Oscar Wilde's Eight Remarkable Weeks in Worthing in 1894
In the summer of 1894 Oscar Wilde spent eight weeks in Worthing, and it was during this family holiday that he wrote his masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest.
The two months in Worthing were a microcosm of Oscar Wilde’s turbulent life during the three years between his falling in love with Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie) in 1892 and his imprisonment in 1895.
Constance Wilde, lonely and depressed, poured out her heart in letters to her best friend Georgina Mount Temple – and became emotionally involved with her husband’s publisher, Arthur Humphreys, to whom she wrote a love-letter on the day he visited the Wildes in Worthing.
Meanwhile Wilde was spending much of his time with the feckless and demanding Douglas, and with three teenage boys he took out sailing, swimming and fishing.
One of these boys was Alphonse Conway, with whom Wilde became sexually involved, and about whom he was to be questioned at length and to damaging effect in court six months later when he sued Douglas’s father, the Marquess of Queensberry, for libel.
Oscar Wilde's Scandalous Summer (first published in hardback in 2014, paperback edition 2015) tells for the first time the full story of the Worthing summer, set in the context of the three years of Wilde’s life before his downfall.
In the final chapter the author re-assesses the trials, offering fresh insights into Wilde’s attitude to the boys and young men with whom he had sexual relations.
Three contemporary maps of Worthing are included, and fifty-six illustrations, more than half of them photographs of the town as it was in Wilde’s time.
Top row (l-r): Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie); Oscar Wilde; Robbie Ross; Wilde and Bosie; Cyril Holland; Wilfred Scawen Blunt.
Bottom row (l-r): John Sholto Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry; Edward Clarke;
Bosie; Oscar Wilde; Constance Wilde née Lloyd; Frank Harris.