On 19 May 1897, a notorious criminal who had only been released from Pentonville Prison* that very day was recognised in Hatchard’s, Piccadilly, publishers and booksellers to the Queen and the Royal Family. To avoid detection at London’s Victoria Station, the tall, pale man and his accomplice—later identified as More Adey—took a cab to West Croydon and a train to Newhaven.
Early the next morning the former prisoner would be in Dieppe, travelling under the assumed name of Sebastian Melmoth. From Dieppe, the criminal would drift across Europe, spending the few years left to him as a social leper, never to return to the city he had beguiled, nor to his native land.
The outcast criminal known as Sebastian Melmoth was, of course, Oscar Wilde, and you can follow his steps through London’s high society and criminal underworld in a Walk on the Wilde side.
[Sebastian Melmoth’s journey is documented in the Oscar Wilde Society’s publication, Oscar Wilde in Dieppe & Berneval, by Donald Mead, 2012.]
*Wilde spent part of his sentence in Reading Gaol, but was released from Pentonville Prison, thwarting journalists.
JD Ellevsen 2015