OSCAR WILDE by Sheridan Morley


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Sheridan Morley opens his biography of Oscar Wilde with an epigraph taken from Lord Alfred Douglas, the ill-chosen lover whose father prosecuted Wilde for corrupting boys, saying the ""human and dramatic interest"" of Wilde's life ""will never be exhausted"" as a subject for other writers. Douglas' opinion is safe with Morley, for his book merely evokes that interest while traversing territory already mapped by H. Montgomery Hyde and critically examined by Louis Kronenberger within the past year. This is the more disappointing since Morley sets forth a stimulating question: ""How could anyone with such a well-developed sense of his own image and of the importance of preserving it"" as Wilde have allowed himself to be so utterly ruined by society. Morley's answer comes quickly and also rouses thought: Wilde played his life as theatre and failed to notice when his Victorian audience ceased being amused and wanted him silenced. The trouble is Morley's short, simple narrative of Wilde's artistic career and turbulent relations with friends, family, lovers, the public, and the law is neither scholarly nor critical enough to satisfy his question or justify his answer.

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1976
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston