Hot Best Seller

Oscar: A Biography

Availability: Ready to download

Oscar Wilde's life – like his wit – was alive with paradox. He was both an early exponent and victim of 'celebrity culture': famous for being famous, he was often ridiculed and disparaged. His achievements were frequently downplayed, his successes resented. He had a genius for comedy but strove to write tragedies. He was a snob but was prone to great acts of kindness. Alth Oscar Wilde's life – like his wit – was alive with paradox. He was both an early exponent and victim of 'celebrity culture': famous for being famous, he was often ridiculed and disparaged. His achievements were frequently downplayed, his successes resented. He had a genius for comedy but strove to write tragedies. He was a snob but was prone to great acts of kindness. Although happily married, he became a passionate lover of men. At the height of his success he brought disaster upon himself by defending his love for Lord Alfred Douglas. Having delighted in fashionable throngs, he died almost alone. In the first major biography of Oscar Wilde in thirty years, Matthew Sturgis brings alive the radical ideas and distinctive characters of the fin de siècle to write the richest account of Wilde's life to date.


Compare

Oscar Wilde's life – like his wit – was alive with paradox. He was both an early exponent and victim of 'celebrity culture': famous for being famous, he was often ridiculed and disparaged. His achievements were frequently downplayed, his successes resented. He had a genius for comedy but strove to write tragedies. He was a snob but was prone to great acts of kindness. Alth Oscar Wilde's life – like his wit – was alive with paradox. He was both an early exponent and victim of 'celebrity culture': famous for being famous, he was often ridiculed and disparaged. His achievements were frequently downplayed, his successes resented. He had a genius for comedy but strove to write tragedies. He was a snob but was prone to great acts of kindness. Although happily married, he became a passionate lover of men. At the height of his success he brought disaster upon himself by defending his love for Lord Alfred Douglas. Having delighted in fashionable throngs, he died almost alone. In the first major biography of Oscar Wilde in thirty years, Matthew Sturgis brings alive the radical ideas and distinctive characters of the fin de siècle to write the richest account of Wilde's life to date.

30 review for Oscar: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    leynes

