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A University Mason

A very much-shortened version of this paper appears in the January 2003 edition of MQ the official publication of the United Grand Lodge of England.

I want to get to the point when I shall be able to say , quite simply and without affectation, that the two great turning points of my life were when my father sent me to Oxford, and when society sent me to prison.

Oscar Wilde in De Profundis,




Oscar Wilde

Today no one will deny the genius of Oscar Wilde. Yet during his own lifetime he was spurned and humiliated in spite of the success of much of his work. He was a victim of the society into which he was born. The Victorian middle-class, whose sacred institutions of morality Wilde was to infringe, simply had no patience or tolerance for him. The saddest of the tragedies that Wilde was to write could not match the events that were to unfold and Freemasonry, which did play a significant part during his time at Oxford, was also to reject him and let him down.


Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde (who dropped his middle names in 1877) was born in Dublin, Ireland on 16 October 1854 and from a young age showed all the promise of becoming an impressive academic. In 1871 he was admitted into Trinity College, Dublin University and won the scholarship, which catapulted him directly from Ireland to Magdalen College, Oxford in October of 1874. He was barely 20 years old.


Talent and intellect attract powerful friends and Oscar Wilde, a brilliant undergraduate by any standards, was befriended by various individuals of consequence who influenced his future in many ways. Amongst them were Walter Pater, John Addington Symonds, and John Ruskin. He was also very likely to have been on friendly terms with Prince Leopold, sixth son of Queen Victoria, and this acquaintance will have encouraged his introduction to Freemasonry.


Prince Leopold was an accomplished Mason. It was the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, that had proposed, in 1874, HRH Prince George Duncan Albert Leopold, Duke of Albany for initiation into the Apollo University Lodge No 357, when still an undergraduate at Christ Church. The Prince’s advancement was rapid. He was made Senior Warden of the Lodge the year after his initiation and in the same year, 1875, was nominated as Provincial Grand Master for Oxfordshire (wrongly interpreted by some historians, notably Richard Ellmann in his comprehensive biography, as having become Grand Master of the Order). He waited, however, until the day after his installation as Worshipful Master of the Apollo University Lodge on 22nd February 1876, to be formally installed as the new Provincial Grand Master. The ceremony on 23rd February took place, as was customary for Masonic conferment, at the Sheldonian Theatre. In 1877 Prince Leopold was honored as Junior Grand Warden and sadly died at the age of only 30, suffering from haemophilia.


Oscar would have felt on familiar ground when, in February 1875, his colleague John Edward Courtenay Bodley (always called Courtenay by family and friends) an undergraduate at Balliol College, who had been only initiated the year before, approached him with a view to his joining the Apollo University Lodge No 357. Bodley was much involved with Masonic administration, responsible for several fêtes and balls and was appointed Junior Secretary of the Apollo University Lodge, Director of Ceremonies of the Churchill Lodge and later became the Provincial Grand Secretary for Oxfordshire.


He was also closely associated with Prince Leopold. As for Oscar Wilde, in addition to his acquaintance with prince Leopold, Oscar’s father, Sir William Robert Wills Wilde (1815-1876) had been an active Mason in Ireland. Initiated in the Shakespeare Lodge Number 143 in Dublin on 12 December 1838, passed on 16 march 1839 and raised on 21 June 1839, he became Master of the Lodge in 1841 serving for just 6 months, as was the practice in Ireland at the time. Sir William also became a joining member of the St Patrick Lodge no 50 on 29 June 1844. There is no evidence to show that Willie, Oscar’s elder brother by two years, ever became a freemason.


