On this day in 1895, Oscar Wilde (books by this author) lost his criminal libel case against John Sholto Douglas, the 9th Marquess of Queensberry. Wilde was the author of many works, including The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) andThe Importance of Being Earnest (1895). Douglas was the father of Wilde's lover, the poet Lord Alfred Douglas.
Douglas had scribbled on one of his calling cards that Wilde was a sodomite and left it for Wilde to find. He misspelled it — it actually read "somdomite" — but Wilde sued him for libel anyway, partly to demonstrate his superior wit in a public space. And when Douglas's lawyer asked Wilde if a certain story that had recently been published was immoral, Wilde responded: "It was worse; it was badly written."
Wit could not protect him, though. He lost the libel trial, was found guilty of "gross indecency" for homosexual practices, and was jailed for two years without bail, which caused him to go bankrupt.
Oscar Wilde, oh, Oscar Wilde. What a human being he was, incredible and funny and so brilliant. I can't even begin to talk about what a great tragedy the destruction of his life by society was. The loss: can we ever even begin to understand it, to grasp its mere nature?
And no, I don't think I'll ever get over what was done to him.