spy vs. spy: wilde for dreyfus

Remembering Dreyfus. The time was la belle epoque, and the stage was France. But the chief actors in the drama- the double agents, perfidious generals, conniving politicians, and anti-Semites posing as patriots- have remained on the political scene ever since…

…The suspect, a shady character named Maurice Weil, had earlier been cashiered from the army because of a financial scandal. He was currently involved in a typically unsavory bedroom imbroglio of the period. On the one hand, he was sharing his beautiful Viennese wife with Gen. Saussier, then in his randy sixties. On the other hand, Sandherr believed that he was somehow in touch with German intelligence and was selling secret information that his wife obtained from her elderly lover- who, of course, had access to the most sensitive military data.

Though Sandherr’s judgement in such matters was anything but reliable- he was approaching the terminal stage of syphilitic paralysis- for once he may have been right. Several historians and memorialists; including Maurice Paleologue, a well known French diplomat who at the time of the Dreyfus Affair was the Quai d’Orsay’s liaison man with the national police; have argued that Weil was an accomplice, perhaps a key figure, in an espionage conspiracy for which Dreyfus was wrongly convicted.

—But it was Esterhazy’s confession to Wilde at a dinner one night that brought the whole Dreyfus affair to a head.
At the dinner, along with Wilde and Esterhazy, were an anti-Semite English journalist, Rowland Strong, and a young Irish bohemian poet, Chris Healy. At the behest of supporters of Dreyfus, a largely indifferent Wilde prompted Esterhazy during his usual delirium about Jews into blurting out that it was he, Esterhazy, who’d been selling
secret military intelligence to the Germans.
“I put Dreyfus in prison,” he stated boldly, “and all of France can’t get him out!” Wilde cared little for the Dreyfusards, and was unperturbed by this confession, but not so Chris Healy, who immediately made contact with French writer Emile Zola.
At this time Zola was serving a prison sentence for libel after publishing his famous J’accuse, a devastating indictment of the French government, army and courts and their role in the framing of Captain Dreyfus. —Read More:http://www.independent.ie/lifestyle/oscar-wilde-captain-dreyfus-reluctant-hero-1849258.html

The Weil-Saussier trio was unquestionably a security hazard. For fear of antagonizing one of the most powerful officers in the French army, however, Gen. Mercier had ordered Sandherr to drop his investigation of Weil. The fact that the latter was a Jew made the situation seem all the more scandalous and dangerous to the rabid anti-Semites like Sandherr, who were always suspecting some vast, shadowy Jewish plot, and it even seemed risky to the more rational Mercier. One can imagine their feelings when another Jewish spy seemed to turn up in the general staff itself.

“I should have known!” Sandherr exclaimed when one section head on the staff, to whom he had shown the “bordereau,” thought he recognized the handwriting of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, who had just completed his two year’ assignment as a general staff probationer and who was the first Jew ever to be admitted into the army’s holy of holies. On Mercier’s orders, a specimen of Dreyfus’s handwriting and the bordereau were submitted to another officer, an amateur graphologist, and as we now know, a full-time crackpot, Maj. Mercier du Paty de Clam. Du Paty, who fancied himself a spy chaser and a student of the occult, as well as a handwriting expert, was a titled, monocled, military fop, who looked and acted like a character in a Feydeau farce. His opinion was that the two handwriting samples were indeed suspiciously alike.

—As I note in my essay ‘Oscar Wilde and the Dreyfus Affair,’[1] Wilde ‘has remained an elusive and only dimly perceived actor in the great drama, all but ignored in the vast literature of the Dreyfus affair and his role never precisely described.’ While this may be attributable in part to the obscurity of the labyrinthine court records, it is owing more to Wilde’s own guarded silence about his involvement in the affair and the resulting breakup of his ‘ancient friendship’ with Carlos Blacker, who similarly maintained an unbroken silence about the painful episode.
After parting from Alfred Douglas in Italy in December 1897, Wilde returned to Paris on 13 February 1898, the eve of the second week of Zola’s tumultuous trial for his inflammatory article J’Accuse. With the Dreyfus affair at fever pitch,…Read More:http://www.oscholars.com/TO/Specials/Wilde/Maguire.htm image:http://www.michaelarnoldart.com/Maurice_de_Vlaminck.htm

A professional handwriting expert from the Bank of France soon gave a contradictory verdict. The police investigation failed to turn up  any hint of a motive for treason; like other emigres from German-occupied Alsace, which he had left as a child, Dreyfus had always manifested a passionate French nationalism. He had no suspicious associations, nor was he in financial difficulty or living above his own means. Nevertheless, Mercier ordered his arrest. Held in solitary confinement, Dreyfus was completely bewildered by the whole Kafkaesque proceeding and nearly went insane. (to be continued)…

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