On 16 February 1875 Oscar was proposed in the Apollo University Lodge by Sinclair Frankland Hood of Magdalen College and seconded by J E C Bodley. The ballot proved in his favour. Prior to his initiation a week later, Oscar was primed on Freemasonry by a group of friends, which included Bodley. In his diary entry for Sunday 21 February 1875 Bodley writes: Fitz & Wilde breakfasted with me at the Mitre at 11. Went down with W(ilde) to Corpus found the Count (W. O. Goldschmidt) dressing & screwed him round to Ch(rist) Ch(urch) where he was lunching. We called on Williamson where we had a long talk on Masonry. He produced his properties and Wilde was as much struck by their gorgeousness, as he was amazed (dismayed?) at the mystery of our conversation. Being under age Oscar was initiated by special dispensation on Tuesday 23rd February. Because the Oxford and Cambridge University Lodges, Apollo University and Isaac Newton respectively, enjoy blanket dispensation (automatically renewed annually) to initiate candidates under the age of 21, there are no records in Grand Lodge for dispensation applications for individual candidates.


The meeting at which Oscar was initiated was a busy one indeed. His friend Bodley acted as Secretary for the first time and combined his duties with that of Treasurer. The evening began early, at 4.45 pm with a third degree ceremony in which Frederic E Weatherly was raised. This was followed by the passing to the second degree of Guy, Lord Brooke of Christ Church, (later Member of Parliament for Somerset from 1880) and Algernon H Mills, among others. After which Charles William Cross of Trinity College, William Henry Grenfell of Balliol and Wilde were initiated. Bro the Rev H A Pickard of Christ Church College was Master of the Lodge. No wonder Bodley comments on the day ‘…Pickard is very energetic -  3 ceremonies a day…’. Oscar Wilde’s Craft and Rose Croix Certificates, together with considerable other memorabilia, were acquired by various individuals in the mid-1900s when Vivian Holland, Oscar’s impoverished son sadly had to sell his personal items to survive financially. The certificates are now in the hands of Mary, Lady Eccles in the USA.


Oscar Wilde’s Masonic career only spanned the four-year period that he studied at Magdalen College in Oxford. It began and ended there but he did take freemasonry as second nature to his character. He was fascinated by the Craft and the degrees beyond and participated in many of them. Insight into Oscar Wilde’s participation is to be found in Bodley’s diaries in which he reports on the festive board following Oscar’s initiation. J & B are interpreted by Oscar, at the instigation of Bodley, as St John the Baptist on which Oscar, in his maiden speech to the Brethren and other non-Masonic guests, says: …I have heard that St J(ohn) the B(aptist) was the founder of this order. I hope we shall emulate his life but not his death – I mean we ought to keep our heads!’ his comments and wit are responded to with ‘Yells of laughter’. Scholars have been at a loss to understand why Oscar’s comments should have caused ‘Yells of laughter’, as recorded by Bodley in his diary. The explanation may lie in that the Masons present would have appreciated the substitution and thus the misinterpretation of the letters J & B as referring to John the Baptists. The words used in the Masonic ritual refer to the two pillars in King Solomon’s Temple as described I Kings 7:15-22 . . .He erected the pillars at the portico of the temple. The pillar to the south he named Jakin and the one to the north Boaz  The capitals on top were in the shape of lilies. And so the work on the pillars was completed’.  Oscar himself will have remained unaware, having only gone through one single ceremony, of the correct words used in the ritual and thus his reference to John the Baptist will have been all the more amusing to those familiar with the correct wording. On another festive occasion Bodley comments his (Oscar Wilde’s) only attempts at practical harmony were on occasions when the Brethren having adjourned from labour to refreshment, he would lift his voice in chorus in a well-meaning but unsteady monotone.


The Apollo University Lodge was then, as it is still today, a prestigious Lodge. The original Lodge of Alfred in the University of Oxford No 455 was founded in 1769 and lapsed 1783. It was revived in May 1818 and in December was constituted as the Apollo Lodge number 711 - without explanation as to the adoption of the name. A year later the word University was added to the title. The Apollo University Lodge, now number 357, continuous to practice its ritual in an historic style and traditional costume. Officers wear knee breeches, tailcoats and white tie and silk stockings and pumps as they have done for two centuries. An attire that would have very much appealed to Oscar Wilde’s embellished sense of dress. So much so that he took to wearing his Masonic attire in public, his audience unaware of the significance of what was, effectively, Apollo Lodge dress. On the 9th of January 1882, just a week after his arrival in America for his extended literary tour, Wilde was on stage for the first time at the famous Chickering Hall on 5th Avenue and 18th Street. The 1247 seating capacity theatre was filled to the brim and even standing room tickets were sold out. Colonel W F Morse, the manager of the lecture tour, introduced Oscar Wilde who slowly walked unto the stage wearing the very conspicuous knee breeches and silk stockings and low shoes with bright buckles. The audience did not know what to make of it. Some thought this was an English court dress and no one knew that the last time Oscar had worn this attire was at a meeting of the Apollo Lodge in Oxford.


