The love of Constance and Oscar Wilde: The indomitable poet left her to be with a man

Photo: Profimedia

At the end of the 19th century, London was a city in which social progress, art, human freedom and the emancipation of women were viewed with great approval. A large number of creative people gathered around the social group "Esthetics", which advocated the abolition of restrictive Victorian fashion, among them Constance Lloyd – a young woman with a free and fun spirit. In the circles of the Aesthetics, at a party at the Grosvenor Gallery, Constance met a rising literary star, critic, poet and playboy – Oscar Wilde, who was born on this day.

Thanks to the generous income she received from her grandfather's estate, Constance could afford the luxury of marrying for love and passion, without worrying about financial security. In the fall of 1880, the twenty-one-year-old Constance sent a letter to her brother in which she said that she was "looking for something special in life, because she does not want her eternal dreaming to become unhealthy."

At that moment, she couldn't even guess how much the specialness she was looking for would cost.

Constance Lloyd / Photo: Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy / Alamy / Profimedia

A hint of the conflict between her and Wilde's ethical principles is found in the young couple's early correspondence, where Constance criticizes his views on art with the words: "I am afraid I do not agree with your opinion about art, which cannot be perfect without perfect morality, while you maintain that these are different and separable things."

The times in which they lived brought many changes and advances in human rights, especially after the passage of the Married Women's Property Act, passed in 1882, which gave British women the right to dispose of and trade their property, to borrow in their own name and to initiate court cases. However, the conservative islanders were not prepared for the scandal that Oscar Wilde would soon create for them. After marrying Wilde in 1884, Constance really enjoyed the love and attention she received from the charming poet who had a way with words. Her letters testify to that.

"How can I answer your letters, they are too beautiful for the words I know. I can only dream about you all day… If you had a magic crystal, you would not be able to see anything, believe me, but your dear image in it forever. There is nothing but love for you in my eyes."

Oscar Wilde / Photo: Fototeca Gilardi / akg-images / Profimedia

Immediately after the wedding, the couple had two sons, Cyril and Vivian, within two years, but the happy image that was presented to the public increasingly became an image of personal sadness and dissatisfaction on both sides. In a letter to a friend, Wilde opened up about his feelings, where it is clear that he does not see the satisfaction of his emotional needs in his marriage to Constance.

"There are romantic memories and a desire for romance - but that's all. Our moments of ecstasy are a mere shadow of what we once felt, or will feel one day... Sometimes it seems to me that the life of an artist is a long and lonely suicide, and I am sorry for that."

Although emotionally distant, Oscar and Constance managed for a time to maintain the illusion of a harmonious couple in London's high society. She became socially active as the most vocal advocate of fashion reform and figured as the owner of Oscar's fashion magazine. Less inclined admirers of her work began to comment in London circles that Mrs. Wilde never missed an opportunity to engage in what she considered sufficiently modern, be it true femininity or spiritualism. However, Oscar was deeply grateful to her for not interfering too much in his life and leaving him room to continue his emotional wanderings with other women and later with men.

Constanta with her son Cyril / Photo: Fototeca Gilardi / akg-images / Profimedia

In his second book of fairy tales, he wrote a dedication to Constance:

"I dedicate the cathedral to you. The small chapels next to it are for other saints… The candles burning on the side are neither bigger nor brighter than the great golden lamp on the altar, which has an amazing heart and an eternal flame.”

His dramatic writings, which filled London's theatres, and his entertaining nature made Oscar Wilde a favorite Victorian writer whose little outbursts were looked upon favorably. He greeted the customs officials with "I have nothing to report, except my genius", he called his fellow citizens "beautiful idiots and brilliant madmen", after the performances he bowed to the audience with a cigarette in his mouth and exaggerated all his vices.

Oscar Wilde / Photo: Fototeca Gilardi / akg-images / Profimedia

However, his statement: "I want to taste all the fruits of the world garden!" London could not "swallow". The father of two sons and a distinguished artist caused a public scandal by entering into an intimate relationship with the young Lord Alfred Douglas, an ardent admirer of his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.

This relationship opened a new chapter in the life of Oscar Wilde, imbued with perversion and association with old acquaintances of Lord Douglas - young male prostitutes. The influential Douglas family tried in every way to prevent this relationship, for which they accused the famous writer. In 1895, because of his "monstrous behavior", Wilde was sentenced to two years of forced labor, and by the London public - to lifelong disqualification. His predictions from his youth, when he declared: "I am absolutely certain that I will be famous, or at least infamous" have literally come true.

Constance left the country when Oskar ended up in prison and temporarily moved to Switzerland, changing her and her sons' surnames to Holland. She only visited him once in prison, to tell him the news of his mother's death and to make him give up all parental rights over the children. She died in 1898, after back surgery, and is buried in the Monumental Tomb in Genoa, Italy.

Some people spread joy wherever they go, while others spread only when they leave: Oscar Wilde's life wisdom!

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