Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde
The marriage at the centre of the most famous scandal in the nineteenth century.
Constance and Oscar Wilde were part of a circle whose outrageous behaviour shook the foundations of nineteenth-century society. Not until the 1960s did British society see its moral framework so tested again, in terms of its attitude to homosexuality, as it did in the mauve period. CONSTANCE is the extraordinary account of their marriage played out under public scrutiny, which crashed and burned as only a celebrity marriage can.
Franny Moyle radically rewrites accepted opinion about the Wildes from both a personal and a literary perspective. Drawing on Constance’s numerous unpublished letters, she uncovers key revelations about a woman who was the victim of one of the greatest betrayals of all time. This is a compelling and moving tale of an unlikely couple caught up in a fin de siecle world unsure of its own moral footing.
CONSTANCE: THE TRAGIC AND SCANDALOUS LIFE OF MRS OSCAR WILDE was published in June 2011 by John Murray and is currently Book Of The Week on BBC Radio 4.
“What is fascinating is how this power couple of the fin de siècle co-operated. Constance may have even written stories with her husband; Moyle attributes The Selfish Giant to her influence. Yet more intriguing is the notion that Mrs Wilde enrolled in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn — an occult sect with its own modern parallels — to gather material for her husband’s The Picture of Dorian Gray … [A] wonderful book”
– Philip Hoare, The Times
“… a very good story, very well told … [A] surprising revelation is that at one point Oscar became obsessed with playing golf. ‘I am becoming a golf-widow’, Constance wrote to a friend. The least of her worries, you might think. Her husband’s companion on the fairways, as well as elsewhere, was Lord Alfred Douglas. It’s his malign presence through the second half of the book that prevents either Oscar or Constance being seen as totally at fault in the breakdown of their marriage.”
– Mark Mason, The Spectator
“[A] fine biography … Like one of Wilde’s epigrams, in fact, Moyle takes pleasure in turning our assumptions on their heads.”
– Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Daily Telegraph
“Moyle’s account, the first to draw on more than 300 of Constance’s unpublished letters, is delightful, sad, and entirely convincing; her last chapters reduced this hardened reader to tears.”
– Miranda Seymour, Guardian