From childhood, Robert matched his brother’s intellect, flamboyance in dress, and conversational prowess, but channeled his talents into music, writing his first song, entitled “Boys Don’t Cry”, when he was a mere four years old.
Oscar, six years old at the time, took credit for the song believing it could not have been written if he had not been the catalyst by pushing Robert off a settee and then chastising him when the boy began to weep. “Robert Smithe Wilde!” he is said to have said, “Boys don’t cry!”
Oscar’s propriety feelings towards his brother’s music never did cease, even when Robert relocated to America to pursue his music career. Oscar enjoyed publicly proclaiming that he was the true source of Robert’s talent. Robert took Oscar’s claims with a dose of brotherly good humor, even releasing his popular song “Pictures of You” in America to intentionally coincide with the British publication of Oscar’s only novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. Robert sent a gushing telegram of thanks to Oscar for the inspiration for the tune. Oscar’s return telegram said simply, “However far away, I will always love you. However long I stay, I will always love you. Whatever words I say, I will always love you.”
Robert remained loyal to his brother through Oscar’s tortuous trials and imprisonment, financially providing for Oscar’s wife Constance and their children. He continued to support his brother both emotionally and financially after Oscar’s release and subsequent ill health.
When Oscar died of meningitis, Robert was devastated. His eulogy to his brother included the lines, “This dream always ends. This feeling always goes. The time always comes to slip away. This wave always breaks. This sun always sets again. And these flowers will always fade. This world always stops. This wonder always leaves. The time always comes to say goodbye.”
After Oscar’s death, Robert returned to America to continue his career, but he always provided for Oscar’s widow and children, going so far as to leave his entire fortune to them upon his own death three years to the day after his beloved brother’s demise.