Bernard Shaw, Frank Harris & Oscar Wilde

By Robert Harborough Sherard | Go to book overview

VIII
"WILDE ATS. WHISTLER (HARRIS
INTERVENING)"

THE farther one progresses into Harris's book, the more impressed is one with the fact that he knew very little about the subject of his biography, and that he never took the slightest trouble to ascertain any truth where his imagination could be called into play and where invention could replace research. Instead of laboriously routing out authentic documents he thought it quite sufficient for his purpose to use any books, including mine, that he could lay hands upon, to camouflage his plagiarisms from them and let guess-work do the rest. His object after all was not to give a faithful biography of Oscar Wilde but to manufacture a book that would sell readily for the prurient interest it was certain to arouse; and he knew that to succeed in that he must depict Wilde, not as he really was, but as the kind of man that a malicious world wanted to hear about.

A little painstaking on Harris's part would have spared his readers the nonsense he writes about Wilde's first book of poems (pp. 67, 68). We are told that having prepared the way for the success of the publication by his aesthetic masquerading and having brought it out at his own expense with a publisher called Bogue in 1881, "the book had an extraordinary success," that "Oscar had built high fantastic hopes on this book," and that these hopes, although Harris contests his claim to the title of poet, were in so far realized that the sales were large, that four editions were disposed of in a month and that Wilde actually made quite a good profit out of the venture.Thus Harris.

-89-

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