OSCAR WILDE by H. Montgomery Hyde


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Somehow or other I'll be famous, and if not famous, I'll be notorious."" This is but one of several early prophetic quips made by Wilde--that magnificent butterfly whose ""gaiety of soul was invulnerable"" according to Mr. Hyde's dosing testimonial to the life we know so well. Hyde, criminologist/barrister, has written extensively on Wilde--not only his Trials (1962) but Oscar Wilde: The Aftermath. This is a demonstrably exhaustive, somewhat externalized, biography devoted to his life rather than his works (they're recorded without too much critical comment), from the early poems (""Swinburne and water"") to the comedies to Dorian Gray to finally, after The Ballad and De Profundis, the creative attrition of the last years. Hyde repudiates some other sources (Frank Harris, for one), confirms that the marriage to Constance was by no means loveless until after the birth of their second child, and pursues Oscar's two major attachments--Robert Ross and Alfred ""Boysie"" Douglas--in some detail, as well as all those other transient pick-ups. He devotes a good half of this book to the trials, the imprisonment, and the shabby last years in exile. An orthodox interpretation, brightened by Wilde's famous ripostes and epigrammatic exchanges as well as the author's longstanding liking for the man who no longer needs vindication of any kind. Although, ironically, one is left wondering whether his pilloried reputation as bon vivant/roue/homosexual has not served him better than his featherweight genius.

Pub Date: Nov. 28th, 1975
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux