By Simon Maree
It can’t have been easy to be a comparatively openly and flamboyantly gay man in Victorian England. To be one whilst also committing the sin of being Irish must’ve taken a special kind of strength, a kind that a certain Mr Oscar Wilde appears to have had in abundance. He was, on the surface at least, utterly unphased by the hatred and persecution that came his way up to and including a spell in prison for his ‘crimes’.
Oh, and let’s get one thing completely clear here; whatever the puritanical PC police may have to say about it, one look at a posed photograph of Wilde tells you all you need to know. He wasn’t just queer; he was unapologetically flaming. His poise, his expression and his body language all scream ‘I am what I am and fuck you if you don’t like it’. The term ‘gay pride’ could have been written for (or by) him.
His legendary wit cannot be overstated. Just type ‘Oscar Wilde quotes’ into google and see for yourself. There are dozens, some very famous and some not quite so well known, that will make you both smile and think, as long as you have something approaching a soul. A personal favourite of mine, and one which only seems to be getting more relevant as the decades roll by, is ‘The world is a stage and the play is badly cast’. Donald J ‘Caligula’ Trump is proof enough of that, I feel.
I was introduced to Wilde’s work, as I was to many other great writers, by my mother, who read me ‘The Canterville Ghost’ as a small child. This continues to be my favourite story of his, and was a significant influence on my own novella, ‘The Mischief Maker’(available now on the GYCC website, thank you very much).
As a particularly obnoxious and pretentious teenaged goth in the eighties, Wilde was with me every step of the way as much as Bauhaus or The Sisters of Mercy ever were. Sure, I had Byron, Shelley, Stoker, Poe, Lovecraft and De Sade very prominently displayed on my bookshelf, but it was Oscar who spoke to me, Oscar who relieved the angst and cheered my soul, Oscar who was accessible and readable, Oscar who was more than just a ruse for impressing any heavily mascaraed female unfortunate enough to set dainty foot into my den of faux misery.
Today, Oscar’s portrait (it doesn’t age. I’ve been watching) gazes down on me as I write, oozing charisma and humour. He reminds that I’m nothing more than a hack who has nothing to declare but the same birthday as the one and only Oscar fucking Wilde.
Keats and Yeats are on your side, but Wilde…
Wilde is on mine!