The Daily Agenda for Sunday, October 16
October 16th, 2011
Oscar Wilde: 1854. His wit and flamboyance, tinged as it was with an undercurrent of rebellion, made him one of the most popular celebrities of his day. His three comedies of society, written between 1892 and 1895, lampooned Victorian values and enjoyed tremendous success in the London theater. But that just prepared the ground for his masterpiece, 1894’s The Importance of Being Earnest, and that made Wilde a superstar. That acclaim, combined with his embrace of aestheticism, belief that the pursuit of beauty was a virtue in itself, placed him at the forefront of London’s high fashion, a rare position for a man to take. He was a flashy dresser and he entertained lavishly. “I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china,” he once quipped. The life he lived, however, was not seen as manly, and his high profile meant that he quickly became an easy target for those who saw him as a dangerous threat to Britain’s moral bearing. Just a few days after Earnest’s premiere, a series of events began which would ultimately see Wilde tried for sodomy and gross indecency. His first criminal trial, which quickly became regarded as the trial of the century, is famous for the question that was put to him, a question that was on everyone’s mind:
Prosecutor: What is “the love that dare not speak its name?”
Wilde: “The love that dare not speak its name” in this century is such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis of his philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets of Michelangelo and Shakespeare. It is that deep spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect. It dictates and pervades great works of art, like those of Shakespeare and Michelangelo, and those two letters of mine, such as they are. It is in this century misunderstood, so much misunderstood that it may be described as “the love that dare not speak its name,” and on that account of it I am placed where I am now. It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it. It is intellectual, and it repeatedly exists between an older and a younger man, when the older man has intellect, and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him. That it should be so, the world does not understand. The world mocks at it, and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it.
That case ended in a mistrial, but a second trial a month later saw him convicted of gross indecency and sentenced to two years’ hard labor. Wilde’s health declined sharply during the term. He collapsed from illness and hunger at one point, and suffered a rupture in his right ear drum during another mishap that would later contribute to his early death. When he was released in 1897, he was broken, both financially and physically. He moved to the continent, where he wandered during the last three years of his life. He spent the last months of his life in a run-down hotel in Paris. “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death,” he told an acquaintance. “One of us has got to go.” Not long after, he developed cerebral meningitis and died in November 30, 1900. He was only 46 years old.
Bob Mould: 1960. He was the guitarist, vocalist and songwriter for the 1980s band Hüsker Dü, and for Sugar in the 1990s. Beginning in the late 1990s, Mould detoured from heavy sounds of his earlier work to dance music and electronica. Lately he has been performing as a live DJ in Washington, D.C., and other events around the country under the name, “Blowoff.” His homosexuality was always something of an open secret, but the secrecy was dropped in 1994 when he outed himself in Spin after the magazine’s reporter threatened to out him. His memoir, See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody, was released last June.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?