Oscar Wilde's Last Stand: Decadence, Conspiracy, and the Most Outrageous Trial of the Century

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Arcade Publishing, 1998 - True Crime - 250 pages
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The Billing trial's beginnings can be traced to the moment British authorities finally permitted a staging of Wilde's play Salome. American beauty Maud Allan was to dance the lead. So outraged was Noel Pemberton Billing, a member of Parliament and self-appointed guardian of family values, that he denounced Allan in the right-wing newspaper Vigilante as a member of the "Cult of the Clitoris." Billing was convinced that the "Cult of Wilde" - a catchall for anyone guilty of degeneracy and perversion, in his eyes - had infected the land. Of that, Billing maintained, he had proof: a black book containing the names of 47,000 members of the British establishment who without doubt were members of the Cult of Wilde was in the hands of the Germans. Threat of exposure was costing England the war. Maud Allan sued Billing for libel, and the trial that followed held the world in thrall. Was there or was there not a black book? What names did it contain? The Billing trial was both hugely entertaining - never had scandal and social prominence been so deliciously juxtaposed - and deadly serious. As in Oscar Wilde's own trial in 1895 (which also took place at the Old Bailey), libel was hardly the issue; the fight was for control over the country's moral compass. In Oscar Wilde's Last Stand, biographer and historian Philip Hoare gives us the full drama of the Billing trial, gavel to gavel, and brings to life this unique, bizarre, and spell-binding event.
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
The Cult of Wilde
5
That Awful Persecution
25
The SelfAppointed Task
41
Salomania
65
The FortySeven Thousand
89
The Trial
99
Kicking Oscars Corpse
137
The Verdict
173
This Generation of Vipers
191
Aftermath
209
Aint We Got Fun
227
Source Notes
232
Index
241
Copyright

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About the author (1998)

Philip Hoare is the author of biographies of Stephen Tennant and Noel Coward and the historical studies Wilde's Last Stand, Spike Island and England's Lost Eden. He is also the writer and presenter of the BBC Arena film, The Hunt for Moby-Dick. He lives in Southampton, England.

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