My Book World
This book of exhaustive research concerning Wilde’s life is a pleasure to read from his family history to his imprisonment years later and his resulting exile in France. Prior to reading this book, I had always had the impression that Oscar Wilde’s life (except for prison) was one wild ride (pardon the pun). And in some ways it was. He, even after experiencing financial success, was always in want of money, primarily because he was such a spendthrift, spending or giving away money he honestly didn’t have. He cared not about what people thought of his extravagant ideas, his extravagant living. Yet Wilde faced great public disapproval of how he lived his life. His only friends were other homosexual men or those liberal enough to accept him.
His downfall came in the package of one man, Lord Alfred Douglas, a much younger man, an aristocrat who both loved and used Wilde. If Wilde had never met him, he might have met his match with some other party, but I doubt it. The latter part of Wilde’s sad life was battling Douglas’s father in court. Lord Percy Douglas, Marquess of Queensberry, managed to have Wilde sent to prison for two years because he didn’t want Wilde near his son. Wilde did his prison time, and it broke him, both physically and emotionally. He never wrote anything substantial again, was always begging others for money, and suffered physical ailments that eventually brought on his premature death at forty-six. Ellmann’s distinguished book, more than thirty years old now, does great justice to the life of an extraordinary writer who lived, until he could no longer bear the speed of light, entirely ahead of his time.
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