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Bosie: A Biography of Lord Alfred Douglas

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There is a vogue these days for biographies of minor, peripheral characters who lived on the margins of literary greatness: Tennyson's wife, for instance, or Dickens' mistress. This new biography of Lord Alfred Douglas, the son of the Marquess of Queensbury and, most scandalously, the lover of Oscar Wilde, has attracted huge attention because of the age of the biographer. There is a vogue these days for biographies of minor, peripheral characters who lived on the margins of literary greatness: Tennyson's wife, for instance, or Dickens' mistress. This new biography of Lord Alfred Douglas, the son of the Marquess of Queensbury and, most scandalously, the lover of Oscar Wilde, has attracted huge attention because of the age of the biographer. Douglas Murray began writing it at 17, and he is only 20 now. It is an astonishing achievement: mature, considered, fluently written and richly detailed. Bosie's youth was the epitome of the 1890s,"greenery-yallery" decadence, but unlike his lover and mentor, the brilliant, doomed Wilde, Bosie lived on until 1945, becoming increasingly religious, repentant about his past (as Wilde never was), and finally a recluse. On one key issue, however, Murray seems seriously off-message: he argues that Bosie was a major literary figure in his own right, and that the value of his poetry has been seriously underrated. "He was a poet not just of the 90s but one who would endure the 20th century and produce a poem that would echo as a work of searing faith and a testament to spiritual renewal." Er ... no. The poem Murray alludes to is "In Excelsis", Bosie's riposte to Wilde's work "De Profundis". But it is tiresomely self-absorbed, antiquated, and unimaginative, a prolonged whinge about the lot of the misunderstood genius. Nevertheless, Bosie's story is still worth telling, even if his poetic reputation is not worth defending, and Murray tells it extremely well. --Christopher Hart


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There is a vogue these days for biographies of minor, peripheral characters who lived on the margins of literary greatness: Tennyson's wife, for instance, or Dickens' mistress. This new biography of Lord Alfred Douglas, the son of the Marquess of Queensbury and, most scandalously, the lover of Oscar Wilde, has attracted huge attention because of the age of the biographer. There is a vogue these days for biographies of minor, peripheral characters who lived on the margins of literary greatness: Tennyson's wife, for instance, or Dickens' mistress. This new biography of Lord Alfred Douglas, the son of the Marquess of Queensbury and, most scandalously, the lover of Oscar Wilde, has attracted huge attention because of the age of the biographer. Douglas Murray began writing it at 17, and he is only 20 now. It is an astonishing achievement: mature, considered, fluently written and richly detailed. Bosie's youth was the epitome of the 1890s,"greenery-yallery" decadence, but unlike his lover and mentor, the brilliant, doomed Wilde, Bosie lived on until 1945, becoming increasingly religious, repentant about his past (as Wilde never was), and finally a recluse. On one key issue, however, Murray seems seriously off-message: he argues that Bosie was a major literary figure in his own right, and that the value of his poetry has been seriously underrated. "He was a poet not just of the 90s but one who would endure the 20th century and produce a poem that would echo as a work of searing faith and a testament to spiritual renewal." Er ... no. The poem Murray alludes to is "In Excelsis", Bosie's riposte to Wilde's work "De Profundis". But it is tiresomely self-absorbed, antiquated, and unimaginative, a prolonged whinge about the lot of the misunderstood genius. Nevertheless, Bosie's story is still worth telling, even if his poetic reputation is not worth defending, and Murray tells it extremely well. --Christopher Hart

