You are on page 1of 13

OSCAR WILDE

3'1

!\:h.:k. Pt~. 'V.ltic~ d~ U t


'-"'-"'
- urn to Pr

k
a.J.se Oscar Wilde', Mail Online. 17 July 2009 .
.co.u /news/world
I
I
U-lurn-pn.l~-<hc.u-Wild h
.
news artic e-1200167/Vatican-d~sfll
e. tmi#,=OXPy2g48).
nunn. Oscar \Vildc, p.S4S.

http./ /www.d.lilrm.l.il
40

'Mixing Memory and Desire':


The Scandal of Oscar Wilde's
Neo-Classical Poetry
FLORINA TUFESCU

nscarWdde's writing career begins and ends with poetry. It was with a \UI_Jume ofPomJS that he chose to make his entry on the literary scene in
1881, sending it to admired contemporaries such as Matthew Amold,
Algemon Charles Swinburne, Robert Browning and the prime minister
and classical scholar William Gladstone; it was to poetry again that he
turned in seeking to remake his reputation after the disgrace of his imprisonment, publishing The Ballad of Rtoding Gaol in 1898. Apart from these twO
much noticed poetic appearances, Wilde wrote twO blank verse tragedies,
The Duchess of Padua (written in 1883) and A Flormtine Tragedy (never
completed), in continuation of the Romantic and Victorian homage to
Elizabethan, and in particular Shakespearean, drama, the verse drama tradition that would briefly gain the public's approval with the plays ofT.S. Eliot
and Archibald Macl.eish before once more losing its appeal. He also wrote
a number of short poems that appeared in society magazines; a few tales
which he published as 'poems in prose', in tribute to Otarles Baudelaire
and the French tradition; and, as his ultimate challenge to the emerging
Victorian canon, a remarkable poem, The Sphinx (1894), which adapts the
rhythm and some of the sentiment of In Memoriam (1850), the poem that
comforted the widowed Queen Victoria and brought Alfred Tennyson the
Laureateship, for an elegy of unfulfilled sexual fantasies.'
Poetry is never far from the surface ofWilde's prose works, either.

b Wilde
The Symbolist drama of Salome ( 1894) was called a poem Y
47

OSCAR IVILDE

htrrudf' 0
nr: nt"'t"d not ev
to dt:oYrr the _
en go beyond the be t kn
.
n
<entral role that
s own Wildean texts
,,. D<u}- of Ir>n;( (I 8 89
poetry played in Wilde's imagination
b,.,.n r<ally f.uthful to thetr ~ pahys the greatest tribute to poets who 'hav~
u bt"mg t . 1
tg mtsston and
.
. "'' ut d) unreliable' '

are umversally recognized


- The plot of The Picture of Dorian Gray
( 1890) ts tnsptrt'd h)- Sh k
a espeare'
pm1ous rradmg of the
. . s sonnets or rather by Wilde's own
Shak<spt"ar< , pres
m m The Portrait of Mr w H ( 1889)
d
<"nee T<mains cle

dines htmsdf by means of a


ar _enough in a text whose protagonist
\'o1th an a<~T<ss ft<"r h .
quotauon from Hamlrt and falls out oflove
b'r unsausfact
c
o<:atty ugues that W I I .
ory per,ormance as Juliet.' Bernard
h
l < e s prose and
h
t at these d<riYe ~
J
verses are many characteristics and
. I bo
rom ames M Ph

d
ac erson s Ossian poems, namely
e r>t<d llneration
an asson

sentences, an bu d
ance metrtcally paired very shon
n ance of si m 'I d
complex sentenc- H
I es an striking pauses instead of
c
,,_
e states th t wld

1
mrged md uthentic based
a
e never forgot the Irish cadence,
Yet hke the maJ-ority. f - . on a shon repeated unit, of Ills upbringing'.'
0
descr; bing Ch, _. d . crtucs Beatty pre fiers Wilde s prose to his poetry,
~"'' es (1881)
nl

as 0 Y a prose sequence decked out


u verse' .
The imponance of
enough the
.
poetry to Wi!de's work and thinking is clear

quesuon ofWild mor< conn-.-..- 'a!


e s Imponance to poetry has proved much
-vcrsJ Yet Wild
e s concepts of the mask and of artistic
uthentidty

Went on to h
'd
century J>Oets
ave const erable influence on twentiethrh
some of his
_
orough!y dism .
most pronunent successors have been
.
Isstve of his
.
_
influenced by it. Wilde 's own . poetry while Simultaneously being
of Salomc "-t
friends, to whom he read the manuscript
"'" reacted by lau bin
h .
etghtened 1an
. , g g, uncertain how to respond to its
c.
guage. Wilde s po try
Jlapers, not least in Punch b
e
was OJten parodied in the newsleverson. Waiter Hami! ~ one of hiS closest friends, the novelist Ada
study that gives am le s tons Atsthctic Mov<ment (1881), an empathetic
the strength of his~ ptlace to Wilde, praises his 'undoubted genius' on
on .lrt
en Ypublished p
. ocms and o f his
influential lectures
and design. This did
and often SLUful
,_,,
- cludmg
numerous
p--'
fnot prevent him firam m
and Am
~ uutes 0 Wilde in
1
<ncan Authors (1 889 ) In
_ vo ume 6 of his Parodies of English
ed to Wa!

terestmg'"
'--~
ter Hamilton's 1-d
.,, whi!e Robert Browning obJ'ectuun an
ea of publishi
.
ungradous'letter to
ng Parodies of his works and sent
ensure that they Would not be acoompanied

THE SCANDAL OF OSCAR WILDE'S NEO-CLASSICAL POETRY

by any extracts from his work, Wilde did not appear to be perturbed,
and he sent Hamilton a characteristically charming letter on the subject:
'Parody. which is the Muse with the tongue in her cheek, has always
amused me; but it requires a light touch, ... and, oddly enough, a love
of the poet whom it caricatures'.'
The slighting ofWilde's poetry continued into the rwentieth century. WH. Auden viewed Wilde's interest in poetry and his passion for
Alfred Douglas as equally misguided: 'Of his poems, not one has survived, for he was totally lacking in a poetic voice of his own ... Nor was
it, I think, personal infatuation that made him so absurdly overestimate
Douglas' versified drivel; he quite honestly thought it was good'.' W.B.
Yeats described Wilde as a clown and thought only The Ballad of Rtoding
Gaol wonh republishing - in a drastically trin1med-down version.'
Jorge Luis Barges paid Wilde the compliment of comparing his poetry
to that of great contemporaries such as Tennyson, Swinburne and Dante
Gabriel Rossetti, yet felt compelled to state that Wilde 'was not a great
poet nor a consummate prose writer', but rather an 'enfant terrible'."
Fernando Pessoa was equally critical, protesting against comparisons
of Ills work to that ofWilde and noting that the 'exquisite phrase' of
the poets, 'the poetic phrase proper, is a thing in which his works are
signally lacking'.''
Of oourse, it would be plausible enough to argue that Wilde's disdples
were essentially right The master's dabbling in a genre for which he bad
no genuine inclination could be explained, if not ultimately excused, by Ills
upbringing and cultural drcumstances. Poetry was a highly prestigious,
arguably the most significant, art form for the Victorians. In addition,
Wilde was the son of the famous nationalist poet Lady Jane Wilde
(Speranza) and spent much of his childhood among the Irish poets,
'trained .. - to love and reverence them, as a Catholic child is the Saints
of the Calendar', as he would recall in Ills only lecture on the subject."
Poetry came easily to him, far too easily. perhaps. But it would also be
plausible to argue that his disdples had personal reasons for disparaging
Wilde's poetry, reasons connected to what one might call the 'anxiety of
assodation', not only to Wilde's homosexuality (which was only decriminalized and depathologised as late as the 1960s in the UK and the US),
but also to old-fashioned aestheticism. E.C Stedman's wide-ranging

48
49

THE SCANDAL OF OSCAR WILDE'S NEO-CLASSiCAl pofTRY


OSCAR WILDE

'WHOWEIIEYOUR LOVERS. WHO WERE THEY WHO \\'JU'SfLID FOR yoU iS

>ttllly \'Kt.ortan Ports (I 8 7 6) fi


rtn> "- 1to 1~nh p
1m 1
. or example
d
an d nauve
. , ac ow edges Wildes 'cleverI>LU'>JOn of \\'J!d .
poeuc gtft yet includesonlytheb efi
t ~ 11 ow-Oxonp~ R e s poetr}' a1ongside that of hls fr dn estd
~ .-nnell Rodd
.
1en an
r~pres~nt~uv.- of aesth . . . preCisely because he views Wilde as a
a
r~~LhNl'~lmost,.,.. r euctsm
d
mmor movement that in his viewh d
,-.nect evelop

My pum.~- t th r
ment at its start with Keats'"
,---~th n I e oollowin

n~t~m.-nt on
.
g pages is not to offer yet another definiti
e pace (f my) ofWild
ve
l=t w~y of understandin w
, e s poetry within the canon. The
coune, simply to plun
g
hJide s or anyone's poems remains, of
ge mto t em t0
d h
h .
.

rea t ern aloud and to allow


t em to t~ke ~
h
~er t e Imagi
t'
B.ludelaire's verse .
na IOn, as Wilde wrote of the effect of
.
1

et
Its
subtle
stea! into your brain and colour
your thoughts and
.
musiC
WTOte it
_ d th you Will becom e ~or a moment what he was who

to tell even one of its secrets


to your soul ._a d e whole book su ffier 1t
an hyour ,soul
upon poisonous
,. will grow eager to know more, and will feed
for the experienceo:~~eru!, can offer in the following pages no substitute
or the rvv-try f h' cl
g on the potsonous honey ofWilde's poetry.
r--M '"Co S tsh osest and most br illi' ant assodates such as John
Gray and
~ e1 c wob or o th
poetry that inspired him
and that included
th
'
. n e canomcal
and Latin I.
e masterpieces of French, English and ancient Greek
. the briefest sketc!I of three
possible w;,;tterature.
f What 1 Wl.11 attempt IS
0
which rem.is
ap~roaching the poems: biographical (an approac!I
approach to nsthprom~ent) aesthetic (emphasizing Wilde's self-reflective
e wnttng of poe try} an d as a s1gruficant
. .
influence on
twentieth-c
entury
poetry
an
infl
th
uence at has been ignored or underplayed in much . . . '

ofWildean criti ~n;sm. Each of these readings builds on some aspect


their beauty whc th eory; none of them can explain the poems away.

e er It
fresh and glorlo
d may. ap pear [;aded truncated, bizarre or indeed
that reads so us,f, an therr ultimate strangeness as poems in a world
been forgott:rr ew and in which the craft of verse itself has almost

THii DUST': BREAKING INTO TilE paFf'S HEART


Oscar Wilde's volume of Poems opens with an acknowledgment of the
loss of artistic discipline:
To drift with every passion till my soul
Is a stringed lute on which all winds can play,
Is it for this that I have given away

Mine ancient wisdom and austere control?


('Helas!' [188i].ll. I-4)"
It ends with a graceful admission of failure:
I have made my choice, have lived my poems, and, though
youth is gone in wasted days
I have found the lover's crown of myrile better than the poet's
crown of bays. ('fAYKYffii'OS EPm: .' 'BittersWeet Love'
[1881],ll. 29-30)."
Such poetic apologies - Wilde apologizing for being a more interesting and accomplished lover than poet, and for having allowed his life
to taint, and perhaps weaken. his poetry - continue (perhaps even more
ironically} the more gracious stance which is encapsulated in Wilde's
famous observation to Andre Gide: 'I have put my genius in my life and
orily my talent in my works'." Like his observation to Gide, they simultaneously and contradictorily capitalize on the modern fasctnation with
biography. Wilde's foregrounding of Love as a key theme offers readers
an easy and almost irresistible entry into the intertextual labyrinth of his
poetry. and suggests (hints even} that the poems can be read best as
commentaries on Wilde's (love} life. The illusion of imlTlediacy Is
eri!Ianced by the biographical references scattered throughout the
poems: many are clearly associated with Wilde's travelling and
theatrical experiences and have been frequently read in an unproblematically autobiographical manner, from Arthur runsome's study of 191 2
. a
to the current edition of the Oxford Complete Works edited. by Ian small
(ZOOO). For example, the quintessentially decadent Sphinx Is
m e
recognizably Ol<.onian setting where Wilde was a student, while th

s~t

SI

so

OSCAR WILDE

~.>.rly Mllions of The Ballad 0 f


.
L ~
.
.
Rroding Gaol were signed 'C.3.3' - Wilde'
numucr m pnson In addi .
.
s
d!Terent from the .d d.
nodn, the speakers of the poems are not so
.>. d
an Ies an the occasional cads ofWilde's comedies
'
n argm.bly not so different from Wilde 's owo ublic
perceived b h.
P
persona, as
.
. y Is contemporaries. Yet Wilde, like Shakespeare, is careful
to m>.Intam the tension be
th
.
bio
.
tween e potrnoaUy and the unquestionably autognphical: although some of the poems are dedicated to well-known
actresses the vast m aJonty
o f poetic
speakers and lovers remain nameless
and
completely unide n t.1 f1Ied , JUSt

.
as Shakespeare .s sonnets promise

'
'

\
,I,,

Immortality to the beloved and paradoxically refuse even to name him.


. Ofcourse, the autobiographical reading of the poems was dramatically
mtens1f1ed by the trial and its aftermath, far beyond the poet's
e.>.lculauons. His impassioned speech in defence of the 'Love that dare
not speak its name' made his poems - even more than his other works
- .>.ppear far more autobiographical than they need otherwise have been
to disciples who shared his erotic or aesthetic inclinations.
Interestingly, before the trial, Wilde had toyed with the fantasy of an
elite audience for his poetry. similar to Shakespeare's sonnets, which
in the view of most contemporary scholars had not been intended for
publio.tion, but only for circulation among Shakespeare's friends.
FollOwing the mixffi reception of his debut volume of PO<!!IS, Wilde
prevented the reviewing of the re-issued 1891 edition, writing to Grant
Richards, who had requested a review copy. that the book was meant
'merely for lovers of poetry. a small and quite unimponant sect of
perfect people' and that atter~tion 'would annoy it, books being delicate
and most sensitive things, and if they are books worth reading, having a
strong dislike of the public'." The 1892 Poons and The Spbiax were both
publishd as limited editions, exclusive aesthetic objects rather than
romantic effusions for the public. Yet the poetry which he had designed as
aesthetic and exclusive e.>.me to resemble J,O. Halliwell-Phillips's description of Shakespeare's sonnets as a 'delinquer~t's confessions'." Wilde's
~t~prison publisher was Leonard Smithers, whom he fondly described
as the most learned erotomaniac in Europe' and 'a delightful companion'.
Followmg Smithers's bankruptcy and loss of copyright in Wilde's titles, his
:
Were frequently pirated by Smithers himself and by Charles
gton (the pseudonym for Paul Fernando), who also specialized in
52

