May 25 - 1895 - Oscar Wilde is Convicted of Gross Indecency
Oscar Wilde was a brilliant and prominent poet, playwright, and essayist who was considered one of the cleverest men of his time. Yet he went to prison because he decided to do something fairly stupid and be extremely stubborn. The trouble for Wilde began when the Marquess of Queensberry, the father of Wilde's lover Alfred Douglas, left a card at Wilde's private club that said, "For Oscar Wilde, posing as a somdomite." Despite the misspelling, this was a charge Wilde wanted to fight under libel laws, even though none of his friends wanted him to do it. Queensberry could win the case by proving that what he had written, despite its misspelling, was absolutely true. His attorneys hired private detectives who found multiple male prostitutes who were willing to testify they had had sex with Wilde. Wilde immediately dropped the charges, but then he himself was charged with sodomy and gross indecency. Wilde cleverly defended himself in open court, but largely acknowledged he had homosexual relationships from the witness stand. Wilde would go to prison, where his bad health would only get worse. After his release in 1897, Wilde lived in France for just three years, drunk and destitute until his death in 1900.