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Love letter

A letter from Oscar to Bosie – his literary muse

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In an age of emails, texts and Instagram memes, it's rare that couples sit and reflect on their relationships the way they used to do in love letters.

As part of our Valentine’s campaign this week, we’re supporting the value of sending cards in the post by sharing a few famous handwritten love letters.

Something about the notion of writing one’s thoughts for another conveys a deep sense of intimacy. From Suleiman to Hurrem, Napoleon to Josephine, and Frida to Diego, history is full of heartfelt handwritten messages.

In tribute to LGBT History Month this February, today’s letter is from Irish poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas.

In June of 1891, Wilde met ‘Bosie’ Douglas, a then-21-year-old Oxford undergraduate and talented poet, who would come to be his muse and lover.

During the course of their affair, Wilde wrote the tragedy Salomé and the four great plays Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Woman of no Importance, An Ideal Husband, and The Importance of Being Earnest which, to this day, are the cornerstone of his literary legacy.

Their tragic relationship, though, was often ridiculed, given attitudes at the time and as such, the two had to speak secretively, despite how strongly Wilde felt about Douglas.

It is important to acknowledge the enormous indignities to which so many LGBT+ people have been subjected to throughout history. Wilde, who was imprisoned multiple times for his ‘crime’ of homosexuality, ran into bankruptcy and exile, and fell to an untimely death. But his most ‘sinful’ quality — his enormous capacity for passionate, profound love — was also one of the most poetic gifts of his life.

‘Everyone is furious with me for going back to you, but they don't understand us. I feel that it is only with you that I can do anything at all.

‘Do remake my ruined life for me, and then our friendship and love will have a different meaning to the world.

‘I wish that when we met at Rouen we had not parted at all. There are such wide abysses now of space and land between us. But we love each other.’