Alfred Bruce Douglas, the third son of John Sholto Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry (1844–1900), and his wife, Sybil Montgomery (1845–1935), was born on 22nd October 1870 at Ham Hill near Worcester. His mother called him Bosie, a name that stuck to him for the rest of his life.
Douglas attended Winchester College (1884–8). Although only an average student he did establish the magazine, the Winchester College Pentagram, which gave him an outlet for his poetry. In 1889 he entered Magdalen College.
According to his biographer, G. A. Cevasco: "Athletic and handsome, popular with his classmates, he applied himself more to writing verse than his studies (he did not take a degree), but while at Oxford he contributed to the Oxford Magazine and edited the Spirit Lamp." In June 1891, Douglas was introduced to Oscar Wilde. The two men entered into a sexual relationship. They also worked together and in 1892 Douglas was involved in the French production of Wilde's play, Salomé. They attempted to get it produced in London with Sarah Bernhardt taking the star role but it was banned by the Lord Chamberlain as being blasphemous.
It was decided that Salomé should be published in book form and the Pall Mall Budget asked Aubrey Beardsley for a drawing to illustrate the review. The editor rejected the drawing as being obscene. However, in April, 1893, it appeared in the first number of The Studio magazine. Wilde liked the drawing, and his publisher, John Lane, the founder of The Bodley Head, suggested that Beardsley do an illustrated edition of the play. Wilde and Lane were both very pleased with the illustrations Beardsley produced. One of the drawings was considered by Lane as indecent and was not used in the book. Beardsley reacted by writing a short poem:
Because one figure was undressed.
This little drawing was suppressed.
It was unkind. But never mind,
Perhaps it was all for the best.
In October 1893 a dispute broke out between Douglas, Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley and John Lane over the French translation of Salomé. Wilde's biographer, Richard Ellmann, has argued: "Beardsley read the translation and said it would not do; he offered to make one of his own. Wilde, fortunately for Douglas, did not like this either. There ensued an acrimonious fourway controversy among Lane, Wilde, Douglas, and Beardsley. Lane said that Douglas had shown disrespect for Wilde, but backed down when Douglas accused him of stirring up trouble between them. Beardsley declared that it would be dishonest to put Douglas's name on the title page, when the translation had been so much altered by Wilde."
Max Beerbohm was an old friend of Wilde and Douglas. He argued that Douglas could be "very charming" and "nearly brilliant" but was "obviously mad (like all his family)". Douglas also had a sexual relationship with Robert Ross, one of Wilde's former lovers. While he was staying with Ross they had sex with two young boys, aged 14 and 15. Both boys confessed to their parents about what happened. After meetings with solicitors, the parents were persuaded not to go to the police, since, at that time, their sons might be seen not as victims but as equally guilty and so face the possibility of going to prison.
In June 1894 Alfred Douglas received a letter from his father on the subject of his friend, Oscar Wilde: "I now hear on good authority, but this may be false, that his wife is petitioning to divorce him for sodomy and other crimes. Is this true, or do you know of it? If I thought the actual thing was true, and it became public property I should be quite justified in shooting him in sight." Douglas replied with a brief telegram: "What a funny little man you are." This enraged Queensberry who decided to carry out more research into the behaviour of Wilde.
Queensberry arrived at the home of Oscar Wilde at the end of June. Wilde said to Queensberry: "I suppose you have come to apologize for the statement you made about my wife and myself in letters you wrote to your son. I should have the right any day I chose to prosecute you for writing such a letter.... How dare you say such things to me about your son and me?" He replied, "You were both kicked out of the Savoy Hotel at a moment's notice for your disgusting conduct.... You have taken furnished rooms for him in Piccadilly." Wilde told Queensberry: "Somebody has been telling you an absurd set of lies about your son and me. I have not done anything of the kind." Wilde then evicted Queensberry from his home.
