What then was the relationship between Arthur and Oscar? The following extracts from Wilde’s letters might help.
SELECTED LETTERS OF OSCAR WILDE
Edited by Rupert Hart-Davis
Oxford University Press, 1989. ISBN 0-19-281218-1
To Robert Ross
[28 May 1897]
I enclose a lot of letters. Please put money orders in them and send them off. Put those addressed to the prison in a larger envelope, each of them, addressed by yourself, if possible legibly. They are my debts of
honour, and I must pay them. Of course you must read the letters. Explain to Miss
Meredith5 that the letters addressed C.3.3.6, 24 Hornton Street are for you. The money is as follows. Of course it is a great deal but I thought I would have lots:
Fleet £1. 10.
Ford £2. 10.
X Eaton £2.
The letters must go at once.
X Cruttenden £2.
At least those marked X
Bushell £2. 10.
5 More Adey’s housekeeper at 24 Hornton Street.
6 Wilde’s number in Reading Gaol, indicating the third cell on the third floor of Block C.
To Robert Ross
Monday Night, 31 May [ 1897] [Hôtel de la Plage, Berneval-sur-Mer]
Please send a Chronicle to my wife, Mrs C. M. Holland, Maison Benguerel,
Bevaix, près de Neuchâtel, just marking it, and if my second letter appears, mark that. Also one to Mrs Arthur
Stannard, 28 Rue de la Halle-au-Blé, Dieppe. Also, cut out the letter and enclose it in an envelope to
Mr Arthur Cruttenden, Poste Restante, G.P.O. Reading, with just these lines:
Dear Friend, The enclosed will interest you. There is also another
letter waiting in the Post Office for you from me, with a little money.
Ask for it, if you have not got it. Yours sincerely C.3.3
I have no one but you, dear Robbie, to do anything. Of course the letter to Reading must go at once, as my friends come out on Wednesday morning early.
To Reginald Turner
[ ? 7 June 1897] Hôtel de la Plage, Berneval-sur-Mer
My dear Reggie, It is all very well giving me a lovely silver dressingcase, and meeting me at Dieppe, and behaving like an angel: but what is the result? Simply that I come to you to ask you to do something more. I can't help it. Why do you insist on behaving like an angel, if you object to my treating you as one?
Read first enclosed letter, before you go any further. It is necessary that you should do so. This is vital. Also it is Act I.
Have you read it?
(Interval of five minutes. No band: only a cigarette.)
If so, what do you say to such a nice simple sweet letter from Jim Cuthbert's pal who came out on June the 2nd, and found a little £2, no more, waiting for him at the Post Office from me? You see what a good chap he is: he was one of my great friends in Reading; he and Jim Cuthbert and Harry Elvin were my pals: hearts of gold.
Now I have asked him to come and stay a week here with me, so that he may have a holiday after eighteen months' hard
His offence, I told you. He was a soldier, dined too well, or perhaps too badly, and "made hay" in the harness room of the regimental stables: the sort of thing one was "gated" for at Oxford, or fined £5 for by the Proctor. He has never taken anything by fraud or by violence. He is a good chap, and has a nice sweet nature.
I had better say candidly that he is not "a beautiful boy." He is twenty-nine years of age, but looks a little older, as he inherits hair that catches silver lines early: he has also a slight, but still real, moustache. I am thankful and happy to be able to say that I have no feeling for him, nor could have, other than affection and friendship. He is simply a manly simple fellow, with the nicest smile and the pleasantest eyes, and I have no doubt a confirmed
"mulierast," to use Robbie's immortal phrase.
So you see my feelings towards him. It is sad to have to explain them, but it is only fair to you.
Now Robbie has whatever little money I possess, but he is very severe on me for having sent some money to four chaps released last week. He says I can't afford it. But, dear Reggie, I must look after my prison friends, if my good friends, like you, look after me.
I have a cheque for £40, but it will take a week to cash it, as I cannot go to Dieppe till Wednesday, and of course, as the bank does not know me, the cheque will have to be cleared in London before I touch the money here. So Monday is the earliest I can
I want you then to lend me £6.10. till next week, if you possibly can.
Arthur Cruttenden requires clothes—a blueserge suit, a pair of brown leather boots, some shirts, and a hat. This will cost money, and his ticket here will cost something.
So I have written to him to tell him that a good friend of mine—a Jim Cuthbert of the name of R. Turner—will send him from me £6. 10., so that he can get clothes, and be here on Saturday afternoon next, for a week. I hope in the meantime to get him a place, when his holidays with me
Of course if you would not mind being good to a friend of mine, it would be very sweet of you if you would let him come to see you on Friday morning. He will show you, by my orders, my letter to him, and you can tell him some good place in the Strand to go to, for clothes etc., and also clear up any mysteries about any details of dress and apparel. If you can do this, just send him £1 to come up with, and let him have the £5.10 when he arrives. Tell him that it, the £5. 10, is waiting for him, and that he must bring up whatever he has already in the way of clothes.
He is not English: he is American: but has no accent at all. He always wrapped up well at night in his native land.
You don't know, Reggie, what a pleasure it is to me to think I shall have the chance of being kind to a chap who has been in trouble with me. I look forward to it with tears of joy and gratitude.
Of course if you can't see him, simply send him the money: but I would like you to see him, and to say some kind words to him. We all come out of prison as sensitive as children.
Next week you shall have the £6.10. I simply dare not tell Robbie to give it, because he scolds me, and I hate giving him pain. I know he is right, but still I have £200 left, and £3 a week, and in a few months I shall be making money, I hope.
Send me a line at once to say if you can do all this: and if Cruttenden can go on Saturday, see that he learns about trains, and send me a wire to inform me, so that I may meet him all right at Dieppe.
If you will do this, I will give you back the dressing case: at least I will keep it for you always: it is the same thing.
I anxiously await a letter from you. I know that, if you can, you will let
A. C. call on you on Friday morning. It would so please him, and so fascinate me. Ever yours OSCAR
P.S. Of course send me back Arthur Cruttenden's letter. I wouldn't part with it for many £6.10.: nor indeed show it to anyone but you, and Robbie if he wouldn't lecture me about giving away among four fellow prisoners and four warders (including £5 to Martin) the sum of £20! Huge I know for me, but still it is little for kindness shown. I may not have the chance again. I only know five chaps now in Reading
Gaol. By the end of the year—on December 2 in fact—all my friends, thank God, will be free men, as I am. So unless I do a little now, I shall lose my chance.
Dear Reggie, if you will manage all this for me and A.C. you will, in some other way than the mere repayment of the £6.10 next week, reap a harvest of deep gold in the heart of the great world. I know it. I have been taught it in cell C3.3.
1Turner provided the money and Cruttenden duly spent a week at
Berneval. In a letter dated 21 June Wilde wrote: Of course all you said to me, dear Reggie, was quite true: but you must understand that I have the deepest desire to try and be of a little help to other fellows who were in trouble with me. I used to be utterly reckless of young lives: I used to take up a boy, love him "passionately," and then grow bored with him, and often take no notice of him. That is what I regret in my past life. Now I feel that if I can really help others it will be a little attempt, however small, at expiation To be of real assistance to even one of them would give me joy beyond what I can express to you.