0 CLASSICAL POETRY
THE SCANDAL OF OSCAR WILDE S NE -

erotica. This meant that Wildean titles, including the poetry. were pub.
h
nd reports of the
lished alongside sensational bwgrap 1es a
trials and that Wilde's works were outside of the realm of reputable p~b
lishing until Robert Ross's publication of the Collected Works (1908): It
was, therefore, unavoidable that th e poetry sh o uld acquire greater bwgraphical significance.
,
.
This biographical impulse even infected those who were WIIde s poeoc
respondents. J.S. Young's 'Impromptu-Suggested by S.M.' . (th~
initials standing forWilde's post-prison alias Sebastian Melmoth) m his~
of HOU1S ( 1909) poetry collection 'homosexualises' cr:e romance ofWil~e s
'Panthea' ( 1881) in the manner that justif1es Wilde s observaoon that ~
bad poetry springs from genuine feeling'." Likewise, Femando Pessoas
Antinous ( 1918) is filled with covert reflections on Wilde's writing and his
love affair with Alfred Douglas. While the poem is ostensibly about the
emperor Hadrian's mourning over his beloved slave Antinous, an episOde
that is also briefly invoked by Wilde in Th< Spbiax's pageant of sexual
fantasies, it is impossible not to think ofWilde's sensuous 'fleshly' poetry
and of the global significance of the trial in reading lines such as these:
The end of days, wher1 Jove is born again,
And Ganymede again pour at his feast,
Shall see our dual soul from death released
And recreated unto love, joy, pain,
life - all the beaury and the vice and lust,
All the diviner side of flesh, flesh-staged."
Alfred Douglas's wife, Olive Custance, seems also to have been
fascinated by Wilde. Custance's poems 'The White Starue' ( 1897) and
'Antinous' (1902) play with Wildean representations of androgyny,
while 'Saint Sebastian' (1905), 'Hyacinthus' (1905) and 'Peacocks: A
Mood' (1905) can be read as comments on Wilde's love-~ wiU:
Alfred Douglas." Hart Crane's first published poem was C. 3. 3.
(1916), his identification with the dead poet suggested by the
signarure in the second line:
He has woven rose-vines

About the empry heart of night,


And vented his long mellowed wines
53

--------..........-.~~JI~n....-----THE SCANDAL OF OSCAR WILDE'S NioO-CL-'SSIC'.'l porTRY


OSCAR WILDE

Of
dremling
With
- on th e desert white
searmg sophistry... "
This
- thi-rteen li
_,_ is a deliberate!
ye1uslve
.wnost
'
m ak es sense' an arnb'
- ne poem, an almost sonnet th t
Oscar
Wild
lguous
a
.
e or Materna, forbidd love
p oem whose subject is either
1
en homoerotic
or oedipal ove, or
mdeed both." Such poems echo Wild

attempt to recaprure h.
e s poetic imagery and ideas in

IS personal voi
an
sonnet The Dead Poet' (1907)
ce, as m Alfred Douglas's moving
lav' O..lh ID
. Gmoo (2009)
Tho
- h t in his recent
h' So does
_
_ mas w ng
PConstance's
1
grave. The nl w lch rmagmes Wilde visiting his wife
0 Y words Wri ht' W'ld
. .
o mmunize despair are hi
. g s I e can rum to in order
1
Keats' (1877) and from 'R sown, ~es from his poems 'The Grave of
eqmescat (1881) "
These rath er un probl ematized bio a hi .
perhaps, understandabl .
_
gr P ea! readings of the poetry are
ose who knew him e m wnters influenced by Wilde, and especially
th
personally
academic criticism W'ld
, . However, th ey reappear even in the best
di
I e s s1gnifi cance to queer poets as to queer artists
.m general is briefly
dialogue' that inaugurstcussed by Donald E. Hall, in the 'introductory
a es a spe 'a! Ethics' (2000) where the
':' Issue of Victorian Poetry on 'Queer
own political and ethical poetry IS read as an expression of the author's
... into a dynamic
o rebellion and rem
,VIews
tha and as a use ful entree
f
. 'He!as', the
orse
t 1s still r el evant for sexuality srudies today.
Wlth
.
0
ofWilde's 'deep :Ob-valg poem of the 1881 collection seen as a reflection
I th
ence over
nonconformity' Whil
. the consequences of his own [sexual]
e
e
ethical
- h ave changed, they still seem

to work against Wild .


cntena
e. Hall
a poet 'for whom 1 really
dont care very much'
th tells us that Wilde IS
general are not q
' e reason being that his poetry and his art in
ueer enough u
Even for John s
.
reamrn of Dreams tormon
'Wildwho d edi cates an entire chapter of his book
0fi

next to influential
gures such as Paul Celan eJ the
lm Poet' ' P1acmg
him
the poetry is largely or uldrno el Ashberry or Philip Larkin, the value of
ground for the tncom
blat Y biographical, as 'an important training
'like his !ife ... a mixed bag'
para , eOth
comedies'
_ " The poems themselves are
orate,_ combming
.
the Jongin- fo er
. biOgraphical
.
readin gs are more elabPatrlcia Bebrendt offers an _g d r mnmacy with creative interpretations.
Wilde' s poetry which I.
mh- epth and often illuminating reading of
s per aps over!Y f,ocussed on unveiling Wilde's

A Long and Lovely SutC!dt

includl~g

homosexual inclinations-" Mehssa KnoX s


psychoanalytical reading of the entire Wildean oeu'":"'
the
poems. in which she uncovers 'obsessive erotic fantasies of W1lde s siSter
!sola, who died at the age of 8." I could add 10 these my own readmg of
'The Harlot's House' (1885), the poem for which the bioguph!al
source may have been the death of Wilde's half-sisters, Sir \'l!lham

Wilde's daughters by an unnamed woman: waltzing past the fireplace


during one of the last dances at nrummaconor House, Mary Wilde's
crinoline caught fire as did that of her sister Emily (Emma) who
attempted to save her; both died from severe bums. respectively nine
and twenty-one days after the ball-'' Dawn's frightened appearance at
the end of'The Harlot's House' corresponds to the time of the rragedy.
the unusual verb 'crept' perhaps suggesting their prolonged suffering
before death. The condemnation of the 'ghostly dancers' and their
presentation as 'phantom puppets' could reflect Wi!de's anger at the
passivity of the other guests at the dance and their inabiliry to save his
sisters. The unforgettable and seemingly unavoidable correlations that he
makes in this poem between lust and innocence, dancing and death. and
the constant disruption of hedonism and decadent excess by Christian
repentance, could perhaps be linked to this family tragedy and to Wilde's
ambivalent feelings about his father and his half-sisters' mother possibly the 'harlot' of the poem's tiile, the fallen woman that he would
spend much of his drama attempting to understand and re-invent. The
initial manuscript designation of'the prince's house' is equally revealing.
for it alludes to Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Masque of the Red Death' (1842)
and to the prince's ultimately futile attempt to isolate rumself from the
contagion of death and vulgariry - just as Sir William Wilde srrove to
keep this tragedy from becoming public, writing to the coroner 10
request that there should be no inquest on the deaths and possibly. as
Theo McMahon suggests," ensuring that the girls' names were miSSpelt
in the official report."
Biographical readings of Wilde's poetry can be intereSting and illuminating, provided that they remain speculative- Wilde's theory of
Shakespeare's sonnets, as articulated in 'The Portrait of Mr- W. H.'. built on
close reading and half-forged. half-unacknowledged scholarly
tions, is that they were inspired by willie Hughes, a boy-actor Ill

quot~

55

54

IS

------

~-----">:)~'
OSCAR WILDE

Sluk

THE SCANDAL OF OSCAR WILDE'S NEO-CLASSICAL POETRY

np<',m, s

comp.my Wi!de 's "


boldn= md im.l . .
bographical imagining far
. .
wh
gJnanveness Previous "
SUipasses m Its
eh sought to explain awa th
unpersonalreadingsofthesonnets,
th~m to sonnet c . " y e passiOn of the sonnets by atmbu .
omennons and R .
tmg
p.ltron~ge; )'et it is in ,.ts
ena.ssance conventions of artistic
turn surp
db
personA!, lfms-indiVI'd _,.
asse y what might be called a transU.ulst readin Shale

to h eYen, perhps li'- h


g.
espeare s heart is whisked awav
>ee
t
at
of
the
Ha
.
,.
.
o f Sight - chmged b th
.
PPY Prince, or simply whisked out
hornfymg the mo y e magc of language into something else. After
re convenuonal amon hi
.
1h t the dedi at
f h
g s readers With the suggestion
0
.
I e sonnets w
th e .origin.ol' ofee
fern-' h
.
as a prev~ously unheard ofboy-actot
.ue eromes su h Juli

h omosexu.ol taint of
the
e
c as
et and Rosalind, and that the
cmon, the N>-t
h
po try expands to the entire Shakespearean
- or t en acknowl d
th
Wished to unlock h h
.
e ges at whether or not Shakespeare
IS
ean m the sonnets h e was, like
" all artists ultimately po~I
~essm~so~
.

strange' when th
. .
emonons change into something 'new md
ey pass mto the realm 0 f
Afi
.
,
md Rue' ( 188 5 )
,

art. ter all, according to Roses


shimmering
:efrts heans break in music' (!. 55)" or perh..ps into
Auction of Keats' ~ agmen~ (according to 'Sonnet on the Sale by
b--'- .
Letters (1886] 1 7)" but even dinary h
""" mto roses and se
.
.
or
earts
607-12)" .,..._,_
ent, as m The Ballod of Rooding Gaol (11. 481-2, 11.

uu:; metamorph
th
.
h"~--lir
OSIS IS
e pnce of admission with 'poor
-=
e as one of th
'
e sources of an, at once annihilated md perfiected
into ,...,._
.-- ...anence. 'They are th el
Beauty.'" Whateve.r th
e. ect to whom beautiful things mean ouly
source, the ultirn
e .osteruble subject of a work of art, whatever its
ate subject- for the critic as artist- is always Beauty.

a;

'SPIRIT OF BEAUTY TARRY


'
YET AWHILE' AND WHY ONE SHOVI.DN'T

EAT MUFFINS IN AN AGIThTEO MANNER

Biography has its charm b .


as the ultimate goal of ' ut 1 ~ must ultimately yield to what Wilde sees
from biography,
. tlpoeo-y Itself, Beauty. The critical move should be
..
Stric y speaking t0 'B
.

eauty . Wilde s poe'"' like his


ctltical prose is .r.
' .ute.r all filled With

- ''
symbol of symbols'..
mvocattons of Beauty: 'Beauty is the

Beauty
has
Or. to quote fro th
as many memmgs as mm has moods.'"
m e even more
poems:
extravagmt lmguage of one of his

Ay! though the gorged asp of passion feed


my boy's heart, yet have I burst the bars,
Stood face to face with Beauty, known indeed
The Love which moves the Sun and all the stars!'
('Apologia' (1881],11. 33-6) ..
On

As readers of his poetry, we should take heed of the first aphorism in the
Preface to the Picture of Dorian Gray which defmes the artist as 'the creator

of beautiful things'.
This definition appeared obsolete at the time it was published- few of
Wilde's contemporaries would have thought of 'Beauty' as art's defining
quality or agreed with Edgar Allan Poe's defmition of poetry as
'the rhythmical creation of beauty'," which even the Wildean disciple
Stuart-Young tries to render more reassuringly intellectual: 'poetry is the
flowe.ring of the mind into rhythmic utte.rance'." Yet asWilde understands
md practices it, the worship of Beauty could have radical implications,
warning in 'The Critic as Artist' ( 1890) that:
There are two ways of disliking art ... One is to dislike it. The other,
to like it rationally ... If one loves Art at all, one must love it beyond
all other things in the world, and against such love, the reason, if
one listened to it, would cry out. There is nothing sane about the
worship of beauty."
Wilde's privileging of Beauty as Art's essential quality means that his
verse is always technically accomplished and frequently modelled on that
of previous poets, md that the representation is always graceful, regardless of the subject or the emotional content. When he writes a 'Sonnet
on the Massacre of the ChristiariS in Bulgaria' {1881), he does so
through the prism of John Milton's 'On the Late Massacre in Piedmont'
( 165 5). When he decides to write a ballad on the hanging of a fellowprisoner at Reading, he aesthetidzes the circumstmces of the murder
md turns to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Rime of the Andmt Marina ( 1798)
md to his own 'The Harlot's House' to rende.r the drab world of prison
nightmarish. His beautifully designed and gorgeously printed poetry
appears liberating and inspiring to some, callous and perhaps immoral
to others whose approach to art is primarily emotional or intellectual.
Wilde's obse.rvation that 'no artist has ethical sympathies'" can be

56
57

---

------.-~z
'

OSCAR W!LDE

undcr..tood by anal
.
f h
og) to classical
.
pamtmg, in which a representation
o t e Crucifixion is as carefull
scene. To some mod
. . y composed as a still life or a country
dcu wh .
em sensibilities, this a
) we should think th b
ppears wrong, yet it is not
at roken-dawn 11. . a!
greater artistic auth
. .
, e Ipnc language pos. h
enticay than Wild '
"H lls brilliant sprinklin of
.
e s mellifluous language,
them long dead. This is re!
quotauons from fellow-poets, some of
and of different audie
y a matter of changing artistic conventions
broken laYers be b dl nee expectations. Should the letters of heatta Y spelt to signif
.
lmportancr of lki Ea
Y emotion, as Cecily suggests in The
.
ng me;t? Richard EIJrn
.
.
.,.,,ddy held bel,ef . h
arm IS perhaps thinking of the
Ill t e COMe f
b

inartistic expression when h


c Ion em;een authentic' emotion and
one of the rh
.
e suggests of Roses and Rue' (1885) that
)'mes Is so bad ('Yo had
you myself) as to indi
u , poets enough on the shelf/! gave
Is th
. cate that the senttment is genuine'."
ere a genume ernot.
be hi d
( 1881)' Or 'Q . "
Ion
n a poem such as 'My Voice'

U!a mu 1turn Am
( 1
.
should be a k
f
aVI
881)? Is this even a question we
s mg o poetry' Th W'ld
..
.
1
paradoxical would ar

e
ean crmc at hts most
of ,_ .
.
gue that the source, real or fictitious of the work
~' ts untmport
t .
,
'
language' ... all th han smce love is the child, not the parent of

at appens a1 ,,,.
can
m re .Ue is at best a raw material that Art
accept and transform or .
expands
reJect altogether, while Art itself constantly
our perception of Lift
d th
one doe
e an
ereby constantly improves upon it:
s not see a th
.1
does .
.
mg unu one sees its beauty. Then, and then on!~
lt come mto existence."7
'
While the aesthete can 0 n1 dm
under so
Y a I! emotion into the realm of Art
me more or less c

readers wh c!in
onVInong, yet always decorous, guise, for the
0
should be th g to the natural' pose, and to the idea that poetry
the disguise, ~:p~ntane~us overflow of emotion'," the prominence of
enough to d-- eer VlStbility of the mask as mask in Wilde's poetry is
.......ue 1t smce it
1
their Studv;n p
mvests so c early in such theatricalicy. In
' 9 O<tJy Stephen Matt
d
too many appear to think
erson an Darryl ]ones despair that far
modelled on th R
that all poetry should be Romantic that is
e omanti th
'
'
explain why Wilde's e c i eory of poe~ a view that would help
contemporaty read ~':;' try s not only alien but alienating to some
''-hed verses caners. At the level f tee hnique, Wilde s smoothly
pom;
appear old-fashioned alongside Wait Whitrnan's