    It took me two years to finish Sturgis' biography on Oscar Wilde, and I can't even tell you why. I had soooo many problems in the beginning, I couldn't really get into the narrative and Sturgis' detailed exploration of Wilde's childhood got on my damn nerves, and so I constantly put the book down, ignored it for months on end ... until I told myself to SUCK IT UP this year, and then I proceeded to read this entire mammoth in five days. Like, what? I actually ended up enjoying and appreciating thi It took me two years to finish Sturgis' biography on Oscar Wilde, and I can't even tell you why. I had soooo many problems in the beginning, I couldn't really get into the narrative and Sturgis' detailed exploration of Wilde's childhood got on my damn nerves, and so I constantly put the book down, ignored it for months on end ... until I told myself to SUCK IT UP this year, and then I proceeded to read this entire mammoth in five days. Like, what? I actually ended up enjoying and appreciating this biography, and ultimately, I am happy that I chose this one over the Ellmann one, since it's more modern and doesn't shy away from exploring Oscar's homosexuality (and also his somewhat questionable relations to younger prostitutes). This is only a biography for people who really wanna know it all. Like I said, it's detaaaaailed. Every single year of Oscar's life is dissected meticulously. I really loved it for the parts I was interested in (like Oscar's publication of Dorian, his work on his society plays, his relationship with Bosie, his time in prison and its aftermath) but it was a real drag for the parts I was less interested in. ANYWAYS, HERE'S THE USUAL COMPILATION OF NOTES I FOUND MOST INTERESTING: - pictures of Oscar as a child and teenager => he was literally the cutest but also looked like the biggest shithead - the first of his letters to survive (and the only one from his schooldays) was written by him on 5 September 1868, when he was 14 years old; it was a letter addressed to his mama, in which he, among other things, wrote: “The flannel shirts you sent in the hamper are both Willie’s, mine are one quite scarlet and the other lilac…” - Oscar reaaally disliked cricket as a schoolboy and even wrote rhymes about his distaste for this particular sport - when a man sneered at Oscar’s poetic efforts in front of him, Oscar proceeded to slap him across the face (honestly A MOOD) - picture of Oscar at Oxford, aged 22 => he looked DASHING (see p.60) - At a dance held by the Alfred Masonic lodge, Oscar impressed young Florence Ward with his soulfulness. She confided to her diary: “He tried to puzzle me by asking me such questions as “whether I found the world very hollow?”” - Wilde at Magdalen: “I’ll be a poet, a writer, a dramatist. Somehow or other I’ll be famous, and if not famous, I’ll be notorious.” - Wilde had a reputation within the college for subverting authority - Wilde began hosting “Beauty Parties” (as he called them) to which only the daughters of dons - suitably chaperoned - were invited - Oscar paid his brother Willie to wear a beard in order that they should not be mistaken for each other => Oscar wanted to be unique (LMAO) - When Oscar proposed to a girl named Charlotte and she turned him down, he said: “I am so sorry about your decision. With your money and my brain we could have gone so far.” (I AM SCREAMING!) - Wilde - ever the notorious aesthete - was early on parodied in magazines, most notably Punch, appearing variously as ‘Oscar Wildegoose’, ‘Drawit Milde’ or ‘the Wilde-eyed Poet’. - Wilde: “To disagree with three-fourths of the British public on all points is one of the first elements of sanity, one of the deepest consolations in all moments of spiritual doubt.” - When the theatrical manager wanted him to make some changes to the text, Wilde added: “But who am I to tamper with a masterpiece?” (LMAO calling his own work a masterpiece is so Oscar.) - Wilde on America: “They speak of smoking as if it were a crime. I wonder they do not caution the students not to murder each other on the landings.” - Wilde once broke down during an American lecture due to stress and bc the schedule was too tight - in America, Wilde met Whitman and came away from the meeting with a clear understanding that Whitman was attracted to other men (“I have the kiss of Walt Whitman still on my lips.”) => which is where the conspiracy theories come from that the two of them fucked - Wilde made a special detour to visit Jefferson Davis, the defeated commander-in-chief of the Confederate States, on his plantation near Biloxi, Mississippi. YIKES (Oscar also had a Black servant during his stay in America which he sometimes referred to as his “slave” => SOMEBODY SLAP MY SON, THANK YOU!) - Wilde wanted his Black valet to travel with him but was informed that a Black man wasn’t allowed to drive in a whites-only car in the American South => Wilde was shook - Wilde toured America for nine months, giving a total of 140 lectures in 130 places - in New York, Wilde visited the room where Poe had written “The Raven” (SOMETHING I WOULD DO) - Wilde to his mother’s friend about his endeavour to write two plays: “It sounds ambitious but we live in an age of inordinate personal ambition, and I am determined that the world shall understand me.” - Wilde: “Success is a science. If you have the conditions, you get the result.” - Wilde had, for short period of time, a pet snake which he “twisted around his neck” (HELLO BRITNEY!) - Sturgis: “The beauty of ugliness was a paradox Wilde wanted to explore, not explain.” - when Wilde’s first play (VERA) proved to be a failure he broke down exclaiming: “Kelly, Kelly, my first play!” - Constance’s love letters to Oscar (after their engagement) are really something else, she literally called him her “hero” and “god” … she also wrote that she’ll never be jealous because “I will hold you fast with chains of love and devotion” …. WELLL WE ALL KNOW HOW THAT TURNED OUT - their honeymoon began in Paris (THIS IS WHAT I DESERVE tbh) - there is only one letter from Oscar to Constance that survived and it’s so beautifuuuul: “O execrable facts, that keep our lips from kissing, though our souls are one. […] I feel incomplete without you.” - Oscar painted the front door of their house white to make it stand out from the neighbours… the neighboured weren’t having it AT ALL - Wilde: “To be great is to be misunderstood” - Wilde: “Nothing is good in moderation. You cannot know the good in anything till you have torn the heart out of it by excess.” => WHY ARE ALL HIS QUOTES SO PROPHETIC? It’s a tragedy, man - his books were published in normal and in special editions, e.g. on hand-made paper and a signature of the author (=> do any of these editions survive??? I want one lmao) - when talking about his society plays: “Indeed, the story is rather like my own life - all conversation and no action. I can’t describe action: my people sit in chairs and chatter.” - all references to mistresses and prostitution had to be removed from Dorian (by request of the publisher) - On Dorian, John Abdingten Symonds said: “If the British public can stand it, they can stand anything.” - A reference to Basil and Dorian walking back from the club “arm in arm” was cut, along with another to Lord Henry placing his hand on Dorian’s shoulder - Lord Alfred Douglas had read Dorian a dozen times and was anxious to meet its author - Wilde’s core message in Lady Windermere’s Fan: “It is not for anyone to censure what anyone else does, and everyone should go his own way, to whatever place he chooses, in exactly the way that he chooses.” - Wilde constantly seeking out young male prostitutes (aged 17) still makes me soooo uncomfortable … also the way he talks about these boys (and men) is pretty dehumanising and disgusting (“Our little lad has pleasing manners. We must see more of him.” EWWWW lemme go puke real quick) Oscar also totally abandoned Constance and the children when he went on his sexual rampages with Bosie … “To the suggestion that he might return home, he replied that he had been away so long that he had forgotten the number of the house.” (SON YOU WILL CATCH THOSE HANDS!) - Sturgis didn’t shy away from explicitly detailing the sexual practices Wilde engaged in with other men … Richard Ellmann could never - After an altercation with Queensberry (Bosie’s father), Wilde claimed to have replied: “I don’t know what the Queensberry rules are, but the Oscar Wilde rule is to shoot at sight”, before demanding that Queensberry leave his house => HOLY FUCKING COW! - Queensberry to Wilde: “If the country allows you to leave, all the better for the country, but if you take my son with you, I will follow you wherever you go and shoot you.” - Wilde was humiliated at court when all of his sexual escapades were laid bare by the witnesses, some accounts were so graphic as to be “unreportable” - Constance wanted to divorce Oscar in order to ensure that her children were financially secure should she die - it’s still so frustrating to read that Oscar went straight back to Bosie after his imprisonment, and basically lied to Constance’s face vowing to her that “he would kill him” if he ever saw him again — BESH BYE … he told Ross: “My going back to Bosie was psychologically inevitable: […] I cannot live without the atmosphere of Love: I must love and be loved, whatever the price I pay for it…” - When Constance learned that he went back to Bosie, she said: “Had I received this letter a year ago, I should have minded, but now I look upon it as the letter of a madman who has not even enough imagination to see how his trifles affect children, or unselfishness enough to care for the welfare of his wife.” => HONEY YOU DESERVED SO MUCH BETTER !!! - Wilde and Bosie then continue their sexual rampages in London - Wilde to Bosie: “When I came out of prison / some met me with garments and spices / and others with wise counsel. / You met me with love.” => HONEY HOW ARE YOU SO BLIND??? The toxicity of their relationship is reeeaally hard to handle - Douglas admitted to himself at the time that he had lost his desire for Wilde - something I found most fascinating is that during Oscar’s lifetime The Ballad was by far his mot successful book => HOW COOL IS THAT? It’s also by far my favorite piece of literature from him!! - in exile, Oscar defiantly proclaimed and indulged his homosexual tastes: “A patriot put into prison for loving his country loves his country; and a poet in prison for loving boys loves boys.” - Wilde travelled to Genoa and visited Constance’s grave (at least he had the decency to do that … it’s the bare minimum for me chile) - as time went on, Wilde’s relationship to Bosie became strained again, when they fought Bosie told him he was behaving like “an old fat prostitute” - Wilde: “If another century began and I was still alive, it would really be more than the English could stand.” - Bosie after Wilde’s death in a poem called The Dead Poet: “I dreamed of him last night, I saw his face / All radiant and unshadowed of distress, / And as of old, in music measureless, / I heard his golden voice and marked him trace / Under the common thing the hidden grace, / And conjure wonder out of emptiness,” - When De Profundis was published posthumously, Douglas – who by then had married, converted to Roman Catholicism and developed and abhorrence of his homosexual past – launched a libel action against the publishers … in court, Bosie described Oscar as “the greatest force of evil that has appeared in Europe in the last three hundred and fifty years.” => THE AUDACITY but it’s also oddly specific LMAO

