• copyright National Portrait Gallery

Lord Alfred Bruce ‘Bosie’ Douglas: a nasty piece of work

Bosie’s unpleasantness didn’t end upon the death of his unfortunate lover Oscar Wilde…

Born on 22 October 1870 was that singularly nasty piece of work, Lord Alfred Douglas, Oscar Wilde’s ‘Bosie’. His appalling treatment of Wilde, both during and after their relationship, is notorious, and Wilde’s tolerance of it must be put down, I suppose, to an extreme and tragic case of blind love or amour fou. The literary landscape and the whole cultural life of England might have been very different had Oscar never met Bosie, had the scandal and the trial never happened…

But Douglas’s excesses after the Wilde years (when he was happy to denounce Oscar as ‘the greatest force for evil that has appeared in Europe during the last 350 years’) are perhaps less well known.

Wilde and Douglas by Gillman & Co, gelatin silver print, May 1893 – copyright National Portrait Gallery

One astonishing example came in the course of his editorship of a magazine called Plain English, devoted largely to vicious anti-Jewish propaganda (blood libel, Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, etc). In its pages he accused Winston Churchill of falsely reporting that the British fleet had been defeated at Jutland. His motive, Douglas alleged, was to bring about a crash in British securities, enabling a cabal of Jewish financiers to buy them up cheaply. Churchill’s reward was to be a houseful of furniture, to the value of £40,000.

Happily, Lord Alfred was found guilty of libel on this occasion and sentenced to six months in prison. While there, he wrote his poetic testament, In Excelsis (cp De Profundis), but  was obliged to leave it behind when he was released.

He claimed afterwards that his health had been ruined for life by sleeping on a prison bed without a mattress.

When Douglas eventually died, in 1945 in Hove, his funeral was attended by only two people – one of whom, according to his son, was the actor Donald Sinden, who himself died last year. He was probably the last living link with the egregious Lord Alfred.

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About Author Profile: Nige

Cravat-Wearer of the Year Nige, who, like Mr Kenneth Horne, prefers to remain anonymous, is a founder blogger of The Dabbler and has been a co-blogger on the Bryan Appleyard Thought Experiments blog. He is the sole blogger on Nigeness, and (for now) a wholly owned subsidiary of NigeCorp. His principal aim is to share various of life's pleasures.

2 thoughts on “Lord Alfred Bruce ‘Bosie’ Douglas: a nasty piece of work

  1. albertwall2@hotmail.co.uk'
    Albert Wall
    November 4, 2015 at 19:39

    Donald Sinden tells of his meetings with Douglas in the TV series “Great London Theatres” : Theatre Royal.With photos.

  2. seamussweeney1@gmail.com'
    November 5, 2015 at 22:50

    Charles Hughesdon received one of the classic Telegraph obits – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/10820362/Charles-Hughesdon-obituary.html – as evinced by the strapline “Charles Hughesdon was an amorous aviator who married a film star and crashed in the African bush during a 1930s air race”

    Amongst other incidents of a packed life, we read “A notion (soon abandoned) that he might be suited to the priesthood allowed for a short spell in 1922 at a seminary near Dublin, where he attended the funeral of Michael Collins.”

    Which, when I read it, got me thinking – was he the last surviving attendee at Collins’ funeral? Probably not, as apparently 500,000 – a fifth of the population according to various sources – turned up and I guess a few among them are nearing 100 now. Nevertheless, I posted on a few Irish history sites to no avail (or reply)

    The thing about the recently departed Sinden being the last link to Bosie reminded me of this, and more generally about the “living link” idea. I wonder is there any reference of attendees at the funerals of various grandees and luminaries that could be used to compile a list?

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