - Now, after dinner, did you say, referring to Charles Parker, in the presence of Taylor and William Parker, the brother, "This is the boy for me"?

W - Certainly not.

C - And did you ask Charles, "Will you come with me"?

W - No. After dinner I went back to the Savoy Hotel, but I did not take Charles Parker with me.

C - Did you not drive him to the Savoy?

W - No, he did not come to the Savoy at all.

C - Did any of these men who visited you at the Savoy have whiskies and sodas and iced champagne?

W - I can't say what they had.

C - Do you drink champagne yourself?

W - Yes; iced champagne is a favourite drink of mine-strongly against my doctor's orders.

C - Never mind your doctor's orders, sir?

W - I never do....

C - Did improprieties take place there?

W - None whatever.

C - What was there in common between this young man and yourself? What attraction had he for you?

W - I delight in the society of people much younger than myself. I like those who may be called idle and careless. I recognize no social distinctions at all of any kind; and to me youth, the mere fact of youth, is so wonderful that I would sooner talk to a young man for half-an-hour than be - well, cross-examined in Court.

C - Do I understand that even a young boy you might pick up in the street would be a pleasing companion?

W - I would talk to a street arab, with pleasure.

C - You would talk to a street arab?

W - If he would talk to me. Yes, with pleasure.

C - And take him into your rooms?

W - Be it so....

C - When did you see Charles Parker last?

W - I don't think I have seen him since February of last year.

C - Did you ever hear what became of him?

W - I heard that he had gone into the army - enlisted as a private.

C - You saw in the papers of the arrest of Taylor and Parker?

W - Yes; I read that they were arrested.

C - You know that they were charged with felonious practices?

W - I knew nothing of the charges.

C - That when they were arrested they were in company with several men in women's clothing?

W - I read of it in the newspapers that two men, in women's clothes, music-hall artistes, drove up to the house and were arrested outside.

C - Did you not think it a somewhat serious thing that Mr. Taylor, your great friend, and Charles Parker, another great friend, should have been arrested in a police raid?

W - I was very much distressed at the time, and wrote to him, but the magistrates took a different view of the case, because they dismissed the charge. It made no difference to my friendship for him.

C - When did you first meet Fred Atkins?

W - In October, 1892. He told me he was connected with a firm of bookmakers. He was about nineteen or twenty. I was introduced to him in the rooms of a gentleman in Margaret Street, off Regent Street. I did not know him through making bets. I did not ask him to dinner on the first day I met him. I met him at a dinner given by another gentleman whose rooms I met him in first. I was friendly with Atkins on that occasion. I called him "Fred" and he called me "Oscar." He was in employment, but apologized and said he neglected his business.

C - Did he seem to you an idle fellow?

W - Well, yes. But he was ambitious to go on the music-hall stage. We did not discuss literature. I would not have allowed him to. The art of the music-hall was as far as he got.

C - Did you ask him to go to Paris with you?

W - I must explain. One Sunday I saw him and the gentleman, who has been mentioned, lunching at the Cafe' Royal. I was going to Paris on my own account in reference to the publication of a book. This other gentleman was also going to Paris about a position on Dalziel's Agency. It was suggested that we should all go together, as he had promised to take Atkins. It was arranged that we should go on a Monday, but subsequently the gentleman found that he could not go until Tuesday or Wednesday. Then, as Atkins seemed very much disappointed, the gentleman asked me if I would take Fred over. I said, "With the greatest pleasure," and I took him.

C - How long had you known Atkins then?

W - About a fortnight. We went by the Club train. I paid for his ticket, but the money was refunded to me afterwards by the gentleman. I did not suggest to Atkins that he should go as my secretary - ridiculous, it's childish to ask such a thing. I took him to the same rooms I occupied in the hotel - 29 Boulevard des Capucines. I engaged three bedrooms, having one in reserve. They all three opened on to each other. I never asked Fred to copy some manuscript for me. I took him to lunch at the Cafe' Julien. He was practically my guest, as representing the gentleman I have mentioned.