On 28th February, 1895, the Marquess of Queensberry left his card at his club, the Albemarle, accusing him of being a "sodomite". Wilde, Douglas and Ross approached solicitor Charles Octavius Humphreys with the intention of suing Queensberry for criminal libel. Humphreys asked Wilde directly whether there was any truth to Queensberry's allegations of homosexual activity between Wilde and Douglas. Wilde claimed he was innocent of the charge and Humphreys applied for a warrant for Queensberry's arrest.
Queensberry entered a plea of justification on 30th March. Owen Dudley Edwards has pointed out: "Having belatedly assembled evidence found for Queensberry by very recent recruits, it declared Wilde to have committed a number of sexual acts with male persons at dates and places named. None was evidence of sodomy, nor was Wilde ever charged with it. Queensberry's trial at the central criminal court, Old Bailey, on 3–5 April before Mr Justice Richard Henn Collins ended in Wilde's attempt to withdraw the prosecution after Queensberry's counsel, Edward Carson QC MP, sustained brilliant repartee from Wilde in the witness-box on questions about immorality in his works and then crushed Wilde with questions on his relations to male youths whose lower-class background was much stressed." Richard Ellmann, the author of Oscar Wilde (1988), has argued that Wilde abandoned the case rather than call Douglas as a witness.
Queensberry was found not guilty and his solicitors sent its evidence to the public prosecutor. Wilde was arrested on 5th April and taken to Holloway Prison. The following day, Alfred Taylor, the owner of a male brothel Wilde had used, was also arrested. Taylor refused to give evidence against Wilde and both men were charged with offences under the Criminal Law Amendment Act (1885).
The trial of Wilde and Taylor began before Justice Arthur Charles on 26th April. Of the ten alleged sexual partners Queensberry's plea had named, five were omitted from the Wilde indictment. The trial under Charles ended in jury disagreement after four hours. The second trial, under Justice Alfred Wills, began on 22nd May. Douglas was not called to give evidence at either trial, but his letters to Wilde were entered into evidence, as was his poem, Two Loves. Called on to explain its concluding line - "I am the love that dares not speak its name" Wilde answered that it meant the "affection of an elder for a younger man".
Both men were found guilty and sentenced to two years' penal servitude with hard labour. The two known persons with whom Wilde was found guilty of gross indecency were male prostitutes, Wood and Parker. Wilde was also found guilty on two counts charging gross indecency with a person unknown on two separate occasions in the Savoy Hotel. These may in fact have related to acts committed by Douglas, who had also been Wood's lover.
Richard Haldane, under instructions from Herbert Gladstone, visited Oscar Wilde in Pentonville Prison on 12th June, 1895. Haldane managed to arrange for Wilde to gain access to books. Wilde was transferred to Wandsworth Prison on 4th July. His friend, Robert Sherrard, visited Wilde on behalf of Constance Wilde, and urged him to repudiate his homosexual friends. In November he was moved to Reading Prison.
Douglas remained loyal to Oscar Wilde and wrote letters to the newspapers and unsuccessfully petitioned Queen Victoria for clemency for his lover. He also wrote to Truth Magazine: "I personally know forty or fifty men who practise these acts. Men in the best society, members of the smartest clubs, members of Parliament, Peers, etc., in fact people of my own social standing... At Oxford, where I suppose you would admit one is likely to find the pick of the youth of England, I knew hundreds who had these tastes among the undergraduates, not to mention a slight sprinkling of Dons.... These tastes are perfectly natural congenital tendencies in certain people (a very large minority), and that the law has no right to interfere with these people, provided they do not harm other people; that is to say when there is neither seduction of minors nor brutalisation, and where there is no public outrage on morals."
G. A. Cevasco has argued: "Douglas's loyalty to the imprisoned Wilde, his financial generosity, and continued concern, must be viewed in the context of a turbulent relationship involving two highly self-centred and opinionated individuals." Upon Wilde's release from prison in 1897, he took up with Douglas once again. The two men lived together for a while in Naples and after they they met frequently in Paris. Douglas also helped Wilde financially.
