The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde (Paperback)
by Neil McKenna
|Format:||Paperback 736 pages|
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Neil McKenna argues that our view of Oscar Wilde, even after Ellman's magisterial biography of the great author and playwright, is determined by Victorian sentimentality. In his own much more modern version of Wilde's story, McKenna portrays the literary genius as being not only extremely promiscuous but also a sort of campaigner for sexual freedom. He reveals, for example, that Wilde's relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas, which provided the inspiration for the classic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, was not an idealistic doting on a beautiful boy, but that Lord Douglas was the more dominant and experienced of the pair, who used to go out hunting together for young boys. Wilde's last days in Paris were not, McKenna shows, miserable and defeated; Paris was for him an idyllic, sensual and intellectual playground free from the narrowness of London. A groundbreaking book on Victorian sexuality, this unique biography reassesses the stereotypical views of Oscar Wilde and thoroughly embraces his sexuality, as Wilde did himself.
Arrow Books Ltd
Publisher and industry reviews
"A sensational new biography."
"A bustling revealing and downright moving portrayal of the troubled genius."
.,."a bold book."
UK Kirkus review
To London Society, at the end of the 19th century, there was no greater playwright than Oscar Wilde. On 14th February 1895 The Importance of Being Earnest, possibly his most famous play, opened to a rapturous reception, and Oscar, recently returned from Algiers was the toast of the town. Society knew Wilde as a happily married man, the father of two boys, although it was also noticed that he had a predilection of the company of young men. His preferred companion was Lord Alfred Douglas, commonly known as Bosie. By May 1895, Society had shunned Wilde, shocked and horrified at what had been revealed in a scandalous court and Wilde was sentenced to two years hard labour because he refused to 'repudiate his love for Bosie and his love for men.' What Society found acceptable behind closed doors was not acceptable in the open. How and why this change of fortune happened has been explained in many previous biographies of Wilde. But in The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde, Neil McKenna goes beyond the usual level of biography to argue that Wilde was driven creatively by his desires for sex with young men. He discusses for the first time the connection between the works and the sexual life of Wilde. This is not an easy read; some people may find the descriptions of homosexual activity off-putting. But there is no doubt that with unprecedented access to many papers, letters and photographs in the possession of Merlin Holland, Wilde's grandson, many of them previously unpublished, McKenna has written a compelling, if somewhat unsettling, account of the life of Oscar Wilde. (Kirkus UK)
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