You know the one; it's the calling card that kicked off Oscar Wilde's ill-advised libel suit against the Marquess of Queensbury, which went so badly it opened up a criminal trial against Wilde instead. I don't know how much truth there is behind the idea that Wilde at first wanted to overlook it, while Bosie was the one pushing for a chance to humiliate Queensberry in court; on the one hand I would believe anything bad someone told me about Bosie, but on the other I certainly can't fault a man for wanting to see the full weight of the state come down on his father, either. But I think there are a number of alternative, yet equally persuasive readings available to us here.
(I also realize that in 1895 people read a lot more handwriting than they do now. Possibly everyone who read this card found it perfectly legible! But compare it with the "Marquis of Queensberry" line just below; I think even by the standards of the day this looked like scrawl.)
"Are you sure it's for you?"
"It says 'For Oscar Wilde.'"
"Does it? Are you sure it doesn't say '7 or Uscan Wilche'?"
"Well, 'For Oscar Wilde' means something, and I don't think '7 or Uscan Wilche' means anything."
"Not to you and not to me, no. But it might be some sort of code."
"I think it looks more like 'Zoo Visage Wille.' Possibly he's looking for directions to the zoo."
"Could it be 'For Vicar Wilde'? I can just about make out Vicar as the second word."
"Is there a Vicar Wilde?"
"There must be one somewhere, surely. I don't think this is for you at all; I think it must be for a distant cousin or something."
"I want to talk about the A in the bottom left-hand corner. What's that supposed to mean?"
"I think he must have been practicing his As."
"But none of the other As in the card look like that one."
"Are there other As in the card?'
"I think so. In Uscan. Or Vicar."
"Maybe it's 'For Us can Wilcle.' Maybe it's an anagram."
"An anagram of what?"
"Fiscal Uncle Row."
"Anyhow, I don't know how you get 'Posing Somdomite' from the second line. I think it says 'Joaquin Indomite.' You can't take a man to court for sending you a calling card he meant for his vicar uncle. I don't think it's for you."
"It could be 'Enough I am domite.'"
"Is that Latin?"
"Could be Latin. Or part Latin."
"In that case, might the first line read 'Etruscan' something? There's a broad gap between the first and second words, but it might not have been a real space – if the second line's got Latin in it, then I certainly think the first line might begin with 'Etruscan.' And couldn't that be a sort of strange E, at the beginning?"
"I still think the second line is 'Jorough I'm I'm ite.'"
"But that doesn't mean anything."
"Well, you have me there. But I still think that's what it spells."
If only I had been a lawyer working at the time; I'm sure I could have gotten the whole thing thrown out of court, and then Oscar Wilde would still be living and writing among us today.