Who was Lord Alfred Douglas?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Lord Alfred Bruce "Bosie" Douglas (“Bosie” is short for his childhood nickname “Boysie”) was the third son of John Sholto Douglas, 9th Marquis of Queensberry and Sybil Montgomery. He was born in England and attended the prestigious Winchester public school as a child, followed by Magdalen College, Oxford. His family has a long, ancient Scottish heritage that dates back to the days of Alfred the Bruce.  In the same time, the Queensberry's were also associated with family illnesses, early and tragic deaths, mental issues, and dangerous temperaments. Bosie himself was always famous for his amazing looks, which made him popular in Oxford, and around the London literary circle.

What made Bosie Douglas famous was that, as a young Oxford undergraduate,  his cousin, the poet Lionel Johnson, introduced him to the Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde.  Wilde met Bosie in 1892 when Bosie was about 21 years old. As Oscar's homosexual ideal, Bosie became the most beloved of all of Oscar's disciples, and their relationship was as strong as it was wicked, since Bosie displayed bouts of neurotic attacks as well as sexual, financial, and behavioral excess.

Bosie has produced a body of work. His favorites were Scottish ballads. His most notable (or notorious) poem was “Two Loves” in which purportedly homosexuality was referred to as “The Love that Dares Not Speak Its Name.”  This poem was literally put on the stands during the trials of Oscar Wilde, when he was asked to define it as part of his defense. In the end, Wilde went to Holloway, Wadsworth, and Reading Gaol to prison as we was found guilty of committing "acts of gross indecency" according to Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment act of 1885. This addendum to the act treated homosexual associations as a felony.

It is important to note that it was Bosie Douglas’s father, the coined “Scarlet” Marquis who eventually led Wilde to prison. He had left a libelous note at Oscar Wilde’s club calling him publicly a “ponce and sodomite”, so that Wilde would accuse him of libel and, in turn, the Marquis could bring out the situation between Oscar, his son, and many other males.  The Marquis accomplished his goal, supposedly “to save Bosie.”

Aside from “Two Loves”, Bosie Douglas has created poetry, written books about his association with Oscar Wilde, and was also one of the translators of Wilde’s Salome.

He reunited with Wilde after the 2-year hard labor imprisonment, but their complex love affair ended shortly after this reunion. Upon Wilde’s death, Bosie wrote a poem which has been referred to as his finest: The Dead Poet.

Bosie died in 1945, possibly bankrupt, and claiming a hatred for all things homosexual. He often contradicted Oscar Wilde’s role in his life, and often we find his memoirs to also contradict each other. Either way, Bosie has found a place in history, whether famous or notorious, yet always overpowered by the biggest dramatist of the Victorian Era.



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mamadear33 | Middle School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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Lord Alfred Douglas was born in 1870 and educated at Magdalen College, Oxford. He was the editor of The Academy from 1907 to 1910 and was at one time the intimate friend of Oscar Wilde. One of the minor poets of "the eighteen-nineties," several of his poems rise above his own affectations and the end-of-the-century decadence. The City of the Soul (1899) and Sonnets (1900) contain his most graceful writing.

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