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In this elegant and affectionate biography of one of the most controversial personalities of the nineteenth century, Barbara Belford breaks new ground in the evocation of Oscar Wilde's personal life and in our understanding of the choices he made for his art. Published for the centenary of Wilde's death, here is a fresh, full-scale examination of the author of The Importance of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Gray, a figure not only full of himself but enjoying life to the fullest.
Based on extensive study of original sources and animated throughout by historical detail, anecdote, and insight, the narrative traces Wilde's progression from his childhood in an intellectual Irish household to his maturity as a London author to the years of his European exile. Here is Wilde the Oxford Aesthete becoming the talk of London, going off to tour America, lecturing on the craftsmanship of Cellini to the silver miners of Colorado, condemning the ugliness of cast-iron stoves to the ladies of Boston. Here is the domestic Wilde, building sandcastles with his sons, and the generous Wilde, underwriting the publication of poets, lending and spending with no thought of tomorrow. And here is the romantic Wilde, enthralled with Lord Alfred Douglas in an affair that thrived on laughter, smitten with Florence Balcombe, flirting with Violet Hunt, obsessed with Lillie Langtry, loving Constance, his wife.
Vividly evoked are the theatres, clubs, restaurants, and haunts that Wilde made famous. More than previous accounts, Belford's biography evaluates Wilde's homosexuality as not just a private matter but one connected to the politics and culture of the 1890s. Wilde's timeless observations, which make him the most quoted playwright after Shakespeare, are seamlessly woven into the life, revealing a man of remarkable intellect, energy, and warmth.
Too often portrayed as a tragic figure--persecuted, imprisoned, sent into exile, and shunned--Wilde emerges from this intuitive portrait as fully human and fallible, a man who, realizing that his creative years were behind him, committed himself to a life of sexual freedom, which he insisted was the privilege of every artist.
Even now, we have yet to catch up with the man who exhibited some of the more distinguishing characteristics of the twentieth century's preoccupation with fame and zeal for self-advertisement. Wilde's personality shaped an era, and his popularity as a wit and a dramatist has never ebbed.
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Why, readers may ask, yet another book about Oscar Wilde? "Because his life is a continual allegory," the author tells us in her introduction, "and his social, political, and artistic views, which went right to the heart of Victorian society, are no less threatening today." In contrast to earlier biographers like Hesketh Pearson and Richard Ellmann, Belford emphasizes the cultural context in which Wilde (1854-1900) operated as both shrewd self-publicist and provocateur. Researching previous biographies of Violet Hunt and Bram Stoker, Belford immersed herself in the florid atmosphere of London during the 1890s, the decade of Wilde's greatest fame and infamy, and she uses this knowledge to deepen our understanding of the writer's relationship with his times. In particular, the West End theater district comes to life as the scene of Wilde's greatest triumphs as a playwright (from Lady Windermere's Fan to The Importance of Being Earnest) as well as of his introduction to "a homosocial world that had existed since Elizabethan times." Victorian society could not tolerate Wilde's relatively open homosexuality, however, and two 1895 trials ended with his conviction on charges of "gross indecency." He served two years in prison and died three years after his release, exiled, poor, and alone. Yet Belford stresses not Wilde's tragedy but his triumph. To the end, he was a gaily subversive writer whose works "demonstrate the value of graciousness, charm, and wit" even as they assert "the right of art and language to shock, to undermine, and to unsettle." --Wendy SmithFrom the Back Cover:
Praise for Barbara Belford's Bram Stoker: A Biography of the Author of Dracula
"A superb biography...It completely alters our understanding of the classic tale."
--Michael Sheldon, Baltimore Sun
"Intelligent, well-written and always interesting...showcasing some of the most fascinating characters ever to gather on the same stage."
--Margot Peters, The New York Times Book Review
"One of the delights of Belford's work is that it is studded with rapidly drawn and vivid portraits."
--Penelope Mesic, Chicago Tribune
"Belford achieved a goal Count Dracula appreciates. She has restored Bram Stoker to life in the ordinary world."
--Jules Wagman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"Organized and written with formidable intelligence, her interpretation of Dracula [is] threaded skillfully into the narrative of Stoker's life."
--Ian McIntyre, London Times
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Book Description Random House, 2000. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0679457348
Book Description Random House, 2000. Hardcover. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0679457348
Book Description Random House, 2000. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110679457348