  2. 5 out of 5

    Eric Anderson

    I don't often read biographies but when I saw that Matthew Sturgis' recent book on Oscar Wilde has been shortlisted for this year's prestigious Wolfson History Prize I thought this would be a great opportunity to learn more about Wilde's life. Sturgis' extensive biography is deliciously comprehensive and draws upon a lot of recent research and untapped material about Wilde to give a really authoritative, well-rounded understanding of this infamous, irresistibly flamboyant and brilliant writer. I I don't often read biographies but when I saw that Matthew Sturgis' recent book on Oscar Wilde has been shortlisted for this year's prestigious Wolfson History Prize I thought this would be a great opportunity to learn more about Wilde's life. Sturgis' extensive biography is deliciously comprehensive and draws upon a lot of recent research and untapped material about Wilde to give a really authoritative, well-rounded understanding of this infamous, irresistibly flamboyant and brilliant writer. I've previously read Wilde's most famous fiction as well as several of his plays (I even acted in a production of Lady Windermere's Fan) but I knew little about the trajectory of his life. I was only aware that he was a famous wit whose health and success went into sharp decline after he was tried and imprisoned for gross indecency with men. For instance, Rupert Everett's recent film 'The Happy Prince' is a really sympathetic depiction of the melancholy later years of Wilde's life. Sturgis documents in detail Wilde's family life and many social connections, his rise to fame and the gradual formation of his writing craft, the way his aesthetic principles connected to the expression of his sexuality and, of course, Wilde's tragic downfall from social darling to condemned sodomite. In doing so he has created a masterful portrait of Wilde capturing the rare flame of his brilliance and the gross injustice of his persecution. Read my full review of Oscar: A Life by Matthew Sturgis on LonesomeReader

  3. 4 out of 5

    Francis Shaw

    The definitive Oscar bio to date. Well written and engrossing. The author paints the clearest picture we have of the complexity of Oscar Wilde. Highly recommend it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Navi

    This is one of the best biographies I have read in a long time. I have always been a fan of Oscar Wilde. The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of my favourite books of all time. That being said, I didn't know too much about his life. Matthew Sturgis does an incredible job fleshing out who Oscar was from birth to his death. I loved being a bystander in Victorian society as Wilde reached his fame and ultimate demise. Sturgis goes into the minutiae of Wilde's life so if you do not enjoy reading highly This is one of the best biographies I have read in a long time. I have always been a fan of Oscar Wilde. The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of my favourite books of all time. That being said, I didn't know too much about his life. Matthew Sturgis does an incredible job fleshing out who Oscar was from birth to his death. I loved being a bystander in Victorian society as Wilde reached his fame and ultimate demise. Sturgis goes into the minutiae of Wilde's life so if you do not enjoy reading highly detailed biographies, this may not be the book for you. If you do, you will not be disappointed. The enigma that is Oscar Wilde is brought to life in this well-written biography. Highly recommend!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kadri

    i love my gather (gay father)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sophie

    An immensely readable biography of Oscar Wilde. When I was sixteen, I was obsessed with Oscar Wilde. In retrospect, I realize it was because he was the first queer person that confirmed for me that queerness had a history- those were the days before internet access, before I was really aware of my own sexuality - I just felt a connection I couldn’t yet name. At that time, I read everything I could find about him, including books I got via interlibrary loan and bookorders ~from abroad (which weren An immensely readable biography of Oscar Wilde. When I was sixteen, I was obsessed with Oscar Wilde. In retrospect, I realize it was because he was the first queer person that confirmed for me that queerness had a history- those were the days before internet access, before I was really aware of my own sexuality - I just felt a connection I couldn’t yet name. At that time, I read everything I could find about him, including books I got via interlibrary loan and bookorders ~from abroad (which weren’t impossible but much more of a deal than nowadays). A lot of what I read went over my head, especially his essays about aestheticism - but yeah, I was definitely the one person in my town who knew most about him. But then I didn’t read much about him for the next twenty years. So reading this was a curious mix of getting new information and feelings of nostalgia. One thing that has definitely changed is the ease with which one can talk about homosexuality. I remember doing a short presentation on him during English class (*voluntarily* because I was a nerd) and saying that he was gay, which my 60+ year old English teacher wasn’t a fan of. I guess part of reading this was a curious kind of therapy? Hah. Anyway. That ease makes understanding Wilde a little easier. I think this book does a great job of presenting Wilde‘s life as a whole. I mentioned this before, but being older really put his life much more in perspective for me. It was surprising to see the amount of pages used for his life before he realized/ acted on his homosexuality. I had known he had been to the United States, but the impact he hadn’t quite registered for me. Overall, the author finds a balance between sympathy for his subject and showing his bad sides. I would have liked some more context for Wilde’s (and his friends’ and lovers’) pursuit of underaged boys. Then again, his focus on Wilde rather than the context is what I liked most of the time (I remember Ellmann going off on aestheticism, for example, and Sturgis manages to give an idea of what it’s all about without going into too much detail). I think if you’re interested in Oscar Wilde and willing to read ~700 pages, this should be a great starting point. It was fun to read, and while I see Wilde more critically now than I did when I was younger, it was good to reconnect with that part of myself. In fact, I will be another book about Wilde next.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    It's no secret that I adore Oscar Wilde, so this new biography went straight to my TBR the second I spotted it. Drawing on fresh, very thorough research and previously unavailable material, this is a wonderfully comprehensive examination of the life of a fascinating personality. It's no secret that I adore Oscar Wilde, so this new biography went straight to my TBR the second I spotted it. Drawing on fresh, very thorough research and previously unavailable material, this is a wonderfully comprehensive examination of the life of a fascinating personality.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Fryer

