January 1893, Babbacombe Cliff
My Own Boy,
Your sonnet is quite lovely, and it is a marvel that those red-roseleaf lips of yours should be made no less for the madness of music and song than for the madness of kissing. Your slim gilt soul walks between passion and poetry. I know Hyacinthus, whom Apollo loved so madly, was you in Greek days. Why are you alone in London, and when do you go to Salisbury? Do go there to cool your hands in the grey twilight of Gothic things, and come here whenever you like. It is a lovely place and lacks only you; but go to Salisbury first.
Always, with undying love,
So wrote Oscar Wilde to his lover Lord Alfred Douglas, known as Bosie to his family and intimates. It is in all respects a beautiful letter and illustrates Wilde’s romantic and idealised image of the young man who would lead, ultimately to his downfall.
Wilde’s passion for Lord Alfred is made so vividly clear in his letters. Almost poetic in style, and frequently alluding to Greek myth and the Love of an older for a younger man. Indeed, at his trial,In 1895, Wilde described the letters as being Prose Poems.
One of Lord Alfred’s most famous poems, entitled Two Loves, frequently thought to be a euphemism for homosexuality contains these words;
Tell me why, sad and sighing, thou dost rove
These pleasant realms? I pray thee speak me sooth
What is thy name?’ He said, ‘My name is Love.’
Then straight the first did turn himself to me
And cried, ‘He lieth, for his name is Shame,
But I am Love, and I was wont to be
Alone in this fair garden, till he came
Unasked by night; I am true Love, I fill
The hearts of boy and girl with mutual flame.’
Then sighing, said the other, ‘Have thy will,
I am the Love that dare not speak its name.’
Wilde was sentenced to two years hard labour for gross indecency, serving his sentence in Reading Prison. Two years after his release he wrote The Ballad of Reading gaol which was inspired by his experiences there. But life in the prison had ruined his health and he died in poverty in 1900.