This volume contains the newly transcribed and annotated text of one of Oscar Wilde's unpublished notebooks that functioned as a major ante-text for the composition of Wilde's first post-graduate essay, Historical Criticism, written in 1879 as an entry for the Chancellor's English Essay Prize at Oxford. Attempting to win a fellowship at Oxford as a serious scholar, Wilde used the notebook to record his research into modern and classical historians and to
formulate language that appears, often in revised form, in the essay. The notebook shows us his practices of research and composition: he often worked on particular historians or issues in sections of adjoining pages, accumulating examples from their works and composing passages describing their exemplary
practices and their awareness of issues in historiography. His entries include materials drawn from classical historians and philosophers, for example, Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius, Tacitus, Livy, Lucian, and Plutarch, as well as mentions and/or materials from modern historians and philosophers such as Giambattista Vico, J. G. Fichte, Victor Cousin, George Grote, G. H. Lewes, Henry T. Buckle, Robert Flint, J. A. Symonds, Alexis de Tocqueville, Hippolyte Taine, Jules
Michelet, Herbert Spencer, and Ernest Renan. The notebook not only tells us much about Wilde's practices of composing and editing the language that appears in the essay, it also contains the unused materials Wilde studied and for which he drafted language. For example, Wilde scholars will find scattered
throughout the notebook the unused phrases, sentences, and notations that relate to subjects or ideas that Wilde mentions or expands in other notebook entries. These entries and drafts of his commentary are interesting in themselves as Wilde's expanded summation of the contributions of these historians to his topic; they also reveal which episodes from history and characteristics of their historiography he found worthy of study. Finally, they show Wilde's wit and comparative imagination at work
finding parallels in early modern history and literature for his chosen examples.
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Number of pages: 304
Weight: 480 g
Dimensions: 222 x 138 x 22 mm
Such an outstanding example of editing and transcription practice and principles deserves study by any scholar intent on undertaking such a bibliographical and interpretive enterprise. It is to be highly commended for its exemplary attention to detail, its dedicated detective work, its depth of knowledge, and its clear love of the material. * Maureen Moran, English Literature in Transition 1880-1920 *
The notebook thus rather surprisingly embeds the "Historical Criticism" essay in the classic mid-Victorian antinomies of faith and rationality ... this large silo of scholarly labour seems here to yield at least one fruitful grain of suggestion ... Wilde burst upon the world as an aesthete ... he was really conducting a dialogue with religion. * Pete Womack, Review 19 *
First impressions count: this is a beautiful book, in the finest traditions of reference volumes from its press. I had not handled a new volume of this quality in years; it is built to last, and I envisage its handsomely plain binding, heavy paper and sturdy spine gracing the shelves of reference libraries for more than one human lifetime. Its contents merit the bookmaker's pains. ... we have a full and meticulous transcription of a manuscript notebook in which the
young Oscar Wilde collected many of the materials he was to use in his important though incomplete early essay 'Historical Criticism'. Smith, an editor of many years' experience and deeply familiar with the Wildean corpus, demonstrates this convincingly in his well judged and concise introduction. ...
In sum, Smith has gifted Wildean scholarship with a work of extraordinary quality, and has made available a new primary source along with all the help its potential readers could possibly desire. * Gideon Nisbet, The Wildean *
Smith's detailed transcription and careful footnoting provide an excellent framework for exploring Wilde's process of critical thought, scholarly research and development of language. There is a fresh perspective here on his raw relationship with the classical historians and philosophers. * Eve Wersocki Morris, Times Literary Supplement *