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Oscar Wilde by Richard Ellmann

Oscar Wilde (1987)

by Richard Ellmann

Other authors: Oscar Wilde (Subject)

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1,62787,191 (4.28)84
In this long-awaited bioraphy, Wilde the legendary Victorian - brilliant writer and conversationalist, reckless flouter of social and sexual conventions - is brought to life. More astute and forbearing, yet more fallible than legend has allowed, Wilde is given here the dimensions of a modern hero. Based on fresh material from many hitherto-untapped sources, Ellmann depicts Wilde's comet-like ascent on the Victorian scene and his equally dramatic sudden eclipse. His Irish background, the actresses to whom he paid court, his unfortunate wife and lovers, his clothes, coiffures, and the decor of his rooms - all are presented here in vivid detail. The saga of his 1882 American tour is recounted with a wealth of new details; also his later impact on the bastions of the French literary establishment. The London of the Nineties, of Whistler and the Pre-Raphaelites, Lillie Langtry and the Prince of Wales, is evoked alongside Paris of the "belle epoque" and the Greece, Italy and North Africa of Wilde'stravels. Ellmann's definitive critical account of Wilde's entire oeuvre shows him as the proponent of a radical new aesthetic who was perilously at odds with Victorian society. After his period of success and daring, the fatal love affair with Lord Alfred Douglas is followed by exposure, imprisonment, a few wretched years abroad and death in exile. The tragic end of Wilde's life leaves the reader with a sense of compassion and grief for the protagonist. This edition make the popular and best selling biography available in paperback for the first time.… (more)

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» See also 84 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
The only biography - quite simply a masterpiece. (Except for the unfortunate photograph of 'Oscar' in drag, mistakenly identified by Ellmann.) ( )
  Angela.Kingston | May 1, 2013 |
Maybe the best literary biography ever written. ( )
  JayLivernois | Oct 28, 2009 |
Richard Ellman won the Pulitzer for his work on Oscar Wilde, and with good reason: it's not only the definitive look at the Irish poet, playwright, critic, and martyr, but it's also a ripping good read. Wilde was a movie star in a time before movies, a tabloid staple, and a constant bestseller, and Ellmann makes him -- and his work -- come alive.

Following Wilde's rise to literary and theatrical fame, a series of colossally bad decisions lead to his imprisonment and disgrace -- another ending we know is coming and want desperately for our subject to avoid. In Ellmann's capable hands -- especially as he traces the poet's final frustrating years -- Wilde emerges not so much a victim of Victorian morals but rather of his own ego and genius. And we're more than ready to forgive him for it. ( )
2 vote brianjayjones | Jun 17, 2009 |
There is no doubt about the quality of this biography. Every facet of Wilde is revealed in careful context and Ellmann is in sympathy with this larger than life character "laughing and weeping with parables and paradoxes".
He shows Wilde to be an extreme egoist who diligently builds up his "succès de scandale" seeking extensive letters of introduction before visiting America or France and pushing for meetings with the artistically famous. He becomes the leading "decadent" in already decadent late Victorian society with his silly aphorisms eg. "It's always a mistake to be innocent. To be criminal takes imagination and courage" - "the perfect hedonist is the saint ..... one is always good when one is happy" etc. etc. As a fashion socialist he forsees with approval the "annihilation of property, family life, marriage and jealousy" and he certainly annihilated his own marriage with his lies, broken promises and homosexual relationships.
He ends his life a lonely and penniless vagabond around Paris cafés.
A good book but I don't like the subject. ( )
  Miro | Mar 22, 2009 |
Many biographies have subtitles such as "his/her life and times", but few live up to it. This work more than meets the test in its comprehensive look at both, and will cause the reader to rush out and read more either about or written by Wilde. Tremendous writing! ( )
  doko | Feb 15, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ellmann, RichardAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wilde, OscarSubjectsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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