Here are Oscar and Bosie in May 1893 at the studio of photographers Gillman & Co. of Oxford, whose establishment was at 107 St Aldate’s Street. That location today, to set a tone of bathos, is a Ladbrokes Off Track Betting Shop.
This well known picture captures the boys relaxed and smoking, distant even—apparently between arguments. But upon inspection you’ll see that, in keeping with their lives, all was not as it seems.
Take your eyes off those snazzy socks for a minute and you’ll notice that his Lordship was not as well shod as you might imagine. A closer look proves that the aristocratic Alfred was clearly down on his uppers as often as the ordinary Oscar found himself. (Steady).
And yet, had not habits been made historically Hellenistic just a few weeks earlier when Oscar gave us the lowdown on his Hyacinthus with this immortal missive:
My Own Boy,
Your sonnet is quite lovely, and it is a marvel that those red rose-leaf lips of yours should be made no less for the madness of music and song than for the madness of kissing. Your slim gilt soul walks between passion and poetry. I know Hyacinthus, whom Apollo loved so madly, was you in Greek days.
Why are you alone in London, and when do you go to Salisbury? Do go there to cool your hands in the grey twilight of Gothic things, and come here whenever you like. It is a lovely place and lacks only you; but go to Salisbury first.
Always, with undying love, yours,
Walking souls indeed. What a cartload of Cockney rhyming cobblers! No-one was walking anywhere, particularly between passion and poetry, in those shoes.
More likely is that Oscar’s subliminal inspiration was Bosie’s too-too slim sole and the reason the guilty lily was alone in London was that the well-heeled couldn’t afford to be seen with such a scruff.
© John Cooper, 2018