The Sphinx Without a Secret
by Oscar Wilde
(about 2100 words)
By chance, two old college friends meet in Paris where they spend some time catching up before one of them lets slip that he’s had some sort of a mystery woman in his life. Upon being pressed he tells his story. One day he happened to see a lovely young woman, wandering around and looking alluring. He had no idea who she was, or where she could be reached, but her image refused to leave his mind. By chance one day he was introduced to the same woman by a mutual acquaintance, and after a brief dinner date he managed to find out her address, and that she was a recent widow. Bolstered by this, he sends a letter to her house, and when he finally receives a reply back, it is to tell him never to send her letters to her house, only to a care-of address at the library. Obviously he’s puzzled by this, but as most of their subsequent dates are normal enough, he lets it pass. That is until he finds her skulking around a room letting house. He picks up her dropped handkerchief from the location, and when she later lies to him that she hadn’t been out of the house all day, he throws a tantrum and leaves her and France to go instead to Norway. When he returns, he learns that the lady has died of congested lungs following a cold she caught at an opera. Distraught, he seeks to find the cause of her mystery but finds nothing. The room she let she only just sat in and did nothing else, and saw no one else. What a mystery indeed.
Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born on October 16, 1854 in Dublin, Ireland. His father was knighted for his work as a doctor and his mother, a poet, greatly influenced Wilde’s own writing. Wilde excelled in his studies, winning awards in all levels of his education for his academic performance. It was while attending Oxford that he first seriously attempted writing, and won prizes for these early poems. After releasing a collection of poems to moderate critical success, Wilde toured America, giving 140 lectures in nine months. There he met some prominent American writers of the time. During his tours through America and England, Wilde became known for his place in the aesthetic movement which denounced using art for social or political statements, and instead insisted on appreciating beauty for the sake of beauty. He married in 1884 and had two sons with his wife, though he is most well known for the stint he spent in prison on accusations of homosexuality. While not strictly secretive about his sexuality, Wilde was screwed over by the father of a male lover who insulted Wilde so badly that he sued for liable. This unfortunately made his ‘open secret’ complete public fact and had him charged with gross indecency and sentenced to two years in prison. Despite all the literary success he had achieved before his imprisonment, when he was finally released he was broke, broken and in desperate need of a change of climate. Like D. H. Lawrence, he went into a period of self exile where he couch surfed with friends in France for a time. He died three years later of meningitis at the age of forty-six. His most famous works are his novel “The Picture of Dorian Grey” and the play, “The Importance of Being Ernest.”