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Terry Eagleton, 6 January 1994

Safe in the Kitchen 
by Aisling Foster.
Hamish Hamilton, 347 pp., £14.99, November 1993, 0 241 13426 9
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... to indulge in a purely selfish prefiguring of the political future. That other Irish transgressor, Oscar Wilde, understood that his own indolence dimly portended the New Jerusalem in which nobody else would have to work either: just lounge on the couch all day and be your own communist society. But he had to pay a heavy price for this prolepsis, in guilt ...

Too Young

James Davidson: Lord Alfred Douglas, 21 September 2000

Bosie: A Biography of Lord Alfred Douglas 
by Douglas Murray.
Hodder, 374 pp., £20, June 2000, 0 340 76770 7
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... of malice, treachery, deceit, hypocrisy and vanity was wrapped up in such attractive features. Wilde compared him to a pet lion-cub wreaking havoc on reaching actual size, but he was less impressive and more sinister than that, a King Charles spaniel of vicious temperament, a cute Walt Disney rattlesnake, or a beautiful child vampire. He was hardly an ...

Well, was he?

A.N. Wilson, 20 June 1996

Bernard Shaw: The Ascent of the Superman 
by Sally Peters.
Yale, 328 pp., £18.95, April 1996, 0 300 06097 1
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... and – a big plus on anyone’s marksheet because it was so rare – was prepared to stick up for Wilde at the time of Oscar’s fall from grace. As a youngish and middle-aged man, he devoted hours of his time to the largely unrewarding work of a councillor in the St Pancras Ward of London. Thanks to Shaw, the first ...

Dear Sphinx

Penelope Fitzgerald, 1 December 1983

The Little Ottleys 
by Ada Leverson and Sally Beauman.
Virago, 543 pp., £3.95, November 1982, 0 86068 300 1
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The Constant Nymph 
by Margaret Kennedy and Anita Brookner.
Virago, 326 pp., £3.50, August 1983, 0 86068 354 0
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The Constant Novelist: A Study of Margaret Kennedy 1896-1967 
by Violet Powell.
Heinemann, 219 pp., £10.95, June 1983, 0 434 59951 4
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... manage the money, although it is true that Ada was extravagant, and notably more so after she met Oscar Wilde. She became Wilde’s fast friend, and for a few golden years was surrounded by London’s artists, actors and first-nighters. (Max Beerbohm, of course, was a second-nighter; he advised on the decoration of her ...

The Staidness of Trousers

E.S. Turner, 6 June 1996

A Peculiar Man: A Life of George Moore 
by Tony Gray.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 344 pp., £20, April 1996, 1 85619 578 3
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... walrus’; Gertrude Stein compared him to ‘a very prosperous Mellon’s Food baby’; and Oscar Wilde found his face ‘vague, formless, obscene’. So it is a comfort to find all these cruelties belied in the portrait of Moore by John Butler Yeats, reproduced in Gray’s book. There sits a harmless, walrus-moustached gentleman of 53, a little ...

Short Cuts

John Sturrock: Don't Bother to Read, 22 March 2007

... and the authors he quotes from in sufficient detail to wear as an effective disguise include Oscar Wilde, Montaigne, David Lodge and Umberto Eco – he always allots the book he’s citing to one class or another, giving page references from books he admits to not knowing or from one of his own books (Qui a tué Roger Ackroyd? no less) he wants us ...

The wind comes up out of nowhere

Charles Nicholl: The Disappearance of Arthur Cravan, 9 March 2006

... with more disreputable terms such as ‘con man’ or ‘adventurer’. He is also described as Oscar Wilde’s nephew, which is true up to a point: he was the nephew of Wilde’s wife, Constance. As a writer, Cravan had a brief and stormy career, in Paris, in the years around the outbreak of the First World War. His ...

