In Equatorial Month, a few days before the Northern summer
solstice, 51 years after the end of the Second World War, the
following very short advertisement appeared in a local newspaper:
Lord Alfred Douglas (24 years) is looking for Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde, extremely delighted to hear from his onetime bosom
friend Bosie again after an agonizingly long period of silence
immediately wrote the following reaction. (Having grown too
old to adapt to the changing times, he keeps on using the
Gregorian-Christian dating system.)
Amsterdam, June 1996
It was a most pleasant surprise to read in last Saturday's
newspaper that you are looking for me, even though it cannot
have escaped your notice that I died in 1900, after nearly two
years of suffering in gaol for you. Yes, for you! Loving the son
of a pathetic marquis is indeed no sinecure.
When I died I was 46 years old, and now I shall surprise you
too: I am still 46 years old. (That is, give or take 1 year.)
Because I have got enough hair on my head, and on the whole, a
fine body --not pregnant with a belly, for
instance-- people often think I am 10 years or so younger.
A further advantage of my dying in 1900 is that I have not smoked for ages
and that my lungs are entirely clean, which enables me to walk, cycle and
swim to my heart's content.
There is, however, something that may disappoint you. It is
that I do not write as much (and perhaps as well) any more as I
used to do. I know it sounds deplorably banal, but circumstances
beyond my control forced me to take on a job in order to earn a
living! Because of my exceptional command of the English
language and my familiarity with English literature I am a
teacher of English now. On the other hand I would never have read
your advertisement if I had not taken up residence here for my
work, and, of course, if I had not survived my death.
When you have not seen me on television lately it is because I
do not have that insatiable craving for the limelight any more
-- I've had it!
Nonetheless there is still that (what my enemies
used to call) 'queer streak in my nature' of which even my
closest friends were said to be unaware. "Closest friends"
-- what rubbish!
YOU were my closest friend, and you were not only fully
aware of that special streak in my nature, you relished it! You
wanted to learn from me, and yearned for me; you took delight in
being taught by me, and touched by me.
Reminiscing about this, I am very glad to hear that you have
remained 24 years old. How marvellous that you, like a Dorian
Gray, let some portrait do the ageing for you. But have you also
read the story, and do you remember the end of it? It worries me,
now I come to think of it. Well, never mind, first prove to me
that you are the Alfred I once knew, and whom I should adore to
see back in a contemporary guise.
Always, with undying love,
O s c a r
Members of Societies for the Advancement of Genuine Literature are bound to
object that Mr Wilde would never have used the salutation Dear Alfred
to write to his most intimate friend, who was sixteen years his junior.
They will argue that it would have been
Dearest Bosie, Dearest of All Boys, My Own Darling Boy
or some such expresssion of much more literary tenderness.
However, these academicians base their research on letters written in the
1890's, when Alfred was Bosie and Bosie was Alfred.
But how on earth could the same Mr Wilde be equally sure of this identity
in the 1990's of the Christianist Era?
Then there is also this psychological aspect which anyone still doubting
the authenticity of the above letter should take into account.
It is that one of the most delightful moments in Oscar Wilde's life was
that moment at their first meeting, when Oscar had addressed the
good-looking young man with "My Lord".
"Bosie, for you" Lord Alfred Douglas had replied emphatically.
Bosie, for you: these were the words Oscar wanted, if not to hear,
to see back on paper again.
If Alfred were Bosie, Bosie would certainly not suddenly want to be called
"Alfred" now, not in a hundred years.
And he would definitely let Oscar know!
The spotty bloke who put the ad in the newspaper received numerous letters
from men claiming to be Oscar Wilde.
Unfortunately, he was so naive as to write back to a fake Oscar (without
even so much as insisting on being called "Bosie").
But luckily for the real Oscar the recipient of his letter turned out
to be a dishonest impostor who was only interested in forms of pleasure as
cheap as his advertisement.
May the reader have compassion on the true Oscar Wilde, who
is still waiting for a message from the true Lord Alfred 'Bosie' Douglas.