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This report is taken from PN Review 62, Volume 14 Number 6, July - August 1988.

John Barlas Alan Bold
One of the most adventurous sections of Christopher Ricks's The New Oxford Book of Victorian Verse comprises a dozen poems by John Gray (1866-1934), the friend of Oscar Wilde and putative original of Dorian Gray. Wilde met Gray in 1889, two years before the publication of The Picture of Dorian Gray; referred to his friend as 'Dorian'; and paid for the publication of Gray's Silverpoints (1893). Since an anthology with the authority of the Oxford imprint can lead to the rediscovery of neglected poets like Gray, it is unfortunate that Ricks's researches did not uncover the work of another of Wilde's friends: the Scottish poet John Barlas (1860-1914) who published eight slim volumes of verse, under the pseudonym Evelyn Douglas, between 1884 and 1893.

Barlas is as fascinating a figure as Gray (prompted to enter the priesthood after the arrest of Wilde, and subsequently Father John Gray of St Peter's Church in Edinburgh, and author of the fantasy Park). A descendant of the Scottish heroine Kate Douglas - the 'Bar-lass' who tried to defend James I from his assassins by thrusting her arm through the staples of the door of his room - Barlas was born in Burma. Educated at Merchant Taylors School he went on to New College, Oxford, where, as an undergraduate of twenty-one, he married a grand-niece of Lord Nelson. After taking his degree he became an assistant classical master at Chelmsford Grammar School. In pursuit of his socialist ideals he formed a friendship with William ...

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