A few months before publication, Wilde had called on Eugene Lee-Hamilton at his home in Florence, where Wilde was surreptitiously visiting Lord Alfred Douglas. Lee-Hamilton (1845-1907) was a former British diplomat who had turned poet when severe illness left him almost paralysed and consigned to his bed for the best part of twenty years. Living in Florence, he was cared for by his mother and his half-sister, Violet Paget (who wrote under the pseudonym Vernon Lee).
Despite his indisposition, Lee-Hamilton remained a lively conversationalist, and welcomed guests including Edith Wharton, Paul Bourget and Henry James to his rooms. Apparently on the invitation of Mary Smith Costelloe, Wilde called on the family on 19th May 1894 and "talked like an angel, and they all fell in love with him, even Vernon Lee..." (see Ellman, Oscar Wilde (1987), p.395n).
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