Oscar took his freemasonry seriously and was a keen and active participant in Lodge affairs. Having been passed to the second degree on 24 April and made a Master Mason on the 25th of May 1875, he joined Churchill Lodge in November of the same year, although he was not present at the meeting in which his membership was announced. The Churchill Lodge number 478 was and still is the University Lodge frequented by past graduates and senior members of the University staff. His introduction by his very good friend William Ward and by Bro James Harding, will be seen as an indication of the high regard he had already gained as an undergraduate student. In February 1876 Oscar proposed Mr Richard R Beard of Magdalen College as a member, who was duly initiated in March. Oscar began to take office in the Churchill Lodge as Inner Guard in 1876 and Junior Deacon in 1877. Although he was not present on Monday 7th May, the day of the elections in Lodge, he did make the trip especially from London to attend the Lodge’s festival the next day, Tuesday 8th May. The two events were combined in the report on page 8 of the Oxford Chronicle for Saturday May 12 1877 (repeated verbatim in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of the same date) under the heading:


THE CHURCHILL MASONIC LODGE: The anniversary festival of this Lodge was held on Tuesday [8 May] at the Masonic Hall, Oxford, when there was a large and influential attendance both of members and visitors. Among the brethren present were the Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Oxfordshire, Br R Bird MA., fellow of Magdalen College; Colonel the Hon W E Sackville West, MA., Worshipful Master of the Apollo University Lodge; Sir Offley Wakeman, Bart., MA.; F P Morell, MA.; Past Grand Masters (sic) the Rev H Pickard MA.; the Rev R W Pope, MA.; T C Tatham, E R Owen, Jules Bué, E M Wakeman, H R Cooper-Smith &c.; Bros Slade J Baker, T Hyde, E Risley, Major Crowder, MA., Captain Cook and others. The Worshipful Master, Br H O Wakeman, MA., fellow of All Souls College, presided and at the conclusion of the initiations, &c a handsome Past Master’s jewel was presented by him, on behalf of the Lodge, to Br H R Cooper-Smith MA of Magdalen College, the immediate Past Master, in recognition of the valuable services he had rendered the Lodge. The Worshipful Master Elect (Br S Frankland Hood, BA., of Magdalen College) was duly installed as Master for the ensuing year, the ceremony being most admirably performed by the retiring Master. The new Master appointed and invested his officers as follows; - Senior Warden, Sir Offley Wakeman, Bart., MA. ; JW, Thomas F Plowman; Chaplain, the Rev L K Hilton MA, Magdalen; Treasurer, F P Morrell, MA, St John’s; Secretary, W Peppercorn; Senior Deacon, J S O Robertson-Luxford, BA,; Junior Deacon, O F W Wilde, Magdalen, Directors of Ceremonies, J E Bodley, Balliol and F Hedges, BA, Exeter; Inner Guard H P Symonds; Organist, E Cholmley Jones, B A Magdalen; Stewards, R R Beard, Magdalen, J P Brandreth, and Major Crowder, Corpus Christi. The opening banquet, which was of a very recherché character, was served at half-past seven, when the usual Masonic toasts were felicitously introduced by the new Master, who occupied the chair, and suitably responded to. Mr Hippy, of St Aldate’s, supplied the banquet and his catering was thoroughly satisfactory.


Meanwhile, as his second year in Oxford began, his Masonic activities took on new vigor. For reasons that are unexplained, considering the affinity of the Royal Arch to Craft Masonry, Oscar Wilde never became a Royal Arch Mason. Instead, on 27 November 1876 he was perfected into the 18th degree of the Rose Croix – The Ancient and Accepted (Scottish) Rite – at the Oxford University Chapter No 40, a new Chapter consecrated only 4 years earlier. 