    When I heard Matthew Sturgis was writing a biography of Oscar Wilde, my initial reaction was “Why?”. Surely everything had already been said? I have two whole bookcases full of books about Wilde and his work and his circle of family and friends, including three volumes of my own. For many years, Richard Ellmann’s Oscar Wilde (1987) in its bright green dust-jacket was seen as definitive, but the meticulous work of scholars over the decades then identified a whole string of errors and omissions. I When I heard Matthew Sturgis was writing a biography of Oscar Wilde, my initial reaction was “Why?”. Surely everything had already been said? I have two whole bookcases full of books about Wilde and his work and his circle of family and friends, including three volumes of my own. For many years, Richard Ellmann’s Oscar Wilde (1987) in its bright green dust-jacket was seen as definitive, but the meticulous work of scholars over the decades then identified a whole string of errors and omissions. I was very conscious when putting together my little book Wilde for Haus (2005) that Ellmann’s coverage of the writer’s two years of life after his release from prison was relatively concertinaed and, more seriously, more uniformly downbeat than some of the reality recounted in Wilde’s prolific correspondence of the time. Ellmann was himself near death as he struggled to complete his book (for which he was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize). So, yes, more than 30 years on perhaps it was time for a truly definitive biography of Oscar Wilde. Given the immaculate research and elegant text of Matthew Sturgis’s Walter Sickert (2005) I should have been confident that Sturgis was the right man for the job. And indeed with his Oscar (Head of Zeus, £25) so he has proved to be. It is a massive work, full of detail not readily available elsewhere, especially not in a single place. There is illuminating coverage of Wilde’s lecture tours to America, for example, and by resisting the temptation to enter into critical analysis of the plays, poems and essays, Sturgis keeps the focus firmly on the man, his doings and his creative environment. Unlike many books on Wilde, moreover, this is neither hagiography nor a hatchet-job. Wilde’s literary importance as well as his significance as a social former ahead of his time are given due weight, as is Wilde’s championing of the “Uranian” lifestyle and his unbridled pursuit of comely youths after he went into exile. One sees both the light and dark sides of the playwright and watches how his character changes, first with growing arrogance and self-centredness during his heady rise to success and then acquiring a degree of humility and self-awareness through the almost redemptive horrors of prison life. The tumultuous relationship with Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas of course figures large, but for all its intensity and disruptiveness, it was only one aspect of a very complex and extremely social life. So Sturgis’s book is what is sometimes popularly referred to as a “warts and all” biography. There are moments when Wiled’s emotional cruelty to his wife Constance or unfair criticism of devoted friends such as Robbie Ross make the reader recoil. But Matthew Sturgis avoids much overt moralising about this, instead letting the facts speak for themselves. I have always been a fan of Oscar, but after reading this book I feel I know him much better, seeing his weaknesses more clearly as well as his strengths. Because the book is so hefty I suspect many people will find it challenging to read straight through over a short period of time; I actually deliberately lingered over its reading for months. It was far too big and heavy to carry around so it became the book on the side table in the sitting room that I picked up and got back into whenever I sat in the comfortable armchair at its side. Knowing the main lines of the story pretty intimately, this was not an instance of wanting to know what happens next when reading the book, but rather I savoured each chapter slowly and with relish. Not perhaps what a book reviewer should normally do, but in this case well-justified and thoroughly rewarding. Quite simply this is a magnificent achievement by Matthew Sturgis, a monument to Oscar Wilde fitting to the 21st century. The book now sits in one of my Wilde bookcases and I know it will be consulted frequently as the authoritative source on a unique figure in the modern literary world.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rohase Piercy

