Baker, Orville||Clark, George P. (Professor of English)
M.S. Ed. (Master of Education)
Department of English
Wilde; Oscar; 1854-1900
The story of Oscar Wilde has had a compelling fascination for writers for a number of years, his enemies have written the "truth” about Wilde: his friends have done the same. Wilde, the man, has been more talked and written about than Wilde, the artist. It seems a curious point that one could say that the story of the man almost obscures the man's stories. The strange quality that pervades most of the works about Oscar Wilde is due, perhaps, to the biographers' concern with the facts of his life. Why is it that when most writers speak of the scandal and trial of Wilde, they use such terms as "downfall" to describe it? Actually, some of the finest work he ever produced was stimulated by his experiences during and after the trial, and while in prison. Although most authorities agree that it now seems apparent that Wilde was dealt with in an overly harsh manner, without much regard for even existing standards of punishment for such a crime, the fact remains that they too seem peculiarly impressed with the importance of the matter. George Woodcock says, "Wilde's sexual deviations, and his imprisonment, seem to have destroyed any possibility of an objective literary criticism by the majority of his students."1 Wilde was many things — a wit, a writer, a supreme egotist, a sensitive artist, a bon vivant, an actor, a scholar and a raconteur. Wilde's life remains, of course, a primary factor in his writing. His opinions of himself, the artificiality he was capable of, his total personality, all have entered his writing, giving a curious and schizophrenic quality to all his works. This split in his personality may have lent sparkle to his wit and depth to his perception. He wrote almost as two men, The Dr. Jekyl who could say, "That something hidden away in my nature, like a treasure in a field, is humility," and the Mr. Hyde who felt that he would be famous, and "if not famous, notorious." 1 George Woodcock, The Paradox of Oscar Wilde, New York: The Macmillan Co., 1850, p.2.
Britton, Jane Payne, "The conscience of Oscar Wilde" (1953). Graduate Research Theses & Dissertations. 5371.
Northern Illinois State Teachers College
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