This year in Oxford was a period of religious consequence to Oscar. The Roman Catholic Church was an especially strong influence on him and he had decorated his rooms at Magdalen College, Oxford with pictures of the Madonna and various Saints, stating that he had been "caught in the fowler's snare, in the wiles of the Scarlet Woman". The Rose Croix and the strong religious Trinitarian content of its ritual (particularly so under the English Constitution) will have appealed to him. This Masonic Order in particular allowed his spirituality to surface and in it he found the High Church with Christ, death and resurrection, which suited him at this time in his life. Oscar took active office to participate in the ceremonial ritual. He acted as Chamberlain, an office that no longer exists, as well as Raphael, which would have entailed his conducting the candidates in the perambulations during the perfection ceremony. He introduced four new members to the Order, all from Magdalen College. Oscar Wilde, within the confines of the Masonic ambiance, was in his element.  Some months after his perfection, in a letter dated 3 march 1877, he wrote to his close friend and fellow Mason, William Ward, nicknamed ‘Bouncer’:  I have got rather keen on Masonry lately, I believe in it awfully – in fact would be awfully sorry to have to give it up in case I secede from the Protestant Heresy. Hunter Blair had had to give it up for this reason.


The Order seems also to have brought out in Oscar his extravagant streak and tendency to overspend, which was to cause him some embarrassment. On three separate occasions, on 8th and 22nd November 1877 and on 22nd May 1878 he was summoned before the University Chancellor’s Court where action was brought against him for non-payment of outstanding debts. The second of these summonses is of direct relevance because it entailed the purchase of Masonic regalia. In November of 1876 he spent a total of £15.18.6, a vast amount at the time, equivalent to some £650.00 in today’s terms, to purchase from George Henry Osmond, Watch and Clock Makers of 118 St Aldate Oxford, various items which included: 18 carat gold and ivory studs, a lamb skin Rose Croix apron & collar, a Rose Croix jewel, sword and belt as well as a Masonic leather jewel case, lettered with his initials O F O’F W W. He paid £ 10.00 on account and Osmond’s Solicitors, Mesrrs Morrell, Peel and Gamlen sued a year later for the remainder. The court ordered that he pay the difference plus twenty-five shillings costs. This unique legal entity known as the Chancellor’s Court, later referred to as the Vice-Chancellor’s Court, was originally set up in the 15th Century as a student’s privilege court, where members of the university were exempt of civil jurisdiction and the chancellor took on all legal responsibilities, somewhat like the Ecclesiastical courts and jurisdiction of the time. The Vice-chancellor’s court heard its last case in 1968 and was formally abolished in the 1970s.


On 22nd March1878 Oscar progressed further in the Orders beyond the Craft. He was advanced, with no less than 12 additional candidates, into the Mark degree at University Mark Lodge No 55. This seems, however, to have been merely in response to a temporary burst of enthusiasm. Oscar’s friend and proposer, Bodley was elected Master of the Lodge at the same meeting but neither Oscar nor Bodley ever apparently returned to the Lodge. Bodley resigned as Master Elect at the next meeting. The only interesting aspect in his rather uneventful association with this particular Order is the elaborate ‘mark’ he chose for himself. It is a standard procedure in the Mark degree, as part of the ceremony of advancement, for each candidate to choose an identifying ‘mark’ in imitation of the Mason’s Marks which appear on stones in the fabric of medieval and even earlier buildings. Oscar Wilde chose a mirror image of his initials O-F-W. It would appear that Oscar’s membership in the Mark expired naturally, so to speak, as this is the one order in which there is no evidence of his expulsion or exclusion, as was the case in the Rose Croix. As an interesting aside, there is a Mark referred to in various letters written by Oscar to different individuals. The person in question has never been satisfactorily identified, as there were no Magdalene undergraduates with that Christian name during the period in question. Merlin Holland reached the conclusion that it was most likely Clement Hemery Lindon (see page 14 note 3 The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde, Fourth Estate London 2000). One letter, however, has caused particular confusion. On 30th December 1876, in a letter to William Ward, Oscar Wilde writes: ‘…Except the Mark I think few people would set laborious industry on any footing with brilliant and original thought.’  This reference to the Mark has still not been explained.


