Oscar Wilde at the Parnell Commission Hearings

Oscar Wilde by Sydney Prior Hall, shown deeply engrossed in the proceedings of the Parnell Commission. I think this is a noteworthy depiction of Wilde, and one that might likely give an accurate impression of how he might really have looked in public – there is no exaggeration in evidence, no striking of poses, as for once Wilde is not the principal subject and is very far from being the centre of attention. This is one of 44 drawings Prior Hall made of celebrity spectators at the Commission, preparatory sketches for illustrations in The Graphic magazine. The Parnell Commission was set up in 1888 to investigate accusations against the leader of the Irish nationalists, Charles Stewart Parnell by The Times, who had published in 1887 a fascimile letter purportedly signed by Parnell and approving of assassinations carried out in Phoenix Park, Dublin. Not fewer than 450 witnesses answered almost 100,000 questions during the proceedings that lasted 14 months. A Dublin journalist finally confessed to having forged the incriminating letter.

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