The World of Law: A Treasury of Great Writing about and in the Law, Short Stories, Plays, Essays, Accounts, Letters, Opinions, Pleas, Transcripts of Testimony; from Biblical Times to the Present - Vol. 2

By Ephraim London | Go to book overview

Oscar Wilde


TESTIMONY GIVEN AGAINST THE MARQUIS OF QUEENSBERRY

The most notorious cases of the 1890's were those in which Oscar Wilde was involved. The first was a criminal complaint brought by Wilde against the Marquis of Queensberry, originator of the Queensberry Rules. Wilde had been intimate with Queensberry's son, Lord Alfred Douglas. Queensberry attempted, without success, to end the association. He then announced he would ruin Wilde, and his son, and proceeded to do so by publicizing the nature of their relationship. On February 18, 1895, Queensberry delivered an inscribed card to the porter of a club of which Wilde was a member. The card bore the inscription, "To Oscar Wilde, posing as a somdomite (sic.)." The card was delivered without an envelope so that it might be read by others in the club.

Wilde secured a criminal warrant charging Queensberry with libel. Queensberry entered a plea of justification--that is, that the statement was true; and he proved it. When it became clear after several days of trial that his case would be lost, Wilde withdrew the charge.

Although he failed in his purpose Wilde was superb on the witness stand. There is no more severe test of one's wit and conversational gifts than intensive cross-examination. Wilde was more than equal to the test. The following are extracts from the cross-examination of Wilde by Mr. Edward Carson, counsel for Queensberry at the trial of Wilde's complaint against Queensberry.

In an attempt to show that Wilde's writings were immoral, Carson read several extracts from Wilde's published works into the record. The passages immediately following were from an article written by Wilde

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