WEB: Oscariana: The Life and Times of Oscar Wilde

Oscariana: The Life and Times of Oscar Wilde


"There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." You know Oscar Wilde meant it, too. Craving attention and getting it, he lived and died at the mercy of others' lips. And now, 97 years later, Wilde would no doubt be pleasantly horrified to know that he's still an icon, a symbol of intellectual and romantic liberation and unashamed bon vivantism. (He's even the subject of a British bio-pic starring Steven Fry, which has received warm notices abroad.) Still, one does wonder what Wilde would say to the fact that much of his work and even his private missives are now being published uncensored and free of charge on the Web. Or that last month his grandson decided to take back the last name that Wilde's wife discarded after his imprisonment for sodomy.

Oscariana is an ideal introduction to the man's ecstatic and painful personal life, containing a simple series of epigrams; letters to his family and his beloved, Lord Alfred Douglas; editorials on his two trials; and even his obituary in the London Times, along with a dreary open-casket photo. (After two years of forced labor, Wilde died an exile in France.) The site also links to the Wild Wilde Web, a nerve center for all manner of Wilde sites.

As far as the icon question goes--well, Wilde himself looked to history for gay role models, and relied on their published works for inspiration. At his 1895 trial, he placed himself in the lineage of Shakespeare, Michelangelo, and Plato: "It is in this century misunderstood," he said, "so much misunderstood that it may be described as 'The love that dares not speak its name.' It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it."

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