Wilde's earliest letter to Bosie found after 50 years

Affection for Lord Alfred Douglas revealed in correspondence

Arts Correspondent,Arifa Akbar
Monday 08 December 2008 01:00

A collection of letters and manuscripts by Oscar Wilde, seemingly lost for more than 50 years have been rediscovered by academics.

The nine manuscripts and four letters that illuminate the life and work of the celebrated writer, dramatist, wit, and self-proclaimed "lord of language", were donated to The Morgan Library in New York. Among the pages is the earliest surviving letter from Wilde to his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, whom he called Bosie, which documents the start of his doomed gay relationship with the Magdalen College undergraduate in the early 1890s.

Writing on stationery of the Albemarle Club, probably in late 1892, Wilde expressed candid yearnings to be with Douglas and hoped that Douglas liked the visiting-card case he had given him, most likely for Douglas's 22nd birthday. He wrote: "Dearest Bosie, I am so glad you are better and that you like the little card case. Oxford is quite uncomfortable in winter. I go to Paris next, or in the next 10 days or so ... I should awfully like to go away with you somewhere where it is hot ... I am terribly busy in town ... Of the poem I will write tomorrow, Oscar."

Douglas destroyed many of the letters Wilde wrote to him. Nearly all he retained are in the Clark Library at UCLA, so the reappearance of this early letter is highly significant. The volume belonged to Douglas's father, the ninth Marquess of Queensberry, whose rage at his son's involvement with Wilde led to one of the most notorious criminal trials, resulting in Wilde's conviction on charges that he had committed acts of "gross indecency".

The volume's cover bears the arms of Queensberry, the shield flanked by two winged horses over the motto Forward, stamped in gilt. The manuscripts and letters were collected and preserved by the 11th Marquess of Queensberry, the grandson.

In one letter to a young man named George Kersley, Wilde spoke of his 1888 collection of stories The Happy Prince and Other Tales, calling them "studies in prose, put for Romance's sake into a fanciful form: meant partly for children, and partly for those who have kept the childlike faculties of wonder and joy." Wilde wrote the title and his name on a cover sheet and signed the manuscript.

Scholars at The Morgan Library will begin examining the writer's working processes in hope to make new discoveries. The more than 50 handwritten pages will be exhibited to the public next April.

The volume was donated by Lucia Moreira Salles, a Brazilian-born philanthropist who acquired the material with her late husband, Walter Moreira Salles, a Brazilian banker and book collector.

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