The Trials of Oscar Wilde by. H Montgomery Hyde
- From The Second Trial - page 157:
Before his committal for trial on 19 April, Wilde was twice remanded in custody, since Charles Gill, who appeared for the prosecution, required three hearings before asking for a committal. On each occasion Wilde's defending counsel Travers Humphreys applied for bail, saying that sureties could be offered to any amount and pointing out that the prisoner had made no attempt to get away, although he knew for many hours prior to his arrest that a warrant might be issued. 'You can understand,' urged Travers Humphreys on the third occasion, 'that there are witnesses to be obtained for the defence, and it is very difficult for Mr Wilde to communicate with persons and prepare his defence unless he is to have the facilities of a man at liberty.' But the magistrate persisted in his refusal both in respect of Wilde and also of Alfred Taylor, who had also been arrested. 'In deciding what to do with a case of this kind,' declared Sir John Bridge from the Bench, 'I have to use my discretion according - in the words of a great judge - to the evidence given and the gravity of the accusation. With regard to the gravity of the case, I think there is no worse crime than that with which the prisoners are charged. As to the evidence, all 1 shall say is that I do not think it slight, and I shall therefore refuse bail.'
In the first part of this declaration the magistrate seems to have
allowed his sense of righteous indignation to get the better of him,
since he momentarily overlooked the fact that murder, rape and a good
many other oitences are unquestionably more serious than the
misdemeanours with which Wilde and his fellow prisoner were charged. So
far as the evidence went, however, the magistrate was on surer ground.
The blackmailer Wood, the youth Charles Parker, and the bookmaker's tout
Fred Atkins, all deposed to have been introduced to Wilde for immoral
purposes, and each swore that misconduct had taken place between himself
and Wilde at various times and in various places. Their statements were
corroborated generally by two witnesses, a masseur and a . . .
- From The Second Trial - page 162:
On 13 April W. E. Henly, edito of the National Observer,
wrote to another journalist, Charles Whibley, in characteristic
Yes: Oscar at bay was on the whole a pleasing sight. The air is alive
with rumours of course: but I believe no new arrests will be made, and
that morality will be satisfied if Oscar gets two years: as, of course, he
will. Why he didn't stay at Monte Carlo, once he got there, God alone
knows. Seeing that . . . he returned to face the music, and play the roman
fool to Caesar's Destiny, I can only conjecture that, what between
personal and professional vanity, he was stark mad. Be that as it may,
he is mad no more. Holloway and Bow Street have taken his hair out
of curl in more senses than one. And I am pretty sure that he is having
a damn bad time.
- From Appendix D. Lord Alfred Douglas and the Aftermath of the Wilde Trials - page 339:
W. T. Stead, destined eventually to lose his life in the "Titanic" disaster,
was one of the most courageous and out-spoken Radical journalists of the period,
as well as a tireless antagonist of social abuses with a strong Nonconformist conscience.
Strangely enough, it was Stead more than anyone else who was responsible for the passing
of the Criminal Law Amendment Act in 1885, although not for the specific section of it
under which Wilde was charged. This statute was entitled "An Act to make further
provision for the Protection of Women and Girls, the suppression of brothels and
other purposes," and it was the culminating point in the campaign against prostitution
and white slavery in England which Stead had been carrying on for some time in
the pages of the Pall Mall Gazette. When the Bill was being
debated in the committee stage in the House of Commons, Henry
Labouchere, the well-known Radical M.P. and editor of Truth,
moved an amendment designed to cover indecent practices between males or
"outrages on decency" whether committed in public or in private,
although this was never within the original scope and purpose of the
Bill. After some discussion, and the increase of the maximum punishment
of one year's imprisonment with hard labour, as proposed by Labouchere,
to two years, the amendment was carried and subsequently incorporated as
Section II of the Act.
Unfortunately for himself, Stead's zeal in the social purity campaign outran
his discretion. While the Criminal Law Amendment Bill was still before Parliament,
he published a series of articles under the title of "The Maiden
Tribute of Modern Babylon" in the Pall Mall Gazette, which it
is no exaggeration to say produced a world-wide sensation. Anxious to show
how relatively simple a matter it was for anyone with £2o in his pocket to acquire
a young girl for the purposes of prostitution or white slavery, Stead himself
entered into an arrangement of this kind with a mother of a young girl, and
although the girl was immediately handed over to the tender care of the Salvation
Army and the police were informed, Stead was charged with abducting the girl,
and on his conviction which followed he was sent to prison for three months.
(Frederic Whyte, Lift of W. T. Stead, vol. I (1925), P. 185.)
Stead continued his social work after his release, and having severed his connexion
with the Pall Mall Gazette he proceeded to found a new journal which he called
The Review of Reviews. It was in the editorial notes of this periodical,
entitled "The Progress of the World," that in due course he came to comment on the Wilde case.
"THE CONVICTION OF OSCAR WILDE."
" . . . The trial of Oscar Wilde and Taylor at the Old Bailey, resulting in their conviction and the infliction of what will probably be a capital sentence-for two years' hard labour in solitary confinement always breaks up the constitution even of tough and stalwart men-has forced upon the attention of the public the existence of a vice of which tli-e most of us happily know nothing. The heinousness of the crime of Oscar Wilde and his associates does not lie, as is usually supposed, in its being unnatural. It would be unnatural for seventy-nine out of eighty persons. It is natural for the abnormal person who is in a minority of one. If the promptings of our animal nature are to be the only guide, the punishment of Oscar Wilde would savour of persecution, and he might fairly claim our sympathy as the champion of individualism against the tyranny of an intolerant majority. But we are not merely animal. We are human beings living together in society, whose aim is to render social intercourse as free and as happy as possible. At present, fortunately, people of the same sex can travel together, and live together in close intimacy,
without any one even dreaming of any scandal. Between persons of the same sex suspicion of impropriety or the thought of indecency has been so effectually banished that the mere suggestion of the possibility will seem to most an incredible absurdity. Between individuals of opposite sexes no such free unfettered communion of life is possible. That, however, is the goal towards which we ought to progress; and it would be a fatal blunder at the very moment when we are endeavouring to rid friendship between man and woman of the blighting shadow of possible wrong-doing, were we to acquiesce in the re-establishment of that upas shade over the relations between man and man and man and woman.
The Sacrosanct Male. At the same time it is impossible to deny that the trial and the sentence bring into very clear relief the ridiculous disparity there is between the punishment meted out to those who corrupt girls and those who corrupt boys. If Oscar Wilde, instead of indulging in dirty tricks of indecent familiarity with boys and men, had ruined the lives of half a dozen innocent simpletons of girls, or had broken up the home of his friend by corrupting his friend's wife, no one could have laid a finger upon him. The male is sacrosanct: the female is fair game. To have burdened society with a dozen bastards, to have destroyed a happy home by his lawless lust-of these things the criminal law takes no account. But let him act indecently to a young rascal who is very well able to take care of himself, and who can by no possibility bring a child into the world as the result of his corruption, then judges can hardly contain themselves from indignation when inflicting the maximum sentence the law allows' Another contrast, almost as remarkable as that which sends Oscar Wilde to hard labour and places Sir Charles Dilke in the House of Commons, is that between the universal execration heaped upon Oscar Wilde and the tacit universal acquiescence of the very same public in the same kind of vice in our public schools. If all persons guilty of Oscar Wilde's offences were to be clapped into gaol, there would be a very surprising exodus from Eton and Harrow, Rugby and Winchester, to Pentonville and Holloway. It is to be hoped that our headmasters will pluck up a little courage from the result of the Wilde trial, and endeavour to rid our Protestant schools of a foul and unnatural vice which is not found in Catholic establishments, at all events in this country. But meanwhile public school boys are allowed to indulge with impunity in practices which, when they leave school, would consign them to hard labour."
- Attacking the Devil - W.T. Stead Resource site (including articles on "The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon" in the Pall Mall Gazette)
- From Appendix E. The Prevalence of Male Homosexuality in England - page 349:
- Page 349: "Although this was the most conspicuous prosecution of its kind which had taken place under the Criminal Law Amendment Act of i885, it must not be supposed from the evidence in Regina v. Wilde and Taylor that homosexual acts were any novelty in England at the time of the conviction of the two defendants in this case. For, as Marcus Aurelius has said, "who can change the desires of men?" Male homosexuality has certainly been prevalent in this country since the time of the Norman Conquest. (on this subject generally see Havelock Ellis, Studies in the Psychology of Sex, vol. II, part 2, Sexual Inversion (New York, 1936); Eugen Diihren (Ivan Bloch), Das Geschlechtsleben in England, vol. Ill (Berlin, 1903); Marc-Andri Raffalovich Uranisme et Unisexualite' (Paris and Lyon, i896), and works therein cited.) At least four English kings have been inverts, as also have been a number of distinguished soldiers, clergy, poets, peers of the realm, Members of Parliament and others prominent in one rank or another of English society. Further, the prevalence of homosexual conduct is attested by the fact that sodomy was regarded from early times as an ecclesiastical offence, although it did not become a felony and thus subject to ordinary criminal jurisdiction until the reign of Henry VIII."