Douglas published several volumes of poetry during this period including The City of Soul (1899) and Sonnets (1899). After Wilde's death in 1900 Douglas developed a close friendship with Olive Eleanor Custance (1874–1944), the daughter of Colonel Frederick Hambleton Custance (1844–1925), a retired guards officer. The couple married on 4th March 1902. Soon afterwards, a son, Raymond (1902–1964), was born.
Douglas was converted to Roman Catholicism. He became editor of The Academy, but eventually lost the post after disagreements with the publisher and an assistant editor. He upset a lot of people during this period. Herbert Read called him "the most complete cad in history". However, he was defended by Robert Sherrard who claimed he was "thoroughly goodhearted and by no means the moody, irascible revengeful person that many fancy".
In 1911 the publisher Martin Secker commissioned Arthur Ransome to write a book on Oscar Wilde. He was given considerable help by Wilde's literary executor, Robert Ross. He provided access not only to Wilde's literary estate, but also to his own private correspondence. Ross wanted Ransome's book to help rehabilitate Wilde's reputation. Ross also wanted to gain revenge on Lord Douglas, who he considered had destroyed Wilde. He did this by letting Ransome see the unabridged copy of De Profundis, the letter Wilde wrote to Douglas when he was in Reading Prison. Ransome became only the fourth person to read the letter where Wilde accused Douglas of vanity, treachery and cowardice.
The book, Wilde: A Critical Study, was published on 12th February 1912. The following month, on 9th March, Lord Douglas filed an action for libel against Ransome and Secker. Ransome's friends, Edward Thomas, John Masefield, Lascelles Abercrombie and Cecil Chesterton gave him support and Robin Collingwood offered to pay his legal costs. Secker settled out of court and sold the copyright of the book to Methuen.
The case against Ransome began in the High Court on 17th April 1913. According to Roland Chambers, the author of The Last Englishman: The Double Life of Arthur Ransome (2009): "Douglas had a strong case. Answering the charge that his client had ruined Wilde, the prosecution pointed out that Douglas was little more than a boy when Wilde first met him, whereas Wilde, almost twenty years his senior, had already written The Picture of Dorian Grey, a scandalous work sprung from a corner of life no proper gentleman ever visited, still less boasted of in print. If there had been any corruption, it had been Wilde's corruption of Douglas."
Douglas's counsel went on to argue that Wilde was "a shameless predator who had deprived an innocent boy not only of his inheritance, but of his chastity". Douglas admitted during cross-examination by J. H. Campbell (later Lord Chief Justice of Ireland) that he had deserted Wilde before his original conviction and had not returned to England, let alone visited his friend in prison, in over two years. He also read out correspondence that indicated that Douglas had "consorted with male prostitutes" and had taken money from Wilde, not because he needed it but because it gave him an erotic thrill. Campbell read from a letter written by Douglas: "I remember the sweetness of asking Oscar for money. It was a sweet humiliation."
The case took a dramatic turn when the De Profundis letter was read out in court. It has been described as the "most devastating character assassination in the whole of literature". According to Wilde's letter, Douglas's insatiable appetite, vanity and ingratitude were responsible for every catastrophe. Wilde finished the letter with the words: "But most of all I blame myself for the entire ethical degradation I allowed you to bring on me. The basis of character is will power, and my will became utterly subject to yours. It sounds a grotesque thing to say, but it is none the less true. It was the triumph of the smaller over the bigger nature. It was the case of that tyranny of the weak over the strong which somewhere in one of my plays I describe as being the only tyranny that lasts."
Douglas, who claimed never to have read the letter, found the contents so upsetting he left the witness box, only to be called back and reprimanded by the judge. After a three-day trial, the jury took just over two hours to return its verdict. Arthur Ransome was found not guilty of libel and the publicity the book received meant that it was now going to be a bestseller. In spite of the ruling in his favour, Ransome insisted that the offending passages be deleted from every future edition of the book.
As Michael Kettle, the author of Salome's Last Veil : The Libel Case of the Century (1977), has pointed out: "At the trial, the unpublished portion of De Profundis (carefully hoarded by Ross, but which Wilde, on release from prison, had almost at once repudiated), together with some of Bosie's letters to Wilde (which Ross had seized on Wilde's deathbed), were produced with deadly effect. Bosie lost the case. This, in fact, was Ross's revenge on Bosie for supplanting him in Wilde's affections. Bosie, who had just gone bankrupt, suddenly became a changed man. He now saw Ross as the cause of all his troubles; he even repudiated Wilde himself. He attacked Ross bitterly as a homosexual, with continual open libels. Bosie's father, Lord Queensberry, had hounded and finally ruined Wilde. Now Bosie himself was on the warpath against a widely known homosexual."
In January 1914, Douglas' friend, the journalist, Thomas Crosland, wrote a long, deliberately libellous letter to Ross, accusing him of being a homosexual. Unwilling to become involved in a court-case, Ross did not respond to the letter. The following month copies of this letter were sent to various people, including Herbert Asquith, the prime minister, Chief Justice Charles Darling and the editor of The Morning Post. When this information appeared in the newspaper, Ross had no option but to accuse Douglas of criminal libel.
In November 1914, Douglas appeared in court. Although the case went very much against Ross, the jury was divided. Before the case could be reheard, Ross abandoned the action, and offered to pay Douglas' costs. Douglas, short of money, had to accept. Ross was forced to leave his post as valuer of pictures and drawings for the Board of Inland Revenue and retire from public life.
After the court-case Douglas discovered that Ross had become a close friend of Herbert Asquith and Margot Asquith. He sent a letter to King George V complaining about the prime minister's relationship with Ross. In April 1915, Douglas published a poem, All's Well With England, which implied that Margot was a lesbian and that her husband was having a sexual relationship with Ross.
Douglas also became convinced that Ross and the Asquiths were members of a secret society called the Unseen Hand. As Ernest Sackville Turner, the author of Dear Old Blighty (1980) has pointed out: "One of the great delusions of the war was that there existed an Unseen (or Hidden, or Invisible) Hand, a pro-German influence which perennially strove to paralyse the nation's will and to set its most heroic efforts at naught... As defeat seemed to loom, as French military morale broke and Russia made her separate peace, more and more were ready to believe that the Unseen Hand stood for a confederacy of evil men, taking their orders from Berlin, dedicated to the downfall of Britain by subversion of the military, the Cabinet, the Civil Service and the City; and working not only through spiritualists, whores and homosexuals."
In December 1917, Noel Pemberton Billing published an article in The Imperialist by Arnold Henry White that argued that Germany was under the control of homosexuals (White called them urnings): "Espionage is punished by death at the Tower of London, but there is a form of invasion which is as deadly as espionage: the systematic seduction of young British soldiers by the German urnings and their agents... Failure to intern all Germans is due to the invisible hand that protects urnings of enemy race... When the blond beast is an urning, he commands the urnings in other lands. They are moles. They burrow. They plot. They are hardest at work when they are most silent." It was true that there was a great increase in cases of sodomy coming before the British courts but the main reason for this was the large numbers of young men being herded together under wartime conditions.
