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Oscar Wilde, His Life and Confessions, Volume 1

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: 
. . .ct that ideal strivings are everywhere despised and discouraged—jerry-built cottages for the million being the day's demand and not oratories or palaces of art or temples for the spirit.

Not the time for a "professor of æsthetics," one would say, and assuredly not the place. One wonders whether Zululand would not be more favourable for such a man than England. Germany, France, and Italy have many positions in universities, picture-galleries, museums, opera houses for lovers of the beautiful, and above all an educated respect for artists and writers just as they have places too for servants of Truth in chemical laboratories and polytechnics endowed by the State with excellent results even from the utilitarian point of view. But rich England has only a few dozen such places in all at command and these are usually allotted with a cynical contempt for merit; miserable anarchic England, soul-starved amid its creature comforts, proving now by way o. . . 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 españ

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 insi

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 filled w

This was written about 1910, and contains some rather arcane phrases, as well as delicate and discreet language regarding Wilde's proclivities. I enjoyed Harris' descriptions of Wilde, and he quotes a number of conversations at great length. I wish there had been more in it about Mrs .Wilde and his

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 hi

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, wh

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 heartfelt

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