Friday, April 11, 2014

Willie Wilde’s Failure as a Husband

Oscar Wilde (2nd from left) & Willie Wilde (sitting on right).
Oscar Wilde's one-time sister-in-law once declared to her then-husband Willie Wilde that she had married the wrong brother. Such bitter irony because Oscar was already married, and we all know how that turned out. Then I found this wonderfully gossipy 1893 article that outlines what made Willie even worse as a husband!
The Morning Call, 8 June 1893, 10.
Mrs. Leslie in the Divorce Court
The Great Matrimonial Comedy About to Close - Willie Wilde’s Failure as a Husband

Many people out here who had the opportunities a year and a half ago to please themselves by meeting Mrs. Frank Leslie and the brother of Oscar Wilde will gossip with considerable relish about the dissolution of the matrimonial alliance between them.

Mrs. Leslie expects that the bonds will be put assunder by Judge Brown of Newburg, N.Y., in a very few days, and the very minute she finds herself a free woman again she will sail to Europe.

That was a funny sort of match from the start, and the breaking of it now only makes people smile. The characteristic passages in the married life of Mr. and Mrs. William Wilde would make a more delightful society comedy than the stage ever presented if properly selected and strung together.
Mrs. Frank Leslie

People out here who met them when they visited California with the League of Press Clubs were not impressed by the idea that it was one of those tender love affairs. They had been married about four months then, so that the trip came pretty near being a honeymoon tour. Everybody who had ever seen Mrs. Leslie thought they knew what she looked like, for next to President Harrison her picture had been published as often as anybody else’s in America, displaying the bright, handsome face and the trim and stylishly dressed form of a striking and fascinating young woman.

But oh, what a difference time had wrought since the negatives from which all of Mrs. Leslie’s pictures have been made were new! She came as bright, independent, positive and hustling as she ever was, but there were furrows where the bloom had once rested and nature had acquired that careless way of letting lines of grace sag into less pleasing outlines. No good picture of Mrs. Leslie has ever been labeled “From a recent photograph.” But everybody was curious and ambitious to meet the famous woman who had taken a great publishing business where her husband had left it at his death - deeply involved in debt - and by her own shrewdness made an independent fortune out of it.
Oscar & Willie by Unseam

And Willie Wilde - William C. Kingbusy Wilde - was regarded with little less curiosity. He was a great tall, bewhiskered, large-eyed Englishman in rather ill-fitting clothes, with a stoop about his shoulders, a slowness in his talk and movements and a very unaggressive manner.

He was a man who had distinguished himself - by becoming brother of a poet and by marrying Mrs. Frank Leslie. He was the husband of Mrs. Frank Leslie and was always identified that way. That suited the bride to a T - in fact, she insisted on it herself. She never proposed her identity be swallowed up in a mere husband and she never betrayed a disposition to do any great amount of cleaving to him. She was always “Mrs. Frank Leslie,” though at times she would let “Wilde” be tacked on with a hyphen, and she always went right a head having her own way with as little regard for her hubby’s wishes as though he were her coachman. In fact, the ruthless way in which she would “sit down” on him in the presence of strangers was often quite distressing. It was even more distressing to be compelled to witness the apologetic “Will you allow me, madame?” way that William C.K. Wilde had in her presence.

And when Mrs. Leslie and Willie Wilde returned to New York to take up the routine of life they did it in very different ways, and as time went on no affinity was developed. She got out of bed betimes and attended to her business. while he, ready to receive the good sent by the gods, took up the “dolce far niente” style of languid existence, the hustling wife trying in vain to just “sha-ake” him into doing something in the way of “getting there.”

Then there was Willie’s careless way of leaving his teeth lying around her boudoir and little things like that to gradually increase a desire on her part to lose him. So it was no wonder that Willie finally went back to London where she met him and whence he came nerved up to a grim resolve not to weary in persuading, which resolve enabled him to make the one brilliant stroke in his life.

Mrs. Frank Leslie is a brilliant success as a publisher, but like a few other women she was not so smart about getting married. Now people will wonder if she will not go back to Europe to again set the gossips to talking and perhaps see if she can’t do better next time.
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