- Page 350: "Although the church took cognizance of the crime of sodomy, it does not appear to have been dealt with at all severely. There seems to have been a prevailing opinion that, if the church relinquished convicted offenders to the secular arm, they would be burned like sorcerers and witches. It is practically certain that they were not burned and that on the contrary they enjoyed comparative immunity until the passing of the Statute of 1533, which made the offence a felony and punishable capitally. It was only a few years previously that Henry VIII had decided upon the suppression of the monasteries, and it is probable that the act was occasioned by the unsatisfactory state of affairs revealed by some of the inhabitants of these institutions. The Act (25 Henry VIII, c. 6) was repealed in 1547 by Edward VI, along with other legislation passed in his father's time, but it was re-enacted in the following year, again repealed in 1553 and finally re-enacted in 1562 (5 Elizabeth, c. I7), when Parliament ordained that it was to be perpetual. It remained a capital offence until the beginning of the nineteenth century, when the death penalty was abolished for this as for many other offences at the instigation of Sir Robert Peel, then Home Secretary."
- Page 351: "Among the dramatists of the period must be included Christopher Marlowe, one of the most brilliant writers of the age, whose works as well as whose conduct betrayed his feelings. In his most powerful drama, Edward II, he deals with the relations between the King and his favourites. In 1593 Marlowe was accused, amongst other things, of having openly stated that "all thei that love not tobacco and boyes are fooles."' A warrant was issued by the Privy Council for his arrest, and it was only his sudden death immediately afterwards which prevented his execution. He was involved in a tavern brawl in Bedford and was fatally stabbed, according to a contemporary, "by a bawdy serving man a rival of his in his lewd love.""
- Page 352: "As might be expected, the Restoration brought a considerable wave of homosexuality in its train. It
was of the opinion of the diarist Pepys, for example, that the Court had hever been so bad as it was during the reign
of Charles II for "the most abominable vices that ever were in the world.""
- Page 353: "In spite of the severe penalties to which those
practising it were liable, homosexuality continued to flourish in
England in the eighteenth century. The Old Bailey and Middlesex Sessions
papers abound with trials for sodomy at this time, and many death
sentences are recorded, although the law seems to have been very fairly,
if severely, applied. Readers of Smollett's Roderick Random which
first appeared in 1748, may remember how Lord Strutwell observed that
homosexuality "gains ground apace and in all probability will become in
a short time a more fashionable device than simple fornication." Male
brothels were certainly not unknown in London in 1726. There is a
remarkable trial of one Margaret Clap "for keeping a sodomitical house
off Holborn," where between forty and fifty men were found one Sunday
evening "making love to one another, as they called it." Mistress Clap
was duly convicted and sentenced to two years' imprisonment as well as
to stand in the pillory. (Select Trials at the Sessions-House of the Old
Bailey, Ill, 37 (1742))"
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Trial of George Kedger, 1726", Homosexuality in
Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. Updated 1 Dec. 1999:
This is one of the series of trials that took place in 1726 following the raid on
Mother Clap's molly house. As in other trials, Thomas Newton agreed to testify
against the men he had sex with in return for immunity from prosecution. This
particular trial is notable for the many details it gives about the popularity of Mother
Clap's molly house and what went on there. It wasn't exactly a male brothel, but it
certainly was more than just a tavern.
"SAMUEL STEVENS. Mother Clap's House was in Field-lane, in Holbourn. It was
next to the Bunch of Grapes on one Side, and join'd to an Arch on the other Side.
