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The Road to Reading Gaol

Colm Tóibín, 30 November 2017

... that promotes the showing of art in odd and unexpected places. I had agreed to be locked in Oscar Wilde’s cell, the cell known as C.3.3, on the third floor of Block C, for an entire Sunday afternoon, to read an almost complete version of his De Profundis, which would take five and a half hours. It would be streamed onto a screen in the prison ...

Love in a Dark Time

Colm Tóibín: Oscar Wilde, 19 April 2001

The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde 
edited by Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart-Davis.
Fourth Estate, 1270 pp., £35, November 2000, 1 85702 781 7
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... The first two months of 1895 were busy for Oscar Wilde. In late January he was in Algiers with Alfred Douglas. He wrote to Robert Ross: ‘There is a great deal of beauty here. The Kabyle boys are quite lovely. At first we had some difficulty procuring a proper civilised guide. But now it is all right and Bosie and I have taken to haschish: it is quite exquisite: three puffs of smoke and then peace and love ...

Shopping in Lucerne

E.S. Turner, 9 June 1994

Addicted to Romance: The Life and Adventures of Elinor Glyn 
by Joan Hardwick.
Deutsch, 306 pp., £20, June 1994, 0 233 98866 1
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Mother of Oscar: The Life of Jane Francesca Wilde 
by Joy Melville.
Murray, 308 pp., £19.99, June 1994, 0 7195 5102 1
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... self-dramatising monstre sacrée surfaces in Joy Melville’s Mother of Oscar, a life of Lady Wilde, once famous as ‘Speranza’, the seditious Dublin belle of the potato famine. Born Jane Elgee, she too ran amok in the Classics and fantasised about her ancestors. In the late 1840s she wrote spirited, occasionally fustian verses in the Dublin Nation ...

On Some Days of the Week

Colm Tóibín: Mrs Oscar Wilde, 10 May 2012

Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde 
by Franny Moyle.
John Murray, 374 pp., £9.99, February 2012, 978 1 84854 164 1
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The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated, Uncensored Edition 
by Oscar Wilde, edited by Nicholas Frankel.
Harvard, 295 pp., £25.95, April 2011, 978 0 674 05792 0
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... In May 1895, the day before Oscar Wilde’s trial began, W.B. Yeats called at Wilde’s mother’s house in London to express his solidarity and that of ‘some of our Dublin literary men’ with the family. He later wrote of ‘the Britisher’s jealousy of art and artists, which is generally dormant but called into activity when the artist has gone outside his field into publicity of an undesirable kind ...

Mauve Monkeys

William Fiennes, 18 September 1997

Wilde’s Last Stand: Decadence, Conspiracy and the First World War 
by Philip Hoare.
Duckworth, 250 pp., £16.95, July 1997, 0 7156 2737 6
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... It’s hard to believe, but people were taking it in turns to recite Swinburne. Philip Hoare’s Wilde’s Last Stand is concerned with a more energetic strain of hedonism. By the end of 1915 it was estimated that there were 150 nightclubs in Soho alone: haunts such as the Cave of the Golden Calf, where aristocratic bohemians like Diana Manners and her ...

Ultimate Place

Seamus Deane, 16 March 1989

Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage 
by Tim Robinson.
Viking, 298 pp., £12.95, February 1989, 0 670 82485 2
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... change. Every memorialist of Ireland’s ancient past, from Crofton Croker to George Petrie, Sir William Wilde, John O’Donovan, Eugene Curry and a host of others has issued this same warning. What you see now will soon be visible no more; what you see now is only the remnant of what once was. There is, of course, a great deal of truth in this. All ...

