'Oscar Wilde at Bow Street': 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’s cover illustration shows the contempt with which Wilde was now held by many – he is ‘hooted by the mob’ as his carriage arrives at Bow St; other drawings show him as ‘ill in prison’ and glum in the dock.

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

Full title:
'Oscar Wilde at Bow Street' from the Illustrated Police News
20 April 1895, London
Newspaper / Illustration / Image
The Illustrated Police News
© British Library Board
Held by
British Library

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