THE WILDE ALBUM: Public and Private Images of Oscar Wilde by Merlin Holland

THE WILDE ALBUM: Public and Private Images of Oscar Wilde

Email this review


What did Wilde look like at the strange age of two? He wore a demure blue velvet dress with lace collar, sleeves, and hem--but even so, he looked dolorous. This and other illustrative tidbits are graciously surrendered by Holland, who is Wilde's grandson. ""To be Irish was to be subversive,"" notes Holland in the essay that accompanies his brief pictorial biography, and the paintings and photographs he has assembled inevitably suggest the longueurs and the final melancholy of Wilde's rebellion. Svelte knee britches showed off neat legs and patent-leather dancing shoes as the bachelor Oscar reclined on a monumental fur-strewn chaise. Apart from documentary miscellanies, we also catch glimpses of caricatures, cartoons, Aubrey Beardsley book covers, and Wilde-inspired advertisements (such as one for Madame Fontaine's Bosom Beautifier, apparently championed by the wag himself). On a grim note, a page of The Illustrated Police Budget of 1895 reveals the prisoner Wilde receiving a haircut, and a photo beneath it reminds us that while living in Wandsworth Gaol, after being convicted for ""indecent acts,"" Wilde was permitted to send and get only one letter every three months. Both a dainty reprise of his life and a sad send-off when it took a slide, the album effectively evokes Wilde's sundry selves.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Henry Holt