Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bound To Please { part II }

"It is perfectly monstrous the way people go about nowadays saying things against one, behind one's back, that are absolutely and entirely true." - Oscar Wilde

Let's continue the "gossip" tidbits I found in the book and like to share :

LEWIS CARROLL: A BIOGRAPHY by Morton N. Cohen

According to Cohen, Lewis Carroll, born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898), the author of the two Alice books and the great nonsense poem The Hunting of the Snark, has a passion for little girls (I already know by now) and took photographs of unclothed prepubescent girls. How, you may ask, did he manage to convince the upper-class mothers to allow him to take such pictures, especially in 19th century? Through his avowal of a purely artistic interest in the nude or the hints that other children had been photographed in this way as well? Who knows ? Apparently, the ardent admirer of eleven-year-old Alice Liddell may have even hinted to her mother that at some future date he might ask for the hand of young Alice. It never happened, of course, Mrs. Liddell intended her girls to wed the highborn and wealthy. Besides, the grown Alice had fallen in love with Queen Victoria's son Leopold, but did not last.

With incredibly strong self-control, at least he managed to keep his relations with his child-friends flirtatious strictly honorable, never in life crossed the thin line that took Humbert Humbert into the arms of his Lotita. Wow!

There is a beautiful limited edition of Alice's Adventures under Ground from The Folio Society (For members only, though). This is a facsimile of the earlier version, personally produced by Lewis Carroll as a Christmas gift for Alice. All the 37 illustrations, some full-page, were drawn by Lewis Carroll himself (surprisingly). You can acquire a copy here.


JOHN RUSKIN by Tim Hilton

John Ruskin (1819-1900), who produced Sesame and Lilies, The Stones of Venice, Unto This Last, The Ethics of the Dust, is remembered, mainly, for the poetry of his prose and for the oddities of his personal life. Oh yes, his mysterious, or perhaps humorous, sexual nature.

In 1847 he married Effie Gray, but for 6 years of their marriage, the couple never once engaged in sexual intercourse. Why? One know for sure only when Effie later wrote, "He had imagined women were quite different to what he saw I was, and that the reason he did not make me his wife was because he was disgusted with my person the first evening." (My god!) Ruskin might be shocked by the existence of female pubic hair to the possibility that Effie was menstruating. Apparently, he had been overly protected by his adoring parents. Eventually, their marriage was annulled; Effie then wed the painter Millais and bore him 8 children.

He might have been humiliated by this publicity, but Ruskin, in his forties, finally and irremediably fell for a barely pubescent girl named Rose La Touche, who grew into a sickly religious fanatic, and died at age 27. Nevertheless, she was the center of Ruskin's life for 15 years, even during the 6 years when they were forbidden to meet. Another unhappy Humbert Humbert, along with Lewis Carroll. And surprise - he knew the three Liddell sisters too, but much preferred the eldest, Edith, to Alice.

OSCAR WILDE by Richard Ellmann

The fate of Oscar Wilde (1843-1900), who plummeted from the heights of fame to utter ruin, by his "intimate" relations with the pretty and amoral Lord Alfred Douglas, or his "Bosie", is well known.

While his sweet and intelligent wife, Constance Lloyd, was occupied with his two sons, Oscar went off to visit Oxford and was seduced by the 17-year-old Robbie Ross, his first penetrative sexual experience he had. Soon, Oscar found himself leading a double life. He met an extremely handsome young man named John Gray while he was writing the book The Picture of Dorian Gray. Apparently, Oscar named the central character after him. Though Their relationship lasted at least two years, Oscar began to tire of him, as he tired of most of the young men he became involved with - with only one exception. That exception was Bosie, who piloted Oscar into a world of expense and excess - opulent dinners, hotel suites, boy prostitutes, sordid Maison de passe (brothels).

Eventually, Oscar was sued by the angry father of Bosie, the marquess of Queensberry, and was found guilty and given the maximum sentence: two years. This may not sound like much, but meant six hours a day on a treadmill, a diet of water and starches, a plank for a bed, a bucket for a toilet, which nearly killed him the first year. In prison he apparently tried to end his love for Bosie, but upon release, he went back to Bosie, and to a spendthrift's life in Italy with the borrowed money from friends - till the money run out. He was never able to write since.

Obviously, his life was over, and simply waiting for the final curtain. His end, at age 46, most likely from meningitis, finally came in a dingy hotel bed, where at the moment of dying fluids exploded from every orifice of his body. A tragic death indeed.

You may wonder what happened to Bosie ? He married in 1902 and fathered a son, though the marriage did not last. Bosie eventually became a Roman Catholic, and renounced his past life. He became a serial litigant, persecuting Robbie and other buggers (sodomites), before being sent to prison. When he died, at the age of 75, he was living with a farming couple who had taken pity on his semi-destitute and lonely condition.

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