Oscar Wilde: A Life

Matthew Sturgis. Knopf, $40 (864p) ISBN 978-0-525-65636-4
Historian Sturgis (Walter Sickert: A Life) delivers a comprehensive portrait of playwright and poet Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) in this extraordinary account. Renowned for his flamboyance and defiance of convention, “Wilde’s shimmering wit creates an open-ended discourse that encourages all heresies,” according to Sturgis. Drawing on letters, contracts, notebooks, and court documents, among other materials, Sturgis meticulously tracks her subject’s turbulent life, highlighting his rise to fame as the “living embodiment of Aestheticism,” his affairs with men while married to Constance Lloyd, his trio of highly successful plays including An Ideal Husband in the early 1890s, and his eventual two-year imprisonment on charges of “gross indecency.” With meticulous attention to detail, Sturgis recounts the destruction the Victorian penal system inflicted on the playwright, noting that when Wilde was temporarily taken out of prison to attend his bankruptcy proceedings, “he was dressed in his old clothes, but they hung about him now.” Sturgis offers plenty of history behind Wilde’s best-known works, (including The Picture of Dorian Gray, which caused a “phenomenal stir” and became one of London’s most talked about books), and creates a rich and complex characterization of the author, who could be both exceedingly generous and profoundly callous. This splendid biography is not to be missed. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 09/07/2021
Release date: 10/12/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 1 pages - 978-0-525-65637-1
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