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The Criminal Trials of Oscar Wilde
Transcript Excerpts of the First Criminal Trial (April 26 to May 1, 1895)

Testimony of Edward Shelley

Shelley was examined by Horace Avery

Shelley - I am twenty-one years of age. In 1891 I was employed as a clerk in the offices of Messrs. Elkin Mathews & John Lane, publishers, of the Bodley Head, Vigo Street, W. In 1892 they were publishing a book for Mr. Wilde. Mr. Wilde was in the habit of coming to the firm's place of business; he seemed to take note of me, and he generally stopped and spoke to me for a few moments. As Mr. Wilde was leaving Vigo Street one day he invited me to dine with him at the Albemarle Hotel. I kept the appointment. I was proud of the Invitation. We dined together in a public room. Mr. Wilde was very kind and attentive, and pressed me to drink. I had champagne with dinner, and after had whisky and soda and smoked cigarettes in Mr. Wilde's sitting room.

ClarkeAvery - What happened afterwards?

S - I do not like to say.... Mr. Wilde's conversation was principally about books and myself. Mr. Wilde said, "Will you come into my bedroom?" I did not know what he meant. As I went into the room Mr. Wilde kissed me. He also put his arms round me. I had been taking a lot of wine. I felt insulted, degraded, and objected vigorously. Mr. Wilde said he was sorry and that he had drunk too much wine. I stayed the night and shared his bed. Mr. Wilde saw me next day and again kissed me and there was a repetition of the previous night's performance. Mr. Wilde said he could get me on, and he invited me to go with him to Brighton, Cromer and Paris, but I did not go. He made me a present of a set of his writings, including The Picture of Dorian Gray. He wrote something in the books, "To one I like well," or something to that effect, but I tore out the pages bearing the inscriptions. I only did that quite recently, after I heard of the charges suggested by Lord Queensberry. My father objected to my friendship with Mr. Wilde. At first I thought that Mr. Wilde was a kind of philanthropist, fond of youth and eager to be of assistance to young men, of any promise. But certain speeches and actions on the part of Mr. Wilde caused me to alter this opinion. I also received letters from Mr. Wilde which I kept until about a couple of years ago. At the same time I wrote Mr. Wilde a letter in which I said that I could not have anything more to do with a man of his morality and that I would break off the acquaintance.

Cross-examined by Sir Edward Clarke - About two years ago, in 1893, did you write a certain letter to Mr. Wilde?

S - Yes.

C - On what subject?

S - It was to break off the acquaintance.

C - How did the letter begin?

S - It began "Sir."

C - Give me the gist of it?

S - I believe I said, "I have suffered more from my acquaintance with you than you are ever likely to know of." I further said that he was an immoral man and that I would never, if I could help it, see him again.

C - If such a thing as you allege happened you must have resented the outrage upon you?

S - Yes, I did.

C - Then why did you go and dine with him the very next day?

S - I suppose I was a young fool. I tried to think the best of him.

C - Are you sure that you have not made any mistake with reference to what you say occurred between you and Mr. Wilde?

S - No, I have made no mistake.

C - Did it occur to you after the second occasion that it was a sin?

S - Yes, it did occur to me that it was a sin I was committing.

C - Did you become familiar with some of Mr. Wilde's writings?

S - Yes.

C - And did you talk to him upon literary subjects?

S - Yes, before I went to the Albemarle Hotel.

C - You seem to have put the worst possible construction on his liking for you. Did your friendly relations with Mr. Wilde remain unbroken until the time you wrote that letter in March, 1893?

S - Yes.

C - Have you seen Mr. Wilde since then?

S - Yes.

C - After that letter?

S - Yes.

C - Where did you see him?

S - I went to see him in Tite Street.

[Counsel read from a letter written by Shelley to Wilde after the commission of the alleged acts:]

Dear Oscar,
... I can never forget your kindness and am conscious that I can never sufficiently express my thankfulness to you ....

C - Was it present in your mind at the time you wrote this that Mr. Wilde had insulted you when you had had too much to drink?

S - Certainly, I could not forget such a thing.

C - Were you under the painful sense of having committed sin?

S - I tried to forget it. I wanted to think some good of the man. I thought Mr. Wilde was really sorry for what he had done.

C - What do you mean, "for what he had done"?

S - His improper behaviour with young men.

C - Yet you say he never practiced any actual improprieties upon you?

S - Because he saw that I would never allow anything of the kind. He did not disguise from me what he wanted, or what his usual customs with young men were.

C - Yet you wrote him grateful letters breathing apparent friendship?

S - For the reason I have given.

C - These letters were written to one whom you thought an immoral man?

S - Yes.

C - Well, we'll leave that question. Now, tell me why did you leave the Vigo Street firm of publishers?

S - Because it got to be known that I was friendly with Oscar Wilde.

C - Did you leave the firm of your own accord?

S - Yes.

C - Why?

S - People employed there, my fellow clerks, chaffed me about my acquaintance with Mr. Wilde.

C - In what way?

S - They implied scandalous things. They called me "Mrs. Wilde" and "Miss Oscar."

C - So you left?

S - I resolved to put an end to an intolerable position.

C - You were in bad odour at home too, I think?

S - Yes, a little.

C - I put it to you that your father requested you to leave his house?

S - Yes. He strongly objected to my friendship with Mr. Wilde. But the difference between us was made up again.

C - I find that in January of this year you were in serious troub1e?

S - In what way?

C - You were arrested for an assault upon your father?

S - Yes, I was.

C - Did your father tell you to leave his house?

S - Yes. It was because of my friendship with Mr. Wilde.

C - Did your parents accuse you of idleness?

S - Yes, they thought me idle.

C - Were you quite in your sound mind when you assaulted your father?

S - No, I couldn't have been.

C - Where were you taken?

S - To the Fulham Police Station.

C - You were offered bail?

S - Yes.

C - Did you send to Mr. Wilde and ask him to bail you out?

S - Yes.

C - What happened?

S - In an hour my father went to the station and I was liberated. My father withdrew the charge and the case was dismissed.

© Matt & Andrej Koymasky - 1997 / 2008 10
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