Dancing with Salomé Review by Christopher Josiffe in Fortean Times

A fateful destiny: Uncanny happenings and anecdotes: this portrait of Oscar Wilde and his troubled friends is a decadent delight, says Christopher Josiffe

Comprising five essays, each of which highlights esoteric aspects of Oscar Wilde’s fateful relationship with “Bosie”, aka Lord Alfred Douglas, this book, while slim, includes many surprising details new to this reviewer, despite some familiarity with Wilde’s triumphs and travails.

Constance Wilde’s membership of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, alongside Yeats, Machen and the ubiquitous Crowley, is well-known. Less so, perhaps, is the idea that Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray included some of the Order’s ritual secrets, passed on to her husband by Constance. These were not to be shared among the profane on “pain of being paralysed without visible weapon”. Constance later became seriously ill with a spinal condition causing gradual paralysis. Both Oscar and Constance consulted society fortune-teller Mrs Robinson; she once told him: “I see a very brilliant life for you up to a certain point. Then I see a wall. Beyond the wall I see nothing.”

Aubrey Beardsley, Decadent artist par excellence, refused to have any of Wilde’s books in his house because, he said, they were “accursed”.

Dorian Gray, as described in Wilde’s novel, resembled Lord Alfred Douglas in appearance and mannerisms, yet Wilde hadn’t yet met Bosie at the time of writing. Douglas later recalled having read the book many times before his first encounter with Wilde, suggesting it had placed a “glamour” upon him, drawing the two together for good or ill.

Lord Alfred was already living under the shadow of a family curse; Wilde described his ancestors as “a mad, bad line”. The curse dated back to the 14th century, when “Black Douglas” attempted to transport his friend Robert the Bruce’s heart to the Holy Land, but was ambushed and killed en route.

Three centuries on, the violently insane third Marquess of Queensbury, aged 10, murdered a cook by roasting him on a spit. He was caught in the act before he could consume his victim, but was henceforth known as “The Cannibalistic Idiot”.

John Douglas, the seventh Marquess (Bosie’s grandfather) died in a curious hunting incident in 1858, officially due to an accidental gun discharge. However,rumours of suicide were rife. Seven years later, his 18-year-old son Francis died in a mountaineering accident. Another son, James, committed suicide in 1891 by slitting his own throat with a razor. Other untimely deaths among the Douglas male line are recorded, most recently in 2009. Bosie’s father John Sholto Douglas, the ninth Marquess of Queensberry, is renowned as the founder of modern boxing, and for his outspoken atheism, violent temper and obsessive, relentless pursuit of Wilde, leading to the latter’s imprisonment and ruin. He evidently held Wilde responsible for leading his son astray.

Aleister Crowley adopted the opposite position, regarding Wilde as the victim. His hostility towards Bosie, expressed in verse and worse, may have been an attempt to instigate a court-room battle; the Beast being no stranger to litigation. Douglas failed to respond, despite Crowley issuing increasingly offensive pamphlets and essays unsuccessfully seeking to provoke their target. “Bosie”, read one, absurdly, “is a common prostitute, blackmailer, sodomite.” One wonders what had attracted Crowley’s ire? Was it, as Antonia suggests, Douglas’s conversion to Roman Catholicism? Or envy of Douglas’s superior poetry?

The doomed poet Lionel Johnson introduced his Winchester College friend (and perhaps more than friend?) Lord Alfred to Wilde in 1891, and thus commenced their fateful destiny; although as Wilde later wrote to Douglas: “I discern in all our relations not Destiny but Doom.” Johnson’s “melancholy verses wreathed by an eerie foreboding” appear to have predicted his early death aged 35. Ill health, including bouts of spinal paralysis, were worsened by a diet of tea, cigarettes and alcohol – especially the latter. Absinthe was a particular favourite.

His austere rooms at 8 New Square, Lincoln’s Inn Fields had long been associated with a malevolent entity occasionally glimpsed as “a large shadow winged creature with fearsome claws” (see FT353:30-33). Johnson confided to a friend that all was not well in his chambers, where “things happened”. His landlord had failed to point out that tenants taking these rooms invariably died within two years. Johnson’s trilogy of “infernal hymns”, Vinum DaemonumSatanas and Dark Angel may not have helped matters. His spectre is said to haunt the area still.

