Oscar’s Ghost

After the death of Oscar Wilde, two of the playwright’s closest friends – both former lovers – went to battle against each other over who would control the narrative about Wilde’s life, and who history would blame for his death. The battle between Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas, the playwright’s greatest love, and Robert Ross, Wilde’s devoted friend and literary executor, was particularly ugly, and led to the revelation of sexual secrets and personal letters, blackmail, stalking, and no fewer than five lawsuits. It was a struggle that was not only to have serious consequences for the two participants, but which also affected how Oscar Wilde is remembered today. Each man tried to use the secrets from their former intimacy against the other: Ross was systematic, had more friends, and as Wilde’s executor had access to all of Wilde’s papers, including personal letters from Douglas to Wilde; Douglas had a single-minded focus, a tenacious fighting spirit, and the sense of entitlement that came with his title. He wore Ross down through sheer brute force, but was himself crippled at times by his own struggle with mental illness. ‘Oscar’s Ghost’ is the first book to focus solely on this heated feud and to consider as fairly as possible the dramatic events and actions of all parties involved.

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