Relying on information supplied by Harold S. Spencer, Billing published an article in The Imperialist on 26th January, 1918, revealing the existence of a Black Book: "There exists in the Cabinet Noir of a certain German Prince a book compiled by the Secret Service from reports of German agents who have infested this country for the past twenty years, agents so vile and spreading such debauchery and such lasciviousness as only German minds can conceive and only German bodies execute." Billing claimed the book listed the names of 47,000 British sexual perverts, mostly in high places, being blackmailed by the German Secret Service. He added: "It is a most catholic miscellany. The names of Privy Councillors, youths of the chorus, wives of Cabinet Ministers, dancing girls, even Cabinet Ministers themselves, while diplomats, poets, bankers, editors, newspaper proprietors, members of His Majesty's Household follow each other with no order of precedence." Billing went onto argue that "the thought that 47,000 English men and women are held in enemy bondage through fear calls all clean spirits to mortal combat".
In February 1918 it was announced by theatrical producer, Jack Grein, that Maud Allan would give two private performances of Oscar Wildes's Salomé in April. It had to be a private showing because the play had long been banned by the Lord Chamberlain as being blasphemous. Noel Pemberton Billing had heard rumours, probably put around by Douglas, that Allan was a lesbian and was having an affair with Margot Asquith.
On 16th February, 1918, the front page of The Vigilante had a headline, "The Cult of the Clitoris". This was followed by the paragraph: "To be a member of Maud Allan's private performances in Oscar Wilde's Salome one has to apply to a Miss Valetta, of 9 Duke Street, Adelphi, W.C. If Scotland Yard were to seize the list of those members I have no doubt they would secure the names of several of the first 47,000." This was a reference to the so-called Black Book.
As soon as Maud Allan became aware of the article she put the matter into the hands of her solicitor. In March 1918, Allan commenced criminal proceedings for obscene, criminal and defamatory libel. As Douglas had been involved with Oscar Wilde in the original production of the play, he was asked to give evidence on behalf of Noel Pemberton Billing. He also promised to give Douglas the opportunity to attack his old enemy, Robert Ross.
The libel case opened at the Old Bailey in May, 1918. Billing chose to conduct his own defence, in order to provide the opportunity to make the case against the government and the so-called Unseen Hand group. The prosecution was led by Ellis Hume-Williams and Travers Humphreys and the case was heard in front of Chief Justice Charles Darling.
Alfred Douglas was cross-examined by Billing on the 1st June. He asked him about the production of Salomé in 1892: "Yes, he was most particular. He attended rehearsals, and took a great deal of trouble... I translated the play (Salome) from the French, and I had many conversations with Wilde about it, and I have a very particular knowledge of what he meant by the play... he intended the play to be an exhibition of perverted sexual passion excited in a young girl; and there are other things in it... there is one passage which is sodomitic... Wilde was a man who cloaked up those things in flowery language."
Noel Pemberton Billing asked Douglas if he regretted meeting in Oscar Wilde: "I do most intensely... I think he had a diabolical influence on everyone he met. I think he is the greatest force for evil that has appeared in Europe during the last 350 years... He was the agent of the devil in every possible way. He was a man whose whole object in life was to attack and to sneer at virtue, and to undermine it in every way by every possible means, sexually and otherwise."
In his summing up Billing argued: "I admired Lord Alfred's courage in coming here. The story of his regrettable past almost forgotten; wiped out and washed out by the conflagration of Europe... he comes back into that witness-box... knowing full well that they would rake up the whole of that sordid and regrettable past, he came here... They may try to hurl mud at the witnesses I have brought here; but it is no use bringing people here who have never heard of sodomy, who have never heard of sadism. That man has the courage to come here, to be bullied by the judge." It has been claimed that it was Douglas' evidence that helped Billing win his case.
In July 1920, Douglas became the editor of the weekly magazine, Plain English. He appointed Harold S. Spencer as his assistant editor. Michael Kettle, the author of Salome's Last Veil : The Libel Case of the Century (1977), has pointed out: "Bosie (Douglas) at this time was obsessed with the story then circulating in Fleet Street that the Jews had somehow engineered the death of Lord Kitchener, who went down in the Hampshire in 1916, when on his way out to Russia; and that Churchill had deliberately circulated a false account of the Battle of Jutland (which took place just before the Hampshire sank), which enabled his friend the Jewish financier Sir Ernest Cassel to make a killing on the New York Stock Exchange and give the Churchills some £40,000 worth of furniture."
