Bosie's love letters point to cover-up in Oscar Wilde trial

The playwright's lover was having another relationship

Newly discovered personal letters written by Lord Alfred Douglas, better known to many as Oscar Wilde's lover "Bosie", are causing a stir among scholars and shedding new light on an establishment cover-up.

The letters reveal the passionate relationship between Bosie and Maurice Schwabe, a fellow member of Wilde's circle: "I send you all my love and millions of kisses all over your beautiful body." They lay undisturbed for decades in the archives of the State Library of New South Wales in Sydney and were put on public display for the first time earlier this month, to coincide with the 2011 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

They were written in 1893, even as Wilde was being blackmailed by a young man named Alfred Wood. In Victorian England, despite homosexuality being illegal, there existed a thriving subculture of brothels and rent boys. Wood, whose services were used by Wilde and Bosie, stole love letters written by the former to the latter and later testified against Wilde in court to devastating effect. Neither Bosie nor Schwabe was prosecuted, even though a witness testified he had seen Schwabe and Wilde in bed together in Paris.

At the time of Wilde's libel case against Bosie's father, the Marquess of Queensberry, and subsequent trial for indecency in 1895, there were rumours of a cover-up: Bosie was the son of the infamous peer who started the whole process of discrediting Wilde; Schwabe was the nephew of Sir Frank Lockwood, the solicitor-general.

In court, Schwabe's name was never spoken aloud by prosecutors but was passed to the judge on a slip of paper. Schwabe was absent, and the discovery of these letters on the other side of the world provides a clue as to why.

"It was an established pattern that if young men from respectable families were behaving recklessly, they were sent abroad for a few months," says Caspar Wintermans, a Bosie biographer. "Bosie went to Egypt, and Robbie Ross, another intimate friend, to Switzerland." Schwabe, it now seems, had been sent even further away to keep him out of trouble.

The letters make it clear Bosie and Schwabe had an intense emotional and sexual relationship. "My darling pretty boy," Bosie wrote to Schwabe, "I really love you far more than any other boy in the world and shall always be your loving boy-wife, or your 'little bitch' if you prefer it."

According to Neil McKenna, author of The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde, "the word 'bitch' is used by other Victorian writers to describe boys who'd been sodomised at Harrow. In later life, Bosie swore he had never engaged in sodomy." In middle age Bosie married, turned to Catholicism and condemned homosexuality.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific