According to his sons, Oscar Wilde especially liked Robert Louis Stevenson's work and Colm Tóibín discusses the Jekyll and Hyde dualities in so much of Wilde's life: gay and married, an Irishman in London, rich and chased by creditors, an aristocrat and Irish patriot, "a wit who was also serious, but a limp and timid lyricist who wrote brave and modern plays." In the spring of 1895, he was also the accuser and accused in two infamous trials that took him from the most celebrated man in London to a jailed, unspeakable scoundrel. For the first and most horrible part of his sentence he was prohibited from having pen and paper. Toward the end of his two year confinement, he wrote his famous long, long love letter to Lord Alfred Douglas, now collected in De Profundis and Other Prison Writings [Kindle], introduced by Tóibín in a new edition from Penguin.
If you've made it to adulthood without revisiting Stevenson, stop everything and read Kidnapped [Kindle]. Rupert Smith says, "First and foremost, it’s one of the most exciting adventure novels I can think of, a model of brilliant plotting, compelling narrative and sharp, magnetic characterisation. The story of David Balfour, the young ingenu sold into slavery and cheated of his inheritance by wicked Uncle Ebenezer, is probably the best coming-of-age narrative I can think of – it never labours its points, but it shows David learning from each experience and acquaintance until he’s man enough to claim what’s rightfully his. But there’s another level to Kidnapped, one which only struck me when I re-read it in my 40s – it’s a profoundly homosexual novel. I can see readers rolling their eyes at this point, but bear with me. Whether Stevenson realised it or not, the kidnapping of the young man and his experiences at the hands of older, more powerful men is fraught with erotic energy, and his friendship with the charismatic Alan Breck is highly romantic. Some critics point to The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde as ‘proof’ of Stevenson’s homosexual leanings, and I can see their point – but for me, Kidnapped is the dead giveaway (and the better novel). In fact, this was the book that inspired me to write the first of my James Lear novels, The Low Road [Kindle], which is a sexed-up version of the same basic story."