Playwright Wilde, author of Lady Windemere's Fan, The Importance Of Being Earnest, An Ideal Husband, A Woman of No Importance and Salome, saw his life and art come undone in 1895 when he lost a legal battle with the Marquess of Queensberry, the ornery and vengeful father of his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas. Responding to a calling card that the Marquess left reading "Oscar Wilde posing Somdomite [sic]," Wilde took the disastrous action of suing the man for defamation of character. As evidence of his then illegal (under British law) sexual relationships with young men came out during the trial, Wilde's star quickly descended. He was sentenced to two years' hard labor in an English prison for "gross indecency with male persons" — the crime of homosexuality. Upon his release, he moved to France, a broken man, and died of meningitis three years later.
Merlin Howard, Wilde's only grandson, edited the work and wrote the introduction. He came upon a longhand transcript of the trial, written by eight different hands, while researching in the British Library. In it are the witty sparring of Wilde and Edward Carson, Queensberry's skilled lawyer. Wilde, as has been depicted in dramas such as Moises Kaufman's Gross Indecency, delighted in entertaining the courtroom with his wit, acting the role of famed writer and bon vivant until he realized, too late, that the tide had turned against him.
The book, totalling 340 pages, is priced at $27.95.