Bosie, Lord Alfred Douglas, His Friends and Enemies

Bosie, Lord Alfred Douglas, His Friends and Enemies

Bosie, Lord Alfred Douglas, His Friends and Enemies

Bosie, Lord Alfred Douglas, His Friends and Enemies

Excerpt

Alfred Douglas has ceased to be a controversial figure, and in the general estimate is condemned, if not with execration at least with a shrug. In the many books which describe his friendship with Wilde, even in those which profess to be concerned primarily with Douglas, an image has been created which must fill the reader with antipathy, and two fairly recent films have done nothing to modify it. Douglas is shown as petulant and wilful, coercing Wilde to attack Queensberry, abandoning him in distress, disloyal to his memory, an egotist monstrous in his vanity and fatal in his personal beauty. This image is a false one, but it is not my object to destroy it by an impassioned polemical defence of the man in all his actions or a denunciation of his enemies. I shall rely on evidence, much of which has never hitherto been brought to light, to erase the crude lines of caricature and substitute a portrait.

My friendship with Douglas was unbroken during the last twentyfive years of his life, so that although I had opportunities of hearing from him and those about him a certain amount of past history, I have been dependent for most of it on research, in which I have received the most generous assistance. In spite of my affection for Douglas, I had more than a suspicion that this research would reveal weaknesses and perhaps demerits in his behaviour at the time of the Wilde scandal to justify the popular and persistent abuse of him which, initiated by Robert Ross, has continued ever since the publication of Arthur Ransome's book and the libel action which followed it in 1913.

I have found, though, that all the evidence shows that Douglas's conduct at the time, however impulsive and ill-advised, was honourable and courageous in a degree scarcely to be expected of a young man of twenty-four, faced with a tragic and dangerous situation and having only his own initiative, his own sense of loyalty, his own idea of right and wrong, to guide him. The selfish youth who goaded Wilde to his doom, and afterwards abandoned him is an artfully created myth, for which, however, Douglas by his feverish protestations and his abominable book, Oscar Wilde and Myself, must be held partially to blame. The truth was that alone among Wilde's friends he . . .

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