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The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde: The First Uncensored Transcript of the Trial of Oscar Wilde Vs. John Douglas Marquess of Queensberry, 1895 [Hardcover]

John Mortimer , Merlin Holland
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov 2003
Oscar Wilde had one of literary history's most explosive love affairs with Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas. In 1895, Bosie's father, the Marquess of Queensberry, delivered a note to the Albemarle Club addressed to "Oscar Wilde posing as sodomite." With Bosie's encouragement, Wilde sued the Marquess for libel. He not only lost but he was tried twice for "gross indecency" and sent to prison with two years' hard labor. With this publication of the uncensored trial transcripts, readers can for the first time in more than a century hear Wilde at his most articulate and brilliant. The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde documents an alarmingly swift fall from grace; it is also a supremely moving testament to the right to live, work, and love as one's heart dictates.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; 1 edition (Nov 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007156642
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007156641
  • Product Dimensions: 23.7 x 16.5 x 3.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 651,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
On Saturday 2 March, at nine o'clock in the morning, the Marquess of Queensberry was arrested at Carter's Hotel on a warrant which Oscar Wilde and his solicitor, Charles Humphreys, had obtained the day before. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oscar Wilde 9 Jan 2011
By Ward
Format:Paperback
It shows the dark days of our society when people were persecuted because of their sexuality. Social ostracisation and harsh legal penalties drove Oscar Wilde to a sentence of two years hard labour. It also drove some to suicide and many to double lives. It is only in recent years that gay people have had any sort of real freedom but there are still those being killed today in this country just because of their sexuality.
It has been said that if we do not learn from history we are condemned to repeat it so read this book and support a more progressive society than it portrays.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping legal read 16 Jun 2010
By Petrean
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Great book. A truly gripping story, and some razor sharp wit on display from both OW and Carson.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Genuine Tragedy 9 Dec 2003
By R. Hardy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
It wasn't a capital trial, but the 1895 libel proceedings of Oscar Wilde against the Marquess of Queensberry were in their way tragic and terrible. Entering the trial, Wilde was a celebrity and a playwright with the magnificently silly _The Importance of Being Ernest_ in successful performance in London and New York. Afterwards, he was pursued, tried, convicted, and imprisoned at hard labor for the then crime of homosexuality. It is a story that has been told many times and turned into dramas. Those of us who love Wilde's writing and outrageous wit will always wonder what would have happened if he had been able to write and live as he wished, instead of being ruined and sent to an early death. Amazingly, the trial record has until now been unavailable. There were summaries, and publication of extracts, but only with _The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde: The First Uncensored Transcript of the Trial of Oscar Wilde vs. John Douglas (Marquess of Queensberry)_, 1895 (Fourth Estate) do we have a full record. In 2000, an anonymous source donated a transcript of the trial to the British Library. It was authenticated, and has now been edited by Merlin Holland, Wilde's grandson. Anyone interested in Wilde's life and writing will be fascinated by this verbatim record which puts judge, prosecutor, defender, and of course Wilde himself on the stage of the Old Bailey to play out their roles verbatim.
Holland has a useful introduction to recall the details of how Wilde was snared into legal doom, spurred by his young man Lord Alfred Douglas ("Bosie") to bother Bosie's abominable father Queensberry. When, after several skirmishes, Queensberry left his calling card at Wilde's club, with the words "To Oscar Wilde posing as somdomite" (spelling was one of the Marquess's shortcomings), Wilde should have thrown it into the fire. Instead, egged on by Bosie, he took Queensberry to court for libel. It was the mistake of his life.; as Holland writes, "If I could ask my grandfather a single question, it would have to be, 'Why on earth did you do it?'" Wilde did not take advice that he leave the country, and so sealed his own doom. Most of the pages of this book are the words from the trial, and most of those words come from the bouts with Wilde in the witness box. Initially he seemed to enjoy his role in the events, and gave as good as he got. For much of the repartee reported here, the transcriber notes: "(_laughter_.)" and "(_more laughter_.)" But an eventual flippant answer overthrew Wilde on the stand, although his case could not have been won. When Carson asked about a companion, "Did you ever kiss him?" Wilde replied, "Oh, no, never in my life; he was a peculiarly plain boy." It was not long after that Wilde and his lawyers withdrew the charges, and Queensberry was declared not guilty.
If Queensbury was not guilty of libel, it was reasonable to think that his accusations were truthful, and with the evidence already gathered, Queensberry assisted in a speedy arrest of Wilde, who once again had refused advice that he leave the country. The subsequent trials, one with a hung jury and one finding him guilty of gross indecency, are not covered in this volume. Wilde had two years of hard labor, and three sad years of exile before his death in Paris in 1900. He produced the mordant "Ballad of Reading Gaol" but little else during these years, and while there are plenty of examples that his wit remained in conversation, we were robbed of subsequent examples of the delicious laughter that had come from each of his successively improving plays. This is a useful book as full documentation of the first trial, and Holland has given helpful notes throughout. Those who admire Wilde, however, will find it more than useful. Wilde was brilliant at Greek and admired Greek drama and life, and it is no exaggeration that the transcript of the trial, reading as it does like a piece of period theater, has all the marks of a classic tragedy.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing reading experience 13 April 2004
By Kevin Killian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
What's amazing is that, we have heard for many years about the unparalleled wit and charm of Wilde in conversation, yet until now we of course have been denied this experience. Reading these verbatim transcripts, hundreds of pages long and recently unearthed, we are given the opportunity to do this almost virtually, for the Wildean voice comes through loud and clear, with perfect crispness and distinction. This libel trial, the first of three of the Oscar Wilde trials, is almost a conversation between two persons, and the defence counsel, Carson, though incredibly scornful and insolent, is almost as intelligent and quite as good at debate as Wilde, so it's a splendid match of brains. The outcome is disheartening, though, and throughout you can't help pounding the desk and murmuring out loud, oh, Oscar, how could you have been so stupid! Or -- don't go there! So he becomes real in a way he hasn't previously, not even in the best biographies available. Queensberry and Alfred Douglas come off, in hindsight, as monsters of privilege in only quasi-human form. And poor Edward Shelley, it is plain, deserves a book of his own.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping 17 Mar 2012
By Bathsheba Robie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
What a fabulous find: the shorthand notes of Oscar Wilde's prosecution of the Marquess of Queensberry for libel.

