by Franny Moyle
John Murray (e-book)
When Constance Lloyd married Oscar Wilde in 1884, she wed a man, writes Franny Moyle, who at the start of that decade was famous even before he had achieved anything. But she used her acquired celebrity to make something of her life, refusing to remain in the shadows of the playwright whom she loved and whose work she supported throughout his life. This despite his appalling treatment of her when his sexual orientation turned towards men and led to his imprisonment for sodomy in 1895. Although Constance and Wilde barely knew each other when they wed, and discussed a trial marital period, it is clear that theirs was a 'genuine love affair', writes Moyle. They were also devoted parents, especially towards their first-born, Cyril. Motherhood did not tether Constance to domesticity and she continued her creative life, promoting avant garde ideas about fashion and interior design. Moyle has done a wonderful job portraying Constance, using hundreds of her letters to paint a life rendered tragic because of a love that ultimately betrayed her.