“Wizard,” Oscar Wilde when said, “is born, perhaps not paid.” His limp-lily make of Irish-Oxonian wizard has been paid often over, that will be not to express overpaid. In the years since his death in 1900 (from cerebral meningitis, possibly complicated by syphilis), he’s are more & more renowned—circumstances of affairs which he’d probably discover amusing.
He generally attracted a great deal of interest, his admirers ranging in stage from the King of Wales (later Edward VII) down. But when upon a period respectable persons just like the James Adamses regarded it beneath their dignity to speak to him, and James James, who realized him, ignored him as a “tenth-rate cad.” Today his tomb in a Paris cemetery is said to draw more pilgrims than Balzac’s or Chopin’s. His title is as sure of immortality as that of Adams, James, or the Venerable Bede.
The latest to share with the story of the pasty, jowly face, the gross, purplish lips, the great wit, great elegance, and great downfall is British Biographer Hesketh Pearson (Conan Doyle, G.B.S., etc.). “In January 1943, I mentioned to Bernard Shaw,” Pearson explains, “that I wished to write a Life of Oscar Wilde.” Shaw answered, “My advice is, very decidedly, Don’t…There is nothing more to be said.” But Pearson went forward anyhow, having long been enthusiastic about the complexities of Wilde’s character. While he’d never observed him in the flesh, he realized and had talked to many of his cronies—including Master Alfred (“Bosie”) Douglas, Frank Harris, and Robert Sherard, all of whom had written Wilde biographies of the own.
In this, he’s been just partly successful. To relieve Oscar completely from the pathological haze is a lot more than he or anyone otherwise can do. Oscar’s gay tastes and literary character are hardly separable; however, correct it might be that the one’s pure temperature doesn’t account fully for the other’s gentle. Pearson’s explanations explain very little. He feels that Wilde’s mental nature never produced “beyond adolescence”; hence Wilde generally stayed “an exceptionally excellent undergraduate, half child, half genius.” Nonetheless, he provides, Wilde was “quite definitely in enjoy” with Constance Lloyd when they committed in 1884, and “pleased” in Cyril and Vyvyan, their two daughters, born a few years later.* Wilde, furthermore, based on Pearson, didn’t turn into an “exercising” gay till after the children were born. On her part, Constance stayed “completely ignorant” of his inclination till he was caught in 1895.
Soprano Dame Nellie Melba said she achieved Oscar Wilde in the streets of Paris in 1898, shabbily dressed, with a “hunted look in his eyes.” Master Carson, his previous schoolmate who cross-examined Wilde at his first test, is reported to own observed him lying “haggard” and “decorated” in a Paris gutter. Pearson jokes such stories off. He declares that Oscar never decorated his face except to edify American readers during his U.S. lecture tour (1882). As if you are cheap, he was “usually well-dressed, well-shaved, self-assured.”
“Anybody,” quipped Wilde in his heyday, “can sympathize with the sufferings of a buddy, but it requires a wonderful nature…to sympathize with a friend’s success.” Biographer Pearson’s sympathy is extensive enough to cover both areas of Wilde’s career. He’s picked to tension Wilde the drawing-room wit, the expensive fop, the excellent author of comedies as sparkling as any published for the British point.