Bernard Shaw, Frank Harris & Oscar Wilde

By Robert Harborough Sherard | Go to book overview

XVII
"A GREAT ROMANTIC PASSION"

IT is in the Twenty-Second Chapter of his Life and Confessions (page 450, Vol. II) that Harris reaches, in this "faithful chronicle" of the story of Oscar Wilde, the very lowest depths of turpitude.So far he has only presented us with a Wilde who is weak, pampered, effeminate, mendacious, hilarious now, now lachrymose, a self-proclaiming pervert, a nauseating olla podrida, certes, but so soused in such a syrupy sauce of adulatory admiration that one can almost forgive Bernard Shaw, whose pabulum, we know, is restricted to the simple fruits of the earth, for so misjudging the dish so cunningly dressed that he could write and tell Harris that kindness could not well be carried further. Shaw one can almost understand, at least as far as this Twenty-Second Chapter, but Ross, Robert Baldwin Ross? Shaw saw very little of Wilde, they were entirely antithetic and Shaw took such delight in Harris's portraiture of his contemporaries that I can sometimes fancy him adapting Burns and pacing his study to the rhyme:

Oh! wad some power the giftie gie us
To see oursel'es as Harris sees us.

Pour les autres, of course.

But Robert Baldwin Ross?

Harris's Twenty-Second Chapter bears the same caption as the one I have headed mine with: " A Great Romantic Passion."

In this chapter we are to be shown the pervert (whom we have followed so far with pity rather than disgust) as the bibulous, deliberate debauchee, the cynical, heartless corrupter

-235-

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