    This is a fascinating book – densely written, but how else can one do justice to the life and career of Oscar Wilde? It's full of wonderful anecdotes right from the start, and unlike many other biographies it takes the trouble to document many of the little details of Oscar's early life in Ireland as well as his life in exile in France during the last three years of his life. As with his biography of Aubrey Beardsley, Sturgis has really tried to get under the skin of his subject and understand hi This is a fascinating book – densely written, but how else can one do justice to the life and career of Oscar Wilde? It's full of wonderful anecdotes right from the start, and unlike many other biographies it takes the trouble to document many of the little details of Oscar's early life in Ireland as well as his life in exile in France during the last three years of his life. As with his biography of Aubrey Beardsley, Sturgis has really tried to get under the skin of his subject and understand his psychology, warts and all. The result is that we see Oscar not just as a writer, wit, raconteur, celebrity and gay martyr but as a rounded human being – generous and kind-hearted, always willing to see the best in people until disillusioned, but at the same time egocentric and vain, with an addictive streak that leads him to extremes. His extravert personality and wit attracted enemies as well as friends even at the height of his success, and those enemies were only too ready to gloat when his predilection for pleasure in life led him not only into serious debt but also, in the case of his pursuit of (homo)sexual experience, into conflict with the law. The details of his ongoing wrangle with the Marquess of Queensberry, father of his lover Lord Alfred Douglas, and the legal case that ensued (leading to Oscar's eventual conviction for gross indecency and sentence of two years' imprisonment with hard labour) are already well documented– but Sturgis paints them for us afresh and does not attempt to excuse the 'extraordinary vanity' which led the doomed man to resist all attempts by friends and family to smuggle him out of the country to safety. Not only Oscar's personality, but also those of his close friends, in particular his lover Bosie (Lord Alfred Douglas) are brought vividly to life in this biography. His mother, Lady Jane Wilde, is also given her due as a presiding influence on his character. However, there is one exception, in my view an unforgiveable one – Oscar's wife, Constance (nee Lloyd, later Holland) is all but written out of the story. Although a woman of some importance in her own right, a journalist and author of children's stories, a proto-feminist and political campaigner as well as the mother of Oscar's two sons Cyril and Vyvyan, Constance is given barely a voice and Sturgis accepts with only the mildest of demurs her brother Otho's assertion that his sister was in complete ignorance regarding her husband's homosexuality; I've elaborated in more detail on this omission in my author blog, so won't bang on about it here. There's also absolutely no mention in the epilogue of the fates of Oscar's two sons following his demise, or of Vyvyan Holland's autobiography 'Son Of Oscar Wilde', or (with the exception of one brief footnote) of Oscar's grandson Merlin Holland, a noted biographer of his grandfather who is still living – a fact that leaves me wondering whether there's some sort of feud going on between Sturgis and Oscar Wilde's descendants! Oh, and there are also a few editorial glitches – most notably the claim that, having died on 30 November 1900 Oscar's funeral took place 'on the morning of 3 November' – so it's only four stars out of five from me.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dean

    Mathew Sturgis description of the life of Oscar Wilde and the Victorian era is both: vivid and also accurate... Fully saturated with details and facts, handsomely rendered and enveloped in a wonderful prose... I specially appreciated the fact that Sturgis has sown throughout his book Wildes awesome witticisms!!! Indeed a tragic life about a man with an exceptional spirit and his time far ahead... What a pity he died much to young... For some a genius, for others the most powerful force of evil in his Mathew Sturgis description of the life of Oscar Wilde and the Victorian era is both: vivid and also accurate... Fully saturated with details and facts, handsomely rendered and enveloped in a wonderful prose... I specially appreciated the fact that Sturgis has sown throughout his book Wildes awesome witticisms!!! Indeed a tragic life about a man with an exceptional spirit and his time far ahead... What a pity he died much to young... For some a genius, for others the most powerful force of evil in his time... But read for yourself, and you will discover behind the colorful facade a mere human being suffering and with an excellent and beautiful mind! Dean;)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Simon Bardwell

    Overlong! Not as good as the previous biography of Wilde that I read. This is one is very thoroughly researched and the author has gone to great pains to read everything about Wilde that he could. It seems perhaps a strange complaint - but I found it too detailed and at times it dragged for me. The description of the American tour would be an example where some of the detail could have been happily left out. It occurred to me that maybe I was the wrong person reading it and that the book is inten Overlong! Not as good as the previous biography of Wilde that I read. This is one is very thoroughly researched and the author has gone to great pains to read everything about Wilde that he could. It seems perhaps a strange complaint - but I found it too detailed and at times it dragged for me. The description of the American tour would be an example where some of the detail could have been happily left out. It occurred to me that maybe I was the wrong person reading it and that the book is intended for those who do want to study everything there is to know about Oscar Wilde. My interest is more casual and comes from a desire to know about his life and how he became the kind of writer he was. It struck me that his life became quite tragic.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Beth Rawson

    Wonderful. I've read many biographies of Oscar Wilde but this one draws on fresh and extremely thorough research. Wonderful. I've read many biographies of Oscar Wilde but this one draws on fresh and extremely thorough research.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Helen Carolan

    Here's a book about one of the most interesting and funniest men ever, and yet I found this book tedious. Noting new in it and what there was didn't capture Wilde at all. Here's a book about one of the most interesting and funniest men ever, and yet I found this book tedious. Noting new in it and what there was didn't capture Wilde at all.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    One of my favourite books I've read this year. A great biography of a great man. One of my favourite books I've read this year. A great biography of a great man.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael Flick

    Exhaustive biography of Oscar Wilde, with careful documentation of his downfall, trial, conviction, imprisonment, and sorry life afterwards. He was his own worst enemy; difficult to imagine the attraction of Lord Alfred Douglas, a monster, at best. Sad.

  16. 5 out of 5

    emelie

    my main mans wow

  17. 4 out of 5

    Will Mayo

    It's an old familiar tale, that of Oscar Wilde. A man famous for being famous, in the manner of today's reality stars, for his wit in ladies' drawing rooms who was then lampooned in newspaper cartoons and musicals such as Gilbert And Sullivan's "Patience," he then truly launched into the limelight with a lecture in the United States, attending a voodoo ceremony in Louisiana and meeting Walt Whitman in New Jersey along the way and achieving a spectacular lecture in a silver mine out West under th It's an old familiar tale, that of Oscar Wilde. A man famous for being famous, in the manner of today's reality stars, for his wit in ladies' drawing rooms who was then lampooned in newspaper cartoons and musicals such as Gilbert And Sullivan's "Patience," he then truly launched into the limelight with a lecture in the United States, attending a voodoo ceremony in Louisiana and meeting Walt Whitman in New Jersey along the way and achieving a spectacular lecture in a silver mine out West under the threat of death. Then back to Britain where his comedies on stage became the hit of the season before writing his scandalous novel "Dorian Gray" along with his equally scandalous play Salome about the woman who danced (and disrobed) for the head of John The Baptist. It seemed that he was everyone's darling. Women loved him. Men more so adored him. Then Fate intervened. Egged on by his lover Lord Alfred Douglas, he sued Douglas's father, the Marquess's of Queensbury, for having called Oscar a sodomite in public amid a cavalcade of other threats. The Marquess countered by blackmailing and presenting in court Wilde's many male lovers, in due course sending Oscar Wilde to prison for the perfectly consensual "Love That Has No Name" (as Alfred Douglas dubbed it). What followed were the lonely years of prison that broke Oscar's body and mind and spirit and will. What followed were the years spent in exile on the Continent through which two more great works would emerge from Wilde's pen, "The Ballad Of Reading Gaol" and "De Profundis." What followed, too, was more cruel treatment at the hands of Alfred Douglas. And what followed in the end was Oscar Wilde's eventual death, a broken man. I enjoyed reading this biography thoroughly and took time out along the way to familiarize myself with some of Wilde's lesser known works via the Internet. It was a joy and pleasure especially with its telling details of Lord Alfred Douglas's misbehavior along with that of his father. I would recommend this book to Wildeans everywhere and I look forward to reading more biographies by this author.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Erica Lamb Brown

    This was a really great biography, written from the perspective of a historian rather than that of a literary critic. Very well annotated - the last 120 pages or so are notes. If reading authors like Ron Chernow or David McCullough aren’t your thing, you may not enjoy this “warts and all” presentation of Wilde’s life. Personally, I was surprised by what an irresponsible, lazy, mooch he seems to have been. 😂 But I love his writing nonetheless.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Used this bad boy to write my thesis. Big and bulky, full of loads of information. Didn't read it cover to cover (god bless indexes) but still did my best. Used this bad boy to write my thesis. Big and bulky, full of loads of information. Didn't read it cover to cover (god bless indexes) but still did my best.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Eddie Clarke

    A well-balanced, perceptive, sympathetic and readable biography. This will probably become the standard Oscar text. Slightly let down by too frequent typos, a few in primary quotations.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ray Palen

