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Bosie: A Biography of Lord Alfred Douglas Hardcover – June 28, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Miramax Books (June 28, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786866535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786866533
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #889,469 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Almost everyone knows what Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas meant by "the Love that dare not speak its name"--but what happened after that name was dragged into court? In Oscar Wilde's case, his affair with Douglas, that minor poet and major pretty boy, was as neatly resolved as the Greek tragedy it resembled. Just three years after his release from prison on charges of "gross indecency," Wilde died broken, impoverished, and alone in a Parisian hotel. But Bosie himself lived on for nearly 45 contentious years after Wilde's death: an entire lifetime, in effect, during which he married, converted to Catholicism, conducted an epic feud with Wilde's literary executor, Robert Ross, and renounced everything about his former life, including Wilde himself.

In Bosie, Douglas Murray has used previously unavailable letters and manuscripts to construct a nuanced portrait of the aesthetes' golden boy, including his second life as a devoutly undecadent squire. Born into an ancient family with a memorably lunatic streak, Lord Douglas as a young man was charming, dissolute, and almost preternaturally handsome. (Jude Law played him in the 1998 film Wilde, and the resemblance is uncanny.) Regrettably, his gift for scandal often overshadowed his other talents; Murray for one is convinced that Douglas was one of the great English poets of his time, a master of the sonnet form who has been shamefully neglected by scholars and readers alike. Here, then, is the real tragedy: if Douglas had lived less he might have been remembered more.

Yet Murray doesn't mince words about the nastier sides of Douglas's nature either: Bosie was a snob, a raving anti-Semite, and like his unbalanced father, prone to destructive rages. One might well say, as James Agate did about Douglas's Autobiography, that his life story is "a record of some pretty good quarrelling." That's characteristic English understatement for you: Douglas seems to have spent much of his life in court, either suing or being sued for libel. Wilde's trial set a pattern Bosie seemed obliged to repeat until he himself was sent to jail after yet another libel charge (instigated by Winston Churchill, of all people) finally stuck. Wormwood Scrubs in the 1920s was no picnic, and Douglas emerged a humbled man; towards the end of his life, he even achieved a measure of reconciliation with his younger self. Murray skillfully conveys the pathos of these final years--like Wilde's, lonely and poverty-stricken, but unlike Wilde's, largely forgotten. This groundbreaking biography does much to correct that historical oversight, and in doing so, provides a fascinating account of one of poetry's most complex personalities. --Mary Park

From Publishers Weekly

Lord Alfred Douglas, known as Bosie, had the face and body of a classic Greek statue, and his life, in which fate and his own hubris interacted disastrously, could constitute a Greek tragedy. One comes away from this assiduously researched and percipient biography of Oscar Wilde's notorious lover, once considered "among the foremost younger English poets," with an indelible impression of a man endowed by fortune who was destroyedAfirst by the court trial brought on by his father, Lord Queensberry, and then by his own rash behavior. First-time author Murray, who is only 23 and still an undergraduate at Oxford, is impressive in his mature assessment of Bosie's emotional instability and ruinous need for revenge, tracing much of it to the strain of insanity in the Douglas family. While his account of the infamous 1895 libel trial is mainly sourced from earlier books and records, Murray's access to the further details of Douglas's life through letters and journals in Britain and in the Berg collection here breaks new ground. Treated shamefully by Wilde after the playwright's release from prison, and then vilified by English society, Douglas developed a persecution mania that inspired many of his unhinged accusations. As Murray shows, at every point in his life Douglas made poor judgmentsAsabotaging his career as a poet and editor, resorting to libel and rushing to litigation in a clearly hostile court system, destroying a strange but loving marriage, losing his son and his social standingAand then even criminally libeling Winston Churchill. Eventually, Douglas was left penniless and alone. On the evidence Murray presents here, however, Douglas's small but eloquent poetical oeuvre should survive the sad scandal of his life. B&w photos not seen by PW. Agents, Belinda Harley and Mary Pachnos. First serial to Talk magazine. (June) FYI: Douglas's papers were embargoed by the British Home Office until 2043, but when Murray was 16 and at Eton, he persuaded the Home Office to grant him access to those papers.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Bravo, Douglas Murray!
"volpe"
I, having only read about Douglas in books that were centered on Wilde, found this biography very refreshing.
Ully
I get the impression that the research for this book was shallow.
I. Martinez-Ybor

