The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

Of all nineteenth-century letter writers Oscar Wilde is, predictably, one of the most sparkling. Wonderfully fluent in style, the letters bear that most familiar of Wildean hallmarks – the lightest of touches for the most serious of subjects. He knew and corresponded with many leading political, literary and artistic figures of the time including William Gladstone, George Curzon, W. B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Frank Harris, Aubrey Beardsley and Max Beerbohm. Wilde’s letters show him at his informal best. They comment 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 and ambitious young ‘Professor of Aesthetics’, to the short period of fame and success in the early 1890s followed by his disgrace and imprisonment. The last and most poignant section covers the five long years between his downfall and his early death in exile at forty-six. Even in adversity his humour does not desert him and he is able to share with his readers that greatest of gifts – the ability to smile at one’s own misfortune.

Reviews of The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde

    • ‘The year’s unputdownable joy.’ Jonathan Keates, Spectator
    • ‘Almost like living his life with him… One puts down the letters heavy with mixed emotions – admiration, sorrow and exasperation.’ Peter Lewis, Daily Mail
    • ‘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. A monument to his great personality.’ John Gross, Sunday Telegraph
    • ‘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.’ Peter Ackroyd, The Times
    • ‘These letters give us the human side of Wilde’s legend and its human cost.’ Philip Hoare, Observer
    • ‘A whole world is here. *****’ Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday
    • ‘The most comprehensive collection yet of Wilde’s correspondence, charting his development from ambitious young man about town to literary dandy and tortured outcast.’ Guardian
    • ‘Oscar Wilde writes his own life in the newly revised and expanded Complete Letters. The one essential book on the subject.’ The Independent Books of the Year
    • ‘The scholarship of Holland and Hart-Davis is as impeccable as their subject’s wit, while the letters themselves bear comparison with any more conventional form of literary art. They are filled with the terror and the pity of Wilde’s extravagant career, not untouched by pathos, and irradiated always by perpetual and wilful laughter.’ Times Literary Supplement
    • ‘Meticulously edited, intelligently annotated, the letters were a biographer’s dream.’ Irish Times
    • ‘These 1,500 letters are always candid, always humorous (even in adversity) and add substantially to Wilde’s reputation not only as a wit but as an intellectual heavyweight.’ The Times Books of the Year