Whereas Oscar’s membership of the Apollo University Lodge ceased in 1878, due to non payment of dues, his demise from the Churchill Lodge was a more deliberate expulsion. In 1881 when Bro Lt Col Thomas Moseley Crowder was appointed Secretary to the Lodge he decided on an 'efficiency drive' to collect arrears of subscriptions due to the Lodge. Amongst the eleven members who were finally excluded in 1883, were also the two brothers, the Marquess of Blandford and Lord Randolph Churchill, in addition to C W Spencer-Stanhope, Aretas Akers Douglas and Oscar Wilde. Whilst explanations and excuses of active service abroad were accepted from all the Brethren concerned who were readmitted to the Lodge, Oscar Wilde’s fate is recorded in the Lodge minutes for 4th June 1883  'Bro. Crowder Secretary proposed and Bro GL Hawkins seconded that the expulsion from the Lodge of Bro. Oscar Wilde be reported to Grand Lodge, he having failed to acknowledge the three communications forwarded to him.  This was carried unanimously.'


The expulsion from the Churchill Lodge effectively sealed and ended Oscar Wilde’s Masonic activities. He had not yet been disgraced by society and the action taken against him in the Churchill Lodge and the remainder of the Orders from which he was finally excluded, appear to have been a matter of neglect on his part rather than deliberate action taken against him.


His rather brief albeit concentrated involvement with Freemasonry only once inspired his work. His very first play Vera or the Nihilists, A Drama in a Prologue, and Four Acts written in 1880 and first produced in New York in 1883 has Masonic connotations. The play is about the people of Russia who suffer greatly under the tyranny of the Czar. The Nihilists, a band of conspirators, have sworn an oath to kill the Czar and establish a Republic in which power will be given to the people. Vera Sabouroff, a young Russian peasant girl, converts to the Nihilist creed in order to revenge her brother Dmitri, a Nihilist who got captured and was sent to Siberia.


The first act opens with a meeting of the conspirators who exchange passwords after which a catechetical opening ceremony follows. The President, equivalent to the Worshipful Master, asks:


President:                     What is the Word?

First Conspirator:             Nabat

P:                                The answer?

2nd C:                            Kalit

P:                                What hour is it?

3rd C:                            The Hour to suffer

P:                                What day?

4th C                             The day of Oppression

P:                                What year?

5th C:                            The year of Hope

P:                                How many are we in number

6th C:                            Ten, Nine and three


There is little doubt of the influence of the Masonic ritual on the above. It appears to be a combination of the Mark degree – the only degree in which 6 principal Officers are involved in the opening of the Lodge - and some indirect Rose Croix ritual, giving a spiritual flavour to the ceremony. This is the sum of the Masonic influence to be found in Oscar Wilde’s works. There has been some Masonic interpretation given to the rose used as an emblem in the title page to his poem ‘Hélas’, published in 1881, but it is not a convincing attribution.


By September of 1880 Oscar Wilde had divested himself from both Roman Catholicism and any overt interest in Freemasonry. Having left Oxford for London in 1878, with the self proclaimed title of professor of aesthetics, he was soon on world tours covering the USA and Canada, spending time in Paris before marrying Constance Lloyd in 1884. The next decade was spent with Oscar Wilde balanced on that fine dividing line between what was and what was not morally acceptable to the late Victorian London society. In meeting Alfred Douglas, affectionately referred to as Bosie, in June 1891, Oscar was to be put to the test and he failed.

In February of 1895 Queensberry left the famous open card at the Albemarle Club accusing Wilde of sodomy. Oscar’s failed trial against Queensberry on 3rd April, lead to his arrest just two days later. His subsequent trials ended with his imprisonment, first at Pentoville in May, followed by his transfer to Wandsworth in July and his final move to Reading Gaol in November, a month after being officially declared bankrupt.


