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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 April, 2003, 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK
Wilde libel papers go on show
Oscar Wilde
Wilde's dramatic fall is documented in the papers
The original transcript of the Oscar Wilde libel trial is to be displayed for the first time after lying undiscovered for more than 100 years.

The British Library has acquired the complete document of the 1895 Old Bailey court case which led to Wilde's downfall.

A bundle of papers loaned to the library by an anonymous benefactor turned out to be the stenographer's shorthand report of the trial.

It is the first definitive account of the events which took Wilde from London's high society to Reading prison.

Actors Corin Redgrave and Steven Berkoff are staging an hour-long re-enactment of the trial on Wednesday in a reading at the library.

The manuscript, stuffed into carrier bags, was handed to library staff two and a half years ago.

Oscar Wilde
Wilde died in self-imposed exile in France
Historians never knew it existed.

A British Library spokeswoman described the documents as "dramatic and compelling".

The transcript reproduces previously unknown exchanges between Wilde and barrister Edward Carson QC.

Until now, only heavily abbreviated accounts of the case have been available.

Wilde launched the court case in April 1895 to sue the Marquess of Queensberry for libel.


The Marquess was angry that his son, Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas, was having an affair with the writer and left him an obscene message at his club accusing him of homosexuality.

Wilde, one of the most celebrated writers of the time for such classic works as The Importance Of Being Earnest, took the Marquess to court.

During the case Carson uncovered evidence of Wilde's association with rent boys.

The trial collapsed and Wilde was arrested for gross indecency.

He was convicted and sentenced to two years' hard labour in Reading jail on 25 May 1895.

He died five years later in self-imposed exile in France.

His story was turned into the film Wilde in 1997, with Stephen Fry as the playwright and Jude Law as Bosie.

The transcript has been turned into a book, Irish Peacock and Scarlet Marquess: The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde.

During Wednesday's re-enactment of the trial Redgrave will play Wilde and Berkoff will take the role of barrister Carson.

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