Kirkus Reviews QR Code


Wilde's Nemesis

by Linda Stratmann

Pub Date: June 18th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-300-17380-2
Publisher: Yale Univ.

A straightforward attempt to rehabilitate Oscar Wilde’s tormentor as a family man.

British author and crime novelist Stratmann (Greater London Murders, 2010, etc.) certainly fleshes out this highly vilified character and father to Lord Alfred Douglas, aka Bosie, Wilde’s lover. Indeed, much of what we know about the ninth Marquess of Queensberry has been learned from his contradictory and “self-justifying” son or other unreliable sources. Was Queensberry’s vindictive pursuit of Wilde an understandable expression of paternal protectiveness, or was it an outgrowth of an insidious genetic instability that can be traced to a mad distant cousin? The Queensberry inheritance meant that, at age 14, with the sudden death of his father, the eldest son was set to inherit enormous wealth and vast land in Scotland and England. Queensberry became a naval cadet whose passions, as they had been for his father, were sports and gambling. Yet another trauma occurred at age 21, when he received news that his beloved brother had died in a climbing accident; shortly after, Queensberry married the beautiful Sibyl Montgomery, and though the match yielded children, the parents were disastrously incompatible. Strong-willed to the point of being obsessive, a freethinker ostracized by his peers in Parliament for his outspoken embrace of agnosticism and regarded as somewhat of a crackpot, Queensberry became alarmed at the company kept by his spoiled, imperious third son, Bosie, namely his “unusual friendship” with the notorious Wilde. Indeed, the author deems Bosie a rather worse influence on the elder poet, a lethal mixture of both his parents, who introduced Wilde to the low-class youths that would bring about his downfall.

While formal and academic, this portrait presents compelling new evidence of Queensberry’s humanity.