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This review is taken from PN Review 178, Volume 34 Number 2, November - December 2007.

BOSIE'S SONNETS CASPAR WINTERMANS, Alfred Douglas: A Poet's Life and his Finest Work (Peter Owen) £19.95

This two-in-one publication combines a biography of Lord Alfred Douglas with a reprint of Douglas's poetry. The biography is relatively short, bold and entertaining, but about half of it concentrates on the Wilde years (1892-1900). The choice of poems gives a good overall picture of the type of serious poetry written by Douglas.

Wintermans lives in The Hague and the biography was translated by him from his original Dutch version. The text suffers a little in translation.

The biography is slightly sensationalist, making much use of newspaper coverage. Born into the Scottish aristocracy, Lord Alfred Douglas, known as Bosie, was a charming but difficult man, 'gifted with quite extraordinary beauty'. Wintermans concedes that interest in Douglas is only kept alive due to his relationship with Oscar Wilde, but would like the poet's work to be reappraised.

There is a fascinating perspective in the biography on the intricacies of the scandalous Trials. Wilde was imprisoned for two years; Douglas escaped censure - but Wintermans takes care to emphasise that the scandal ruined Douglas's life as well as Wilde's. In order to help re-establish Douglas's reputation, Wintermans attests that Wilde was suffering from gaol fever when writing De Profundis, the long letter to Douglas from prison, which blames him for Wilde's fall from grace. It's more likely that Wilde was in a paroxysm of grief and rage against Douglas, who was in self-imposed exile in France and unable to visit. (They made ...


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