It was notorious for being a Molly-house. I have been there several Times, in order
to detect those who frequented it: I have seen 20 or 30 of them together, kissing
and hugging, and making Love (as they called it) in a very indecent Manner. Then
they used to go out by Couples into another Room, and when they came back,
they would tell what they had been doing, which, in their Dialect, they called
Project Gutenberg Presents he Adventures of Roderick Random (1748) by Tobias Smollett (1721-1771) -
"Among other topics of discourse, that of the Belles Lettres was
introduced, upon which his lordship held forth with great taste
and erudition and discovered an intimate knowledge of the authors
of antiquity, "Here's a book," said he, taking one from his bosom,
"written with great elegance and spirit; and, though the subject may
give offence to some narrow-minded people, the author will always
be held in esteem by every person of wit and learning." So saying,
he put into my hand Petronius Arbiter, and asked my opinion of
his wit and manner. I told him, that, in my opinion, he wrote with
great ease and vivacity, but was withal so lewd and indecent that
he ought to find no quarter or protection among people of morals
and taste. "I own," replied the earl, "that his taste in love is
generally decried, and indeed condemned by our laws; but perhaps
that may be more owing to prejudice and misapprehension than to
true reason and deliberation. The best man among the ancients is
said to have entertained that passion; one of the wisest of their
legislators has permitted the indulgence of it in his commonwealth;
the most celebrated poets have not scrupled to avow it. At this day
it prevails not only over all the East, but in most parts of Europe;
in our own country, it gains ground apace, and in all probability
will become in a short time a more, fashionable vice than simple
fornication. Indeed there is something to be said in vindication of
it; for, notwithstanding the severity of the law against offenders
in this way, it must be confessed that the practice of this passion is
unattended with that curse and burthen upon society which proceeds
from a race of miserable and deserted bastards, who are either murdered
by their parents, deserted to the utmost want and wretchedness,
or bred up to prey upon the commonwealth: and it likewise prevents
the debauchery of many a young maiden, and the prostitution of
honest men's wives; not to mention the consideration of health,
which is much less liable to be impaired in the gratification of
this appetite, than in the exercise of common venery, which, by
ruining the constitutions of our young men, has produced a puny
progeny that degenerates from generation to generation. Nay, I
have been told, that there is another motive perhaps more powerful
than all these, that induces people to cultivate this inclination;
namely, the exquisite pleasure attending its success."
From this discourse I began to be apprehensive that his lordship,
finding I had travelled, was afraid I might have been infected
with this spurious and sordid desire abroad, and took this method
of sounding my sentiments on the subject. Fired at this supposed
suspicion, I argued against it with great warmth, as an appetite
unnatural, absurd, and of pernicious consequence; and declared
my utter detestation and abhorrence of it in these lines of the
Eternal infamy the wretch confound
Who planted first that vice on British ground!
A vice! That spite of nature and sense reigns,
And poisons genial love, and manhood stains.
The earl smiled at my indignation, and told me he was glad to find
my opinion of the matter so conformable to his own, and that what
he had advanced was only to provoke me to an answer, with which
he professed himself perfectly well pleased."
- Page 356: "In 1866, W. E. H. Lecky, writing in his History of European Morals, described what he called "the lowest abyss of unnatural love" as the "deepest and strongest taint of Greek civilization," adding that "my task in describing this aspect of Greek life has been an eminently unpleasant one." John Addington Symonds, who was a contemporary of Lecky, wrote two scientific monographs on the subject, A Problem in Greek Ethics (1873) and A Problem in Modern Ethics (1891), but, fearing prosecution, he limited the editions to a few privately printed copies. Symonds pressed Oscar Browning to devote some research to the subject, but Browning deemed it prudent to decline the invitation.' On the other hand, Havelock Ellis, with whom Symonds had collaborated in the original first volume of the celebrated Studies in the Psychology of Sex, which dealt with inversion, published a sufficient number of copies of this volume for the printer to be prosecuted. This was in 1898. In the result Havelock Ellis was obliged to bring out the remaining volumes of his great work in the United States, and it is only in recent years that they have been reprinted in this country.
Besides W. T. Stead's remarks in the Review of Reviews, one of the few frank expressions of opinion on the subject of sexual inversion in England, published by the press at the time of Wilde's conviction, was contained in a letter to Reynold's Newspaper over the initials "C. S. M." These initials concealed the identity of Christopher Sclater Millard, who was later to compile several bibliographies of Wilde's writings under the pseudonym "Stuart Mason."' Unfortunately for him, this writer was also to be convicted of offences under the Criminal Law Amendment Act as Wilde had been.
Mr. Oscar Wilde has been sentenced to two years' imprisonment with hard labour. What for? For being immoral? No. A man may commit adultery with another man's wife or fornication with a painted harlot who plys her filthy trade in the public streets unmolested with impunity. It is because this man has dared to choose another form of satisfying his natural passions the law steps in. Yet he has not injured the State or anybody else against their will.
Why does not the Crown prosecute every boy at a public or private school or half the men in the Universities?
In the latter places "poederism" is as common as fornication, and everybody knows it.
May I say a word about the conduct of the press in this case? The Daily Chronicle and yourselves are the only papers which have ever given the poor wretch in prison a fair hearing. Other papers, which a few weeks ago devoted columns to reviews of his splendid plays or books, now scorn him as poison. Because a fellow-creature has fallen, why should they cast stones at him? Are the writers of such articles themselves immaculate in their passions?
Prosecuting a man on such a charge as this does not tend to diminish this form of immorality; it rather increases it tenfold.
C.S.M. 29th May, 1895.""