Oscar Wilde

Merlin Holland and Oscar Wilde

Wilde the writer is known to us from his plays and prose fiction, yet it was in his conversation that his genius reached its summit. His talk is lost, his autobiography was never written, but his letters reveal him at his spontaneous, sparkling best. Of all nineteenth-century letter writers Oscar Wilde is, predictably, one of the most brilliant. Wonderfully fluent in style, the letters bear that most familiar of Wildean hallmarks – the lightest of touches for the most serious of subjects. He comments openly on his life and his work from the early years of undergraduate friendship, through his year-long lecture tour in America as a striving young ‘Professor of Aesthetics’, to the short period of fame and success in the early 1890s, when he corresponded with many leading political, literary and artistic figures of the time. Disgrace and imprisonment followed, but even in adversity his humour does not desert him. In this beautifully produced volume Merlin Holland has brought together his most revealing letters with an illuminating commentary. Together they form the closest thing we shall ever have to Wilde’s own memoir.

Reviews of Oscar Wilde

    • ‘The long serpentine line of Oscar Wilde’s career is traced here like some fiery scarlet thread. This is a marvellous volume, fully worthy of Wilde’s own genius.’ The Times
    • ‘A whole world is here. *****’ Mail on Sunday
    • ‘The year’s unputdownable joy.’ Spectator
    • ‘The next best thing to Wilde’s own presence. Opening this book, one walks into the company of a spirit so large and generous, of such dash and charm, that one is grateful such largesse has been captured at the very moment it is being distributed – to those recipients who were once as eager, as amused, as captivated as the readers of these letters will be today.’ Irish Times
    • ‘Nowhere does he seem more sympathetic, or more engaging. The letters bring you as close as you can get to the man himself – warts and all, but magic and all as well. You get a wonderful sense, such as even the best biography couldn’t quite give, of Wilde in action from day to day – living in the thick of society, hustling his career forward. Perpetually gripping.’ Sunday Telegraph
    • ‘Here we have the whole triumph-to-tragedy in the writer’s own wonderful words.’ Literary Review