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Oscar Wilde, His Life and Confessions — Volume 1   By: (1855-1931)

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Oscar Wilde, His Life and Confessions, Volume 1

by Frank Harris




Chapter I Oscar's Father and Mother on Trial

Chapter II Oscar Wilde as a Schoolboy

Chapter III Trinity, Dublin: Magdalen, Oxford

Chapter IV Formative Influences: Oscar's Poems

Chapter V Oscar's Quarrel with Whistler and Marriage

Chapter VI Oscar Wilde's Faith and Practice

Chapter VII Oscar's Reputation and Supporters

Chapter VIII Oscar's Growth to Originality About 1890

Chapter IX The Summer of Success: Oscar's First Play

Chapter X The First Meeting with Lord Alfred Douglas

Chapter XI The Threatening Cloud Draws Nearer

Chapter XII Danger Signals: the Challenge

Chapter XIII Oscar Attacks Queensberry and is Worsted

Chapter XIV How Genius is Persecuted in England

Chapter XV The Queen vs. Wilde: The First Trial

Chapter XVI Escape Rejected: The Second Trial and Sentence


Chapter XVII Prison and the Effects of Punishment

Chapter XVIII Mitigation of Punishment; but not Release

Chapter XIX His St. Martin's Summer: His Best Work

Chapter XX The Results of His Second Fall: His Genius

Chapter XXI His Sense of Rivalry; His Love of Life and Laziness

Chapter XXII "A Great Romantic Passion!"

Chapter XXIII His Judgments of Writers and of Women

Chapter XXIV We Argue About His "Pet Vice" and Punishment

Chapter XXV The Last Hope Lost

Chapter XXVI The End

Chapter XXVII A Last Word

Shaw's "Memories"

The Appendix

The crucifixion of the guilty is still more awe inspiring than the crucifixion of the innocent; what do we men know of innocence?


I was advised on all hands not to write this book, and some English friends who have read it urge me not to publish it.

"You will be accused of selecting the subject," they say, "because sexual viciousness appeals to you, and your method of treatment lays you open to attack.

"You criticise and condemn the English conception of justice, and English legal methods: you even question the impartiality of English judges, and throw an unpleasant light on English juries and the English public all of which is not only unpopular but will convince the unthinking that you are a presumptuous, or at least an outlandish, person with too good a conceit of himself and altogether too free a tongue."

I should be more than human or less if these arguments did not give me pause. I would do nothing willingly to alienate the few who are still friendly to me. But the motives driving me are too strong for such personal considerations. I might say with the Latin:

"Non me tua fervida terrent, Dicta, ferox: Di me terrent, et Jupiter hostis."

Even this would be only a part of the truth. Youth it seems to me should always be prudent, for youth has much to lose: but I am come to that time of life when a man can afford to be bold, may even dare to be himself and write the best in him, heedless of knaves and fools or of anything this world may do. The voyage for me is almost over: I am in sight of port: like a good shipman, I have already sent down the lofty spars and housed the captious canvas in preparation for the long anchorage: I have little now to fear.

And the immortals are with me in my design. Greek tragedy treated of far more horrible and revolting themes, such as the banquet of Thyestes: and Dante did not shrink from describing the unnatural meal of Ugolino. The best modern critics approve my choice. "All depends on the subject," says Matthew Arnold, talking of great literature: "choose a fitting action a great and significant action penetrate yourself with the feeling of the situation: this done, everything else will follow; for expression is subordinate and secondary."

Socrates was found guilty of corrupting the young and was put to death for the offence. His accusation and punishment constitute surely a great and significant action such as Matthew Arnold declared was alone of the highest and most permanent literary value.

The action involved in the rise and ruin of Oscar Wilde is of the same kind and of enduring interest to humanity... Continue reading book >>

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