- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Miramax Books (June 19, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0786887702
- ISBN-13: 978-0786887705
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,949,834 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Bosie: The Man, The Poet, The Lover of Oscar Wilde Paperback – June 19, 2002
Top Customer Reviews
Bosie by Douglas Murray is a detailed book chronicling the life of Lord Alfred Douglas. It is a detailed account of a man hounded by family traits, his own desires, repentence, regrets and sad ending. It really is unfair to blame Alfred Douglas for Wilde's downfall. Wilde, if anything, was self destructive and not only destroyed himself, but everyone around him, including his wife and children, as well as Alfred Douglas. Murray is clear that upon renouncing his wasted and immoral youth Douglas became a moralist, like the father he hated, and became addicted to litigating every slight made against him. Wilde's circle of friends and admirers needed someone to blame for his demise, so they picked Lord Alfred Douglas. This book shows that like all moralists Douglas became paranoid and biased, but later in life did truly repent and apologized for all the harm he had done. He died penniless, alone and very, very sad. Like Wilde, Douglas's actions also destroyed his marriage and the life of his child. Bosie by Douglas Murray is required reading for all those who want to make up their own minds on Oscar Wilde and know more about the man who figured so prominently in Wilde's life.
As readers of the now-standard biography of Oscar Wilde know, Ellmann portrayed Douglas as a manipulative yet beautiful cipher with not much in the way of wit or intelligence. Murray, in contrast, depicts Douglas as a worthy companion to Wilde (in spite of their frequent and legendary spats) and an artist in his own right. While certainly not on a par with Wilde, Douglas produced a respectable body of work and was, during his life, an appreciated (if litigious) editor. A true assessment of Douglas's worth, I think, would fall somewhere in between these two portraits, although Murray's book contains the more well-rounded assessment: while trying to revive Douglas's reputation, it does not try to whitewash his notoriety and imprudence.
Indeed, most readers will share Murray's fascination with Lord Douglas's life. Even after Wilde's death and Douglas's conversion to Catholicism and renunciation of homosexuality, Douglas refused to fade away, becoming "a man who confessed that he was popularly believed to revel in litigation." And litigate he did: the dramatis personae of Douglas's court cases are a veritable who's who of the English literary scene, and the parade of libels and lawssuits culminates in a bizarre and foolish challenge to none other than Winston Churchill.
Although Douglas's life is perversely intriguing, I am hard-pressed to share Murray's enthusiasm for the poetry itself--and this, of course, may be more a matter of taste than of intrinsic worth. Douglas's oeuvre divides rather neatly into three categories: nonsense verse (mostly for children), biting--and often nasty--lampoons, and staunchly traditional sonnets and lyrics. The first group is best forgotten, and the second is (naturally) dated; it is in the last group where one can find the occasional gem, the memorable stanza, the well-turned phrase. The most famous of these poems, because of its notoriety, will always (and justifiably) be "Two Loves," with its celebrated closing line: "I am the Love that dare not speak its name." Murray also rediscovers for the reader a few other notable pieces. But, in spite of the handful of contemporaries who touted the "belief that Douglas ranked as a sonneteer with Shakespeare," a few clever lines and outstanding verses does not a master make.
Murray does, however, raise a valid point. As with Douglas's life so with his poetry; the man was his own worst enemy even when it came to his literary reputation. While Douglas was threatening, cajoling, and suing most of his enemies and many of his friends, he also spent three decades inveighing (rather vituperatively) against modernism. Auden, Eliot, Isherwood, Pound, Yeats, H. G. Wells, D. H. Lawrence--he regarded them all as barbarians at the gates. His taste proved to be obstinately backward-looking, and his outspokenness not only brought into question the relevance of his own verse but also helped to reveal him as a bit of a dinosaur. In many ways, his verse was a hundred years behind the times, but had he been born a century earlier, his meager output still would have been eclipsed by the poetry of Wordsworth, Byron, Keats, Shelley, and even the lesser Romantic poets. Nevertheless, Douglas's life and his poetry are deserving of this valuable and refreshingly lively reassessment.