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Kevin J. Walsh on July 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Although the life of Oscar Wilde has been written about extensively, that of Lord Alfred Douglas has remained obscure until The appearance of Douglas Murray's biography. The book is a remarkable accomplishment for such a young man and the character of Lord Alfred Douglas, as unpleasant as it may be, is very absorbing. Murray describes the 45 years of Douglas'life after Wilde's death and illuminates the personality of a man who, until now, has been known chiefly as Wilde's lover and companion. Particular attention is paid to Douglas' poetry, which few people seemed to feel was worthy of much critical scutiny before.
It was particularly interesting to me to see Douglas' cantankerous and litigious (sp?) life turn into a parody of his father's similar behavior. This causes me to consider that perhaps the strain of insanity that ran through the Douglas family tree afflicted both father and son.
In any event, Lord Alfred had a largely unhappy life and died penniless - an embarassing condition for an English lord of high breeding. His stint in prison, while well deserved, apparently had a devastating effect on Douglas' health and outlook.
Ironically, I found myself growing more sympathetic towards Douglas toward the end of the book. He seems to have realized that most of his troubles in his later life were self-inflicted and that he had no one to blame but himself.
Altogether, this was a highly informative work which illuminates not only the life of Alfred Douglas but also the times in which he lived and the people with whom he associated.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By "volpe" on August 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Douglas Murray has done what I had thought impossible - completely humanized Lord Alfred Douglas and made me forgive and love him.
Up til now I had regarded Bosie as a monster of selfishness and the nemesis of my idol Oscar Wilde. So great was my distaste for him that in my book collection I would not let his work rest on the same shelf as Wilde's.
But this tour de force of a biography, exquisitely researched and crafted without prejudice or partiality, has redeemed the most maligned personality of the Fin de Siecle. Lord Douglas is neither sinner nor saint but merely a man who was his father's son, a fine poet, and a partner in a tragic friendship.
This young author is one to watch. His talent is prodigious. I have been a Wilde fanatic for thirty years, and this book shook me. I read every word hungrily, and wept when I finished the final page. Bravo, Douglas Murray! Thank you for "Bosie".
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Sharon Roberts on July 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Like many people I had a pre-formed opinion of Bosie from the various books written about Oscar Wilde, this biography has considerably altered my perception of Lord Alfred Douglas. He was a very complicated character and the book gives a balanced view on all aspects of his life as well as the many facets of Douglas's personality. It deals with the many untruths which surround his relationship with Wilde and includes extracts from Douglas's poetry. I had no idea how much of this there was nor how lovely, after reading sections of it reproduced in the book I now want to read more. By the time I put the book down I felt very moved by the whole tale of this mans life. I wholeheartedly recommend it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Pierce Weinstock on July 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Like everyone else I imagine who is interested in Lord Alfred Douglas; I was introduced to him through Oscar Wilde. First, as a villian, but after reading more work about him and Douglas' own accounts of his life, I am less enamored of Wilde than I was and more fascinated my this complex man. His poetry if wonderful and very hard to find, this side of rare book stores. That is why this biography is so special a read. It is well written, researched, and fascinating. If you are an Oscar Wilde fan, or simply interested in the figures of 1890's London; this book is an excellent resourse.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Alastair Brotchie on February 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This biography is a poorly researched and dishonest apologia for a rather tiresome and spoilt aristocrat whose poetry was as irrelevant and old-fashioned as his "Christian morality". All is explained by the fact that the author is one of his descendants. (Dishonest/poorly researched? Example: the author claims Douglas organised a petition of French writers to defend Wilde and then criticised their hypocrisy for not signing [p. 94]. The petition was in fact organised by Stuart Merrill. See p. 463 of Ellmann's "Oscar Wilde" for the true story.)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. Gibson on January 9, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I ordered this book after seeing the movie "Wilde" with Stephen Frye as Wilde and Jude Law as Bosie, in which Bosie is portrayed as a shallow, cruel, young cad, who cared only for himself and left Wilde in the lurch as soon as the times got hard.

I thought to myself so why would Wilde care so deeply for such a person; and the answer is that Alfred Douglas was NOT such a person.

As Murray makes clear, of Wilde's many friends, Douglas alone stuck with Wilde during and after the trial, as well as financed Wilde's defence. He waited in exile in Europe for Wilde for the two years of Wilde's sentence, and when Wilde was released from prison, Douglas cared for Wilde and lived with him in Italy at his own expense. He left Wilde ONLY when the Douglas family threatened to cut off his allowance--the only money either he or Wilde had since Wilde had no income at all and neither man could get a job or publish anything, even OUT of homophobic England on the supposedly more liberal continent. The movie implies Bosie left Wilde at that time in an idle spat, and that is simply not true. It's a very sad story, and the truth is that Wilde is the one who proved the less loving of the two--"De Profundis" is a hateful diatribe against Bosie that Bosie did not deserve.

So if you want a thorough, beautifully researched biography of Alfred Douglas, this is the book. There are well-chosen period photographs of all the principal characters, and Murray quotes many of Douglas's poems which are often srikingly beautiful.
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