“Oscar Wilde” A Life in Letters”: a life

Holland, Merlin, ed. “Oscar Wilde: A Life in Letters”. Carroll & Graf, 2006.

A Life

Amos Lassen

Always refered to when we talk about great men who were gay, Oscar Wilde holds a special place in gay history. Of al of the writers of the 19th century he is one of the greatest. His wit was and stil is incomprarable, his use of the English language is above reproach and his writings glimmer, glow and sparkle. We have several movies and books about him and certainly the movie “Wilde” is amazing but it is letters that compiled in this book that delineate the real Oscar Wilde. He could add a light touch to the most serious of occasions He is certainly quotable to this very day and he will always be regarded asone of the leading playwrights of all time. In his letters he writes openly about his life and work. We se him as an undergraduate, we are with him on his lecture tour of America and we witness the ups and downs of his fabulous career. He wrote to many people, among them the Prime Minister of Great Britain, William Gladstone,  to the poet Yeats, to George Bernard Shaw, to Aubrey Beasley and a host of others. But he was to be b etrayed by the “fickle finger of fate” and was duisgraced and imprisoned because f his homosexuality. Yet even at the lowest oint of his life his humor remained with him.

“Oscar Wilde: A Life in Letters” is a collection of his most revealing letters and provides commentary. The author, Merlin Holland is the grandson of Oscar Wide so he has bhad a close conection with al of the material available.

The letters are wonderful and we see a sympathetic Wilde. We get a whole new sense of the man and we see Wide as hiding in the nooks and crannies of society while he pushed his work forward. It is indeed a pity that his life ended as it did but his spirit never broke. This is the world ofOscar Wilde, clear and uncensored and fantastic. The book is a memoir that Wilde, himself, never had the chance to write. His letters bear al of the typical Wildean prose. His trademark caustic wit is there as wel as his off beat way of looking at life. The fact that these letters are so open makes them even all the more wonderful as we see Wilde as Wilde—through his own eyes.

This is such a welcomes book as it really gives the insides of the man who suffered horrible disgrace simply because he was who and what he was with no pretext. His valor and courage are a testament to all those who want to be real.

If you know nothing about Wilde, this is a good place to start learning. The bok is easy to read and Holland’s commentary not only keeps you on track but is as well written as the work of his grandfather.

As members of the gay community we must never forget who our heroes are and Oscar Wilde is definitely one of them.

  1. “Oscar Wilde: A Life in Letters”—and the Oscar Goes to… | Reviews by Amos Lassen

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