Douglas continued his campaign against Winston Churchill and he issued 30,000 copies of a pamphlet entitled The Murder of Lord Kitchener and the Truth about the Battle of Jutland and the Jews. As a result he was arrested and charged for criminal libel. He was found guilty and was sentenced to six months imprisonment. While in Wormwood Scrubs he wrote In Excelis, his most famous poem. On his release he dropped his anti-Wilde mania and his campaign against Churchill.
I personally know forty or fifty men who practise these acts. Men in the best society, members of the smartest clubs, members of Parliament, Peers, etc., in fact people of my own social standing... At Oxford, where I suppose you would admit one is likely to find the pick of the youth of England, I knew hundreds who had these tastes among the undergraduates, not to mention a slight sprinkling of Dons. In a few days, I shall have a translation of a pamphlet written by Professor Krafft-Ebing, the celebrated Austrian physician, which I shall take the liberty of sending you. It is a special plea written for the express purpose of obtaining a repeal or modification of the law on this subject in Austria, and which has been to a very large extent successful. It is designed to prove what I maintain, viz., that these tastes are perfectly natural congenital tendencies in certain people (a very large minority), and that the law has no right to interfere with these people, provided they do not harm other people; that is to say when there is neither seduction of minors nor brutalisation, and where there is no public outrage on morals. Mr Oscar Wilde's case came under that head, and as you must know, in France he could not even have been proceeded against. If you don't know this, I refer you to the Code Napoleon, of which an admirable translation has just been issued in England. In Italy, all penal laws were abolished by Act of Parliament some three or four years ago, and in Germany they have been greatly modified. England alone has refused to take any cognisance of the now known and admitted facts of modern medical science... It (the pamphlet) will soon be in the hands of every judge and lawyer in England, and of every legislator. I confess I have not many hopes for the present age, but ultimate liberation from conventional slavery and tyranny is as inevitable as death.
Noel Pemberton Billing: Was the late Oscar Wilde an author, or a writer, who would insist on his plays being produced as they were written?
Alfred Douglas: Yes, he was most particular. He attended rehearsals, and took a great deal of trouble... I translated the play (Salome) from the French, and I had many conversations with Wilde about it, and I have a very particular knowledge of what he meant by the play... he intended the play to be an exhibition of perverted sexual passion excited in a young girl; and there are other things in it... there is one passage which is sodomitic... Wilde was a man who cloaked up those things in flowery language. He never used the word "sodomitic". He would express horror at such language. Anything like the "Cult of the Clitoris" would fill him with as much horror as it apparently does Mr Hume-Williams.
Noel Pemberton Billing: Do you from your own knowledge know that Oscar Wilde was a sexual and moral pervert?
Alfred Douglas: Yes, I do, He admitted it; he never attempted to disguise it after his conviction ... whoever was there, he always began by admitting it, glorying in it.
Noel Pemberton Billing: Do you regret having met him?
Alfred Douglas: I do most intensely... I think he had a diabolical influence on everyone he met. I think he is the greatest force for evil that has appeared in Europe during the last 350 years ... He was the agent of the devil in every possible way. He was a man whose whole object in life was to attack and to sneer at virtue, and to undermine it in every way by every possible means, sexually and otherwise.
Noel Pemberton Billing: Do you regard his works as classics... to be cherished by the nation?
Alfred Douglas: I think most of them ought to be destroyed. I do not think he ever wrote a thing in his life that had not an evil intention ... except perhaps a stray poem or two.
Noel Pemberton Billing: Were you associated with him when he was writing Salome?
Alfred Douglas: Yes, to my great regret.
It is no good burying filth and saying... that because we cannot see it, therefore it does not exist. If you have running sores on your own bodies, it is no good saying they are not there because your clothes cover them.