Oscar Wilde, whilst serving hard labour in Reading gaol, made a last direct reference to Freemasonry. There are two versions of the verbal comment allegedly made by Oscar about an incident that occurred at the Reading gaol prison yard. In the unpublished preface to Robert Ross’ planned collection of Oscar Wilde’s letters addressed to him, he states that in May 1897, a few days after Oscar’s release from jail, he asked him whether he had met any Freemasons in prison, to which Oscar replied:


Yes, it was very terrible. As I was walking round the yard one day I noticed that one of the men awaiting trial was signaling to me by Masonic sign. I paid no attention until he made me the sign of the widow’s son, which no mason can ignore. He managed to convey a note to me. I found he was in for fraud of some kind and anxious that I should get my friends to petition for his release. He was quite mad, poor fellow. As he would always insist on signaling and I was afraid the warders would get to notice it, I persuaded Major Nelson to let me wear black goggles until he was convicted and sent to Portland.


An alternative version, clearly of the same incident, is to be found in Robert Sherard’s book The Real Oscar Wilde published in 1917, where he states that Oscar told a friend (clearly  Robert Ross) of meeting a fellow mason in jail. The incident is described in much greater detail and varies somewhat from Ross’ account.


It was toward the end of my time and one day as I was walking round and round the prison yard at exercise I noticed a man, another prisoner, signalling to me. He was a perfect stranger to me. I could see from his clothes – he was not in prison dress – that he was a prisoner on remand.  I took no notice of him at first because at the time I was on the

Governor’s good books, Major Nelson had been very kind to me and I did not want to get reported for communicating with another prisoner in the exercise yard. It is a grave offence,. I had been punished once before. But when he had again attracted my attention he made that Masonic sign to me which is known as The Sign of the Widow’s Son. Which is an appeal from one brother mason to another when in direct distress which cannot be disregarded under any circumstances and must be responded to. So I was obliged to respond to the man and very fortunately escaped attracting the attention of the warders, but I was determined not to run the risk again, especially as it was quite out of my power to help the brother mason. I asked to see the Governor after I got back to my cell and I told him how I was placed between my desire not to break the prison regulations and my pledged duty to my order. I did not, of course, indicate in any way who was the man who had signalled to me. And a ruse was decided upon. If my eyes were bad and I couldn’t see well I could not be expected to respond to Masonic signals. So next time I went out to exercise I had been fitted by the prison doctor with a pair of dark blue goggles, and after that the man left me alone.


