Oscar Wilde in Naples

Many words can be used to describe Oscar Wilde’s genius and personality, but wise is not one of them, to be sure. Having spent two years in jail after having been charged for “gross indecency”, the echoes of the scandal were not over yet, so he decided that Paris would have been a better place to try and start over again. In those months in Paris he could work on his famous “Ballad of Reading Jail”, but the signs of hard labour on his body and the awareness of the terrible humiliation his family had suffered were not enough to make him ignore the reasons of his heart. Against his better judgement, if he had any, Wilde yielded to his desire to see again Lord Alfred Douglas, Bosie, the man who had brought him to a tremendous downfall, so the two decided to spent the winter in Naples as Bosie ‘s relations were already there. Of course, his friends and family were furious for his going back the man who had ruined not only his but the life of those who had been close to him.

Towards the end of September 1897 the two lovers arrived in Naples and settled at Villa del Giudice on the charming Posillipo hill. Even though he used the name of Sebastian Melmoth, his coming to Naples become soon the tittle-tattle of the moment and only a couple of weeks after their arrival Matilde Serao wrote an article about the presence in town of such a famous, irreverent artist on the most popular newspaper: Il Mattino. “The secret of Pulcinella” we would call itย  here in Italy and this expression particularly fits, as Pulcinella is a character who belongs to the Neapolitan Comedy of Art. By the way, how Wilde meant to keep the secret, having started soon to attend the Neapolitan literary circles, I cannot make it out, but as I told you before, wisdom has never touched him. Of course, being in reduced circumstances he was trying to have his works translated, but the tittle-tattle could not be stopped when the couple started to be seen in the company of other men, who were not part of any artistic society. A waiter of a hotel said he had seen Wilde with five soldiers and that he had spent the entire night with them.

So very soon rumors became scandals. It was only October when the couple decided to visit Capri and lodged at Hotel Quisisana. When the Swedish doctor and writer Alex Munthe met them the following day, they looked particularly depressed as they were waiting for a boat to go back to Naples. “They denied us even bread” said Wilde laconically and Bosie explained that some Uk customers had recognized them at the hotel and as they could not tolerate their presence there and the two lovers were politely sent away by the property owner. They had tried to find shelter in another hotel but they had received the same treatment. Axel Munthe invited them to dinner and offered them to be his guests at Villa Lysis, for some days. Afterwards, Wilde went back to Naples the 18th of October 1897, while Bosie decided to remain few more days at Munthe’s “Villa San Michele”.

The fact that Wilde and Bosie were a continuous source of scandal, brought both Douglas’s and Wilde’s families first to ask, then to intimate and eventually to force the two to separate. Which was their weakest point? Money. Wilde was deprived of the small income guaranteed to him by his separated wife, whileย  Bosie’s funds were cut by his mother. Even an emissary of the Embassy of England in Rome came to Naples expressly to see Douglas and make him understand that he would have to separate from Wilde immediately and such a conduct was considered like misbehaving towards the embassy itself.


It might be regarded a little harsh, but the cut of the funds worked well, and shortly after, at the end of November 1897,ย Douglas returned home after having written a warm letter of apology to his mother, who, by the way, had paid the (many) bills left pending by the couple. Wilde even received some money from her, which he used to take a trip to Taormina. Ah, the pangs of love!



41 thoughts on “Oscar Wilde in Naples

  1. Too bad they were so stigmatized. Luckily society has evolved and homosexuality is just a fact/ nothing to bat an eye at. I realize there are still parts of the world where these lovers, should they be living in this century, might still receive poor treatment, but what a Wilde time they could have had if they’d lived now!

    • Really Wilde I’m sure๐Ÿ˜‰. However, what kind of artist would he have been, considering that the common theme of all his production was the condemnation of Victorian moral values? ๐Ÿ™‹

    • Naples is really beautiful, and so improved in recent years. I’m sure you’ll love it. Don’t forget to visit, if you have time, Capri ,Ischia and the breathtaking Costiera Amalfitana. ๐Ÿ™‹

  2. I suppose no one makes wise decisions where love is concerned.
    Still. They didn’t make much effort at discretion. Wilde was in all ways the antithesis of retiring, modest and discrete.
    Poor thing. He deserved to live in a time where his sexulatiy would not ruin him. So, I suppose , do all humans.

    • Of course, but he acted as a crazy and selfish let me say. His children had to leave the country and went to Germany and change their surname into Holland, let alone his wife. ๐Ÿ™†

  3. Reblogged this on Broken Columns and commented:
    Great piece on Oscar Wilde’s brief sojourn with Bosie Douglas in Naples. Unfortunately, although Wilde briefly pushed on – alone – to Taormina, he finally left Naples for Paris a few months later, unable to publish his work or find translators.

  4. It is not particularly wise to ostracise a man or men or hound Wilde or both men in this way and their relationship was not the business of the Embassy or embassy official. It amounted to harassment and upset further a seriously traumatised man. There is a reason lost to time why Wilde should have believed Douglas could reawaken his artistic instinct when his wife kept him at a distance. It is an on-going project of mine. For more see annegaelan16.blog.

    • This is not the question of being more or less wise. At those time homosexuality was a crime and the consequences of his imprudent behaviour fell on his wife and children who had to leave England and change surname. After such a scandal, prison etc. he should have acted more responsibly for the sake of his family and his own too. I’ll be pleased to come and check your blog.

      • His family were at a distance from him which sent him into despair and by the time he was with Douglas the family name was already changed. Homosexuality was not illegal in Engalnd or France. There is also the writer Mr Neil McKenna who believes Wilde was a brave man who martyred himself for the sake of future generations. His work is compelling.

      • At the end of the nineteenth century, that is, prudish Victorian England when respectability and proper behaviour were fundamental values of that society, Constance could not but leave to defend her children. Of course, he loved his sons dearly, but he caused them a lot of trouble. You may read, the autobiography of his son Vyvyan : “Son of Oscar Wilde”. Wilde lived in the wrong century.

  5. After prison, Wilde wanted to reunite with Constance and his boys, but her advisors disliked the idea. Wilde was a gay man, but he did love Constance (who was not well herself), Cyril and VyVyan. He wanted love and affection after a horrible prison experience. The only person seemingly offering this was Douglas.

    • He did love Constance, in his own way, of course. Once his homosexuality was made public, it would have been very unlikely to play the roles of the forgiving wife and the happy famility reunited. That was the Victorian Period. Which society would have accepted them? If you think that his children, after the scandal, had to escape to Germany using “Holland” as surname, you may well understand that, even with her “advisors” ‘ approbation, the couple had no longer a future together.

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