The Choice of Florence Balcombe
For the past several months, Florence Balcombe has been dating Finegal O’Flahertie, the baby boy of Speranza, an unconventional poetess who fights for women’s rights. To the outrage of many, the six-foot Speranza coolly justifies her public extravagances by saying that she is “above respectability.”
Like his memorable mother, young Finegal is colorful and sensitive and writes poetry from the heart. But Florence Balcombe is the daughter of a lieutenant colonel who sees no great value in poetry or in the boys who write it. Lieutenant Colonel Balcombe much prefers young Abraham Stoker, a boy that had been sickly as a child but who “whipped himself into manhood” with a diet of strict discipline and athletic endurance. And like the Lieutenant Colonel, Abraham works as a civil servant. He is a file clerk at the courthouse.
In a single moment of pivotal decision, Florence rejects the marriage proposal of young Finegal O’Flahertie and chooses to become Mrs. Abraham Stoker instead. Brokenhearted, Finegal immediately flees to London and buries himself in his poetry. Later that year he wins the coveted Newdigate Prize for his poem, Ravenna, and it ignites in him a burning desire to achieve stardom. Since his mother had taught him to view everything in life as a performance, young Finegal is soon making a spectacle of everything, sometimes even hailing a cab just to cross the street. He has his clothes made by theater costumiers instead of tailors, since he feels they better understand the dramatic effect that he is trying to achieve. Soon Finegal O’Flahertie is the talk of all England.
Back home in Ireland, a slightly intimidated Abraham Stoker decides to publish a book of his own. Needless to say, “The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland” is not a huge success. In London however, Finegal O’Flahertie continues to pile fame upon fame as both poet and playwright. His short stories and magazine articles are in constant demand.
When an old but powerful politician accuses Finegal of homosexuality, he quickly responds with a lawsuit. Interestingly, the politician, like Lieutenant Colonel Balcombe, is “a real man’s man” who achieved his fame by writing the official rulebook for the sport of boxing.
Finegal loses the lawsuit. The macho politician then counter-sues and on May 25, 1895, Oscar Finegal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde is sentenced to 2 years at hard labor for the crime of indecency.
Shortly after he is released from prison in 1897, Oscar learns that Florence’s husband, ‘Bram Stoker, has written another book. Within 3 years, that book, “Dracula,” has outsold every other book in history except the Bible.
On November 30, 1900, Oscar Finegal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde lay down and died in a rented room in Paris. He was 46 years old. Doctors say that an infection of the inner ear was the likely culprit.
Those who knew him best did not agree.
Roy H Williams