C - After lunch did you suggest that Atkins should have his hair curled?

W - He suggested it himself, and I said it would be very unbecoming, and I told him it was a silly thing to do, an absurd thing. I should have been very angry if he had had his hair curled.

C - You dined with him?

W - Yes.

C - Gave him an excellent dinner?

W - I never had anything else. I do everything excellently.

C - Did you give him plenty of wine at dinner?

W - As I have said before, any one who dines at my table is not stinted in wine. If you mean, did I ply him with wine, I say "No!" It's monstrous, and I won't have it.

C - I have not suggested it.

W - But you have suggested it before....

C - Did you ask him to promise that he would say nothing about going to Paris?

W - No. I thought it was the great event of his life, as it was.

C - Did you consider Atkins respectable?

W - Respectable? Yes. I thought him pleasant and young. He was good-natured, and was going on to the music-hall stage. I heard him sing. He was interesting.

C - Was he alone when he came to you at St. James's Place?

W - No; I think he was accompanied by the young actor. I will swear that Atkins was not alone in the room with me.

C - Did any improprieties ever take place between you and Atkins?

W - None whatever....

C - Do you know Walter Grainger?

W - Yes.

C - How old is he?

W - He was about sixteen when I knew him. He was a servant at a certain house in High Street, Oxford, where Lord Alfred Douglas had rooms. I have stayed there several times. Grainger waited at table. I never dined with him. If it is one's duty to serve, it is one's duty to serve; and if it is one's pleasure to dine, it is one's pleasure to dine.

C - Did you ever kiss him?

W - Oh, dear no. He was a peculiarly plain boy. He was, unfortunately, extremely ugly. I pitied him for it.

C - Was that the reason why you did not kiss him?

W - Oh, Mr. Carson, you are pertinently insolent.

C - Did you say that in support of your statement that you never kissed him?

W - No. It is a childish question.

C - Did you ever put that forward as a reason why you never kissed the boy?

W - Not at all.

C - Why, sir, did you mention that this boy was extremely ugly?

W - -For this reason. If I were asked why I did not kiss a door-mat, I should say because I do not like to kiss door-mats. I do not know why I mentioned that he was ugly, except that I was stung by the insolent question you put to me and the way you have insulted me throughout this hearing. Am I to be cross-examined because I do not like it?

C - Why did you mention his ugliness?

W - It is ridiculous to imagine that any such thing could have occurred under any circumstances.

C - Then why did you mention his ugliness, I ask you?

W - Perhaps you insulted me by an insulting question.

C - Was that a reason why you should say the boy was ugly? - [The witness began several answers almost inarticulately, and none of them he finished. Carson's repeated sharply: "Why? Why? Why did you add that?" At last the witness answered]:

W - You sting me and insult me and try to unnerve me; and at times one says things flippantly when one ought to speak more seriously. I admit it.

C - Then you said it flippantly?

W - Oh, yes, it was a flippant answer. No indecencies ever took place between myself and Grainger. I went down in June, 1893, to stay at a cottage at Goring. I brought over Grainger as under-butler. He had asked me to get him a situation. I never on any occasion asked him to come into my bedroom. I don't know where the butler I had then is now.

C - Did you know a masseur at the Savoy named Antonio Migge?

W - Yes. He used occasionally to massage me in the morning. I stayed at the Savoy in March, 1893, but never on that occasion brought boys into my bedroom there.

C - Did you ever bring boys into your rooms at the hotel in Paris?

W - Never.

C - Or into your sitting-room?

W - What do you mean by boys?

C - Boys of eighteen or twenty?

W - Oh, yes; many called to see me.

C - Did any of them come late at night-twelve or one o'clock-and stay till four in the moming?

W - Certainly not.

C - Is it not true that there has been a scandal at the Savoy Hotel?

W - None whatever....

© Matt & Andrej Koymasky - 1997 / 2008 5


navigation map
If you can't use the map, use these links.

HALL Lounge Living Room Memorial
Our Bedroom Guestroom Library Workshop
Links Awards Map