How surprising that at the time of Oscar Wilde, the extortion business was already in full swing, eventually ending up in a situation when an extortion went wrong, and Oscar Wilde himself landed in prison for fornication with other men.
In 1895, Wilde brought the Marquess of Queensberry, the father of Wilde’s current interest Lord Alfred Douglas, to court because he believed that the Marquess repeatedly had offended him. However, the attorneys of the prosecuted provided evidence that the Marquess’ accusations against Wilde for sodomy (homosexual contacts were illegal at the time) were justified, and the Marquess was acquitted at the same time as Wilde was charged with “gross indecency” and sentenced to two years of penal labor with his partner Alfred Taylor.
During the trial, it was revealed that Oscar Wilde had extensive contact with extortionists, male prostitutes, “crossdressers”, and was a frequent visitor to gay brothels. Many were registered and various people involved were interviewed, some being forced to appear as witnesses because they were also linked to the crimes for which Wilde was charged.
During the ongoing trial, many young men from the English aristocracy fled the country to avoid scandal, and one of these men was none other than Claude Dansey, who would become head of the British intelligence service during the Second World War…
After Oscar Wilde’s death, his body was moved in 1908 to the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, after it was revealed that an anonymous donor donated £2,000 to a grave monument. The stone was designed as a sphinx, a guardian sculpture where the word originates from the Greek word sphíngō, meaning “secret keeper”, or “someone who knows but is not telling.”
Who was the sculptor of the statue? A certain Jacob Epstein… History has a way of repeating itself.