Wilde's Devoted Friend: a life of Robert Ross (1869-1918)
"You have brought Robbie alive, which is a great achievement, and I warmly congratulate you."
(Sir Rupert Hart-Davis, editor of Wilde's Letters etc.)
"We must be grateful for such diligent research, and for Borland's detailed, patient evocation of a world that holds a special fascination for a woman." (The Times)
Oxford: Lennard Publishing, 1990
ISBN 1 85291 085 2
319 pages. 24 B&W illustrations.
Since his death in 1918 Robert Ross has remained something of an enigma, in spite of tantalising cameos that adorn many biographies of the literary and artistic giants of Victorian and Edwardian England... Charles Ricketts, Roger Fry, Aubrey Beardsley, William Rothenstein, Arnold Bennett, H.G. Wells, Max Beerbohm, Siegfried Sassoon and Edmund Gosse.
But the essence of "Robbie's" life was his rôle as Oscar Wilde's devoted friend and dedicated literary executor. Generous, and fearlessly loyal to Oscar in moments of darkest adversity, he later worked tirelessly to restore Wilde's reputation as a writer, only to be subjected to years of harassment and persecution from Wilde's âme damnée, Lord Alfred Douglas, and the moral crusader T.W.H. Crosland. Forced to seek legal redress against their accusations of sodomy, anarchy and socialism, Ross found — as Wilde had found — that the Law could not protect him.
The result of ten years' research, and drawing on a good deal of previously unpublished correspondence, this is the definitive portrait of a charming, witty, generous and loyal man, and it reveals by contrast the petty jealousies, intrigues, passions and occasional finer feelings which were so much a part of the Wilde cult.
"Ross ... is probably the foulest and most filthy beast drawing the breath of life." Lord Alfred Douglas
Wilde's Devoted Friend is out of print. Second-hand copies may be available e.g. through AbeBooks or Amazon.