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« Oscar Wilde syphilis debate--update | Main | "Did Wilde Have Syphilis?" A response to Ashley Robins »

March 20, 2004




Forgive me, for I have none of the expertise that you and Deborah possess, still my instincts tell me that 104 year-old medical records or forensic reports are only modestly more reliable than the innuendo and allusion found in authentic correspondence. That the cause of death was meningoencephalitis, I can accept. I'm not sure that that, in and of itself, rules out the possibility that Oscar was sphylitic. I go back to an earlier query: there seems to be ample evidence that Wilde took mercury. Do we have any idea what ailment, other than syphilis, he might have been treating? Is it possibly that the symptoms of tertiary neurosyphilis had yet to materialize in Wilde --at age 46?

I have found this debate to be intriguing and expertly argued by both sides. Thank you both for sharing your knowledge and wisdom. I, for one, feel that Ms. Hayden anecdotal evidence is no less compelling than medical records written at a time when the disease was a.) seen as hideous social disgrace and b.) still a mystery to medical practitioners. You say,yourself, that medical records of Wilde's health are sparse. Even if the man's complete history could be unearthed, I, like Ms. Hayden, doubt we'd find a written report of his suffering with syphilis. thank you, both.


Deb Hayden

Dear W:

Only a small percentage of syphilitics advanced to teriary NEUROsyphilis--maybe 5%. Most of them had other manifestations. As I pointed out in my chapter, Wilde showed none of the prodrome of neurosyphilis--but he did have ailments that indicated the disease was progressing. Today many think that syphilis was "latent" after the first infection and the infected person healthy until, out of the blue, tertiary syphilis appeared. Nonething could be farther from the truth. Most syphilitics, as you can see from my case studies, were very, very, very sick for years. John Stokes suggests that there were not three but nine stages of disease. Was Wilde's terminal brain disease related to syphilis? It appears that his doctors at the end thought so.

Mercury was used to treat many ailments. Richard Ellmann, for one, had reason to believe that Wilde's use of mercury was for syphilis.


Tim Kelly

Was it true that Wilde did not like having sex in the last years of his life and would rather watch it? This may illustrate signs of illness and did anybody ever hear of an old WashingtonPost story that his body exploded during the autopsy?
Is that just a fantastical story?
Stephen Fry played the best Oscar Wilde ever.


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