Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde : A Biography

4.08 (57 ratings by Goodreads)
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Aesthete, dandy, poet, dramatist and philosopher Oscar Wilde's wit and charm dazzled society in London, America and Paris in the late 1880s. But the year 1895 brought Wilde literary triumph -with two plays achieving phenomenal success in London's West End -and personal disaster. Urged on by his friend Lord Alfred Douglas, Wilde brought a libel action against Lord Alfred's father, the eccentric Marquess of Queensberry. The ensuing trials at the Old Bailey revealed Wilde's reckless adventures in the London underworld and he was sentenced to two years' imprisonment with hard labour. This fascinating biography examines both sides of Wilde's life: the artistic genius who gave us "The Importance of Being Ernest" and "The Picture of Dorian Gray", and the man who visited male prostitutes and was pre-occupied with sin. As well as following Wilde's life from its Dublin beginnings to its end in Paris, this masterly study explores his friendships and literary circle, which included writers such as Yeats, Proust and Gide.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 448 pages
  • 134 x 210 x 36mm | 480.81g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • 24pp b&w illustrations
  • 0141390867
  • 9780141390864

Author information

Harford Montgomery Hyde is the author of over forty books, in particular the Oscar Wilde volume in Famous Trials (Penguin, 1952). He occupied the Wilde's old rooms while at Magdalen College, Oxford and he is a cousin of the American novelist, Henry James, in whose house at Rye in Kent he used to live.show more

Review Text

"Somehow or other I'll be famous, and if not famous, I'll be notorious." This is but one of several early prophetic quips made by Wilde - that magnificent butterfly whose "gaiety of soul was invulnerable" according to Mr. Hyde's dosing testimonial to the life we know so well. Hyde, criminologist/barrister, has written extensively on Wilde - not only his Trials (1962) but Oscar Wilde: The Aftermath. This is a demonstrably exhaustive, somewhat externalized, biography devoted to his life rather than his works (they're recorded without too much critical comment), from the early poems ("Swinburne and water") to the comedies to Dorian Gray to finally, after The Ballad and De Profundis, the creative attrition of the last years. Hyde repudiates some other sources (Frank Harris, for one), confirms that the marriage to Constance was by no means loveless until after the birth of their second child, and pursues Oscar's two major attachments - Robert Ross and Alfred "Boysie" Douglas - in some detail, as well as all those other transient pick-ups. He devotes a good half of this book to the trials, the imprisonment, and the shabby last years in exile. An orthodox interpretation, brightened by Wilde's famous ripostes and epigrammatic exchanges as well as the author's longstanding liking for the man who no longer needs vindication of any kind. Although, ironically, one is left wondering whether his pilloried reputation as bon vivant/roue/homosexual has not served him better than his featherweight genius. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

57 ratings
4.08 out of 5 stars
5 35% (20)
4 44% (25)
3 18% (10)
2 2% (1)
1 2% (1)
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