=es

58

THE SCANDAL OF OSCAR WILDE S

NEO CLASSICAL POH~Y

effusive language, Stephane Mallarme 's postponement of memmg or


Robert Browning's fascinating experiments that 'turned language mto
iguoble clay', yet 'made from it men and women that I1ve '"Th

e
perceived failure or tameness ofWilde's poetry has been atmbuted br
critics to a young writer's lack of conftdence (Murray. Frankel) or undtScriminating enthusiasm (Ransome), anxiety of influence (Bloom) or
even to opporrunism, shortage of ideas (Small) md unscrupulous
plagiarism (Gardner)." Yet Wilde was no dilettante when it came to
poetry. As Leslie White has demonstrated in a recent article. Wilde's critical remarks on Browning anticipate the most interesting scholarship of
the last twenty years." He was also an early admirer of Wait Whitman.
though his appreciation seems to centre on the American poet's personality rather than on his artistic accomplishment: 'Wait Whitrnan if not"
poet is a man who sounds a strong note. He writes neither prose nor
poetry but something of his own that is unique.'" Wilde's interactions
With Mallarme and other avant-garde poets deserve more attention thm
they have so far received. In Paris, Wilde was, if not perhaps 'the prince
of poets', as the Romanian symbolist Dimitrie Anghel described him,
certainly an influential and admired figure who paid tribute to Mallarme
as the only 'maitre' of French contemporary poetry and was in his turn
admired by Mallarme for The Picture of Dorian Gray: 'un des seuls [livres]
qui puissent emouvoir, vu que d'une reverie essentielle et des parfums
d'ames les plus etranges s'est fait son orage. Redevenir poignant a travers
l'inoui raffinement d'intellect, et humain, et une pareille perverse
atmosphere de beaute, est un miracle que vous accomplissez' ." Wilde's
Sphinx is dedicated to the young French poet and scholar Marcel Schwob
whose Uvre de Monelle, published in the same year (1894), is an equally
decadent elegy of a prostitute, written in highly unusual free verse with
echoes of the Psalms.
Moreover, Wilde's reviews of contemporary poetry for the journals.
not least his 'Literary Notes' as editor of Woman's World, reveal the
breadth of his interests and his critical discrimination. ranging as they
do from Williarn Morris' translation of The Odyssey (1887) (which Wilde
is able to compare with previous translations from the Greek) to Joseph
Skipsey's Carols from the Coal Fields (1886}, from Yeats' Wanderings of OISln
(1889} to Edward Carpenter's edition of Chants of Labour: A Song Book of the

59

OSCAR WILDE

Prople (.1888), from the verse tragedies of Michael Field to Constance


NadensAModanApostleandOtbaPoem.s ( 1887 ) Wild, d . .
.
sli h
.

e s eos10n to wnte
m g tly annquated beautiful language cannot plausibly be attributed
to a lack of understanding of contemporary trends and possibilities.
It might instead be linked to his sense that unlike Victorian drama a
~mmerdal genre that he helped to turn once again into an an for:n.
Vtctonan poetry was in fact highly accomplished and varied- it was the
public that needed to be reinvented and taught to appreciate beauty of
form and design, as Wilde undertook to do through his poetry and his
lectures. Wilde's choices are more fully explained in his review of
William Henley's poetry where he asserts: 'If English Poetry is in danger
what she has to fear is not the fascination of dainty metre or delicate
form, but the predominance of the intellectual spirit over the spirit of
beauty'" What Wilde calls here 'the intellectual spirit' is related to the
'unimaginative realism' that threatens art in 'The Decay of Lying', to the
'brute reason ... hitting below the intellect' and to the' creeping common
sense' that kills most people, which he condemns in The Picture of Dorian
Gray." Or, as he put it in one of his poems: 'the crimson flower of our life
is eaten by the cankerworm of truth, I And no hand can gather up the
fallen withered petals of the rose of youth'; mere rationality without
artistic empathy makes the appreciation and writing of poetry (almost)
impossible ('rAYKYIIIPOS EPOl: ''Bittersweet Love', ll. 19-20)." He
also insists that poets should not give up formal verse:
Rhyme gives architecture as well as melody to verse; it gives that
delightful sense of limitation which in all the arts is so pleasurable,
and is, indeed, one of the secrets of perfection; it will whisper, as
a French critic has said, 'things unexpected and charming, things
with strange and remote relations to each other', and bind them
together in indissoluble bonds of beauty."
By privileging craft rather than self-expression and trusting
aesthetic instinct above time- and place-bound ethics, the poet could
hope to become possessed by 'the andent gods of Gredan poesy' ('The
Burden ofltys' [1881 )), inspired in the pre-Romantic sense of the word
in which genius was not individual, but a gift from the gods." Long
before the Oulipo group, who realized that artistic creativity can be

60

.
EO-CLASSICAL POETRY
THE SCANDAL OF OSCAR WILDE S N

. .
traints Wilde agreed to
released by collaborative pl."y and by Jingmsnc
limi~ that the master
Goethe's observation that it IS m working Wl
.
f
"By
concentrating
on
Beauty
and
the
perfecnon
verse,
reveals himself
.
th
d from all too
one can avoid falling into discursive habtts and free e mm
mes posstble to move
obvious associations and biases. It then beeo

. 11 crual and ethical views and tap


beyond the expression of one s own tnte e
. imply concentrated race
into the collective imgination. Imagmauon IS s

f di alverse"
experience' and might be stimulated by the practtce 0 tra non

.1d .
th
tic
poems
it
is
possible
to
Within the space of one ofWt e s aes e

..

pre1udices and knowbe free from our everyday person almes, emonons,
ledge, and even to free ourselves from what one might call ~e tenden;
towards useless and ultimately self-desrrucnve emononal tnVOlvemen
Wilde is capable of writing a poem that is a sheer celebration of movement
and colour such as 'Fantaisies necoratives Il: Les Ballons' ( 1887}; or else he
can write poems such as 'Symphony in Yellow' ( 1889} or 'Impression du

elements
Matin' (1881) in which human subjects appear as mmor
of the overall design. Even those poems that feanrre a famous human
subject quickly move towards vague reverie. A glimpse of the beau~
actress Lily Langtry, whom Wilde called 'Helen ofTroy, now of London
is enough to inspire verses such as these:

Where hast thou been since round the walls ofTroy


The sons of God fought in that great emprise?
. ?
Why dost thou walk our common earth agam.
Hast thou forgotten that impassioned boy.
His purple galley, and his Tyrian men
And treacherous Aphrodite's mocking eyes?
For surely it was thou, who, like a star
Hung in the silver silence of the night,
Didst lure the Old World's chivalry and might
H

1
Into the clamorous crintson waves of war! ('The New e en
[1879), 11. 1-10}
!iment to a living beauty
What perhaps begins as an extravagant comp
b"ect
tunts into a dream of the beautiful past, the poem's lith~gFsuust~
mned in Goe es a
replaced by an apparition o f Helen, as re- irna.,Alas, alas, thou wilt not tarty here,
61

OSCAR WILDE

But, like that bird, the servant of the s


Who flies befc
th
un,
ore e northwmd d th .
So wilt thou fly our evil I d dan
e mght,
an an drear
Back to the tOWer 0 f thi

ne old delight
And the red lips of
'
young Euphorion. (11. 6 1_ 6)
Yet the ultimate revelation of this
.
of Ouist and th.u of the mythi~ which provocatively fuses the image
en, IS only the flimsiest of images
Lily of love, pure and inviolate!
.
Tower of ivory! red rose of fire!
Thou hast come down our darkness to illume:
: r we, close-caught in the wide nets of Fate,
eaned WJth waiting for the World's Desire
Aimless!
d
.
Y wan ered in the House of gloom
Aimlessly sought some slumberous anodyn;
:wasted lives, for lingering wretchedness,
we beheld thy re-arisen shrine
And the white glory of thy lovelin~ss (11. 91-100)."
The subjects ofWilde
an poems are often so slight as to make them
easy target for parody Thi Wild ,

s ls
e s Impression II La Fuite de )a
Lune 1877):

an

To outer senses there is peace,


A dreamy peace on either hand,
Deep silence in the shadowy land,
Deep silence where the shadows cease.

