Complete Shorter Fiction

Complete Shorter Fiction

Complete Shorter Fiction

Complete Shorter Fiction

Synopsis

For the first time in one volume, this complete collection of all the short fiction Oscar Wilde published contains such social and literary parodies as "Lord Arthur Savile's Crime" and "The Canterville Ghost;" such well-known fairy tales as "The Happy Prince," "The Young King," and "The Fisherman and his Soul;" an imaginary portrait of the dedicatee of Shakespeare's Sonnets entitled "The Portrait of Mr. W.H.;" and the parables Wilde referred to as "Poems in Prose," including "The Artist," "The House of Judgment," and "The Teacher of Wisdom."

Excerpt

Oscar Wilde's fairy-tales and stories have been translated into nearly every language, and have sold in their millions. They have been dramatized, made into films for cinema and television, adapted for radio and long-playing records. They have been transformed into cartoon films, made into children's opera, into ballets, into mime plays. Above all, the reading public has never ceased to demand his stories, and yet the critics have for the most part paid them very little attention, although story-telling was so fundamental an activity throughout his life.

When Wilde told a version of his poem in prose 'The Artist' to André Gide, he was deliberately illustrating his own situation. A dull-witted critic had congratulated him for inventing pleasant tales to 'clothe' his thought. Wilde began: 'They believe that all thoughts are born naked. . . . They don't understand that I can not think otherwise than in stories. The sculptor doesn't try to translate his thought into marble: he thinks in marble, directly. There was a man who could only think in bronze . . .'. And he told the story.

There is overwhelming evidence from those who knew him that his conversation was exceptional. Yeats calls him 'the greatest talker of his time', and says, 'I have never and shall never meet conversation that could match with his.' In part, this conversation consisted of the sparkling paradoxes and epigrams that characterize his social comedies, but Gide insists: 'Wilde did not converse: he narrated.' It is unfortunate for posterity that he so comparatively seldom troubled to write down his stories. When he did, his original auditors frequently complained. Typically, W. Graham Robertson calls Wilde 'a born raconteur', and tells how his narratives charmed away severe toothache. Again, he describes Wilde on an unaccustomed - and unwelcome - country walk, anxious to sit down, bribing him with the story of 'George Ellison and the Palmist' (later 'Lord Arthur Savile's Crime'). But Robertson . . .

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