Oscar Wilde & gay marriage

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Hankering for clarification of what being a homo was about as soon as I discovered my liking for a well-turned phallus I checked out a biography of Oscar Wilde. H. Montgomery White's Oscar Wilde was the standard life available back then.

Wilde's life didn't prove a model for mine. I was readily given to mordant responses but never witty enough to coin epigrams, nor talented enough to write anything more than a weblog (pity they didn't exist back then: can you imagine having your adolescent fatuity archived in Google for all to see?). And I've never been flamboyant except among friends. Given to excess I've often been but I can't blame St. Oscar.

With Wilde I did share a foolish fondness for slim gilt souls that are rarely as passionate or pure as one might prefer.

Reading about Wilde gained me three things: the discovery of his writings, especially the essays; Max Beerbohm who wrote even better essays; and my first real inkling that being queer wasn't all camp and circumstances. To my young self he really was St. Oscar, martyr.

I had lots to learn about homophobia. As I wrote earlier I told everyone I knew that I was gay except my father. My slender list of acquaintances dwindled quickly. They weren't missed. I was too busy cruising every attractive boy who passed on the street.

Homophobia has never hit me directly. But I took the lesson of Wilde's trail to heart. The sexual bigotry of the majority could be deadly. The lesson was repeatedly relearnt with the boys I met. My sweet swishy friends had grown up despised at school, often by their own parents.

Pity I didn't learn from Wilde how self-damning misplaced infatuation could be. I had my own Bosies.

Wilde came to mind today when I read of a new biography: The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde. The author, Joseph Pearce, is a Roman Catholic biographer of religious writers like G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis. He has an axe or two to grind.

Wilde shouldn't be thought a gay hero but a man who really wished he were a Catholic:

reveals Wilde as a restless searcher whose fascination with Catholicism led to his eleventh-hour conversion

Impoverished, almost friendless, ill he turned to God as he lay dying. I've always been afraid I'd chicken out that way. Wilde grew up in Catholic Ireland, if he'd converted to anything else it would've been a stronger surprise.

Pearce shows how Wilde revealed his deep-seated Christian longings in his art, as well as in aspects of his life.

If you have a will to see it you can find Christian qualities in anyone who expresses any moral sentiments. Very few writers celebrate hate and faithlessness.

"he referred to the homosexual phase of his life as his `pathology.' One who sees homosexuality as an illness should not be held up as a hero for the homosexual movement."

Wish I had the context for Wilde's words. His sexuality had robbed him of success and left him broke and alone. We've all foolishly recanted things in despair. It adds up to little more than a child's apology when his parents are angry.

Wilde's refusal to simply ignore the Marquis of Queensberry can be called simple willfulness but many heroic acts are willful.

Wilde's life serves as a parable of the way evil can destroy an individual, and how God can restore him to fullness through forgiveness. Wilde's art remains as a monument to his essentially Catholic spirit

In other words the book is a cookie-cutter example of a favorite form of Christian reading for over a millennium-and-a-half. He was a sinner, but Jesus in his infinite mercy (people damned to eternal pain in Hell excluded) lifted him up. Hallelujah!

The topical selling point of the book is that Wilde wouldn't have favored gay marriage. The possibility likely never went through his mind. Though if Alfred Douglas had wanted one Wilde would've obediently stood before the priest with him.

Speculating on how a man of another time would respond to contemporary events is one of those bad habits that merit a spanking. Who we are is contingent on our time and place.

Though it might merit a birch rod I have as much right to say what Wilde would feel about gay marriage. So I'll opine that he'd have been first in line for a marriage license (hopefully for Robbie Ross not Bosie).

Comments

It’s interesting to me how two people can look at the same event and draw opposite conclusions.

I used to believe there was such as thing as objective truth that existed independent of observation, but now I’m not so sure. The saying, “The answers you get are determined by the questions you ask” sticks in my mind.

Last year I read a book about the neurochemical foundations of memory generation, which made the point that our life experiences actually wire our brains to expect (to see) certain patterns and ignore others. My 100% truth may be your 100% falsehood and could both be correct within our own minds.

The author Pierce could look at OW and quite possibly see truth in his interpretation of OW’s life, leanings and beliefs, while you or I might look at OW and draw opposite conclusions, convinced of the truth of our own interpretation.

Humans is messy animals.

Sadly, I believe this article just shows one persons view of a book, a book they obviously disagree with from the word go. The fact you mention the author is a Roman Catholic with an axe to grind as if religious affliation would matter. What if a Hindu or Buddhist had written this book and had the same conclusion. Your appraisal would have been the same. You come off as a gay individual who has an axe to grind. The review is tainted, possibly more than the book reviewed.

Disclosure: I am a Papist.

Serious scholars of Wilde cannot ignore the irony of not only OW’s conversion but also the conversion of Marquis of Queensberry and Lord Alfred Douglas.

These were highly intelligent men who certainly didn’t need God but they chose to follow Christ anyway. Why?

Wilde was broke, alone and dying. A common cause of conversion. Works for Protestants. Works for Muslims.

Intelligent people have believed many different things. Belief has no evidentiary value.

Your feelings?

Please share your feelings about Oscar Wilde & gay marriage.
Thanks,
Richard

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