W.W.O.W.D. (What Would Oscar Wilde Do) // Personal memoir drafted for Xquisit Magazine
In the late 19th century, celebrated Irish poet and writer Oscar Wilde sent a series of now-famous letters to his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas. “You are the divine thing I want,” Wilde wrote in one, “the thing of grace and beauty”. To this day, I’m struck by the passionate, intimate, and unbridled nature of Wilde’s personal writings, and yet, I can’t help but wonder whether or not he would have been more reserved if he had known his correspondence would be published for all to see. Had he known he was about to be recast as a social pariah, would he have “toned down” his homosexuality?
Societal pressure to conform is rampant and punishing in our very own 21st century. One can only imagine the pressure Wilde would have been under over two hundred years ago. It wouldn’t be outrageous to wonder if Wilde might have taken greater pains to conceal his sexuality, especially given the stiflingly conservative society in which he lived. However, Victorian England’s expectations notwithstanding, I doubt Wilde would have changed himself if he had known students of literature would be studying his personal correspondence two centuries after his death. In fact, I doubt very much that he would have changed anything about himself, his writings, or his feelings to accommodate the prejudices of his countrymen. Wilde didn’t apologize to anyone for being gay. He didn’t make excuses for his sexuality. He embraced his true self, fell desperately in love, and never looked back.
I drew (and draw) inspiration from Oscar Wilde. Any other person, young or otherwise, struggling with their sexuality, can draw inspiration from him, too.
Look to the upcoming men’s issue of Xquisit for the full article.