THE UNRECORDED LIFE OF OSCAR WILDE by Rupert Croft-Cooke

THE UNRECORDED LIFE OF OSCAR WILDE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

It takes more than a cynic to know the price of everything and the value of nothing or to assess the merit of Mr. Croft-Cooke's book on Wilde which in its assertive preface claims to finally erase the ""effrontery"" (Frank Harris), ""blessed naivety"" (sic -- that's Sherard, his first biographer), credulousness (Hesketh Pearson) and general ""encrustments of legend"" which have made a ""caricature"" of Oscar Wilde. The rebuttals continue all through the early chapters but then Croft-Cooke, who earlier dealt with Bosie (1964), settles down to tell the story primarily using the letters -- fair enough, the best contemporary source. It seems unnecessary to go over the all too familiar knowns of Wilde's attachments, his marriage, Bosie that ""gilt and gracious lad"" (that's Wilde himself speaking), the Queensberry affair, the trials and prison, and the last years where ""exhalations of sheer happiness"" (that's Croft-Cooke himself) prevail unclouded, reversing the image we all have of those sad last years in exile. Croft-Cooke finds Wilde a ""beguiling,"" ""charming and imaginative queer"" and one resents here, as in Croft-Cooke's last book -- Feasting with Panthers -- the affronting repetition of the word queer or worse, ""little queen."" And when you get to the bottom of that last page, has anything really changed?

Pub Date: Aug. 28th, 1972
Publisher: McKay