cover image The Uncollected Oscar Wilde

The Uncollected Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde, Rudolf Steiner. Fourth Estate, $13.95 (215pp) ISBN 978-1-85702-334-3

""Uncollected"" is a slight misnomer. Jackson, a British publisher and essayist, has gathered these occasional pieces from The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde (1908): they will be familiar to devoted readers, who have always known that the Divine Oscar did some of his best writing on utterly forgettable subjects. As the book reviews included here show, Wilde perfected the backhanded compliment and no one has done it better since-the slighter his victim the more delicate his touch. If there's a fault in this selection it's that it has too little Women's World (the magazine Wilde briefly edited) and too much lecture circuit. But even if Wilde's American lectures on the Aesthetic Movement have none of the depth of his later philosophical dialogues, they have historical interest and, of course, plenty of wit. It's easy to forget how Modernist Wilde's version of Arts and Crafts could sound, even easier to forget how Utilitarian his early aestheticism was. He is full of practical suggestions for his audience: American boys should decorate the family porches with carvings, workmen should go to museums and everybody should dress like California miners. This is hardly The Soul of Man Under Socialism. Wilde's condescension toward his American listeners shades now and then into pure goofiness-but even at his silliest, Wilde is never dull. (Feb.)