| Oscar Wilde's downfall began when he brought
a libel against the Marquess of Queesberry, the father of Lord Afred Douglas.
The Marquess had been hounding Wilde for two years over his relationship
with Douglas, and matters were finally brought to a head when the Marguess
sent Wilde a card at his club.
The address on the card was to be the subject of much discussion--Wilde probably made the words out to be "To Oscar Wilde, ponce and Somdonite," though what Queensberry had actually written was "To Oscar Wilde posing Somdomite [sic]." Whatever the true words were, Wilde saw no alternative but to prosecute the Marquess for criminal libel. The trial that follows was a disaster for Wilde; the defence brought witnesses who testified that they had homosexual relations with Wilde and consequently the judge ruled that Queensberry was justified in calling Wilde a sodomite in public. The court erupted in cheers, which the judge made no effort to quell, and Wilde faced ruin.
"I will not prevent your flight, but if you take my son with you,
I will shoot you like a dog."
Prosecution was now certain. Flight from England was an option that Wilde could have taken, though he was reluctant to do so, against the urging of many of his friends. He seemed to want the whole affair to work its way through to the end, and he seemed to almost relieved when two detectives turned up with a warrant for his arrest. His fortunes were now in reverse--Queensburry forced a bankruptcy sale of all his effects and many of his friends fell away: many of those who were threatened by Wilde's trial fled to France, while many more of his society friends ceased to have anything to do with him.
Wilde was charged with indecency and sodomy, and he was unfortunate in that the judge who heard the case, Sir John Bridge, was revolted by the crime of sodomy, thereby assuring that things would go badly with Wilde. Afred Douglas was determined to stay in the country and testify for Wilde, but he was finally persuaded that his presence in cournt would be prejudicial to Wilde's interests. He therefore went to France, depriving Wilde of the one person on whom he was leaning heavily throughout this period. by Martin Cinnamond, 1995
Oscar Wilde, at his first trial, 26 April 1895.
And I? May I say nothing, my Lord?