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Ceremonies of Bravery: Oscar Wilde, Carlos Blacker, and the Dreyfus Affair

Ceremonies of Bravery: Oscar Wilde, Carlos Blacker, and the Dreyfus Affair

J. Robert Maguire

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The book traces the course of what Oscar Wilde called his ‘ancient friendship’ with Carlos Blacker, ‘always the truest of friends and most sympathetic of companions’, from its beginning in the early 1880s to their tragic breakup in 1898.

The friendship through the 1880s, ‘days of laughter and delight’ according to Wilde, was a halcyon time for both. Wilde’s long-time friend and first biographer, Robert Sherard, thought that ‘the days when I first met him [in 1883] were the happiest days he lived’, an opinion shared by a second biographer and friend, Vincent O’Sullivan.

The 1890s, however, proved a less carefree time for both Wilde and Blacker. The first year of the decade witnessed the onset of what Blacker described as his ‘tempestuous affairs’, which continued to haunt him to the time of his marriage and the start of a ‘New Life’ in the middle of the decade, shortly before Wilde was brought to ruin by his own disastrous troubles. After a three-year separation, the two were reunited in Paris in March 1898, with the Dreyfus affair then at fever-pitch and the city, in Blacker’s words, ‘in a ferment’.

During his extended residence abroad while his ‘tempestuous affairs’ played out, Blacker had formed a close friendship with the Italian military attaché in Paris, who, complicit with his German counterpart and fully informed about Dreyfus, confided ‘the whole & entire truth’ in sworn secrecy to Blacker who, in his emotionally charged reunion with Wilde, was impulsively moved to share the information with him.

The effect of their chance involvement on the course of events in the affair proved fatal to their ‘ancient friendship’.

On 25 June 1898, Blacker recorded prophetically in his diary, ‘After lunch just before dinner letter from Oscar which put an end to our friendship forever.’

Additional Information

Author J. Robert Maguire
Publisher Oxford University Press
Publication date 10 Jan 2013
Format Hardback
ISBN/EAN 9780199660827

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