The Old Bailey

Oscar Wilde Oscar Wilde

An 1885 law had made "homosexual relations between men" illegal. On May 25, 1895 poet Oscar Wilde was convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labor. As a friend of his stated: "I have seen many awful happenings at the Old Bailey, but to me no death sentence has ever seemed so terrible as the one Justice Wills delivered when his duty called upon him to destroy and take from the world the man who had given it so much".

His jail term was the beginning of the end. Wilde soon declared bankruptcy and his property was auctioned off. Toward the end of 1895, he was transferred from one jail to another, a traumatic experience of which he wrote:

From two o'clock till half past two on that day I had to stand on the centre platform at Clapham Junction in convict dress and handcuffed, for the world to look at.... Of all possible objects I was the most grotesque. When people saw me they laughed. Each train as it came in swelled the audience. Nothing could exceed their amusement.... For half an hour I stood there in the grey November rain surrounded by a jeering mob.