Oscar Wilde’s niece, Dorothy Wilde, never gained the fame of her uncle, but she did lead an equally whimsical life.
1. Dolly was born in 1895, only three months after her uncle went to trial for alleged homosexual behavior in Wilde v. Queensberry.
2. She would, on occassion, dress up in her uncle’s clothes:
She would borrow his pants, an oversize tie, and his famously ratty fur coat (which he is pictured wearing below).
People often commented on how strikingly similar the two were, as Joan Schenkar wrote in her book Truly Wilde:
Everyone who met Dolly Wilde remarked on the disturbing ways in which she was like her famous uncle. Some people felt that in Dolly’s enormous blue-grey eyes and virtuosic wit — so strangely like her uncle’s — they were seeing another ‘Oscar,’ born again in female form and playing to a smaller audience.
3. She shared Oscar’s talent for writing, but preferred to pour her talent into correspondence with friends rather than published works.
She wrote to her long-time girlfriend, Natalie Barney:
I am a darting trout; shifting, glancing & flashing my iridescent tail in a hundred pleasant pools! …
How long I shall keep in the path of virtue I can’t say but virtue with an object is so much more salutary than virtue with its own reward!
4. In 1914, she traveled to France and served as an ambulance driver during World War I.
5. During that time, she had an affair with the Standard Oil heiress, Marion “Joe” Carstairs:
After the war, Carstairs become a renowned speedboat racer and people called her “the fastest woman on water.”
6. She was a party girl, possibly to a fault.
This party girl drank heavily, was addicted to heroin, and attempted suicide several times.
7. Her longest relationship, which lasted from 1927 until her death, was with openly lesbian American writer Natalie Clifford Barney:
Natalie Barney was notorious for her Paris salon, and became known for her many romantic affairs. She once wrote out a list, divided into three categories: liaisons, demi-liaisons, and adventures.
8. In 1939 she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but she refused to undergo surgery. She would seek out alternative methods instead.
9. Her death, just like most of her life, was shrouded in mystery.
She died from an unknown cause at the same age as her father and her uncle, and most likely from the same addictions.
She was a woman of mystery and wit, remembered long after her death. As Janet Flanner wrote:
[Dolly] was so interesting to cull over and think about … because one wanted to locate in immediate recollection the particular version of her or vision of her which had been visible on that special day, and she had as many versions of herself, all as slightly different, as could have been seen in views of her supplied by a room lined with mirrors.