Days Like These

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The Independent Culture
13 November 1895

OSCAR WILDE,

playwright and wit, convicted of homosexual offences and imprisoned in Reading Gaol, writes to Lord Alfred Douglas:

"On the 13th November 1895, I was brought down here from London. From two o'clock till half-past-two on that day I had to stand on the centre platform of Clapham Junction in convict dress, and handcuffed, for the world to look at. I had been taken out of the hospital ward without a moment's notice being given me. Of all possible objects I was the most grotesque. When people saw me they laughed. Each train as it came swelled the audience. Nothing could exceed their amusement. That was, of course, before they knew who I was. As soon as they had been informed they laughed still more. For half an hour I stood there in the grey November rain surrounded by a jeering mob. For a year after that was done to me I wept every day at the same hour and for the same space of time."

16 November 1918

CHIPS CHANNON,

diarist and politician, records a dinner in Paris at which he sat between Jean Cocteau and Marcel Proust:

"Their manners, usually so bad, were excellent tonight, and they seemed to compete as to which could be the more engaging. I felt stupid between the two wittiest men in Europe, drenched in a Niagara of epigrams. Jean is a stylist and his conversation is full of fire and rapier thrusts. He is haggard at 26, and his figure and smile have something mythological, something of the centaur, in them. Proust is quieter, longer-winded and more meticulous. His blood-shot eyes shine feverishly, as he pours out ceaseless spite and venom about the great. His foibles are Ruskin, genealogy and heraldry. He knows the arms and quarterings of every duke in Europe. His black hair was tidily arranged, but his linen was grubby, and the rich studs and links had been clumsily put in by dirty fingers."

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