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Unlike some essays, ‘A Purple Thread’ was not commissioned but evolved at its own pace. The Oscar Wilde market is already brimming with product including books, articles and films, even ornaments. Wilde has infiltrated the mainstream as martyred poet, gay rights pioneer and Victorian dandy, his flame tended by the likes of Matthew Sturgis who recently ensured Oscar’s posthumous longevity with a poised, authoritative biography. Preferring the obscure and unsung meant that Mr Wilde was never going to join my stable of subjects for a full length volume. Besides, being a ragamuffin of the literary world meant that I would never score the kind of book deal that such a venture would require. Unlike Oliver Twist in the workhouse, I never ask for more, only different, chronicling the waifs and strays that haunt the twilight borders and are of no account to sale teams at larger publishers.
My favourite book length account of Oscar Wilde has to be the largely forgotten ‘Aspects of Wilde’ by Vincent O’Sullivan. Originally published in 1936, O’Sullivan who knew both Oscar and Lord Alfred Douglas gives us snap shots, insights and recollections in his quirky account. Written years before Oscar’s ‘Sainthood’ O’Sullivan’s ‘Aspects’ is kinder in tone to Lord Alfred Douglas than most contemporary books. An expert in the field of Wilde studies informed me that prior to 1960, ‘Bosie’ Douglas was not reviled in print, in the way he is now* (*Aleister Crowley being the exception to the rule). The simple device of creating a foe for the hero to rise up against is usually reserved for cinema but works a treat in sustaining the Wilde myth. If everyone had a copy of ‘Aspects’ Lord Alfred might be less denigrated but alas they do not and Vincent O’Sullivan went to a pauper’s grave in Paris, in 1940. One can safely assume that Oscar never paid Vincent back the money he gave him so that he could be with Bosie in Italy. It’s just as likely that O’Sullivan would have demurred repayment from one of his heroes. Sadly, Vincent remains a ghost of his era, his work occasionally reprinted in anthologies of the supernatural, to which he was prone. Whilst ‘Aspects of Wilde’ is not a paranormal tome, O’Sullivan’s spooky sensibility is tangible and proved to be the inspiration for ‘A Purple Thread: The Supernatural Doom of Oscar Wilde.’ One paragraph in particular, where the author notes that Aubrey Beardsley was amongst many who believed that to own any of Oscar’s books was unlucky, stayed with me, just as the music from a song does, playing over and over.
Was Oscar Wilde under a doom?
We all like to believe that we are at the helm of our own destiny, steering a course driven by free-will. Yet sometimes it appears that fate plays its part, something that Oscar grasped early on in his Gothic poem ‘The Harlot’s House’ where the dancers are compared to automatons whose movements are governed by invisible hands. ‘Then turning to my love I said, “The dead are dancing with the dead, the dust is whirling with the dust.” Which has proved to be Oscar Wilde’s afterlife – a drama of unquiet spirits who still manage to enthral us, a shadow play that never ends………
Upon completion, ‘A Purple Thread’ loitered in the wings, its future uncertain, too long for a magazine article, too short for a book, perfect for a novelette though hardly anyone publishes them.
Have you ever tried to get something off the ground and no matter what you do, how hard you try, everything is against it? As if life is saying, ‘Sorry, can’t oblige right now’ so you let it go. There’s no point in banging your head against the wall if it’s not the right time and obstacles manifest in all directions. The dust however continued to whirl with the dust, prompting Clint Marsh, the creator and editor of ‘Fiddler’s Green’ a charming journal hailing from Berkeley, to make contact. A heady pot-pourri of the esoteric and olde-worlde, decadent and quaint, ‘A Purple Thread’ had found its forever home in the Peculiar Parish of Fiddler’s Green, with the able assistance of artist Nathaniel Winter-Hebert whose marvellous illustrations have brought an extra dimension to the project. I’d always dreamed of having my work illustrated and am grateful to both Nathaniel for his lively interpretations and Clint for creating something quite magical and without precedent.