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The trial of Oscar Wilde

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Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was an Irish dramatist, writer and wit. He was the author of such works as the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, the play The Importance of being Ernest and may others.

Born of wealthy parents whose father and mother were also authors, Wilde attended Trinity College Dublin and later went to Oxford where he began his liaison with handsome young men, a practice that was to lead him into a scandalous imprisonment and premature death. Sodomy was one of the most serious crimes in England those days as we will show later in the article.

Wilde was a regular companion of a young man called Lord Alfred Douglas whose father John Sholte Douglas, the 9th Morques of Queensberry, was a very wealthy and influential man in London.

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Queensberry had two sons. The elder of these committed suicide upon realising that he might be arrested and convicted for engaging in what these days we refer to politely as homosexuality otherwise called sodomy. Upon seeing that his younger son Lord Alfred Douglas had been for two years a companion of Wilde the sodomise, Queensberry feared that his second son might end like the first in premature death. He appealed to Lord Alfred to stop further dealings with Wilde but the son stubbornly refused.

After collecting incriminating information about Wilde’s homosexual activities, Queensberry called upon Wilde on his Chelsea home, London on June 30,1894 and accused him of sodomy. He then prowled London checking gathering places to see if Lord Alfred and Wilde were there together.

On February 1895, Queensberry called at Wilde’s club in London and left a card there with the scrawled and misspelled message “The Oscar Wilde posing sondomite”, thus openly defaming Wilde among his colleagues.”

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On March 1, 1895 Wilde swore out a warrant for the arrest of John Sholte Douglas on the charge of criminal libel. When Queensberry was apprehended he told the officials “I have simply, your worship, to say this: I wrote that card with the intention of bringing matters to a head having been unable to meet Mr. Wilde and to save my son and I abide by what I wrote.”

Under English law the defendant in a libel action must enter a plea of justification before the start of the trial stating why he felt entitled to say the libellous words. Queensberry duly did that with a long list of names of young men Wilde had illicit love with. Of the 15 points, 13 concerned alleged act of sodomy and gross indecency by Wilde.

The trial opened on April 2,1895 at the Old Bailey, London’’s most famous criminal court. The defendant’s counsel was Edward Carson, a fellow Irish who had known him well in Ireland. Judge B. Henry Collins Sir Edward Clarke was prosecuting on behalf of Wilde. With so much against his client Sir Edward advised Wilde to flee the continent before he was arrested. He refused. He lost the case against Queensberry.

On April 6, 1895 the day after the libel case was lost Wilde was arrested, refused bail until April 26. On May 1, he was found guilty of sodomy and sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labour. He was released in 1897. He emigrated to France and never visited England again till he died a broken bankrupt man at the age of 46.

Sexual activity between men was punishable by death under Britain law until 1828 and by a lengthy prison sentence until the middle of the 20th century sexual activity between women was taboo. When a bill to amend the law on homosexuality was brought to Queen Victoria she asked; “Why do you include women; with them it is not possible?”

The word homosexual was not defined until the year 1869, the result of the work of a Hungarian physician named Benkert.

At the time of Wilde’s trial and conviction many homosexuals with sufficient means were leaving England to dwell on the continent where homosexuality was tolerated.

The Wolfenden Report published in Britain in 1957 recommended that private homosexual acts between consenting adults should no longer be considered a criminal offence. There was considerable opposition to changing the law.

As a result of the Gay Rights movement of the1960’s, the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 was passed decriminalising homosexuality between people over the age of 21.

To homosexuals in Britain this acted like the Day of Pentecost when the disciples of Jesus receive inspiration to take their religion all over the world. We have their agents here actively campaigning through paid adverts preaching their gospel of same sex marriage — disregarding Bible teaching.

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