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Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde [Paperback]

Franny Moyle
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

2 Feb 2012

In the spring of 1895 the life of Constance Wilde changed irrevocably. Up until the conviction of her husband, Oscar, for homosexual crimes, she had held a privileged position in society. Part of a gilded couple, she was a popular children's author, a fashion icon, and a leading campaigner for women's rights. A founding member of the magical society the Golden Dawn, her pioneering and questioning spirit encouraged her to sample some of the more controversial aspects of her time. Mrs Oscar Wilde was a phenomenon in her own right.

But that spring Constance's entire life was eclipsed by scandal. Forced to flee to the Continent with her two sons, her glittering literary and political career ended abruptly. Having changed her name, she lived in exile until her death.

Franny Moyle now tells Constance's story with a fresh eye and remarkable new material. Drawing on numerous unpublished letters, she brings to life the story of a woman at the heart of fin-de-siècle London and the Aesthetic movement. In a compelling and moving tale of an unlikely couple caught up in a world unsure of its moral footing, she uncovers key revelations about a woman who was the victim of one of the greatest betrayals of all time.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray (2 Feb 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848541643
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848541641
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 192,615 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Praise for Desperate Romantics Franny Moyle's book on the Pre-Raphaelites:

'An utterly gripping read'

(Sunday Express)

'Riveting' (Independent on Sunday)

Moyle's book captures all the sex, madness and addiction, making modern-day sagas seem downright dull! (Glamour)

Constance Wilde is the subject of one of this year's most heartbreaking biographies...Moyle vindicates a remarkble and courageous woman whose loyalty to her husband was unfailing. While focusing on Constance, the book sheds new light on Wilde as a fond, endearing and surprisingly domesticated family man (Sunday Times, Books of the Year)

Book Description

The fascinating story of the decadent and thrilling world of Oscar Wilde's wife Constance, and the world of scandal which would betray her

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Constance 3 July 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have to admit that I knew very little about Constance Wilde before reading this book, other than, of course, that she was Oscar Wilde's wife. However, I came to appreciate her as a strong woman, who did suffer but who always tried to do the right thing and fought hard to protect her sons.

Constance had a difficult upbringing. Her brother Otho, who she adored, was older than her and she was left with a widowed mother who both verbally and physically abused her. When her mother re-married, Constance went to live with her fathers family, but her early experiences made her withdrawn and shy. Oscar Wilde's family knew hers in Ireland, and so the connection was there from a young age. Constance idolised Oscar, although it is telling that letters from Constance to Otho crossed each other - Constance announcing her engagement at the same time that Otho attempted to warn her about a 'worrying story' he had heard. So, even in those very early days, alarm bells may have been sounding that Oscar may not have been the "ideal husband", although Constance refused to listen to the story and so we can only imagine what warning Otho wished to give.

By this point though, Constance was beyond any warnings or worries and marriage led to her being more outlandish, while Oscar became more conventional. She seemed to gain confidence and took up causes and a new social life with enthusiasm. Constance was a great believer in women wearing more sensible clothing and she was seen as fashionable, although sometimes too daring in her dress. Early marriage was passionate and Constance was expecting her first baby only six months after moving into their new home.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable ! 19 July 2011
I didn't even know I was interested in this subject before I started reading it because I heard it on Radio 4. The book was beautifully written and I finished it in two sittings. I have now lent it to three people who have all enjoyed it.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent biography 18 Sep 2011
I rarely read biographies, and picked this up out of curiosity and out of a lifelong interest in Oscar Wilde. Despite the title, I expected the story to be less about Constance than about Oscar, who's obviously the more noteworthy and fascinating character. To my mind she'd always been just "the wife" - a woman of no (or at least little) importance. And yet I came away from the book with a deep admiration and respect for Constance, and a wish that her short, sad life could have been different. It wasn't all sad of course - there were years of great joy, but they were bookended by an unhappy childhood and the misery, scandal, and shame that followed Oscar's downfall.
Constance was a woman of her time, limited in the interests and activities she could take part in if she wanted to be "respectable." Yet it's clear that Constance desperately wanted to be useful, for her life to have substance and meaning. She pursued this to the best of her ability - writing journalism and children's books, speaking on topics such as rational dress and women's health, studying interior design and photography and other artistic pursuits, campaigning for reform on many issues. Though she was nowhere near as notorious a figure as Oscar, she achieved fame in her own way - for her daring and unconventional outfits, her cultivation of writers and artists, and her public speaking. She was highly intelligent, studious, and a great linguist. Franny Moyle does a beautiful job of conveying the way Constance grows in confidence and ambition, going from a shy and painfully insecure young girl to an acknowledged beauty and one of the most famous women in London. She's flawed, certainly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Importance of Being Mrs Oscar Wilde 24 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a truly interesting and beautifully composed book. I, like so many, knew very little about Constance Wilde, but this book has given Constance a voice and allows one to see what a truly remarkable and talented person she was within her own domain. As with so many people that have a famous spouse, Constance has lived in the shadows of her husbands legacy, but she left her own legacy and arguably it is a greater one than Oscars - I very much doubt Oscar would be celebrated in the way that he was if it wasn't for her!!!!