Dancing with Salomé includes a good deal more in the way of uncanny happenings and anecdotes, and is enhanced by evocative photo portraits of its protagonists. A decadent delight, by virtue of its prose as well as its subject matter.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Nina Antonia at The Atlantis Bookshop 8/13/22

Nina Antonia at The Atlantis Bookshop
Saturday 13th August from 7pm

We are delighted to be able to host the author Nina Antonia this coming weekend.  We featured her book, Dancing with Salome, in a January Friday Favourite during lockdown and now have the chance to welcome her to the Shop.  Her book features a series of interlinking essays which take the reader on a journey to meet the Decadent demi-monde of the 1890’s with whom Wilde and Douglas mingled. Whilst eroticism and mysticism were key themes of the Decadents, there was also a surge of interest in ritual magic, enabled by the flowering of the “Golden Dawn” – the most significant esoteric order in England’s history. Wilde’s wife, Constance, was a member, as was W.B. Yeats, alongside Aleister Crowley and Arthur Machen. All would play a part, directly or indirectly, in the drama of Oscar Wilde’s enchanted & accursed life.

Although this is a free event, please be kind enough to RSVP (LINK BELOW) to help us plan the logistics of the evening.

If you are unable to attend but would still like an inscribed copy, please order it below using the link (LINK BELOW), and send us an email with the message you would like incorporated.


We look forward to welcoming Nina, and many of you, to the Shop this Saturday.

Best wishes
Bali & Geraldine

Gillian McCain in our Johnny Thunders shirt!

A big thank you to Gillian McCain, co-collaborator of ‘Please Kill Me’, pictured here in her brand new Johnny Thunder’s tee. Gillian’s hot pink shoes are something Johnny would probably have approved of! The t-shirt features photographs I took of Johnny whilst working on his authorised biography ‘In Cold Blood’ and was designed by Cutesy Badass Productions. You too could wear Johnny close to your heart, just like Gillian. Whether you sport a jaunty hat is optional. This commemorative t-shirt is being promoted because I have developed mobility issues and need to get some apparatus to make life less painful & easier to get around. I didn’t want to do ‘Go Fund Me’ worthy as it is. The tee really is a limited edition & made of good quality cotton. Whatever the weather you’ll always be cool in a Johnny Thunders tee-shirt, now available here: https://etsy.me/3Q7ZZrq

Johnny Thunders… In Cold Blood Limited Edition T-shirt

Johnny Thunders… In Cold Blood Limited Edition T-shirt. $49.99 + shipping. 50% of sales will be donated to Nina for a mobility apparatus. Only 120 Available! WORLDWIDE SHIPPING. 

Buy Here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/CutesyBadassProd

Available in UNISEX S, M, L and XL. Yes, Etsy says Men’s Sizes but it’s UNISEX. 

To commemorate what would have been Johnny Thunders 70th Birthday, @cutesybprods by @bhalldesigns in collaboration with Nina Antonia has released a limited edition t-shirt, featuring photos that Nina took of Johnny while writing his authorized biography ‘In Cold Blood’.


Size Length Width
Small 28” 18”
Medium 29” 20”
Large 30” 22”
X-Large 31” 24”

Screen Printed White on a Black Shirt. Printed by B & R Uniform. http://www.bruniform.com 

Cutesy Badass Productions is a new company dedicated to providing Limited Edition Pop Culture Pieces from Apparel to Printed Material. The brainchild of Beth Hall, a multitalented designer, started her career in 2002 as an art director in the video game industry and has since freelanced on various projects for Nina Antonia, Bobby BeauSoleil, Holt McCallany, DJ Sid Presley, Helmut Berger, Lydia Lunch, The Damned, Westgate Gallery, and Christian McLaughlin.

Model – @groovydecadesziggy 

Model – @lamfdtk

‘Lunar Moths’ Wormwoodiana Review

Godfrey Brangham reviews Nina Antonia’s ‘Lunar Moths’ for Wormwoodiana.

Read here: http://wormwoodiana.blogspot.com/2022/06/guest-post-godfrey-brangham-reviews.html?m=1

For availability/purchase, please email Nina https://ninaantoniaauthor.com/contact/  or contact the publisher at theblacklightenginedriver@hotmail.co.uk

Lunar Moths

‘Lunar Moths’ is a collection of verses dedicated to the ephemeral nature of life’s fly by nights. In folklore, little white moths represented the souls of unbaptized children, unable to settle any place for long they flutter haplessly through night’s tributaries. The theme of the Lost Soul, those who drift on the midnight tide, briefly glittering and often seductive is of little real value. Modern life is rather too robust for their slender if memorable gifts, from Jean Seberg to Denny Fouts, to Johnny Thunders, they are ghosts in daylight, rubbing shoulders with Chatterton reborn at sunset in Euston Station. All creative people have refrains they return to, ‘Lunar Moths’ is a collection of Nina’s poems. Lunar Moths is £6 plus shipping and handling. For availability/purchase, please email Nina through her website https://ninaantoniaauthor.com/contact/  or contact the publisher at theblacklightenginedriver@hotmail.co.uk

Book Review by John Hopper for Incurable

BOOK REVIEW: “A lovely review of ‘Incurable’ by Strange Attractor Press which will be back in print & available via Kindle shortly. Announcements will be made. Thank you, John Hopper.” – Nina