Save for a cry that echoes shrill


From some lone bird di sconso1ate
A corncrake calling to its mate '

The answer from the misty hill.

'.

And suddenly the moon withdraws


Her sickle from the lightening skies,
And to her sombre cavern fli
Wra ed
es,
pp m a veil of yellow gauze."

THE SCANDAL OF OSCAR WILDE'S NEO-CLASSICAL POETRY

In a parody, 'La Fuite des Oies' in the 28 May 1881 edition of Puncb

magazine, this becomes:


To outer senses they are geese,
Dull drowsing by a weedy pool;
But try the impression trick, Cool! Cool!
Snow-slumbering sentinels of Peace!
Deep silence on the shadowy flood
Save rare sharp stridence (that ml!!S 'quack')
Low amber light in Ariel track
Athwart the dun (that ml!!S the mud).
And suddenly subsides the sun,
Bulks mystic, ghostly, thrid the gloom
(That means the white geese waddling borne),
And darkness reigns! (set bow it's done?)"
What the parodists may have failed to realize is that for Wilde, in the
words of his 'successor' T.S. Fliot, 'poetry is not a nrrning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have
personality and emotions know what it mearlS to want to escape from
these things'." When Wilde worked on a poem he generally attempted
to remove emotion, particularly of the biographical kind. In the original
version of'Impression: !I La Fuite de la Lune', published as 'Locus Leaves'
in The Irish Monthly in 18 7 7, the cool impression had actually started from
a Tennysonian elegy on the death of Sir William Wilde, in which the final
stanza read:
And, herald of my love to Him
Who, waiting for the dawn, doth lie,
The orbed maiden leaves the sky,
And the white firs grow more dim."
Wilde takes his father's body out of the poem and fragments it to create
a series of aesthetic, virtually subjecdess stanzaS.
Robert L. Peters writes that Wilde tends to use primary colours in
his impressionist poems, in contrast to Arthur Syrnons's more

62
63

OSCAR WILDE

Whisderian, :subder blendings of color'." It seems to me thatWilde's


use of ~1ctonal and musical tides and references is meant to mark the
poems remotenes~ from ordinary life and emotions, by emphasizing
~ and connecnons to other an forms. The protagonists are only
leaves whirlmg in the wind', 'ghosdy dancers' or- like the children
glimpsed in 'Le Jardin desTuileries' (1885)- only 'litde things of dancing gold' (!. 4)." The protagonists of the Wildean poems are, perhaps,
unfree because 'when man acts, he is a puppet', but we become free
in contemplating them, as in contemplating any event recreated for us
by art.

'yoUR LOVERS ARE NOT DEAD, I KNOW, I THEYWILI ARISE AND HEAR YOUR
VOICE I AND CL\SH1HEIR CYMBAlS AND REJOICE', OR WHY INFLUENCE
IS ALWAYS A VERY DANGEROUS TIUNG

I think it extremely likely that Wilde 's influence on poetry and poets has so
far been underestimated."The impact of his critical theory. in particnlar of
his theoties of the mask and of artistic authenticity as necessitating a
multiplicity of selves, has been documented in relation to the works of
W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot and Fernando Pessoa. T.S. Eliot's early poetry is
haunted by the 'tired Sphinx of the physical' and by marionettes. His
remarkable 'The Love Song ofSt Sebastian' (written 1914) combines the
story of the favourite Uranian saint with Wilde's Salome and with the
leitmotif of The &!lad. 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' ( 191 5) is
perhaps equally Wildean. This is a poem with a Speaker who wishes 'to
have squeezed me universe into a ball', a line which distincdy echoes
the words of Wilde's Ernest in 'The Critic as Artist' when he accuses
Gilbert of treating 'me world as if it were a crystal ball'." Prufrock even
presents his own head on a platter. Even the Four Quartets (1936-42) cannot help echoing Wilde and aestheticism. 'Burnt Norton' emphasizes the
uncanny potential ofWilde's 'Jardin de 1\illeries' and uses the Wildean ttick
of making the artist's sense of alienation and unreality seem universal.
Go, said the bird, for me leaves were full of children,
Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality. (11. 42-5)"
64

THE SCANDAL OF OSCAR WILDE'S NEO-CLASSICAL POETRY

T.S. Eliot's juxtapositions of past and present: most _notably in m.e


collage of The Waste Land owe a great deal to Wilde s theones_ of the cnoc
as artist who should go to previous art for his raw matenal and _-:ho
should make the past live in his work, make the past pan of the cnocal
present. W.B. Yeats's poetry is close to Wilde's in its devotion to Beauty
and Love, those ancient ideals that make one feel as 'hollow as the moon'
('Adam's Curse' [1903]). Yeats' A Full Moon in March ( 1935) is, of course,
largely inspired by Wilde's Salome and indeed the very continuation of
verse drama by bodl Yeats and Eliot is probably sustained by Wilde's
belief in verse and in verse drama. When it comes to W.H. Auden, a
poem such as 'As I Walked Out One Evening' (1937), with its dancing
cliches, its thrilling proximity to me absurd and its ultimate hollowness,
is not unlike Wilde's Sphinx combined with Wilde's love poems such as
'Her Voice' (1881). Auden was very dismissive ofWilde's poetry. but he
acknowledged The Importance of Being Earnest as 'me only pure verbal opera
in English'.'' Femando Pessoa owned and heavily armotated a copy of
Wilde's poems in addition to many works byWilde and his friends, even
translating seventeen lines of The Ballad and writing a poem. in English,
on Antinous. Over dlirty of his manuscripts entries are about Wilde and
many of his aphorisms are clearly inspired by Wilde. Hart Crane's first
published poem was dedicated to C.3.3., Wilde's number while in prisOn.
Olive Custance's poetry, like that of her husband, includes invOCations of
Wilde and of his poetry. Althea Gyles, the remarkable illustrator of many
ofYeats's volumes of poetry and of Wilde's own 'Harlot's House', never
saw her own poetic work published because she insisted on the dedication of her volume 'to the beautiful memory of Oscar Wilde' .''
All this is very suggestive ofWilde 's elusive presence widlin twentiethcentury poetry. Yet to argue that the value ofWilde's poems lies in pavmg
the way for modernism (or anything else) is ultimately to argue beyond
diem or at least againstWilde's aesthetic intentions. It is not my intention
to suggest thatWilde was a powerful poetic precursor, but simply that he
was an enabling and inspiring presence in the lives of many arnsts,
r
m
sof
including major poets. Space here does not allow .or a
CUSSIOn
more than a few ofWilde's poems. As he wrote in defence of one of
Douglas's sonnets, a poem should not be regarded as 'a corpse. ;.or a
callous dissecting table, but as a flower to gild one grey moment To

