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Oscar Wilde, His Life and Confessions, Volume 2

Frank Harris

Book Overview: 

Consumers of biography are familiar with the division between memoirs of the living or recently dead written by those who “knew” the subject more or less intimately, and the more objective or scholarly accounts produced by later generations.

In the case of Wilde, as presented to us by Frank Harris, we are in a way doubly estranged from the subject. We meet with Oscar the charismatic talker, whose tone of voice can never be reproduced – even if a more scrupulous biographer had set down his words accurately – and we are perhaps already aware of him as Wilde the self-destructive celebrity who uneasily fills the place of the premier gay icon and martyr in our contemporary view.

Neither of these images will do. We need to read as many accounts as possible. Harris, though himself a self-advertising literary and sexual buccaneer, takes a wincingly representative view of Wilde’s homophile activity: for him it is a patrician excrescence, the abominable vice of the few, contracted at English boarding schools – though thankfully “not infectious” as far as he himself is concerned.

What a long road we have to travel to arrive at the essentially gay man of today! But there are many shortcuts to take us back to where we came from

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .e woe that moved him so
That he gave that bitter cry,
And the wild regrets, and the bloody sweats,
None knew so well as I:
For he who lives more lives than one
More deaths than one must die.

There are better things in "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" than those inspired by Housman. In the last of the three verses I quote there is a distinction of thought which Housman hardly reached.

"For he who lives more lives than one
More deaths than one must die."

There are verses, too, wrung from the heart which have a diviner influence than any product of the intellect:

The Chaplain would not kneel to pray
By his dishonoured grave:
Nor mark it with that blessed Cross
That Christ for sinners gave,
Because the man was one of those
Whom Christ came down to save.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

[Pg 392]

This too I know—and wise were it
If each could know the same—. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Conseguí esta obra y la biografía de Villena sobre el mismo hombre (Wilde) en la misma librería, una al lado de la otra.

El libro de Harris, aún hoy me sorprende, era mucho más barato que el de Villena, supongo que porque era una edición más vieja. Por eso leí la biografía que escribió el autor e...more

kind of different because the author was Oscar's straight peg friend and can give a first hand account of some stuff. I really painfully felt the fact that it wasn't the Ellmann biography though (please someone do an audio book).

Oscar Wilde was the epitome of the artist whose greatest work was his life. Wilde could never quite capture on paper the wit and wisdom that charmed so many of the pretty people in Victorian England. This engrossing biography, written by legendary playboy Frank Harris, is a first-hand account, as...more

Beautifully written, it is quite a pageturner. But it known for being inaccurate and selfserving, it is almost as much about Harris as it is about Wilde. Harris reproduces lies and rumors about Wilde and it's hard to even trust the conversations he claims to have had with Wilde. But it gives an i...more

As I understand, this biography is not a source to be trusted. However, I enjoyed it a lot. My favorite part was in the note by Harris on a previous version of the biography which stated that he believed Harris had "affectionately underrated his [Wilde's] snobbery." Overall, it was good and fille...more

This little handbook is a quick introduction to some of Oscar Wilde’s poetic work. It’s not as good as his fiction or his plays, and it doesn’t contain as many soundbites, but it’s still worth reading if you like either poetry or Oscar Wilde. Plus it fits in your pocket!

Let me first qualify this review by saying that I am a huge Oscar Wilde fan (I not only own a copy, but have read cover to cover, his compiled works, my favorite novel is A Picture of Dorian Grey, and I own an Oscar Wile action figure...) Really it was only a matter of time before I began reading...more

This is a fairly thinly sketched biography wrapped around a memoir of the author's friendship with Wilde, concentrating especially on his trials, imprisonment and decline. Its great strength is the way it brings Wilde to life in remembered conversations, capturing the flavour of his conversation,...more

An early biography of Wilde, and one written by a close friend, albeit one who (while no angel himself) disapproved of his lifestyle, this is a compelling read.

Focussing on the manner in which Wilde built his reputation, and the circumstances under which he helped self-destruct, this is a heartfe...more

This should have been two and a half stars. Although it is a vivid account the introduction and the blurb warn you not to take its anecdotes, incidents, reported conversations etc. seriously as Frank Harris (one of Wilde's staunch friends and a well known figure in 1890s London)did not present gr...more

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