pReSs coVeraGe oF thE wiLde TriAL

I chose a report from an Australian newspaper known as Argus. The report was published one Friday the 5th 1895, two days after the first day of the libel charge in London. This report on Wilde took up most of the whole column leaving only a small space for the other news. The report had a eye catching title, and a long opening. The word scandal was used in the title which suggests this was meant to be a sensational piece. However, contrary to the snaring opening, the whole report seemed impartial or perharps demurely leaning on Wilde’s side. It only narrated the facts of Wilde’s libel charge and did nothing else. I argue it might have leaned towards Wilde’s corner mainly because of the use of particular words. The report describes the cross examination Wilde was put through as stringent.  Also, the words sodomite or anything of the sort is never mentioned. Rather, the report refers to Wilde’s possible actions as criminal practices. Of which sort is never mentioned.

The report seems objective. Given the discussion during my class where most student noted their reports seemed to condemn Wilde and use words like shameful, sodomy and so on, this report never uses such words. There are several possible reasons the paper decided to take this neutral stance. It might have been due to censorship therefore, these words are never explicitly used. It is also possible that Australia had different societal values and Wilde’s trail was not as big of a deal. It didn’t matter as much there. The most plausible explanation however might be related to the stage of the trials. This is a report narrating the very first day of the libel charge. Nobody was taking this seriously yet. Wilde was on the offense and Queensberry was perceived  as someone terrorizing a well appreciated artist. The report even explains that During his cross examination Mr. Oscar Wilde indulged in many smart epigrams and paradoxes, his whole demeanour being marked by much extravagance, and causing great amusement in court. We know from later reports that this healthy visage deteriorates as the trials continue. At this point in the libel charge, even Wilde is unaware that he has dug his own grave. Everything has yet to fall to pieces yet. I believe this is the same attitude the report is taking. It raises the question as to whether other reports that formerly supported Wilde eventually turned against him. Maybe they started to see Queensbeery as a figure who did a service by exposing the indecent person in their midst.

Distance also plays a huge role in how I perceive this report. Australia is on a whole different continent and is very far from England. This might be the reason the trial would not matter as much. They are not at the heart of the feverish event so they are less invested. There was also the matter of context brought up in my lecture, and how many students who had chosen to do their report on a paper situated in England found that their reports lacked a introduction to the Wilde case and that the paper just dived right into the details of the case. For my paper, this was not an issue as the paper provides contextual background on the topic about to be reported as news. This might be because of the distance, the paper assumes most might not know about the case unlike in England where it is everywhere. It might also be because this is the first of the trial and also the very first day. It is also important to note that the trial was on the 3rd of April but the news was reported on the 5th which says a little about the communication at the time. It was a lot harder to pass news around back then than it is today. Where England would have got the news the very evening of the 3rd of April, Australia would have to wait two whole days to get a chance to read that news.

The report tells a lot about the time around Wilde’s trial and the people and media’s response to it. Coupled with that, it shows just how widespread the news of Wilde’s trial was.


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