I recently had to do an English presentation surrounding any aspect of Oscar Wilde and I decided to dedicate it to 'The Importance of being Mrs Oscar Wilde'. It was very well received and considered to be completely original. I found researching her fascinating and am glad that I had the opportunity to impart information about her to an audience that contained some people that didn't even know Oscar Wilde had a wife (says it all really). It is written in a very well balanced way and doesn't aim to tarnish Oscar's reputation as a great man, but just allows the reader to recognize that 'behind every great man is a great woman'! It really is a must read!!!

Thanks to Franny Moyle, Constance Wilde has been brought to life!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Lady Betrayed 14 Oct 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
There are many biographies of Oscar Wilde but this is the only one, of which I am aware, about his long suffering, intelligent and feisty wife; the woman he turned to when he needed tlc and a haven from his troubles but whom he eventually fatally let down.
This is an interesting and educational book covering the wide range of Constance's interests from the Pre-Raphaelites to early feminism and women in politics.
I would recommend it , especially to book clubs, which is where I came across it as the monthly book at my U3A book club
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic insight into Constance Wilde's life
This is a great biography about an interesting lady and an interesting life, brings her out of the shadow of Oscar. Thoroughly recommend.
Published 4 months ago by Emma B
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read
the book is written so you can get into it and it maintains your interest. An interesting life, an interesting time and an interesting person
Published 7 months ago by J. Jewels
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting
Anyone reading Oscar's story will hear little about Constance. She is almost a byline in many accounts. Yet it is intriguing to learn something of her background and influence. Read more
Published 12 months ago by FISCHER
5.0 out of 5 stars Meeting Oscar's Match
I devoured this book! The historic figures it brought to life, the style, the author's studied approach, the development. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Jacqueline Berben
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't put it down
I am coming to the end of this great book. I know how much I have enjoyed it as my reading is slowing down as I don't want to finish it. Read more
Published 14 months ago by HappySue
5.0 out of 5 stars An fascinating read
This is such a well written book and Fanny Moyle manages to make it interesting and informative. The research was obviously extensive and while it is a 'learned' book the author's... Read more
Published 17 months ago by G. N. Scargill
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Fascinating, informative and tragic. What a relief that society has changed since then. Makes compulsive reading and written with such attention to detail.
Published 19 months ago by G M Cope
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Excellent book, excellent read, you must read it ' So interesting reading it as part of our book group would never have read it. Read more
Published 24 months ago by Loopylel
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent value
Very good value for money. Well informed details about the Wilde family & brings to light a lot of information about his wife, Constance.
Published on 10 July 2012 by finance
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating story
In biographies of Wilde his wife Constance is usually depicted as a pretty cipher, but here at last she is shown to be a fascinating and talented woman of unusual tastes, who would... Read more
Published on 20 Jun 2012 by L. B. Stratmann
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