Alfred Taylor

Alfred Waterhouse Somerset Taylor, the son of a cocoa manufacturer, was born in 1863. He was educated by a private tutor at Preston Village, near Brighton, and at Marlborough College. After finishing his education he joined the 4th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers.

On the death of his father in 1883 he inherited ₤45,000. He later admitted that after he came "into a fortune I have since that time had no occupation but have lived a life of pleasure." 1894 Taylor and Arthur Marling, a female impersonator, were arrested for wearing female clothing at a party given by John Preston on Fitzroy Street.

Taylor met Oscar Wilde and it is claimed that he introduced him to several young men. In 1895 the 9th Marquess of Queensberry, discovered that his son, Alfred Douglas, was having a sexual relationship with Wilde. He planned to disrupt the opening night of The Importance of Being Earnest, at St James's Theatre on 14th February, 1895, by throwing a bouquet of rotten vegetables at the playwright when he took his bow at the end of the show. Wilde learned of the plan and arranged for policemen to bar his entrance.

Two weeks later, Queensbury left his card at Wilde's club, the Albemarle, accusing him of being a "somdomite". Wilde, Douglas and Robert 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 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 police found a considerable collection of female clothing in his room. Taylor refused to turn Queen’s Evidence against Wilde, and the two men were tried together.

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 Oscar 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.

On release Taylor emigrated to the United States where nothing is known of him except that in the 1920s he was working as a waiter in Chicago.

Primary Sources

(1) Alfred Taylor, cross-examined by Charles Gill in May, 1895.

Alfred Taylor: I have no occupation. It is untrue that I was expelled from a public school for being caught in a compromising situation with a small boy in the lavatory. It is true that I used to have a number of young men living in my rooms and sleeping in the same bed.

Charles Gill: Is it true that you ever went through a mock marriage with Mason?

Alfred Taylor: Absolutely untrue.

Charles Gill: Had you a woman's dress in your rooms?

Alfred Taylor: An Eastern costume.

Charles Gill: A woman's dress?

Alfred Taylor: Yes.

Charles Gill: A woman's wig?

Alfred Taylor: I will explain. It was...

Charles Gill: Had you women's stockings?

Alfred Taylor: Yes.

Charles Gill: At the time you were living in Chapel Street, were you in serious money difficulties?

Alfred Taylor: -I had just gone through the Bankruptcy Court.

Charles Gill: Have you not actually made a living since your bankruptcy by procuring lads and young men for rich gentlemen whom you knew to be given to this vice?

Alfred Taylor: No.

Charles Gill: Have you not extracted large sums of money from wealthy men by threatening to accuse them of immoralities?

Alfred Taylor: No.

Charles Gill: You made the acquaintance of the Parkers in the St. James's Restaurant?

Alfred Taylor: It was outside, and I was introduced to them by a friend.

Charles Gill: What did you give them your address for?

Alfred Taylor: Well, when one makes an acquaintance and you think you will like one another.

Charles Gill: Are you in the habit of speaking to young men in Piccadilly?

Alfred Taylor: I know what you mean. No.

Charles Gill: You go into Piccadilly?

Alfred Taylor: Yes, always.

Charles Gill: St. James's?

Alfred Taylor: Yes.

Charles Gill: Have you ever accosted men at the Alhambra or the Empire?

Alfred Taylor: Never.

Charles Gill: Did you know Mr. Wilde well?

Alfred Taylor: Yes.

Charles Gill: Did you tell certain lads that he was fond of boys?

Alfred Taylor: No, never.

Charles Gill: Did you know that he is?

Alfred Taylor: I believe he is fond of young people.

Charles Gill: Why did you introduce Charles Parker to Mr. Wilde?

Alfred Taylor: I thought Mr. Wilde might use his influence to obtain for him some work on the stage.

Charles Gill: Did you know a man named Marling who was concerned in the Fitzroy Street raid?

Alfred Taylor: Yes.

Charles Gill: Do you know what he is?

Alfred Taylor: I have heard a good deal.

Charles Gill: Were you and Charles Parker both arrested in that raid?

Alfred Taylor: Yes, but we were discharged from custody.

Charles Gill: What was the reason for the dinner at Kettner's?

Alfred Taylor: It was in honour of my birthday. After dinner was over the Parkers and I went home to my rooms in Little College Street.

Charles Gill: Why did you burn incense in your rooms?

Alfred Taylor: Because I liked it.