A Conversation with Oscar Wilde–College Memoirs: Life At Roanoke–March 1995, Part 11

As part of my Lit mid-term, I was to write a dinner dialogue between myself and one of the twelve authors we studied.  I wrote,

I have invited over Oscar Wilde, have sent my time machine to him and brought him to my house.  We go to Country Kitchen, not because it’s the best food (not), but because it’s the “local hangout” and he can see bits of local society.

“I loved ‘Importance of Being Earnest,'” I say.  “It was so funny and so ridiculous.”

“Well, in my day, society is ridiculous,” Wilde says.  “Marriage based on how much money you have, your worth determined by what you do and what your connections are–I wanted people to see how silly they were being with these attitudes.”

We go on discussing the play for a while, not any others since that’s the only one by him that I know.  Then we begin to talk about contemporary issues–starting with marriage.

“Marriage these days is supposed to be based on love,” I say, “but we now have a 50% divorce rate.”

“We base it partly on love,” Wilde says, “or, rather, infatuation–and partly on economics.  Our divorce rate is low because people just don’t divorce.  But so many people are unhappy because they didn’t know their spouse well enough before marrying them, and now they’re no longer ‘in love,’ if they ever were in the first place.”

Somehow we end up on the subject of homosexuality; I admit I don’t agree with it, but I say that I think it was wrong for Wilde to be jailed for it.  “You shouldn’t be put in jail just because of the way you are, when you can’t always help it,” I say.

“I was put there for ‘corrupting a young person’ with it,” he says.  “I wish I’d never fought the Marquess; when he said I was homosexual, it was true.  Maybe people would’ve forgotten about it if I hadn’t sued, but now I’m in prison for a drive I have.  A drive I don’t know how to control.”

“You must admit, you were pretty–promiscuous there, and you do have a wife,” I say, which leads to AIDS–which leads to a discussion of the prevalence of syphilis in Wilde’s day.  Interesting, but not something I’d want to record here.

People look at us and wonder why Wilde talks the way he does and why he dresses the way he does.  But he notices that they seem less shocked at our topics of conversation than they are about him.

“It seems like you’re so much freer to talk, really talk, in your day,” he says.  We eventually leave, and I take him back to my house to spend the rest of the evening–wishing all the while that such a handsome man weren’t gay!

Actually, I’ve since discovered that he swung both ways.  And changed my mind about homosexual love being wrong.  But anyway, finding this test paper especially interested me after reading De Profundis (my commentary here) and a new biography of his wife.  There are details in the above conversation which, over nearly 20 years, I forgot I ever even knew.

Index 
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

 

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