OSCAR WILDE'S LONDON: A Scrapbook of Vices and Virtues, 1880-1900 by Wolf; Sander L. Gilman & J. Edward Chamberlin von Eckardt

OSCAR WILDE'S LONDON: A Scrapbook of Vices and Virtues, 1880-1900

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This introduction to fin de siÉcle London might just as easily have been titled Jack the Ripper's London--the connection between Wilde and much of the material is tenuous. Still, although somewhat turgidly written, the authors' breezy history is imaginatively illustrated with 235 black-and-white reproductions and, if for its pictorial content alone, it intrigues. Among the topics covered are the ""Arts and Crafts Movement"" of William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites; ""Dandyism,"" as exemplified by Wilde himself; the theater as represented by such actors as Irving, Terry, and Mrs. Campbell, and such playwrights as Shaw, Pinero, and Ibsen; domestic arrangements among the wealthy and the poor; prostitution, both male and female; and crime. Occasionally, incidental details are dealt with in a particularly revelatory way. There is, for example, a fine discussion of the effects of the introduction of electric lighting on women's fashions and acting styles, as well as a charming description of a Marleybone ""penny gaff,"" or poor man's theater, taken from the London Sunday Times. All in all, then, worthwhile for readers seeking a brief overview as well as for those interested in the photographs, ""penny-dreadful"" woodcuts, handbills, and theater programs of the final two decades of the Victorian Age.

Pub Date: Nov. 6th, 1987
Publisher: Anchor/Doubleday