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Oscar Wilde [Paperback]

Richard Ellmann
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

28 July 1988
In this long-awaited bioraphy, Wilde the legendary Victorian - brilliant writer and conversationalist, reckless flouter of social and sexual conventions - is brought to life. More astute and forbearing, yet more fallible than legend has allowed, Wilde is given here the dimensions of a modern hero. Based on fresh material from many hitherto-untapped sources, Ellmann depicts Wilde's comet-like ascent on the Victorian scene and his equally dramatic sudden eclipse. His Irish background, the actresses to whom he paid court, his unfortunate wife and lovers, his clothes, coiffures, and the decor of his rooms - all are presented here in vivid detail. The saga of his 1882 American tour is recounted with a wealth of new details; also his later impact on the bastions of the French literary establishment. The London of the Nineties, of Whistler and the Pre-Raphaelites, Lillie Langtry and the Prince of Wales, is evoked alongside Paris of the "belle epoque" and the Greece, Italy and North Africa of Wilde's travels. Ellmann's definitive critical account of Wilde's entire oeuvre shows him as the proponent of a radical new aesthetic who was perilously at odds with Victorian society. After his period of success and daring, the fatal love affair with Lord Alfred Douglas is followed by exposure, imprisonment, a few wretched years abroad and death in exile. The tragic end of Wilde's life leaves the reader with a sense of compassion and grief for the protagonist. This edition make the popular and best selling biography available in paperback for the first time.

Product details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (28 July 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140096612
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140096613
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 27,911 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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First Sentence
Oscar Wilde first emerges for us into articulate being in 1868, when he was thirteen, in a letter he wrote to his mother from school. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy tribute 3 Oct 2004
This book is wonderful, in every aspect; one that genuinely deserves its 5 star rating. Ellmann has written a biography that must make other biographers jealous, as I've never read one that comes close to this in terms of depth, honesty and breadth of knowledge. I've been reading Wilde for years and thought I knew a lot about him; yet there are details in here about his life that I knew nothing about. It's like discovering Oscar Wilde all over again.
One of the things that makes this book so powerful is the tremendous feeling of empathy you get for Wilde from Ellmann. Reading the tragic episodes that constitiuted Wilde's life and death is often painful, especially towards the end.
But it's not all about the life that most people remember him for these days - sometimes we forget that Oscar had a successful career as a journalist and lecturer on both sides of the Atlantic, and learning about his days at Oxford, to his American tour, to his fame in London with his social life is an absolute pleasure. Understanding his notoriety and reputation of this period, and how he enjoyed it and played with the press, is wonderful.
If you would like to discover or rediscover a truly great man, then I urge you to read this book.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Outstanding Read! 20 Nov 1999
By A Customer
The scope, breadth, and insight of this book are extraordinary. This is 180 degrees from the masses of shallow, flashy celebrity biographies. This book is hardly a quick read -Ellmann explores every facet of his subject with amazing depth- and the result is a sometimes hilarious, sometimes sad book. --Suky
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A biography of genius 23 Oct 2000
Of all the books written on Oscar Wilde, this is the only work that matches the genius and generosity of the subject. This book works in many layers and is sometimes overwhelming in its breadth. You may find that it will spoil your appetite for other biographies you may read in the future - for it will take a lot to come close to the bar set by Professor Ellmann.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Oscar Wilde doesn't merit such a good biographer 16 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There is no doubt about the quality of this biography. Every facet of Wilde is revealed in careful context and Ellmann is in sympathy with this larger than life character "laughing and weeping with parables and paradoxes".

He shows Wilde to be an extreme egoist who diligently builds up his "succès de scandale" seeking extensive letters of introduction before visiting America or France and pushing for meetings with the artistically famous. He becomes the leading "decadent" in already decadent late Victorian society with his silly aphorisms e.g. "It's always a mistake to be innocent. To be criminal takes imagination and courage" - "the perfect hedonist is the saint ..... one is always good when one is happy" etc. etc.

As a fashion socialist he forsees with approval the "annihilation of property, family life, marriage and jealousy" and he certainly annihilated his own marriage with his lies, broken promises and homosexual relationships.

He ends his life a lonely and penniless vagabond around Paris cafés.

A good book but I don't like the subject.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a full book and well written 2 Dec 2009
A thoroughly enjoyable biography about this great and extraordinary personality. Packed full of interesting facts as well as photographs this is a full resume of a life that still has resonance for the present day. Not only is this an informative reference book but the easy style makes it a thoroughly good and satisfying read. Certainly a book to re-read in the knowledge that there will still probably be new things to discover, so rich is the content.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gigantic achievement 26 July 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As someone who loves biographies and has read dozens of them, I can say - hand on heart - that this is the best I've ever read.

Who knows how intimidating it must be to look up at a mountain the size of Wilde, knowing that whatever you write has to do the subject justice? Whatever the case, Ellmann reached the summit. This is an immensely moving, intimate, intricate read, full of enthralling facts and detail, and beautifully written.

If you've the remotest interest in Wilde, READ THIS BOOK. It will surely be forever regarded as the definitive over-view of Wilde's life.
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