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Douglas Anchor


In pursuance of what I conceived to be my duty towards Wilde at the time he was in prison, I wrote the Labouchere letters and a good deal of similar matter which was not printed. My argument was not that Wilde had wrongfully been convicted, and not that what he did was to be counted to his credit, or even to be approved, but merely that there were scientific and medical grounds for supposing that he was not responsible for his actions in this regard, and that, in any case, the punishment meted out to him seemed unnecessarily and brutally severe.

I do not know that I have changed my opinion to this day. It is unthinkable that a sane person could flounder into the loathsome depths in which Wilde was taken red-handed; particularly is it unthinkable in respect of a man of Wilde's culture and social surroundings. That he was sane enough in other regards cannot be doubted, but I do not think there can be any question as to his insanity on this particular point.

But this is as far as I go, and this is as far as any decently-minded person can go. I never went an inch further, and never intended to. I have already stated that after sentence was passed upon Wilde all Paris appeared to go off its head with regard to the scandal. Many absurd and unfounded pieces of gossip were published in the French newspapers, and some of these I took it upon myself to endeavour to refute. When it became known that I was in Paris, the interviewers flocked round me and wanted me to talk to them on all manner of silly matters.

I declined to have anything to do with them in a general way, especially as I found that they were disposed to garble and exaggerate everything one might tell them. One fine morning, however, there called upon me a journalist with whom I had some acquaintance, who told me that he had been commissioned by the Editor of the Revue Blanche to get me to write an article on the Wilde affair in which my views should be set out definitely and finally, and thus put an end to the extraordinary stories which were being circulated in my name. I knew the Revue Blanche as a weekly literary journal of somewhat advanced opinions, and I thought that here was an excellent opportunity to say something that might be of use to Wilde.

My difficulty was that, while I spoke French fluently, I did not feel that I had a sufficient command of style and so forth to write the article in French. My friend the journalist was very accommodating, however, and it was arranged between us that, with the knowledge of the Editor of the Revue Blanche, I was to write an article in English which would be translated into French and inserted in the paper over my name. I wrote the article and handed it to the representative of the Revue, for translation and publication. I stipulated for a proof in French, but the next I heard about the matter was that the article had appeared. The translator, whoever he was, simply took my article as a sort of peg, and hung on it a farrago of extremely vicious opinions, and even more vicious comparisons which I had never put forward, and which my own article certainly did not suggest. I complained to the Editor of the Revue at the time, but found myself unable to obtain any redress, and there was nothing more to be done.

The French article passed almost unnoticed, inasmuch as the Revue Blanche had a very limited circulation, and I never heard another word about it until years after, when I was editing The Academy. In that paper I had occasion to write a paragraph about a journal called The Freethinker, which was edited by a Mr. Foote, and which made a sort of business of blasphemy. Mr. Foote was not pleased at what I said about him and, by way of retort, he translated a particularly nauseous passage from the Revue Blanche article, inserted it in his journal and accused me of being the author.

I immediately issued a writ for libel against the proprietors of the Freethinker, and, after receiving the writ, Mr. Foote discovered that he had made a serious mistake and promptly apologised in the next issue of his paper. He did not even enter an appearance. I was content with my apology and allowed the action to lapse. This is the whole truth about the Revue Blanchv article. Though the Revue is now dead, the proprietor and editor are, I believe, still alive. If, as was contended in the Ransome trial, I wrote the article I am said to have written, or furnished the material for it, these gentlemen could easily have been produced to say so. But they were not brought forward as witnesses and were not even approached on the subject.

Yet the article was put in at the trial and, though I said on oath in court what I now say here in print—and my assertion was not in the slightest degree shaken by cross-examination—Mr. Justice Darling persisted in reading aloud, and for the benefit of the jury, words which I had not written, and this in spite of my explanations and protest. There is no use in complaining, nor do I complain. I merely put it on record once for all, that the Revue Blanche article is not my article, and I am in no way responsible for it.

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