30 review for Bosie: A Biography of Lord Alfred Douglas

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lord Beardsley

    I have this huge, weird love for horrible bastards. I don't know why. I always have. It all stems back to really liking Gargamel from The Smurfs. I think that's why I like Lord Alfred Douglas so much. The author of this book probably likes evil villians also. And he's one himself. I'll explain. Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas was the Golden Boy who brought down Oscar Wilde. This biography of him is very well written and researched. For starters, the author is 27 now and started writing it when he was I have this huge, weird love for horrible bastards. I don't know why. I always have. It all stems back to really liking Gargamel from The Smurfs. I think that's why I like Lord Alfred Douglas so much. The author of this book probably likes evil villians also. And he's one himself. I'll explain. Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas was the Golden Boy who brought down Oscar Wilde. This biography of him is very well written and researched. For starters, the author is 27 now and started writing it when he was 14 years old. He did an amazing job researching a rather obscure life and the first half of the book is incredibly engaging and gives a very fair look into Bosie as a person. He brings up some very valid points and really does express that Bosie wasn't as horrible and evil as many people think him (he's just your typical spoiled, jaded, bitch). In fact, he did heavily support Wilde for some time when he was released from prison. He also stood by him and defended him for a long period of time. I disagree with the author, however, on the point that Douglas was one of the best poets of his generation. His stuff is cringe-worthy terrible. Bosie was less the Shakespeare of his generation and more like the Conor Oberst of his generation. Bosie was seriously more emo than Bright Eyes and his emo-poems are nearly as god-awful. Also, as he grew older he converted to Catholicism (which reminds me of what a friend of mine once said: "when I'm old I'm either going to end up crazy or Catholic". Bosie ended up both). He also was responisible for translating the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (one of the most, if not the most Anti-Semitic pieces of garbage ever written and one of the most influential books for Hitler). He was a raging bigot not to mention a pederast. When he was still a practicing homosexual (as opposed to a closeted one) his favorite thing was to seduce schoolboys. He was basically an all around horrible person. Speaking of all-around horrible people...Douglas Murray (the author) is an enthusiastic Neo-Conservative. He is anti-multi-culturalism and if you look him up on Youtube you'll be appaled at some of the things he espouses. It sounds like he and Douglas had a lot in common.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Boise, Alfred Douglas, was a factor in the fall and imprisonment of Oscar Wilde. Douglas Murray’s book attempts to rescue Douglas from being known just for one thing – as Wilde’s boy toy – as well to restore Boise’s reputation as a poet. Sadly, there is something off about the book. Murray does have a point in the whole Wilde/Boise affair. At that point, Boise was young and spoiled. He didn’t hold a gun to Wilde’s head, and Wilde was the married man and father. Yet this point aside Murray does Boise, Alfred Douglas, was a factor in the fall and imprisonment of Oscar Wilde. Douglas Murray’s book attempts to rescue Douglas from being known just for one thing – as Wilde’s boy toy – as well to restore Boise’s reputation as a poet. Sadly, there is something off about the book. Murray does have a point in the whole Wilde/Boise affair. At that point, Boise was young and spoiled. He didn’t hold a gun to Wilde’s head, and Wilde was the married man and father. Yet this point aside Murray does not really succeed in what he sets out to do. Part of the problem is the sense of vacuum. The book is about Boise, and mostly Boise there really isn’t much sense of the time he lived in or the people who formed part of his story. While background is given about his parents, this is one of the few times that such detail is given. For instance, when Boise’s elder brother’s wife dies it only gets a mention when his brother remarried in the next sentence. When talking about the animosity between Ross and Douglas, Murray chalks it up to simple jealous on the part of Ross, an argument that is hard to fully buy because Murray doesn’t really give any sense of the relationship between Ross and Wilde, but to say they slept together at least once. He also implies that Wilde engaged in homosexual behavior because Wilde and his wife stopped having intercourse as a form of birth control. While such conclusions might be true to present them with little to no support makes them dangerously simplistic. Another problem is the double standard and Boise as the only honest person. When writing a biography about someone who has been the target of potshots, there is always the danger of making the subject a sinned against saint. While Murray doesn’t go this far, he does come too close. This is due to two things. The first is that he makes it appear that Boise was the only friend to stand by Wilde upon release from prison. He does this, in part, by condemning Constance Wilde for refusing to give her husband an allowance unless he broke it off with Boise. Basically, we are led to be, she is being judgmental and unfair. But this is put forward in a vacuum (Wilde’s fall in this book seems to have had limited impact on his family), and that is part of the problem. The second is the account of Douglas’ translating the Protocols of the Elders of Zion into English. While it is true that Anti-Semitism was viewed differently, why does this only get a very brief paragraph? Why should we avoid judging him when we are encouraged to judge Constance and others who condemn homosexuality by today’s standards? In fact, this almost cynical and dismissive view of women is consistent. Douglas’ wife is no more than a pawn of her father. Again, there is a vacuum in the detail. And we are to view Wilde’s affair with Boise differently than we are to view Boise’s affair with a young man. This episode in the biography occurs when Boise is older and has converted Catholicism – so why a homosexual affair, Murray doesn’t really say. The other main thrust of the book is that Boise is an overlooked poet, who might have been greater than Wilde in some cases. He really doesn’t prove this, and the poetry that he does quote, is rather mediocre. The focus on poetry accounts for the vacuum that weakens the book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Philip Clark