    What more can be said about one of the greatest writers and most legendary wits, Dublin’s own Oscar Wilde? Well, quite a lot as it seems. Author Matthew Sturgis lived and immersed himself with Oscar Wilde for seven years in preparing his biography OSCAR WILDE: A LIFE. As it turns out, the most recent compendium to deal with the subject of Oscar Wilde was way back in 1987 from late writer Richard Ellmann. Sturgis indicates in the Preface & Acknowledgements that we have learned so much more about What more can be said about one of the greatest writers and most legendary wits, Dublin’s own Oscar Wilde? Well, quite a lot as it seems. Author Matthew Sturgis lived and immersed himself with Oscar Wilde for seven years in preparing his biography OSCAR WILDE: A LIFE. As it turns out, the most recent compendium to deal with the subject of Oscar Wilde was way back in 1987 from late writer Richard Ellmann. Sturgis indicates in the Preface & Acknowledgements that we have learned so much more about the great Wilde over the past thirty years that it just begged for another exploration of his life and work. As a fellow Irishman, I have grown up on Oscar Wilde and his work. Later in life, I came to fully appreciate his many famous quips and they have not lost any of their luster in present day. You can probably pass by an Irish or British pub and see written on the chalk board outside one of his many quotes such as: ‘Work is the curse of the Drinking Classes.” The challenge in writing a review of a seven-hundred-page book on Wilde is to not have it end up sounding like a book report. Any worthwhile book report on this tome would be dozens of pages long. As such, I have captured some of the key points in Oscar Wilde’s life in addition to some of the updated material that is presented in this biography. Oscar Fingal O’Fflahertie Wills Wilde was born on October 16, 1854, in Dublin. He grew up on what he referred to as English table talk, listening to all the various educated guests his parents entertained in their home. He came to consider ‘that the best of his education in boyhood was obtained from this association with his father and mother and their remarkable friends.’ At the end of January 1864 Oscar and his older brother were sent away to boarding school. Oscar was extremely bright but somewhat distant child --- slight, imaginative, independent, and dreamy, he drifted to the edge of things. Long summer holidays were spent at Moytura, their Dublin home. It was there that Oscar, under his father’s instruction, learned to be not merely an Irishman but a countryman and a Celt. Back at school, Oscar took to English literature and read Sir Walter Scott, Jane Austen, Thackeray, Stevenson, and Dickens. He also had an extreme fondness for poetry through reading Shakespeare and particularly enjoyed Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Tennyson, and Whitman. Wilde matriculated in 1871 at Trinity College Dublin where he excelled in Greek and history. He had an eye for comic detail. Oscar shared his mother’s gift for dramatic overstatement, as well as her delight in shocking bourgeois sensibilities. He studied at Oxford. ‘My very soul seemed to expand within me to peace and joy,’ he would remember. ‘Oxford was paradise to me.’ He later had opportunity to travel with one of his favorite instructors, Professor Mahaffy, and a few other scholars. Their travels took them to Italy and eventually Greece, which Oscar just loved. After graduating, Oscar took his own hand at writing poetry and won the Newdigate Prize in 1878 for his poem ‘Ravenna’. He travelled to London is search of rubbing shoulders with other literary types. He loved the London stage and fell for such great actors as Sandra Bernhardt, Lily Langtry, and Ellen Terry. He sought out more experienced writers to mentor with, such as James McNeill Whistler, who he had a love/hate relationship with. In 1882, Oscar set off on a tour of the United States which kicked off in New York City where the many reporters were eager to grill ‘the great English exponent of Aestheticism.’ While visiting Philadelphia, Oscar took a side-trip to a town across the water called Camden where he was able to meet one of his heroes in person --- Walt Whitman. He was particularly taken by the American South, seeing a bond between the southern Confederacy and the Irish: both had risen in arms to achieve ‘self-government,’ and both had been defeated. While in that region he even met with Jefferson Davis at his plantation. On the flip side of that encounter, Oscar also spent time in the New York/Long Island Region and at one point got to meet former U.S. President and leader of the Union forces in the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant. Oscar had denied his own love life and urges until he returned to London and began writing again. It was here that he met the first love of his life, Constance Lloyd, whom he courted and eventually married and had a family with. She called Oscar her ‘hero’ and ‘God.’ However, her brother Otho was not so enamored with Oscar and had heard inklings of his proclivities for the same sex. Though married, he took on his first male lover and most enduring friend --- Robbie Ross, who was only seventeen when they met. Oscar loved children and the feeling was mutual. He loved spinning tales for groups of children and went on to write many famous fairy tales such as The Happy Prince and The Selfish Giant. He found his first big fiction breakthrough with the classic tale, “The Canterville Ghost.” He was frequently, and not unfavorably, compared to Dutch writer Hans Christian Andersen. As his reputation and fame grew, so did talk in certain London circles about his time spent in the company of several young men. Perhaps his biggest success on the fiction front was when he released the classic novel, “The Picture Of Dorian Gray,’ which saw world-wide fame. The next thing for Oscar to conquer was the stage, which he had always loved. His first big play was entitled “Lady Windermere’s Fan” in 1892, and it would be the start of several successful plays that are still performed today. Following that were such famous stage plays as “A Woman Of No Importance,” “The Importance of Being Earnest,” and “An Ideal Husband.” All this success would not be enough to prepare Oscar Wilde for what came next. The Lord Queensbury, taking particular exception to Wilde’s relationship with his son, went after him in the courts on the grounds of indecency. Wilde feared Queensbury’s campaign against him. Oscar Wilde survived the first court battle, but it would be the second one at the Old Bailey, which included Wilde being put on the stand, which saw the jury come back with unanimous Guilty verdicts. The Judge sentenced him to maximum of two years of hard labor. Upon doing his time, Oscar set off on a self-imposed asylum to France. Though in the company of some of his long-time male companions, Wilde still sent for Constance and his children to join him --- this request being denied due to Constance’s health issues. Unfortunately, Oscar himself found himself beset by health issues and passed away in Paris on November 30, 1900. All of this tremendous detail was deftly put together by Matthew Sturgis and, of course, goes far deeper than I am highlighting here. I am proud to say that Oscar Wilde’s wit and incredible body of work is still quite relevant today. A statue of him stands in Dublin, a bit of a triumph as for many years his hometown spurned his name due to the indecency and sodomy allegations. Thankfully, it is splendid work like that of Sturgis that will hopefully lure more readers to the classic output of Oscar Wilde! Reviewed by Ray Palen for Book Reporter

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I was so drawn in by Oscar Wilde’s story. He was objectively not a great man. He seems to have worked harder at portraying himself as an artist than at actually writing. His sexual life was not merely immoral but predatory. Yet I found him fascinating. His intense pursuit of celebrity and image is so relevant to life today. His story can easily be read as that of a man who gained the whole world yet forfeited his soul. But it’s also a story of the complexity of human beings as fallen image beare I was so drawn in by Oscar Wilde’s story. He was objectively not a great man. He seems to have worked harder at portraying himself as an artist than at actually writing. His sexual life was not merely immoral but predatory. Yet I found him fascinating. His intense pursuit of celebrity and image is so relevant to life today. His story can easily be read as that of a man who gained the whole world yet forfeited his soul. But it’s also a story of the complexity of human beings as fallen image bearers. I’m drawn to the instances of real kindness and generosity in the midst of Wilde’s very selfish life. As a biographer, Sturgis shows immense restraint in his interpretation of Wilde’s life. It would be easy to use Wilde’s biography mainly as an opportunity to draw morals (either to the left or to the right). Although sometimes I would have liked more commentary, I appreciated the opportunity to simply read Wilde’s story.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Staci

    Gifted Witty Brilliant Driven Extravagant Generous Egotistical Selfish Hedonistic Indiscreet Flamboyant Vain Wronged Rejected Broken Unequaled Immortal Oscar

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lenny Burnham

    Arby’s has the meats but this book has the deats.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining biography of a man whose life must be a biographer's dream. Oscar Wilde was all about excess and self-esteem: as a young man he managed to make himself the 19th-century equivalent of a social media star on the basis of an Oxford poetry prize and good social connections, as a newly-wed he and his wife were the sort of couple who would have regularly appeared on the celebrity pages. As money problems pushed him to actually work at being a writer, he was an ov I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining biography of a man whose life must be a biographer's dream. Oscar Wilde was all about excess and self-esteem: as a young man he managed to make himself the 19th-century equivalent of a social media star on the basis of an Oxford poetry prize and good social connections, as a newly-wed he and his wife were the sort of couple who would have regularly appeared on the celebrity pages. As money problems pushed him to actually work at being a writer, he was an overnight success; as a gay man who refused to be discreet about his sexual adventures, he took center stage in one of the biggest scandals of the fin de siècle. He just couldn't stop. He couldn't stop overspending, drinking, sleeping with young boys available by the hour . . . even when his spell in prison had made him realize that these behaviors were a betrayal of his early self, the man who prized art and beauty above everything. Nowadays he could probably get therapy for his money, booze, and sex addictions and settle down with a man who truly loved him (Robbie Ross, his first lover, seems to have been the likely candidate) but addiction therapy wasn't much of a thing in the 19th century and gay men found it hard to achieve happy domesticity (although some did; it just took discretion, which OW didn't have). Sturgis paints the picture of a man who played big and ultimately lost. He lost his children, his wife (whom he loved even if he didn't want to sleep with her), and the London society he so relished. Too afraid to commit suicide in the approved Victorian fashion, he did the only thing he could and let his self-destructive behaviors carry him to an early grave. In doing so he lost his ability to write anything he could sell, and he lost his dignity. What he didn't lose was his generosity and the personality that earned him the lifelong loyalty of the best of his friends. This is a loooong biography, littered with quotation marks and footnotes, full of happy nuggets of new information for those of us fascinated by late Victorian society. It's also rather full of typos, but you just can't get the editing staff these days . . . and that didn't spoil things for me. My copy is now full of underlinings of interesting things, because OW was nothing if not interesting--and I managed to get through this doorstop of a book in three weeks. I started off vowing to read a chapter a day, but soon it was two, and then three, because I was enjoying it so much. Recommended for all fans of the late Victorian period.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Becky Loader

    Sturgis has written a very definitive life of Oscar Wilde. Excellent scholarship.

  27. 4 out of 5

    hezekiah

    a good novel about a terrible person. oscar wilde, while he was very good at writing and wrote the gay novel of the century, also dated 17 year olds, which is gross. wilde was an awful person, but the writing of this was astounding, and i do recommend it. 1 star knocked off because of how long this was

  28. 5 out of 5

    theodore

    HOLY SHIT I FINALLY FINISHED THIS GIANT. the beginning was slow but i got rlly into it once it got going. there were tons of cool facts i didn't know (having read oscar bios before and knowing a lot about him). tbh totally read this if ur looking for a super-comprehensive wilde biography. HOLY SHIT I FINALLY FINISHED THIS GIANT. the beginning was slow but i got rlly into it once it got going. there were tons of cool facts i didn't know (having read oscar bios before and knowing a lot about him). tbh totally read this if ur looking for a super-comprehensive wilde biography.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ravi Zutshi

    Very well written, thought provoking reference. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and learned so much.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Oscar Wilde is a figure that still very much pervades our popular culture. Perhaps without even realising their origins many of us are familiar with his aphorisms and witty slogans. A particular favourite of mine is: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars” and “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” This is a point that Matthew Sturgis makes in the opening to this impressive and incredibly immersive biography. Wilde was an individual that very much tried to be Oscar Wilde is a figure that still very much pervades our popular culture. Perhaps without even realising their origins many of us are familiar with his aphorisms and witty slogans. A particular favourite of mine is: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars” and “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” This is a point that Matthew Sturgis makes in the opening to this impressive and incredibly immersive biography. Wilde was an individual that very much tried to be himself and was severely punished for being so. One thing I had not fully grasped or understood before reading the book was just how famous Wilde was at the time of writing, both in Europe and America. His extensive touring and lecturing in America around the notions of aestheticism were truly fascinating. He was, for many, in the late 1890s the toast of London mixing and dining with the Victorian social elite. There were not many people who had not heard of the name of Oscar Wilde. I felt he walked a fine line between being a true genius and caricature something that he, no doubt, was aware of. He was often mocked by the press and other literary figures however many reported that once they met and spoke to him they were dazzled by his breadth of knowledge and intellect. His fall from grace was truly great and must have been incredibly shocking at the time. The book was incredibly consuming and bought vividly to life how unique a character Wilde was. Someone who was incredibly generous and kind but also someone who could be (I imagine!) incredibly infuriating and exhausting. I was touched by his friendships with Robbie Ross and the Leversons who stood by him until the very end. His loneliness after his release from prison was poignantly drawn by Sturgis. The injustice of his treatment for being a homosexual was horrific and Wilde’s defiance in being who he wanted to be illustrates clearly why he is still held up to be an inspirational figure for some today. Sturgis opens the book with the trial of Wilde’s father, Dr. William Wilde, who was there on charges of inappropriate conduct with one of his patients; a charge he was ultimately cleared of. This forces the reader to contrast the treatment of both men and consider the unjust hypocrisy of the world these men inhabited, as Wilde’s father almost certainly was exonerated due to his social standing. One person I did not know much about was Oscar Wilde’s partner Alfred Lord Douglas. The images Sturgis puts within the biography show, quite hauntingly, a striking figure; one who was prone to extreme outbursts of anger and violence. The tumultuous nature of their relationship is evident and arguments between the two must have been explosive. It saddened me to read of the fleeting visits made by Douglas towards the end of Oscar’s life which worked to cement the pervading theme of loneliness once Wilde was out of prison. The book was thoroughly researched and incredibly compelling to read. There is a sense of inevitable doom that increases as you read with Wilde’s outright rejection to be anything but himself a right we sometimes take for granted today. He was a truly unique individual and he shines through the pages of the book much like he would have done in all those Victorian drawing rooms.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...