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Oscar Wilde, a Critical Study   By: (1884-1967)

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OSCAR WILDE

A CRITICAL STUDY

BY

ARTHUR RANSOME

LONDON

MARTIN SECKER

NUMBER FIVE JOHN STREET

ADELPHI

MCMXII

[Illustration: Oscar Wilde. from the Painting by Harper Pennington now in the possession of Robert Ross. Esq.]

BY THE SAME AUTHOR

BOHEMIA IN LONDON (Sketches and Essays), 1907 A HISTORY OF STORY TELLING, 1909 EDGAR ALLAN POE, 1910 THE HOOFMARKS OF THE FAUN, 1911 ETC.

Copyright reserved in all countries signatory to the Berne Convention. The copyright of this book in Russia is the property of the Scorpion Press, Moscow

TO

ROBERT ROSS

NOTE

I wish to thank Mr. Robert Ross, Wilde's literary executor, who has helped me in every possible way, allowed me to read many of the letters that Wilde addressed to him, and given much time out of a very busy life to the verification, from documents in his possession, of the biographical facts included in my book. I wish to thank Mr. Walter Ledger for much interesting information, and for the sight of many rare editions of Wilde's books that made possible the correction of several bibliographical errors into which I had fallen. I wish to thank Mr. Martin Secker for putting at my disposal his collection of late nineteenth century literature. I wish to thank an anonymous author for lending me the proof sheets of a forthcoming book, which will contain a full and accurate account of the legal proceedings for and against Wilde. Many of those who knew Wilde have helped me, by letter or in conversation, with valuable reminiscence. I would thank, particularly, M. Paul Fort, M. Remy de Gourmont, M. Stuart Merrill, and Mr. Reginald Turner.

The texts of Wilde's books that I have used throughout are these: Messrs. Methuen's limited edition of the works, and the five shilling edition issued by the same firm; Mr. Charles Carrington's edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray ; Mr. A. L. Humphreys' edition of The Soul of Man under Socialism ; Mr. David Nutt's edition of The Happy Prince and other Tales . To these, as to the best, and in some cases the only, editions easily accessible, I must refer my readers. Much accurate observation is to be found in M. André Gide's "Oscar Wilde," published by the Mercure de France, and the result of much laborious and useful research is embodied in Mr. Stuart Mason's "Bibliography of the Poems of Oscar Wilde," published by Mr. Grant Richards. Permission to include many quotations has been granted by Messrs. Methuen and Co., and Mr. Robert Ross.

CONTENTS

PAGE INTRODUCTORY 13

BIOGRAPHICAL SUMMARY 27

POEMS 36

ÆSTHETICISM 59

MISCELLANEOUS PROSE 80

INTENTIONS 104

THE THEATRE 130

DISASTER 153

DE PROFUNDIS 157

1897 1900 178

AFTERTHOUGHT 201

I

INTRODUCTORY

Gilbert, in 'The Critic as Artist,' complains that "we are overrun by a set of people who, when poet or painter passes away, arrive at the house along with the undertaker, and forget that their one duty is to behave as mutes. But we won't talk about them," he continues. "They are the mere body snatchers of literature. The dust is given to one and the ashes to another, but the soul is out of their reach." That is not a warning lightly to be disregarded. No stirring up of dust and ashes is excusable, and none but brutish minds delight in mud pies mixed with blood. I had no body snatching ambition. Impatient of such criticism of Wilde as saw a law court in The House of Pomegranates , and heard the clink of handcuffs in the flowing music of Intentions , I wished, at first, to write a book on Wilde's work in which no mention of the man or his tragedy should have a place. I remembered that he thought Wainewright, the poisoner and essayist, too lately dead[1] to be treated in "that fine spirit of disinterested curiosity to which we owe so many charming studies of the great criminals of the Italian Renaissance... Continue reading book >>




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