In 1895 the Masonic fraternity will have been aware though unperturbed by Oscar Wilde’s sad and tragic circumstances. He had, after all, ceased membership of the last of the Masonic Orders in 1879 and had left Freemasonry behind that same year when he went down from Oxford. Why then was there a need a decade and a half later for his name to be erased, as it was, from Masonic records in Oxford?  It was, and still is, customary for Rose Croix Chapters to inscribe the names of their members in what is known as the Golden Book. This is normally done following the ceremony of Perfection and Oscar Wilde appears to have signed the Golden Book of his Chapter somewhat belatedly after he was perfected on 27 November 1876. A note against the signatures of Henry Deane and Oscar Wilde states: Signed in error – Names should be immediately above ‘Richard Fort’ 2 pages before this. Oscar Wilde’s name has been stricken through with a note underneath: Erased – P Colville Smith MWS Dec 5th 1895. The letters ‘MWS’, standing for Most Wise Sovereign, indicate that Sir Philip Colville Smith, as he later became, was in the ‘Chair’ of the Chapter at the time. His action was no doubt a consequence of the earlier entry in the minute book of the Supreme Council 33° under the heading ‘Report of the Committee of Supreme Council’ dated 9 July 1895 which states ‘The erasure from the Golden Book of the name of Oscar Wilde who has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment with hard labour’. It should be noted that regulation 11  of the Order provides that any member being convicted of felony or crime, whatever its nature, shall be deprived of all Masonic Rights and Privileges, namely expelled from the Order. Thus Oscar Wildes’s expulsion was in line with this regulation, irrespective of the nature of the act of which the imprisonment was served. The same regulation states that the Member’s name shall be erased from the Golden Book. Nonetheless Oscar was no longer a member of the Order and the erasure of his name, such a long time after he ceased all his Masonic activities, seems quite futile and unnecessary. The explanation may lie in the coincidence of two peculiar circumstances. In 1895 Oscar Wilde’s name was removed from the billboards of two West End theatres in London where An Ideal Husband and The Importance of being Earnest were showing to large audiences. In fact, as public feeling against Wilde increased, the plays were taken off the West End theatres altogether. The same happened in New York, where Wilde had gained fame and notoriety during his successful lecture tours several years earlier. This public rejection of Oscar Wilde combined with the highly puritan mind of Colville Smith may have been the determining factor in disassociating Oscar Wilde’s name from that of the fraternity. It so happened that W Bro Colville Smith, who became Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1918, already had considerable influence at the time of Wilde’s imprisonment. In addition to being the Most Wise Sovereign of the Rose Croix University Chapter No 40, he had served twice as Master of the Apollo University Lodge and was known as a disciplinarian, a puritan and strict conformist. John Mandelberg in his voluminous Ancient and Accepted Rite, published by QCCC Ltd in 1995, states on page 1047  (P Colville Smith) was a martinet who would tolerate no irregularity. His forceful erasure of the signature of Oscar Wilde in the Golden Book of that Chapter is a striking testimony to his righteous zea.l


On his release from prison in May 1897 Oscar Wilde made his way directly to Dieppe. He was to spend the last three years of his life in exile and hiding, his fate not eased by the untimely death of his mother a year earlier, his wife Constance in April 1898 and his brother Willie a year later. Oscar died in his room at the Hotel d’Alcase on 30th November 1900, diagnosed as having suffered from cerebral meningitis. He was forty-six years old.


How much more of his extraordinary talents we might have enjoyed, had he only been born in our present tolerant, if not permissive, generation.





Bodley, J E C Journal of J E Courtenay Bodley, Bodleian Library, Oxford

Bodley, J E C Oscar Wilde at Oxford New York Times 4 February 1882

Elmann, Richard Oscar Wilde 1987

Hart, John From Oscar Wilde to Jim Daniel: Reminiscences of Oxford Masonry

            unpublished lecture.

Hart-Davis, Rupert ed.  The Letters of Oscar Wilde, pub Rupert Hart-Davis, 1962

Hill, Tracey ed  The Importance of Being a Freemason: The Trials of Oscar Wilde

            Bath 1997

Holland, Merlin & Hart-Davis, Rupert The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde Fourth

Estate , (2000)

Perrin, Dennis A Tale of Two Princes – The Life and Times of H R H Prince Leopold


Schroeder, Horst  Additions and Corrections to Richard Ellman’s Oscar Wilde 1989

Sherard, Robert  The Real Oscar Wilde 1917

Vernier, Peter ‘Oscar’s Mental Photograph Revisited’ The Wildean 15 (Journal of the

Oscar Wilde Society) July 1999

Wood, Anthony,Oscar Wilde the Mason’ article in the Oxford Mail 23 February






I am indebted to the following for the kind assistance given me with this paper:

Bryan Bailes the archivist at the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons in London, Simon Bailey of the Oxford University Archives at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, Mathew Christmas, Secretary of the University Mark Lodge No 55, Oxford and Bob Good, Past Secretary of the Churchill Lodge No 478, Oxford. John Hart has provided me with a large number of articles and booklets and is the author of the unpublished and excellent lecture: From Oscar Wilde to Jim Daniel: Reminiscences of Oxford Masonry’. Merlin Holland, Oscar Wilde’s grandson, author and compiler of Oscar’s letters has allowed me a fascinating insight and my colleague John Mandelberg in Cheshire made relevant correspondence available to me. Peter Vernier has given me more of his time than I deserve and finally the staff of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry in Great Queen Street, London have, as always, been as helpful as they can.