Cross Examination


What Edward Carson, QC, is doing, of course, is the time-(dis)honoured business of critics and biographers: trying to psychoanalyse an author based on his works.

Wilde made him look ridiculous, as artists often do when confronted with those who wish to pin down their meaning like butterfly collectors, but Wilde running rings around Carson with effortless wit probably helped confirm the jury’s mind that he was the type of man who would get up to funny business in hotels.

The testimony of the “trade” against Wilde was the more serious evidence, but potentially damaged by the fact that all the young men had criminal histories. So it was necessary to damage Wilde’s character to an equal degree so that everybody’s evidence would be equally bad and the group testifying against Wilde would win by sheer numbers. Since Wilde had no criminal convictions, we got all that philistine lit crit, designed to show him as suspect in his sensibility and in the cultural company he kept. To which Wilde’s testimony added one more coffin nail: he was too clever by half.

2 Responses to “Cross Examination”

  1. ehrenstein47 Says:

    He was punished for having sex with men outside of his class. This was translated by the “Doxa” (Roland Barthes’ ever-useful term) into the state claiming that Wilde had “corrupted youth” whereas it was obviously the other way around.

  2. I read it as ambiguous — on the one hand, the fact that these men were grooms and valets seemed “worse” to the Victorians, something that couldn’t be overlooked, and in another sense the mere fact of the cross-class association confirmed in their prurient minds that something unseemly MUST be behind it.

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