The Collected Oscar Wilde (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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The Collected Oscar Wilde, by Oscar Wilde, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

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The Collected Oscar Wilde (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

The Collected Oscar Wilde, by Oscar Wilde, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

A renowned eccentric, dandy, and man-about-town, Oscar Wilde was foremost a dazzling wit and dramatic genius whose plays, poems, essays, and fiction contain some of the most frequently quoted quips and passages in the English language.

This volume features a wide selection of Wilde’s literary output, including the comic masterpiece The Importance of Being Earnest, an immensely popular play filled with satiric epigrams that mercilessly expose Victorian hypocrisy; The Portrait of Mr. W. H., a story proposing that Shakespeare’s sonnets were inspired by the poet’s love for a young man; The House of Pomegranates, the author’s collection of fairy tales; lectures Wilde delivered, first in the United States, where he exhorted his audiences to love beauty and art, and then in England, where he presented his impressions of America; his two major literary-theoretical works, “The Decay of Lying” and “The Critic as Artist”; and a selection of verse, including his great poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol, in which Wilde famously declared that “each man kills the thing he loves.”

A testament to Wilde’s incredible versatility, this collection displays his legendary wit, brilliant use of language, and penetrating insight into the human condition.

Angus Fletcher is Distinguished Professor Emeritus, City University of New York, and the author of Allegory: The Theory of a Symbolic Mode, Colors of the Mind, and A New Theory for American Poetry, among other books.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593083106
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble
  • Publication date: 12/1/2007
  • Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
  • Pages: 640
  • Sales rank: 225,101
  • Product dimensions: 8.16 (w) x 5.30 (h) x 1.77 (d)

Meet the Author

Oscar Wilde
The ever-quotable Oscar Wilde once said, "Anybody can make history. Only a great man can write it." From his outsize celebrity in Victorian London to his authorship of fiction, drama, and poetry that uniquely captured his era, it's fair to say that Wilde succeeded on both counts.

Biography

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born on October 16, 1854, to an intellectually prominent Dublin family. His father, Sir William Wilde, was a renowned physician who was knighted for his work as medical adviser to the 1841 and 1851 Irish censuses; his mother, Lady Jane Francesca Elgee, was a poet and journalist. Wilde showed himself to be an exceptional student. While at the Royal School in Enniskillen, he took First Prize in Classics. He continued his studies at Trinity College, Dublin, on scholarship, where he won high honors, including the Demyship Scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford.

At Oxford, Wilde engaged in self-discovery, through both intellectual and personal pursuits. He fell under the influence of the aesthetic philosophy of Walter Pater, a tutor and author who inspired Wilde to create art for the sake of art alone. It was during these years that Wilde developed a reputation as an eccentric and a foppish dresser who always had a flower in his lapel. Wilde won his first recognition as a writer when the university awarded him the Newdigate Prize for his poem "Ravenna."

Wilde went from Oxford to London, where he published his first volume of verse, Poems, in 1881. From 1882 to 1884, he toured the United States, Ireland, and England, giving a series of lectures on Aestheticism. In America, between speaking engagements, he met some of the great literary minds of the day, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Walt Whitman. His first play, Vera, was staged in New York but did poorly. After his marriage to Constance Lloyd in 1884 and the birth of his two sons, Wilde began to make his way into London's theatrical, literary, and homosexual scenes. He published Intentions, a collection of dialogues on aesthetic philosophy, in 1891, the year he met Lord Alfred Douglas, who became his lover and his ultimate downfall. Wilde soon produced several successful plays, including Lady Windermere's Fan (1892) and A Woman of No Importance (1893). Wilde's popularity was short-lived, however. In 1894, during the concurrent runs of his plays An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest, he became the subject of a homosexual scandal that led him to withdraw all theater engagements and declare bankruptcy. Urged by many to flee the country rather than face a trial in which he would surely be found guilty, Wilde chose instead to remain in England. Arrested in 1895 and found guilty of "homosexual offenses," Wilde was sentenced to two years hard labor and began serving time in Wandsworth prison. He was later transferred to the detention center in Reading Gaol, where he composed De Profundis, a dramatic monologue written as a letter to Lord Alfred Douglas that was published in 1905. Upon his release, Wilde retreated to the Continent, where he lived out the rest of his life under a pseudonym. He published his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, in 1898 while living in exile.

During his lifetime, Wilde was most often the center of controversy. The Picture of Dorian Gray, which was serialized in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in 1890 and published in book form the next year, is considered to be Wilde's most personal work. Scrutinized by critics who questioned its morality, the novel portrays the author's internal battles and arrives at the disturbing possibility that "ugliness is the only reality." Oscar Wilde died penniless, of cerebral meningitis, in Paris on November 30, 1900. He is buried in Paris's Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Good To Know

To make ends meet, Wilde edited the popular ladies' periodical Woman's Day from 1887 to 1889.

When in exile on the Continent, Wilde was forced to live under the alias Sebastian Melmoth.

It is rumored that Wilde's last written words were found in his journal, left behind in the Left Bank flophouse where he died: "My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has got to go."

Wilde is buried in the Paris cemetery of Père Lachaise; there, he keeps company with other famous artists, including Jim Morrison and Edith Piaf.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 16, 1854
    2. Place of Birth:
      Dublin, Ireland
    1. Date of Death:
      November 30, 1900
    2. Place of Death:
      Paris, France

Read an Excerpt

From Angus Fletcher’s Introduction to The Collected Oscar Wilde

For Wilde, the quest of his own critique, finding find beauty amidst dross, finding truth amidst lies, yields a drama that may conveniently be divided into five acts.