The body politic, like the body physical, will very soon and very surely rot, unless we are prepared to face the state of society as it is today.
What is the reply? I bring Lord Alfred Douglas into that box, a man who was led down the valley of vice by the very man who wrote this play. I admired Lord Alfred's courage in coming here. The story of his regrettable past almost forgotten; wiped out and washed out by the conflagration of Europe... he comes back into that witness-box... knowing full well that they would rake up the whole of that sordid and regrettable past, he came here. And they raked it up. The leader for the Prosecution stood up and licked his lips with satisfaction as he read out all the sordid filth written to that child - the love letters of Oscar Wilde who ruined him, read against him here as something for which lie ought to have been ashamed. They may try to hurl mud at the witnesses I have brought here; but it is no use bringing people here who have never heard of sodomy, who have never heard of sadism. That man has the courage to come here, to be bullied by the judge...
Letters which Lord Alfred states on oath have been stolen are dragged up and read to him. And to what did they amount? They amounted to a complete and absolute justification for everything that I am saying to you now. They told you that this social leper, Oscar Wilde, had founded a cult of sodomy in this country, and travelled from end to end of it perverting youth wherever he could. He was not satisfied even that his evil influence should die with him; he left behind his works, so that his crimes may be perpetrated even after he was dead. And I tried to stop that.
The Billing libel case did no good to anyone closely connected with the trial.... But the case did temporarily unite Bosie and Captain Spencer - with disastrous results. In July 1920, Bosie - financed by a rich Scot - became editor of a weekly he called Plain English to expose every kind of corruption and scandal; and he appointed Spencer as his Assistant Editor. Bosie at this time was obsessed with the story then circulating in Fleet Street that the Jews had somehow engineered the death of Lord Kitchener, who went down in the Hampshire in 1916, when on his way out to Russia; and that Churchill had deliberately circulated a false account of the Battle of Jutland (which took place just before the Hampshire sank), which enabled his friend the Jewish financier Sir Ernest Cassel to make a killing on the New York Stock Exchange and give the Churchills some £40,000 worth of furniture. Bosie's imagination had been inflamed by some alleged conversations Spencer claimed to have had with Churchill in 1919 on the matter. (Churchill was the member for Dundee. Spencer had married the daughter of Sir James Beattie, who was prominent in Dundee, and had been adopted as opposition candidate for Dundee.)
On Bosie's instructions, Spencer began to make libellous attacks on Churchill in Plain English in December 1920. Churchill consulted the Attorney-General, who advised him not to prosecute. On 19 March 1921, while the matter was being considered, Bosie himself wrote in Plain English: "We take the liberty to tell him [the Director of Public Prosecutions] that if he fondly imagines he will be able to obtain a conviction against us by prosecuting us in the absence of the person whom we have accused (Mr Churchill), he is making even a bigger mistake than the Government made when they put up Mr Justice Darling in a vain attempt to secure the conviction of Mr Pemberton-Billing."
The attacks continued. On 16 October 1921, Bosie resigned as editor, and Spencer took over. "When I left the paper, I was very angry," Bosie later stated. "I thought I had been badly treated, and Captain Spencer and I had a violent quarrel." This, it later turned out, was because Bosie had discovered that much of Spencer's information was quite false. Spencer kept up the attacks on the Jews. In the issue of 26 November 1921, in an article headed Our Foreign Frescoes, he attacked the painter Sigisniund Goetze for his frescoes, lately installed in the Foreign Office. "Our Foreign Office is quite foreign enough in our opinion, without the spacious decorations of a foreign Jew at the expense of the British taxpayer." Spencer was sued for libel. At his trial, it emerged that Goetze was born British, baptised a Christian, and had put up the frescoes at his own expense. Spencer was sentenced to six months imprisonment. A few months after his release - by which time he had been deprived of his rank by the War Office - he was convicted and fined for "disgusting behaviour".