Astride a White Horse

Declan Kiberd: Bridget Clearly, 6 January 2000

The Burning of Bridget Cleary: A True Story 
by Angela Bourke.
Pimlico, 240 pp., £10, August 1999, 0 7126 6590 0
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... that she had been unfaithful to Cleary, who was often away at Clonmel. One possible lover was William Simpson, a man hated by many locals because he worked as a ‘heavy’ for the landlord. Bridget, always a defiant individualist, did his shopping when local grocers refused to serve him. (This may have helped the couple to secure the house from the ...
The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature 
by William Wilde, Joy Hooton and Barry Andrews.
Oxford, 740 pp., £30, June 1986, 0 19 554233 9
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... The publication of this work, following closely on Professor Leonie Kramer’s Oxford History of Australian Literature with its two supplementary anthologies, marks not only a new development in the standing enjoyed by Australian writing in the world but also a radical change in the point of view from which literature written in the English language must henceforth be treated ...

The Art of Being Found Out

Colm Tóibín: The need to be revealed, 20 March 2008

... lived with her as his wife. By the time Lady Gregory told James these stories, her husband, Sir William Gregory, had been dead two years. Six weeks before his death, their friend, the poet Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, whom the Gregorys had first met in Egypt in 1881, a year after their marriage, published in a new volume of poetry a group of what he called ‘A ...

Peter Conrad’s Flight from Precision

Richard Poirier, 17 July 1980

Imagining America 
by Peter Conrad.
Routledge, 319 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 7100 0370 6
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... and Charles Dickens (gathered in Chapter Two under the heading ‘Institutional America’), Oscar Wilde and Rupert Brooke (‘Aesthetic America’), Kipling and R.L. Stevenson (‘Epic (and Chivalric) America’), H.G. Wells (‘Futuristic America’), D.H. Lawrence (‘Primitive America’), W.H. Auden (‘Theological America’), Aldous Huxley (Psychedelic ...

Poor Toms

Karl Miller, 3 September 1987

by Peter Ackroyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 234 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 0 241 12348 8
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... was preceded by the Eliot biography of 1984, which was preceded by The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde of the year before, and now these annual events have been pressed upon by the new novel, Chatterton. All four books reveal a steady concern with imitation and interpretation, and to read them together is to be clearer about what it is that the writer ...

Lost Youth

Nicholson Baker, 9 June 1994

The Folding Star 
by Alan Hollinghurst.
Chatto, 422 pp., £15.99, May 1994, 0 7011 5913 8
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... Alan Hollinghurst is better at bees than Oscar Wilde. On the opening page of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde has them ‘shouldering their way through the long un-mown grass’. A bee must never be allowed to ‘shoulder’. Later that afternoon, Dorian Gray, alarmed by Lord Henry Wotton’s graphic talk of youth’s inevitable degeneration, drops a lilac blossom that he has been ‘feverishly’ sniffing ...

The wind comes up out of nowhere

Charles Nicholl: The Disappearance of Arthur Cravan, 9 March 2006

... more disreputable terms such as ‘con man’ or ‘adventurer’. He is also described as Oscar Wilde’s nephew, which is true up to a point: he was the nephew of Wilde’s wife, Constance. As a writer, Cravan had a brief and stormy career, in Paris, in the years around the outbreak of the First World War. His chief ...

The Soul of Man under Psychoanalysis

Adam Phillips: ‘The Soul of Man under Psychoanalysis’, 29 November 2001

... suggests something at once willed and formulaic about Sinclair’s novel. But the allusion to Wilde’s The Soul of Man under Socialism is perhaps more telling. Neither Wilde nor Freud, for quite different reasons, was ever Eliot’s cup of tea. Indeed, they both seem to represent for Eliot false solutions to a similar ...

What Henry didn’t do

Michael Wood: ‘The Master’, 18 March 2004

The Master 
by Colm Tóibín.
Picador, 360 pp., £15.99, March 2004, 0 330 48565 2
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... Addington Symonds – two years later, thinking of Symonds in connection with the trial of Oscar Wilde, James calls them ‘fond outpourings’ – which constitute a privately printed pamphlet on love between men. ‘The exhibition is infinitely remarkable,’ James says. ‘It’s a queer place to plant the standard of duty, but he does it with ...

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