Act I is the story of a rich, classical schooling in Dublin and Oxford, where Wilde wins the notable Newdigate Prize for his poem “Ravenna” (1878). Already he has visited Italy and Greece, traveling with his Dublin tutor, the Rev. Dr. John P. Mahaffy. From his father Wilde learned habits of hard intellectual work. From his mother he acquired higher, more dangerous gifts. Lady Jane Francesca Wilde—she called herself “Speranza”(or Hope) when she published—enjoyed star billing in Dublin cultural circles. Her weekly salon was attended by the most distinguished intellectual and artistic company, and given that her husband was writing important scientific treatises besides endowing a clinic for medical research, we are not surprised that they had sent their younger son, Oscar, to the well-established Portora Royal School, where his linguistic skill was matched by his prize-winning work in art and drawing. Between 1871 and 1874 he attended Trinity College in Dublin, winning highest honors for Greek and a scholarship to Oxford. The consequence of this increasing literary recognition was an effective advancement, since later in 1874 he matriculated at Magdalen College, Oxford, where his knowledge of ancient literature could flower in full. Soon he joined forces with other young collegians whose creed was fashionable Aestheticism, a philosophy of life judged by the standards of harmony, beauty, and sensitive artistic taste developed to the highest degree. Aestheticism could lead in different directions, but for a poet it meant that literary achievement was to be valued for its formal skill, chiefly by undermining the usual preachments of Polonius—that is, by resisting standard middle-class values, which young men could interpret as repressive, middle-aged Puritanism.

The slogan “Art for Art’s Sake” opposes aesthetic values—the esteem of artistic creations, for example—to all kinds of political correctness. Primarily Wilde and his fellow aesthetes aspired to an ethical philosophy based on sensitive perceptions. At Oxford, rhetorical prowess was also prized, verbal virtuosity appearing a magical gift. The tall, powerfully built, elegantly attired, six foot three Oscar Wilde was by all accounts his college’s most dazzling student of classical Latin and Greek, from which all later Western thought and literature derive. In the first act of his drama Wilde was getting ready to launch forth into all the favored literary forms of his day: novel, short story, lyric poetry, critical journalism, cultural essay, and play—especially the comedy of manners. Graduating with highest honors, Wilde was poised to move very fast into the limelight.

Act II traces the fortunes of a rapidly rising literary and cultural presence, including the publication of Wilde’s Poems (1881), a notorious lecture tour in America and Canada, and the composition of two plays, one of which, Vera; or, The Nihilists (1882), while unsuccessful on the American stage, indicates Wilde’s not always overt political concerns. Later he will be the author of a long essay, “The Soul of Man under Socialism” (1891).

Act III begins in 1884 with the poet’s marriage to Constance Lloyd, their settling into a house in London—on Tite Street in Chelsea—followed soon by the birth of two boys, Cyril and Vyvyan. During the next five years Wilde divides his time between journalism, writing on cultural happenings, and writing short fiction; he publishes as The Happy Prince and Other Tales in 1888. Journalism pays the bills for the family and prepares Wilde for his remarkable next five years of literary production.

Act IV begins with a unique set of essays in critical theory, written as dialogues, including “The Decay of Lying” (1889), “The Critic as Artist” (1890), and “The Truth of Masks” (1891). In 1891 The Duchess of Padua is produced on the New York stage under the title Guido Ferranti; two books of short stories appear: Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and Other Stories and A House of Pomegranates; he publishes a revised and expanded version of the scandalous Picture of Dorian Gray, first published a year earlier in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine; and he begins work on his drama of morbid aestheticism, Salomé, initially writing its script in French. Also in 1891 another very different event occurs, one that will shape the whole of the poet’s remaining life: He meets a fatal friend, the superficially refined, primping, poetizing doll Lord Alfred Douglas. By 1895 he has created and produced four new plays, works of such ironic perfection and verve that they remain in the repertory to this day.

Act V comprises the last five years of his life. In 1895 he scores simultaneous hits on the London stage with An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest (this intellectual farce was chosen to replace Henry James’s memorable fiasco Guy Domville). But in April 1895 Wilde makes a tragic error. He sues the Marquess of Queensberry—the insanely belligerent father of Lord Alfred Douglas—for libelous allegations that he is a sodomite. Queensberry had left a calling card at Wilde’s club, scribbled on it the words “To Oscar Wilde posing Somdomite” (his Lordship was a poor speller). But, although few could see it, perhaps not even the poet himself, what enrages and maddens Queensberry is the thought that Wilde could succeed in life by “posing”—pose and posing are the crux. For Wilde has already shown that by attacking the pose, like a scoundrel finally adopting the shield of patriotism, Queensberry is confessing himself the worst sort of poseur, the hypocritical proponent of the plain truth. Wilde grasps the social importance of a principle later enunciated by a famed Hollywood producer—that sincerity is the main trick for the actor: “Once you learn how to fake sincerity, you’ve got it made!” The real poser’s game is to attack a man who has deliberately, even humorously, adopted the art of the aesthetic stance. Of course, that is a game full of hazard. Wilde wants to expose his enemy’s perverse, shallow vulgarity, but foolishly he also fails to heed the counsel of his closest friends: do not get tangled up in a law case against Douglas’s father. Rhetorical power, unfortunately, is not always its own best judge. Rhetorically perhaps, Wilde “wins” a first trial, accusing Queensberry of slanderous libel, but after a second and third trial, society takes its revenge, and he is convicted of “gross indecency” and sentenced to two years of hard labor in prison. He is declared bankrupt by the end of the year, and his belongings are sold off and dispersed. In the following year Wilde’s mother dies.

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