Dolly Wilde: The Cursed Bon Vivant

February 24, 2023 | Dancy Mason

Dolly Wilde: The Cursed Bon Vivant

While her uncle Oscar Wilde was a famous wit, the socialite and bon vivant Dorothy "Dolly" Wilde gave her famous relative a run for his money. Born just three months after Oscar’s notorious arrest and ensuing downfall for homosexual acts, Dolly—who was an enthusiastic lesbian herself—always idolized her uncle far more than even her own father. And, well, her scandalous life proves it.

In 1914, Dolly traveled to Paris to work as an ambulance driver during WWI, but she made sure to mix business with pleasure. Before long, she struck up a torrid affair with the gender non-conforming, fabulously wealthy Standard Oil scion Marion “Joe” Carstairs. When that ended, she hopped into the beds of other famous women, among them American writer Natalie Clifford Barney.

Dorothy Dolly WildeWikimedia Commons

For the next few years, Dolly lived the high life in Paris, and she certainly did not hold back. She reportedly “reveled in” attracting the attentions of both men (whom she loved to string along) and women (whom she loved to seduce). Only, Dolly didn’t just model her life after Uncle Oscar. She also met a similarly tragic end.

After her years of tough living, Dolly emerged from the 1910s and 20s as an addict. It got so bad that even the confirmed partier tried to seek help. Sadly, it didn’t work. Indeed, one stay in a nursing facility only traded her old dependencies for a new reliance on the sleeping aid paraldehyde.

By 1939, the good times had well and truly wound down for Dolly Wilde. First, Dolly found out she had cancer. In a fit of her usual rebellion, she refused any conventional treatments in order to roll the dice with alternative methods. Then the very next year, the Germans invaded France, forcing Dolly to flee Paris for England. Yet this was hardly a salvation.

In 1941, Dolly Wilde passed at the age of just 45. In the end, coroners were unable to determine if the cancer or her long-standing addictions had done her in.

Source: 1

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