The author is Oscar Wilde's grandson and his literary executor. According to him, the formal transcripts of the proceeding (the transcription from shorthand into typewritten form) has mysteriously disappeared from the Court's files. Very irregular. One wonders how/why the stenographic record survived when so much else of the official record mysteriously disappeared. The author only says the transcripts were delivered to the British Library, but does not indicate the source.

I am a lawyer and am familiar with trial procedure here in the US, but not the UK in 1895. It could be that the proceedings were taken down by private stenographers (i.e., not employees of the Crown), who would transcribe the proceedings and deliver a typed version to the Court for entry into the record. If so, then the hand written stenographic record could have remained in private hands (the stenographic company), untouched while the rest of the formal record of the trial mysteriously disappeared. How fortunate for us these records have survived.

I am not sure it's fair to blame Wilde's counsel for the debacle. Wilde swore to this man that there was no basis at all for the libel. I believe that during the trial Wilde's counsel saw the inevitable, felt let down by a client who lied to him (then a gentleman's word was his bond) and frankly didn't really care. A lying client really ties a lawyer's hands behind his or her back. (I have had first hand experience of that as a real estate lawyer. You really can't represent people who lie to you.)

In his introduction, the author says that he would like to ask his grandfather why on earth he started the action. I would too. It was insanity, knowing "what was out there" in the way of blackmailers, evidence at the Savoy Hotel and other places which would come back to bite him. Oscar Wilde and his immediate family paid a terrible price for this mistake. All of Wilde's other friends told Wilde to tear the card up. Why didn't he? I can only speculate that Wilde was sucked into the Queensberry family's "strum und drang" and was used as a pawn. All of the Queensberry family (exclusive of the father) financed Wilde's prosecution of the father. Wilde did not have sufficient funds to pay for the prosecution himself as he was facing bankruptcy at the time (another reason why it seems incredible for Wilde to start this prosecution).
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, but what abotu the criminal trial? 26 Jan 2014
By W. Hall - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a junkie for this whole story, I of course loved it, but I'm almost at the end and I'm realizing this is just the libel trial that Oscar got going against Bosie's dad, I'm wondering about the criminal trial that followed.
4.0 out of 5 stars A Needed Addition 26 Nov 2013
By Emerita - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A very interesting reworking of the classic H. Montgomery Hyde "Trials of Oscar Wilde" with a more modern take on Oscar.
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