    We usually have come to know Lord Alfred Douglas in the context of being the spoiled, often vicious, self-centered young beauty who was the great love of Oscar Wilde. But here, thankfully, Douglas Murray shows us the man who learned hard lessons from that time, who was often pilloried wrongly and misunderstood. His biography is invaluable in bringing Douglas's poetry to the critical level that shows their resonance and worth in the long line of poetic history, and here places them once again for We usually have come to know Lord Alfred Douglas in the context of being the spoiled, often vicious, self-centered young beauty who was the great love of Oscar Wilde. But here, thankfully, Douglas Murray shows us the man who learned hard lessons from that time, who was often pilloried wrongly and misunderstood. His biography is invaluable in bringing Douglas's poetry to the critical level that shows their resonance and worth in the long line of poetic history, and here places them once again for reconsideration and deep reading. Murray is completely even on presenting the good and the bad sides of Douglas, but his incisive research provides a overall life of a man who was unsettled by his time, and too often unaware of his gifts. Murray too lets us know the very hard life and lessons learned that Douglas had to suffer -- much of his life was involved in litigious court battles, constantly fighting to tell his side of a story much maligned and assumed by those who had no real idea or compassion for neutrality and fairness. We come away from it, knowing Douglas as at last a man who paid his dues, suffered deeply -- he too was imprisoned, and experienced hard labor, and the result of which, like Wilde's almost destroyed his desire to write. But he found deeper creative tethers to hold fast to, and with a return to the Catholic faith, found ways in which to accommodate and and be fully honest with his life and its repercussions. Beautifully written, and consummate in its research, it gives us a portrait of Douglas that is complex, and human. One comes away from it with a deeper understanding not only of Douglas, but of Wilde and the entire period in which both of them loved each other, no matter how harsh the resultant lessons learned.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Denis

    For anyone interested in Oscar Wilde, this book is a must-read. Murray, the author, has had the great idea of investigating the one who enthralled Wilde with his beauty, but about whom very little is known: lord Alfred Douglas, the blonde young man who, besides being Wilde's lover, was also a reknown poet. He's the one who wrote the famous sentence "the love that dare not speak its name". It is a fascinating biography because Douglas is a complex, strange, hard to grasp character, and Murray has For anyone interested in Oscar Wilde, this book is a must-read. Murray, the author, has had the great idea of investigating the one who enthralled Wilde with his beauty, but about whom very little is known: lord Alfred Douglas, the blonde young man who, besides being Wilde's lover, was also a reknown poet. He's the one who wrote the famous sentence "the love that dare not speak its name". It is a fascinating biography because Douglas is a complex, strange, hard to grasp character, and Murray has done an amazing job at reconstructing his life and analyzing his life, his personality, his work, his psyche. Especially surprising is Douglas' life after his affair with Wilde, and what became of him. He does not especially comes out as an endearing man, especially in his late years, yet there's something slightly sad and pathetic about him.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Siemann

    Knowing that the author was an undergraduate when he wrote the book makes this a remarkable achievement. The problem is that he has not succeeded, for me at least, in making his case that Lord Alfred Douglas is interesting enough, on his own, to justify an entire book. There are two sides to every story, and I'd wondered if there was more to Douglas than there seemed. It was interesting to have the various bits and pieces of his later life that turn up in biographies of Oscar Wilde fleshed out ( Knowing that the author was an undergraduate when he wrote the book makes this a remarkable achievement. The problem is that he has not succeeded, for me at least, in making his case that Lord Alfred Douglas is interesting enough, on his own, to justify an entire book. There are two sides to every story, and I'd wondered if there was more to Douglas than there seemed. It was interesting to have the various bits and pieces of his later life that turn up in biographies of Oscar Wilde fleshed out (his marriage, his Catholic conversion) and rather charming to read about his late-life friendships with George Bernard Shaw and Marie Stopes. I cannot share the author's high opinion of Douglas's poetry, and my opinion hasn't been changed significantly.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dean

    I'm usually more of an autobiography fan, but I found this book to be one which I could not put down. A fascinating insight into the incredible life of Oscar Wilde's partner. Full of historical context and written in a way which literally draws you into to a life of so many extremes. Highly recommended.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Anna Kļaviņa

    Really attention-grabbing read and Mr Murray, in my opinion, has done excellent work researching and writing biography of Lord Alfred Douglas.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Madelina Calcagni

    It is very good

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mary Pagones

    Four stars primarily for chronicling Douglas' far lesser-known life post-Wilde, an an important corrective to the romanticized image of the relationship of the two men after Wilde's release from prison. I can't improve upon a review I saw of this book from Twitter, which is basically that even as a Douglas apologist, Murray can't conceal what an absolute shite his subject was in life--like his father, Douglas used the court system to hound those whom he hated, including dear Robbie Ross, who did Four stars primarily for chronicling Douglas' far lesser-known life post-Wilde, an an important corrective to the romanticized image of the relationship of the two men after Wilde's release from prison. I can't improve upon a review I saw of this book from Twitter, which is basically that even as a Douglas apologist, Murray can't conceal what an absolute shite his subject was in life--like his father, Douglas used the court system to hound those whom he hated, including dear Robbie Ross, who did everything he could to rehabilitate and preserve Oscar Wilde's reputation. Douglas converted to Catholicism, repudiated Wilde, was an absent father like his own (although that was partially because he was forcibly separated from his son as unfit), and libeled William Churchill as a war profiteer. Oh, and he was also antisemitic. He threw away just about every opportunity to do something useful, including the editorship of several literary magazines, and pretty much the only good things Douglas did was that he eventually softened in his position to Wilde and wrote a halfway decent poem, "Two Loves," as a young man. Unfortunately, Douglas also wrote a great deal of forgettable verse, and Murray spends far too much time trying to convince the reader it's significant, even though it would never have been given any regard, were it not for the sexual history of the author. The poem written about his brother's untimely death is moving because of the context. But as a poet of significance Douglas falls short--he disdained modernism and never became a vibrant part of the changes in poetic culture, which would have made him interesting beyond his personal biography.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Carlos Olmo

