The Artist as Critic: Critical Writings of Oscar Wilde / Edition 1

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Overview


Although known primarily as the irreverent but dazzlingly witty playwright who penned The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde was also an able and farsighted critic. He was an early advocate of criticism as an independent branch of literature and stressed its vital role in the creative process. Scholars continue to debate many of Wilde's critical positions.

Included in Richard Ellmann's impressive collection of Wilde's criticism, The Artist as Critic, is a wide selection of Wilde's book reviews as well as such famous longer works as "The Portrait of Mr. W.H.," "The Soul Man under Socialism," and the four essays which make up Intentions. The Artist as Critic will satisfy any Wilde fan's yearning for an essential reading of his critical work.

"Wilde . . . emerges now as not only brilliant but also revolutionary, one of the great thinkers of dangerous thoughts."—Walter Allen, New York Times Book Review

"The best of Wilde's nonfictional prose can be found in The Artist as Critic."—Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World

A celebrated and feared English ghost is outraged when the new American owners of his haunting place refuse to take him seriously and actually fight back against him.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up Lovers of Oscar Wilde's stories will delight in this new illustrated version of The Canterville Ghost if the picture book format does not keep them from finding it. Wilde's story of an American family who moves into Canterville Chase and annoys a weary ghost with their lack of belief in him is a wry commentary on the ways of British nobility and of their hard-headed American cousins. Like many of Wilde's tales, this one is filled with sophisticated allusions to his social and political milieu, but ends as sentimental romance. Zwerger's wry pictures highlight this tone beautifully. Her toothless ghost is round and comical, as would suit a ghost whom no one fears, and her heroine, Virginia, is young and sweetly boyish. All of the illustrations are set against misty gray watercolor backgrounds except for the climactic scene, echoed on the front cover, in which the tiny huntsmen on the wallpaper call out to Virginia to ``Go Back.'' This will make a fine read-aloud for audiences of secondary students who are prepared to savor Wilde's ironic humor and Zwerger's delicate watercolors. Barbara Chatton, College of Education, University of Wyoming, Laramie
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226897646
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/1983
  • Series: Phoenix Fiction Series
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 474
  • Product dimensions: 5.68 (w) x 8.46 (h) x 1.25 (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

Table of Contents


Introduction: The Critic as Artist as Wilde, by Richard Ellmann
The Tomb of Keats (1877)
Impressions of America (1883)
Mr. Whistler's Ten O'Clock (1885)
The Relation of Dress to Art. A Note in Black and White on Mr. Whistler's Lecture (1885)
Dinners and Dishes (1885)
[George Saintsbury:] "Half Hours with the Worst Authors" (1886)
To Read, or Not to Read (1886)
Balzac in English (1886)
Ben Jonson (1886)
Two Biographies of Sir Philip Sidney (1886)
The Poets and the People (1887)
A New Book on Dickens (1887)
A Cheap Edition of a Great Man [Rossetti] (1887)
The American Invasion (1887)
The American Man (1887)
The Butterfly's Boswell (1887)
The Rout of the R[oyal] A[cademy] (1887)
William Morris's Odyssey (1887)
[Dostoevsky's The Insulted and Injured] (1887)
Mr. Mahaffy's New Book [Greek Life and Thought] (1887)
The Poet's Corner (1888)
M. Caro on George Sand (1888)
[Poems by Henley and Sharp] (1888)
English Poetesses (1888)
London Models (1889)
Poetry and Prison (1889)
The Gospel According to Walt Whitman (1889)
The New President [of the Royal Society of British Artists] (1889)
[Yeats's Fairy and Folk Tales] (1889)
Mr. Froude's Blue Book [on Ireland] (1889)
Ouida's New Novel [Guilderoy] (1889)
Mr. Swinburne's Last Volume (1889)
[Yeats's The Wanderings of Oisin] (1889)
The Portrait of Mr W.H. (1921)
A Chinese Sage [Confucius] (1890)
Mr. Pater's Last Volume [Appreciations]
Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)
[Defense of Dorian Gray] (letters to the press, 1890)
The Soul of Man under Socialism (1891)
Intentions (1891)
The Decay of Lying
Pen Pencil and Poison
The Critic as Artist
The Truth of Masks
Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young (1894)
[Oscar Wilde on the Witness Stand] (1895)
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