The Paradox of Oscar Wilde

The Paradox of Oscar Wilde

The Paradox of Oscar Wilde

The Paradox of Oscar Wilde

Excerpt

Many books have already been written on and around Oscar Wilde, and he has been the source of long literary and personal controversies during the half-century since his death. It may therefore appear rash, and even presumptuous, for yet another writer to venture on this vexed subject. Yet it was the lack, among this mass of writing, of a really balanced judgment of Wilde's works or his significance in literature and social thought that prompted me to attempt a new evaluation.

This study does not claim to be another biography. That work has already been done well by Hesketh Pearson, whose Oscar Wilde gives all the necessary information about the events of Wilde's life, and conveys a very convincing portrait of his complicated personality. Pearson also deals with the story of Wilde's downfall in a relatively sympathetic and unprejudiced way, and avoids, as almost no other writers have done, the temptation to portray Wilde as a black sinner or a misunderstood saint, as a weak-willed half-wit or a "Lord of Language"--to use Wilde's own half-serious phrase. He shows us Wilde as a human being endowed with charm and generosity, and demolishes resolutely many of the legends that have made Wilde appear a more trivial and foolish character than he really was. But his book, excellent as it is, has all the limitations of a biography. Its appreciations of Wilde's works . . .

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