'Closing scene at the Old Bailey': newspaper coverage of the Oscar Wilde trial


In 1895, the playwright and wit Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) had enjoyed great success, with works such as The Importance of Being Earnest. But after a failed libel action against the Marquis of Queensberry (1844–1900), it emerged that Wilde had been the lover of the Marquis’s son Lord Alfred Douglas (1870 – 1945). Homosexuality was a criminal act at the time, and Wilde was prosecuted for gross indecency.

The trial featured heavily in the Illustrated Police News, a weekly tabloid newspaper published between 1864 and 1938 that specialised in melodramatic and sensational depictions of real-life crime stories. This issue contains a famous drawing of the closing moments of the 1895 trial. Also shown are Wilde’s art collection; books being seized and sold off to pay legal bills; and two vignettes contrasting his former fame with his new convict status.

Wilde was found guilty and died destitute in Paris in 1900, a broken man.

Full title:
'Closing scene at the Old Bailey' from the Illustrated Police News
4 May 1895, London
Newspaper / Illustration / Image
The Illustrated Police News
© British Library Board
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British Library

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