65

OSCAR WILDE

analyze some ofWUde's poems might be to unravel their charm, which


perlups explains why it has so seldom been attempted. It is enough that
they can blossom for us as flowers, unremarkable perhaps in their beauty.
more prectous for having been handled by WUde, for having retained their
youthfulness and joy.
Many of them have certainly blossomed in the electronic environment,
such as in an animated version with the soundtrack of Henry Mancini's
'Love Theme from Romro and Juliet' ( 1968) which is so like Wilde's
'SUentium Amoris' (1881 ). Wilde's poetry has been performed as rock
music by musicians such as Gavin Friday in his Ballad of Reading Gaol
(1989), or (surprisingly) as country music, as in Colin Rudd's versions
of various poems including 'The Harlot's House' (2008), and even as
classical music as in Elaine Fine's version of'In The Gold Room' (2009)
for flute, mezzo-soprano and piano and her 'Dances from The Harlot's
House' (2008) for a string quartet." A poem-well-read can almost
materialize, as Oscar WUde suggested in 'To My Wife: With A Copy of
My Poems' (1893). The sustained attention to Wilde's poems, to their
imagery and musicality, without attempting to form a theory about them
or to explain them away with the help of biographical, intertextual or any
other clues is the closest we can come perhaps to the artist's frame of
mind. That is the sense of Wilde's observation that 'creation imitates',
that the appreciative reader can only recreate the text in her mind. Yet the
reading will only be of interest to the extent that it is different from the
author's, to the extent that it becomes a new text, 'that need not bear any
obvious resemblance to the thing it criticises. The one characteristic of a
beautiful form is that one can put into it whatever one wishes, and see
in it whatever one chooses to see.' 7'

'

I fear that the scholarly criticism ofWilde's poems (my own included)
has not yet reached this level of creativity and remains too close to the various clues, sources and the 'textual evidence' - it seldom reaches the level
of independence and independent value from its artistic source that Wilde
envisaged for it. This may have something to do with the transformation
of English literature into an academic subject around the time that
Wilde's poetry was published and to the expectations of objectivity and
pseudo-scientific jargon that have crippled literary criticism since.
Instead of academic criticism being contaminated by the boldness and

THE SCANDAL OF OSCAR

WILDE'S NE

ClASSICAL pOETRY

h.,.,

poets
becom full-time
imaginativeness of art, many contemporary
wr 800 unh-ersity le'o-el
all whtch boasts 0
.
academics, in the US espeo y.
b'ect of a different arncle ...
courses in creative writing. But that is the su )

NOTES
udienc<S- Tbe

he invented for ~m~th~tic l


I. Wude's 'poems in prose' started as t.Ues
blished by ]Urnsd Guillot de
aen down or pu
.
vast majority of these was never wn
1942) is the most rn~ve
,
wld (Par15
.. Mercure de Frwce.
.
Saix's CoDia parlis d O<ar 1 '

.
.
th wUde's oont<IDponnes;
.
based
on mte.rvt~S W1
1
oollectionofreconstructed vt=ons
~---I~dy ignored by scho >r
.d ,
~,
thoriry wd have l~~ - 6
the stories lack Wll e s textu<U au
.
ules is Table Talk edited byThorms
ship. The fullest English collection ofWilde s oral
od
erse drama in F.Dglish.
ountofm em v
Wright (London: Cassell, 2000). For an ace
. Vast Dramcl (Princeton,
see Denis Donoghue, The Third Voice: Modem British and .Amawm

NJ: Princeton University Press, 1959). .


March 1893, in The Complrtt Ltttm
2. OscarWilde,letter to the Editor of The Tunes. c. 1 m-DaviS (London: Fourth Estate.
of O;ror Wildc, eds Merlin Hollwd wd Rupert H
2000), p.559.
W rks fO.:arWildc, vol.4, Critidslll.
3. QscarWilde, 'Tbe Decay of lying' in The Compkt~: 2~07), pp.86-7.
ed. )oseplrine Guy (Oxfordo Oxford Umventty
'
, So ets' F.t>glish J.mtStW9'
d shal<espe= s nn
4. Horst Breuer, 'Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray an
Not<s 4l 2 (December 2004), pp.59-6S.
b . . 0 Irish Studi J!lritw,
5. ~ Beatty. 'The Form of Oscar: Wilde's Art of Su sntuno '
11, I (2003), p.33.
6. Ibid., pp.41, 43, 35.
.
1889, in l.cttOS. p.390.
.
7. QscarWilde,letter to Waiter H~ton, 29 )wuary3 9 March 1963). Reprinted ID
9
8. W.H. Auden, 'An Improbable life New Yorka. 3 , .. (
(Englewood Cliffs, N)o
Richard Ellmann (ed.), 0;ror Wildc: A CollcctiOD of Cnne<d ssQ)'S
Prentice, 1969), p.ll8.
rd Book of Mocktn Vmt: 1892-1935
9. William Butler Ye>.ts ( ed.)' 'Introduction' The Oxfo
(Oxford: Ciarendon, 1936).
(1925) tnDS suzann )ill [.evine.
'A p
b Oscar Wilde

oem Y
es wi!de.hanl.
.
10. )orge Luis Borges,
http://www.themodernword.com/borges/borg fr gment first published ID
Wilde' mwuserlpt a
PreSS
.
d Zenith (New York: Grove

1 I. Fernando Pessoa,'Concerning Oscar


Sdcdd Pro!< of F([ll<lll<]o PCSSOd, ed. and trailS- Ricbar
2001). p.219.
.
th CenturY' Unpublished J.ectll"'
12. Michael J. O'Neill, 'Irish Poets of the Nm~t':"(spring 1955), p.JO.
fflin
Notes ofOscarWilde', Irish University
and New York: Houghton 8t Mi .
"""---ce
Stedman. Victorillll Poets (Boston.
13 ........
~

RMewW.

1901 [1876]). p.476.


67

66

ct.~SSIC A L
THE SCANDAL OF

os CAR

poETRY

W!LDf'S NEO
.

OSCAR WILDE

14. Osar Wild<, lhe Critic


Ani
vol.4, Cnti<im!, p.172.
os
st m Guy (ed.), The Ccmplae Worn of Oscar Wilk,

35. 'Roses and Rue', Poems. p.l21.


. Love l..ttu:rs'. poems. p. t 66.
'Sonnet on the Sale by Auction of Kea.ts
The Ballod of Redding Gaol. roans. pp.21 o,
kt Woris of 0"' W.IJt. vol. 3. ed.Jo"Ph

~~-.

~-

p 2~05) p-167.

IS. AD quoutions from !he~


- from The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde Volt
r--InS are t.u.en
Poam omd PoemsiD Prose, eds Bobby Fong and Karl Beckson (Oxford, Oxford
Pr=. 2000). H.W', p.l 56.

38. ThePictURofDorianGray (1891). in The

16. TAYKYTIIPOS EI'Ol: "Binemveet Love', in Poems p.l27


17 An<hl Gide: Prttats; Rdlect:ions
oo Utaatwt

and Morality, selected,


edited
and introduced
by Justin 0 Bri~. tuns. Angelo P. Bertocd and others (London: Seeker & Warburg
1959), p.l26.

40. 'Apologia', PO<mS. p.J23.


.
.c Lon fellow's s.illods
R ew of Henry Wadsworw
g
41. E.A. Poe. m

.
( 1 S42) p.H9.
Grabam's lAdy's and Gentleman s MagaziD<. 20

Uni~.,.;~

18. OsarWllde,lener to Grant Richard.<. June 1892, in Lmm. pp.S26-7.


19. J.O Hilliw.li-Phillipps, Outlines of the Ufeof Shok"P"'re (London, !881 ), p.ll 0.
20. Osar_Wllde, letter to Reginald '1\rrner, 10 August 1897, in Lettrn, p.924; Gregory
Mackie, 'Publishing Notoriety: Piracy, Pornography and Oscar Wilde', University of
21.

Toraoto Qwntaly, 73,4 (Fall 2004), pp.98(}-90.


J.M Stuut-Young, Out of Hours: Poems, Lyria and Soonets (London: Stockwell, 1909). A

few oth~ ~ in this coll~on that focuses on Uranian love are dedic:ated to
Oscar Wude such os 'In Memory of S.M.' and A Dead Poet'; Wilde. 'The Critic as

n.