A Row of Shaws

Terry Eagleton: That Bastard Shaw, 21 June 2018

Judging Shaw 
by Fintan O’Toole.
Royal Irish Academy, 381 pp., £28, October 2017, 978 1 908997 15 9
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... them more or less acceptable. It was a perilous role to play, as Shaw’s friend and admirer Oscar Wilde was to discover. Both Irishmen used wit and epigram to capture the contradictions of the English establishment in an endless flow of paradox which entertained as well as unsettled. With characteristic impudence, Shaw praised Jack the Ripper for ...


Christopher Hitchens: Keywords, 13 September 1990

... believe that we shall be such friends. I have two consuming interests – Adolf Hitler and Oscar Wilde.’ Only hours later, or so it seemed to my disordered fancy, we were sitting in a villa that had once housed the Nazi embassy, while he played a tape of The Importance of Being Earnest. He himself took the part of Algernon, while the role of ...

Poetry to Thrill an Oyster

Gregory Woods: Fitz-Greene Halleck, 16 November 2000

The American Byron: Homosexuality and the Fall of Fitz-Greene Halleck 
by John W.M. Hallock.
Wisconsin, 226 pp., £14.95, April 2000, 0 299 16804 2
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... To look at it, you would imagine there was a causal relationship; that, as in the later case of Oscar Wilde, the homosexuality led to the fall. But in Halleck’s career there is no fall: no arrest in a hotel room, no judicial examination of the sheets, no being spat at on a station platform, no bankruptcy, no divorce, no hard labour. And – much as ...

Wallpaper and Barricades

Terry Eagleton, 23 February 1995

William Morris: A Life for Our Time 
by Fiona MacCarthy.
Faber, 780 pp., £25, November 1994, 0 571 14250 8
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... Marx considered, to abolish it as far as possible. The only good reason for being a socialist, as Oscar Wilde knew, is that one objects to doing any work. Whatever its limitations, Morris’s socialism led him to mount stools on East End street corners, and to address six thousand striking Northumberland miners, which is more than can be said for ...

Ferrets can be gods

Katherine Rundell, 11 August 2016

Gabriel-Ernest and Other Tales 
by Saki and Quentin Blake.
Alma Classics, 156 pp., £6.99, October 2015, 978 1 84749 592 1
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... Saki’s short stories take place in a world far from the Somme. It’s a world, like that of Oscar Wilde or P.G. Wodehouse, of silk curtains and silver tea sets, though Saki’s is populated not only with tyrannical aunts and obtuse majors, but also with tigers and woodland gods. In ‘Sredni Vashtar’, a boy worships a ferret as a god; the worship ...

Saint Terence

Jonathan Bate, 23 May 1991

Ideology: An Introduction 
by Terry Eagleton.
Verso, 242 pp., £32.50, May 1991, 0 86091 319 8
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... but stylistically it became increasingly apparent that Eagleton’s true Penelope was Oscar Wilde: ‘Several of the characteristics that make him appear most typically upper-class English – the scorn for bourgeois normality, the flamboyant self-display, the verbal brio and iconoclasm – are also, interestingly enough, where one might ...


Brigid Brophy, 2 December 1982

Bernard Shaw: The Darker Side 
by Arnold Silver.
Stanford, 353 pp., $25, January 1982, 0 8047 1091 0
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Bernard Shaw and Alfred Douglas: A Correspondence 
edited by Mary Hyde.
Murray, 237 pp., £15, November 1982, 0 7195 3947 1
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... at the Café Royal on the fateful afternoon in 1895 when Frank Harris and Shaw tried to dissuade Oscar Wilde from the libel action he had set in train against Douglas’s father, the Marquess of Queensberry. Douglas arrived and dragged Wilde away lest they should succeed. In 1908 there was a tiff by letter when ...


Ruth Dudley Edwards: Peddling Books, 21 January 1988

... illustrators who often delighted and sometimes shocked public opinion; the young Max Beerbohm and Oscar Wilde among the best-known of the writers. And with the often splendid Yellow Book, first published in 1894, the firm achieved real notoriety and inspired innumerable parodies, comic verses and quips. Norman Gale, a long since forgotten poet, produced ...

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