    Surprisingly interesting and tragic life. I didn't know anything about Alfred Douglas, but the detailed writing of Murray and the dramatic story itself engaged me from the beginning. The background of the taboo of homosexuality around the turn of the century is ever present - and his relationship with Oscar Wilde in particular which marked his life since he became an adult up until he died, is especially fascinating. The evolution of Douglas' difficulties understanding, rejecting, and finally ac Surprisingly interesting and tragic life. I didn't know anything about Alfred Douglas, but the detailed writing of Murray and the dramatic story itself engaged me from the beginning. The background of the taboo of homosexuality around the turn of the century is ever present - and his relationship with Oscar Wilde in particular which marked his life since he became an adult up until he died, is especially fascinating. The evolution of Douglas' difficulties understanding, rejecting, and finally accepting his own youth feelings, dealing with changes in faith, moral beliefs, societal norms and attacks from enemies, captivated me and was very informative as a historical description of the time.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jemppu

    How much this was mostly but a collection of previously recorded writings is neatly encapsulated by the last 40 pages of notes, listing the sources of various quotes. Though not very captivating or memorable a read, it seems nicely thorough summation of the history of an individual.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Erica

    The golden boy lead no golden life. Certainly many of Douglas's failings were of his own making, but many were not. It seems that Bosie suffered a similar illness as his father, and many of his ancestors. It shaped Bosie's life and those that surrounded him in many ways, it was he that endured the most from his sometimes injudicious choices and irrational behaviour. His life reads as if it were a Shakespearean tragedy, from his many litigations, his imprisonment, his marriage, the fate of his so The golden boy lead no golden life. Certainly many of Douglas's failings were of his own making, but many were not. It seems that Bosie suffered a similar illness as his father, and many of his ancestors. It shaped Bosie's life and those that surrounded him in many ways, it was he that endured the most from his sometimes injudicious choices and irrational behaviour. His life reads as if it were a Shakespearean tragedy, from his many litigations, his imprisonment, his marriage, the fate of his son, and the poverty. "A Lord without any money" indeed. Murray's research is extensive and goes a way to repair Douglas's reputation in regards to his treatment of Wilde. I found Bosie hard to like at times throughout the book, but then he would do something that made you like him again. Having finished the book I felt that was not the life that I expected him to have lead, there is just such a sadness that I feel after having closed the cover.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    Murray presents the Oscar Wilde/Lord Alfred Douglas relationship from Bosie's perspective, and does a fine job in illustrating how this relationship impacted Douglas' life in a terrible way. From a young and delightful man, Douglas became over his lifetime an embittered person who spent much of his time in court filing and trying to win libel lawsuits. He was a good poet, and the book closes with a poem he wrote about Wilde; very sad. I'd recommend this to people interested in Wilde's life and i Murray presents the Oscar Wilde/Lord Alfred Douglas relationship from Bosie's perspective, and does a fine job in illustrating how this relationship impacted Douglas' life in a terrible way. From a young and delightful man, Douglas became over his lifetime an embittered person who spent much of his time in court filing and trying to win libel lawsuits. He was a good poet, and the book closes with a poem he wrote about Wilde; very sad. I'd recommend this to people interested in Wilde's life and in the life of Lord Alfred Douglas as well.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Abi_88

    This is one of only three non fiction novels that I've read in less than three days, or even finished. Oscar Wildes life and that of his lover lord alfred douglas always fascinated me. This book contains a most balanced account of L.A's point of view during the wilde trials, and also an interesting insight to the rest of his life.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Anamarija

    soooooo boring

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nick

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sumner

  18. 5 out of 5

    Evan

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Guest

  20. 4 out of 5

    Janet

  21. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Takizawa-Soper

  22. 4 out of 5

    Juanita Garcia

  23. 4 out of 5

    D M

  24. 4 out of 5

    BadgerbyOwllight

  25. 5 out of 5

    Steven C

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Blankenship Papin

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nadia Trousdale

  28. 5 out of 5

    James Schwartz

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tristana

  30. 4 out of 5

    Hansel

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