Artist, Pan
p.I9S.
22. Femando Pessoa, Antinou< {llibon: Monteiro, 1918), www.gutenberg.org/etenl

24262.
23. See Pattici>. Pullwn, 'Tinted and T.linted Love: The Sculptural Body In Olive
Cusunce'sPoetry', YoubookofEnglishStudie<, 37,1 (2007),p.174.
H. Hart Crane, 'C. 3. 3.' (1916), In La.ngdon Ha.nuner (ed.), Complm PO<mS and Sdectt<l

Lmrn (New York: library of America, 2006). p.61.


25. llrian Reed, Hart Creme: Alta His Lightl (1\tscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press,
2006), p.4S.
26. Thornu Wrlght, Dalth in Gmoo, audio play. The Independent, 4 December 2009,

www.independcnt.co.uk...
17. Donald E. Hall, 'An Introductory Dialogue: "Is !here a Queer Ethics?"', Victorian
Poaty, 38,4 (Wmter 2000), p.467.
18. John Sisnon, 'Wilde !he Poet', in Dremnas of DrOIIDS: Essays on Poets and Poaty (London:
!van R. Dee, 2001), p.66.
29. Ibid., p.65.
30. Pattici>. Flanagm Behrendt, Os= Wdde: Eros and Atsthetia (New York: St Martin's Press,
1991).
ll. Melissa Knox, A Long and Lovely Suicide (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University

Press, 1994).
32. Theo McM.thon, 'The Tragic Dealhs in 1871 in County Monaghan of Emily and
MaryWude-Half-SistersofOscarWilde'
Record 18 I (2003) pp.ll9-4S.
33. Ibid.
........

Cl--

34 Manuscript ver.dorlll of poems are publilhed in Bobby Fang. 'The Poetry of Oscar
Wilde: A Critical Edition' (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of California, Los

Angeles, 1978, UMI).

Bristow (Oxford: Oxford University Press,


39. Wilde, 'The CritiC as ArtisC Part

r. p.l ss.

42. Stuan-Young. Out of Hours, p.vi.


43. Wilde, 'The Critic as Artist: Part U' p.tSS.
44. Wilde ThePicturcofDorianGray, p.I67.
Penguin. 1988), p.I08.
45. Ri~ EUm>nn. Osw Wtlde (Harmondsworlh'
147
46. Wilde, 'The Critic as Artist: Part I' P
.
47. Wilde. 'The Decay alLying'. p.9S.
d
h and s.mud Taylor
( . . wmam wor swort
48. william Wordsworth, 'Pre ace m
l
(London: Routl~ge. 1991).
Coleridge, Lytical &llads, ed. R.L Brett andAlun R. )ones
p.266.

. p
(London: Arnold, 2000).
.,_
and oanyl )ones, Studymg o<UY
49. Stephen 1Vlcltterson
pp.S3-6.
Wilde 'The Critic as Artist: Part n. p.I30.
L
1912). Nicholas
'

d (London: Secer
'
5 I. Arlhur Ransome. Oscar Wllde: A cnucal Stu y
of Englishness' VirtoriOD
Frankel, '"Ave Imperatrtx": Oscar Wilde and !he
~.r--~mWartsof05<Gf
I S all 'introductlon ~.......,..
Poaty 35 2 (1997). pp.117-3 7 ; m m
'introduction.

so

Poe"":

i:l:-nvi tsabd Mmny.

Wild< volume I Poons and Poems m Pros<. PP

~ d world's (Wsics.
OscarWtlde: Ccm;ku pomy, ed. Isobel Murray (Oxford:
artstn in Qscaf
'"U ary Petty LarcenY .
&'
dn
1998), pp.Ix-xvi; Averil Gar er,
ter
49~1.
1981
wllde's Early Poetry', Eoglish Studies in Canodo. 8, 1 (
)' pp. ._.1;,, Utadture in
d lh "NeW obscunrr .....Sl. Leslie White, 'Wilde, Browning 3D
e
10
Traosition,42 (1999),pp.4-22.
, Halifax MorninS Hanld.
53. Oscar Wilde, 'The Apostle of Beauty in Nova Scotla Wilde: A Biographical

O:.o~la

~~ ~!6.
4
). p B curesd. 1989). p.I0 ;
DlrnitrieAnghel,'OscarWild<',inV~~ozoN~ 1~91, In lett"' p.492;

October 1882, p.2, quoted in 'Walt Whitmall


20
Note', Wait Whitman Quarterly Rtvir:w, 25 (Wmter
54.

e,
her 1891 in [.ett<l'. p.492.
Oscar Wilde, letter to Stepha.ne
Stephme Mallanne,Ietter to QscarWilde. 10 Novem W rld ~mber 1888). in

Mod

Poets'

woman s o \ ....... --

SS. QscarWilde, 'A Note on Some


ern
' Oxford: Oxford World's
Oscar wildc: Sdectol Journalism. ed. Anya Clayworlh (
2004),p.l46.
Th p-~ofDorianGray.p.104.
L. p.stWi1de. t lw~ ..
56. Wilde, 'The Decay o f ymg
'
poons p.l27.
T YKYTIIPOS . El'{ll: . 'Bittersweet LOV<

57.
"
od
Poets' p.H1
58. Wilde. 'A Note on Some M ern
'
6
59. 'The Burden ofltys'. Poons. P- 1.
69

68

and O<ha poems. in

CJassi.CS

'

OSCAR W!LDE
60. Wilde, 'The Decay of Lying', p.8S.
61. Wilde, 'The Critic as Artist: Part ll', p.l78.
62. 'The N<W Helen', Poems, pp.! 06-9.
63. 'lmprt-ssion: 11 La Fuit~ de la tune', Poems, p.lSS.
64. Quoted in full in Stum M.tson, Bibhogrophy of Oscar wade (London:T. Wemer Laurie,
1914), p.83.
6 S. T. S. Fliot, 'Tradition and the Individual Talent', in The Sacml Wood: Es!oys on Poetry and
Criticism (London: Methuen, 1920), p.S4.
66. Oscu Wilde, 'Lotus Leaves', Tbelrish Monthly, 5 (1877), p.l34.
67. Robert L P<:ters, 'Whistler and the English Poets of the 1890s', Modan Longnol!'
Qu4naly, 18 (1957). pp.251-61 (p.253).
68. 'Le )a.rdin desThileries', Pocms, p.159.
69. See Riclurd Ellmann, Yrots: The Moo ond the Masks (New York: Macrnillan, 1948) and
MmUla de D.stro, 'Oscar Wilde, Fernando Pessoa and the Art of Lying', Portuguese
Studies, 22, 2 (2006), pp.219--49. For Wilde's influence on T.S. Eliot's poetry and
critical theory, see Rona.ld Bush, 'In Pnrsuit ofWilde Posswn', Modernism/Modernity,
11, 3 (September 2004), pp.469-85 and T. S. Eliot, Inventions of The Mmch 114re: Poons
1909-1917, ed. Christopher Ricks (London: Faber, 1996).
70. Wilde, 'The Critic as Artist: Part!', p.l47.
71. T.S. Fliot, 'Burnt Norton', in Collected Poems 1909-1962 (London: Faher and Faber,
1963), p.190.
72. Auden, 'An Improbable Life', p.136.
73. Quoted in Karl Beckson, 'Introduction', Oscar Wilde: The Critiwl Haitoge (London:
Routledge, 1970), p.18.
74. OscarWilde,letter to StanleyV. Makower, 14 October 1897, in Lettas, p.960.
75. Govin Friday, Eocb Moo Kills the Thing He Loves (Island Records, 1989), Elaine Fine's
Thematic Catalog http:/ /thematiocatalog blogspot.com/; for the other interpretations
ofWilde's poetry, see www.youtube.com.
76. Wilde, 'The Critic as Artist: Part!', p.159.

70