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The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde Hardcover – 2 Nov 2000

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Hardcover, 2 Nov 2000
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 1296 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; 1st Edition, First impression. edition (2 Nov. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857027817
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857027815
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 2.8 x 28.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 385,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Oscar Fingall O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin and Magdalen College, Oxford where, a disciple of Pater, he founded an aesthetic cult. In 1884 he married Constance Lloyd, and his two sons were born in 1885 and 1886.
His novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), and social comedies Lady Windermere's Fan (1892), A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895), and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), established his reputation. In 1895, following his libel action against the Marquess of Queesberry, Wilde was sentenced to two years' imprisonment for homosexual conduct, as a result of which he wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), and his confessional letter De Profundis (1905). On his release from prison in 1897 he lived in obscurity in Europe, and died in Paris in 1900.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Wilde's brilliant career is a modern myth; the sparkling life, the love lavished on the beautiful but unworthy Alfred Douglas, the downfall and years of hard labour in gaol. This large, handsome collection of letters, dressed in strikingly bright purple livery, is an appropriate monument to its subject. The editor, Merlin Holland, building on Rupert Hart-Davies' 1960 first edition of Wilde's correspondence, has done an immaculate job; the annotation is copious and helpful, the letters embellished with many of Wilde's original sketches and doodles, and the whole thing is an addictive pleasure to read. One rationale for the volume is that, as Holland puts it, "it is in his letters that we come closest to the legendary verbal, conversational wit of Wilde". He himself claimed that he put his genius into his life not his work, and these letters are certainly closer to his life and his suave ad-libbing than his other published work. Actually, in practice this is true only for part of the volume: necessarily, a large proportion of these letters is mundane business and day-to-day communication ("Dear Aleck. I beg to acknowledge with thanks your cheque for £50 on account of fees for my play", and so on). But there are hundreds of more delightful, sparkling and hilarious letters too.

The jewel in the crown of this collection is undoubtedly the cleanest text in print of the lengthy letter Wilde wrote to Lord Alfred Douglas from Reading Gaol in early 1897. It was this letter that was published in 1905 as De Profundis, although that version constituted less than half the original text. Holland and Hart-Davies present the whole thing, reedited from manuscript. Reading this extraordinary and moving letter in its entirety (it takes up nearly 100 pages), while being able to compare it with the usual tenor of Wilde's letter writing, is breath-taking. Most striking is the transition from the heartfelt but rather cloying earlier letters to the Douglas ("my dear boy ... It is really absurd. I can't live without you. You are so dear, so wonderful"), to the depth of expression from Reading Gaol: "Most people live for love and admiration. But it is by love and admiration that we should live. If any love is shown us we should recognise that we are quite unworthy of it. Nobody is worthy to be loved". But one thing--Wilde's sheer style--was unaffected by his downfall. "Everything about my tragedy has been hideous", he wrote from prison, "mean, repellent, lacking in style. Our very dress sense makes us grotesques. We are the zanies of sorrow". The most tragic aspect of the collection is the wilderness of rather undignified begging letters with which it ends ("Will you now send me £10? Please do this"; "Can you wire me £5 on account tomorrow?"), as Wilde lives out his last years in France. More immediate and vivid than even Ellman's classic Oscar Wilde, this is a wonderful book. --Adam Roberts


'The year's unputdownable joy.' Jonathan Keates, Spectator

'Almost like living his life with him… One puts down the letters heavy with mixed emotions – admiration, sorrow and exasperation.' Peter Lewis, Daily Mail

'You get a wonderful sense, such as even the best biography couldn't quite give, of Wilde in action from day to day – living in the thick of society, hustling his career forward. A monument to his great personality.' John Gross, Sunday Telegraph

'The long serpentine line of Oscar Wilde's career is traced here like some fiery scarlet thread. This is a marvellous volume, fully worthy of Wilde's own genius.' Peter Ackroyd, The Times

