The Daily Agenda for Thursday, April 5

Jim Burroway

April 5th, 2012

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Celebrations This Weekend: Spring Diversity, Eureka Springs, AK; Mr. Gay World, Johannesburg, South Africa; White Party, Palm Springs CA

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Oscar Wilde Loses Criminal Libel Case: 1895. It had been a bad year for the acclaimed author, and the year was barely a quarter of the way through. In February, Wilde was dining at the Albermarle Club when the Marquess of Queensbury left a calling card with the porter. It read, “For Oscar Wilde posing as a somdomite.” The misspelling may have been the product of Queensbury’s rage over the relationship between His son Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas and Wilde. Lord Alfred refused to end it despite Queensbury’s arguments and threats, including the threat to publicly expose Wilde which he accomplished with that calling card. Friends urged Wilde to ignore it, but Wilde felt that such an insult required that he respond vigorously with a lawsuit against Queensbury for criminal libel. If he didn’t, he reasoned, it would be tantamount to admitting the truth, something that Wilde knew would be disastrous, not only to his reputation and career, but also to his very freedom. After all, homosexuality was a criminal offense.

Unfortunately, Wilde’s libel case collapsed on the second day of the sensational trial, when Wilde took the stand and Queensbury’s lawyer asked whether he had ever kissed a young man named Walter Grainger. Wilde replied, “Oh, dear no. He was a peculiarly plain boy. He was, unfortunately, extremely ugly. I pitied him for it.” Queesnbury’s lawyer pounced on Wilde’s reason: it wasn’t that Wilde didn’t like kissing men, but that he didn’t want to kiss this particular man because Wilde found him ugly. That was on April 4. The next day, Queensbury’s lawyer announced that he planned to call several male prostitutes to testify against Wilde. Wilde’s lawyer, after conferring with Wilde, asked the court to drop the charges and return a verdict of “not guilty” against Queensbury. But if Queensbury was not guilty of libel when he accused Wilde of “posing as a sodomite,” then that meant under English law that Queensbury’s statement, as the judge announced, “is true in fact and substance, and that the publication is for the public benefit.”

With that verdict as evidence, Wilde was arrested and charged with gross indecency the very next day, April 6. The first trial ended in a hung jury, but the second resulted in a guilty verdict and a sentence of two years at hard labor, the maximum sentence allowed by law.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

Joseph Singer

April 6th, 2012

No biggy, but FYFI, if you’re using postal abbreviations for Arkansas it’s AR not AK. AK is for where Ms. Palin lives.

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