'These letters give us the human side of Wilde's legend and its human cost.' Philip Hoare, Observer

'A whole world is here. *****' Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

'The most comprehensive collection yet of Wilde's correspondence, charting his development from ambitious young man about town to literary dandy and tortured outcast.' Guardian

'Oscar Wilde writes his own life in the newly revised and expanded Complete Letters. The one essential book on the subject.' The Independent Books of the Year

'The scholarship of Holland and Hart-Davis is as impeccable as their subject's wit, while the letters themselves bear comparison with any more conventional form of literary art. They are filled with the terror and the pity of Wilde's extravagant career, not untouched by pathos, and irradiated always by perpetual and wilful laughter.' Times Literary Supplement

'Meticulously edited, intelligently annotated, the letters were a biographer's dream.' Irish Times

'These 1,500 letters are always candid, always humorous (even in adversity) and add substantially to Wilde's reputation not only as a wit but as an intellectual heavyweight.' The Times Books of the Year

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 25 Feb. 2001
Format: Hardcover
Although Oscar Wilde never wrote an autobiography, you will be able to see his life through his own eyes;his thoughts and feelings,his wit,his sense of humour and last but not least his real character as it was presented to his friends. The only "negative" thing is,at least according to me,that Oscar resented the fact that his private letters were published especially those addressed to Bosie.So you can't help reading them without feeling a sense of guilt but put the blame on his grandson,Merlin Holland! Anyway, this is a book that you will enjoy very much not only as a kind of autobiography but also as a wonderful work of art,as the words Oscar writes to Bosie could be envied even by Shakespeare;"O, may I live to touch your hair and your me always,love me always",he writes to him from his cell.Read this book and you will get to know your favourite writer from the time he was a student(1868),to the time he died in Paris (1900).Enjoy it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Shirley Barnett on 3 July 2014
Format: Hardcover
What a man, what a man. I love him sooooo much! Unique in sight into the mind of a genius.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By TERENCE TOCHEL on 6 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lovely book in good condition.

desire,covet,crave,hanker after,hope for,hnger fr,long for thirst for , wish , yearn for, need. acceptable, excellent.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Wilde speaking for himself 1 May 2002
By "scarlett404" - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book is an absolue delight, a most wonderful portrait of one of the most interesting figures in history. When people think of Oscar Wilde, they think scandals and love affairs. Wilde has most certainly been made into a larger than life character. This book humanizes Wilde, gives him a chance to speak for himself, to show what he really was. His business corrospondnce, letters to his children, these simple writings from his everyday life show a sign of Wilde that people do not think about. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
WILDE with delight! 17 Dec. 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Though Mr. Wilde is indeed dead, his memory and writing is still with us. With this new book, "THE COMPLETE LETTERS OF OSCAR WILDE" you get a total new insiders glance on Oscar Wilde and his life. If you are a fan of Oscar Wilde, merely just heard of him, or a fan of literature, this is a must-have!
13 of 20 people found the following review helpful
The not so "Wilde" writings of Oscar... 17 Jan. 2001
By Alan Ross - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As one of those people who has always found Oscar Wilde an interesting and inscrutable character I had great expectations and an insatiable desire to finally peruse the epistolary output of this remarkable man. Sadly and I will add through no fault of the editors of this opus this compilation will probably leave most readers still searching for insight. Many of these letters (if not the majority) deal with very mundane issues (e.g. business arrangements,inquiries to publishers, very conventional thank you notes and in the post-gaol notes a good number of entreaties for money). Of course this book does contain De Profundis which does present some fascinating insights about the way his mind was functioning during his incarceration as well as the great indignities attendant with this. I would still recommend this to the diehard Wilde fanatic but to the novice would recommend a good standard biography (Ellman's for example).
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Five Stars 25 Nov. 2014
By Wicked Malice - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great book! But shipping box was damaged, not protected ennough!
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