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At Tate Britain

Rosemary Hill: Aubrey Beardsley, 24 September 2020

... Beardsley, who died at 25, passed his brief life in the fin-de-siècle milieu of Max Beerbohm and Oscar Wilde. Like them, he was his own artefact. Immensely thin and hollow-eyed with long fingers and a large nose, he seemed to the actress Elizabeth Robins, who met him at a lunch party, to be merely the ‘uncertain ghost of ...

Living as Little as Possible

Terry Eagleton: Lodge’s James, 23 September 2004

Author, Author: A Novel 
by David Lodge.
Secker, 389 pp., £16.99, September 2004, 0 436 20527 0
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... was a lot less mortifying, but equally instructive. When a play I wrote some years ago about Oscar Wilde transferred from a tour of Ireland to a London theatre, I overheard a well-bred English woman in the interval asking her companion: ‘Was Wilde really Irish, or is Eagleton making that up?’ A lot of tedious ...

A Little of this Honey

Frank Kermode, 29 October 1987

Oscar Wilde 
by Richard Ellmann.
Hamish Hamilton, 632 pp., £15, October 1987, 0 241 12392 5
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... work of his middle years. The last third of his own life was largely given to this biography of Wilde, which was in some ways a very different sort of undertaking. There were surviving acquaintances of Joyce, but nobody who knew Wilde is available for questioning; the material, though copious, must be sought in ...

The Only True Throne

John Pemble: ‘Muckraker’, 19 July 2012

Muckraker: The Scandalous Life and Times of W.T. Stead 
by W. Sydney Robinson.
Robson, 281 pp., £20, May 2012, 978 1 84954 294 4
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... publisher Henry Vizetelly, jailed for issuing Zola’s works in translation. Taking stock in 1891, Oscar Wilde complained that the Fourth Estate ‘has eaten up the other three. The Lords Temporal say nothing, the Lords Spiritual have nothing to say, and the House of Commons has nothing to say and says it. We are dominated by journalism … The tyranny ...


John Bayley, 8 December 1988

The Letters of Max Beerbohm 1892-1956 
edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Murray, 244 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7195 4537 4
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The Faber Book of Letters 
edited by Felix Pryor.
Faber, 319 pp., £12.95, October 1988, 0 571 15269 4
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... wish to identify themselves with their subjects. I have something in common with Joyce, and with Wilde, is the modest assumption of Richard Ellmann. Max was a bit like me, implies Cecil. That brings them, and us, all the closer to the subject. It can also lead to misunderstanding. Oddly enough, as Cecil’s admirable biography shows, both he and Max ...

Is the lady your sister?

E.S. Turner: An innkeeper’s diary, 27 April 2000

An Innkeeper's Diary 
by John Fothergill.
Faber, 278 pp., £23.95, January 2000, 0 571 15014 4
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... was a stern, aloof figure. For a single term he played the fop at Oxford, then drifted into the Oscar Wilde circle. He received a presentation copy of The Ballad of Reading Gaol from Wilde and spent six days with him in exile, before taking a calculated decision to drop him. At 21 he inherited money and after a spell ...

‘If I Could Only Draw Like That’

P.N. Furbank, 24 November 1994

The Gentle Art of Making Enemies 
by James McNeill Whistler.
Heinemann, 338 pp., £20, October 1994, 0 434 20166 9
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James McNeill Whistler: Beyond the Myth 
by Ronald Anderson and Anne Koval.
Murray, 544 pp., £25, October 1994, 0 7195 5027 0
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... his draughtsmanship. William Rothenstein recalls Whistler talking to him contemptuously of Oscar Wilde’s house in Tite Street and doing him a little drawing of it, to illustrate the monotony of such a terrace house. ‘I noticed then,’ says Rothenstein, ‘how childishly Whistler drew when drawing out of his head.’ One might think there was ...

Cartwheels over Broken Glass

Andrew O’Hagan: Worshipping Morrissey, 4 March 2004

Saint Morrissey 
by Mark Simpson.
SAF, 224 pp., £16.99, December 2003, 0 946719 65 9
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The Smiths: Songs that Saved Your Life 
by Simon Goddard.
Reynolds/Hearn, 272 pp., £14.99, December 2002, 1 903111 47 1
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... ring radio stations insisting on his estranged son’s Irishness. Morrissey was a lovelorn fan of Oscar Wilde and James Dean, Elsie Tanner and the New York Dolls, and he appears to have made something of an art out of moping around the house in a melancholy, jobless, big-cardiganed way, dreaming of a wonderful romance involving himself and every image he ...

Geek Romance

Philip Connors: Junot Díaz, 20 March 2008

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao 
by Junot Díaz.
Faber, 340 pp., £12.99, February 2008, 978 0 571 17955 8
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... Yunior tells is as powerful in its silences as it is in its surface. In The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Díaz’s long-awaited second book, the surface is much more jagged, more inflected with a hip-hop beat, fonder of Spanish idioms. What’s curious about this is that the narrator is again Yunior, although it’s some time before we learn that ...

Anglo-Irish Occasions

Seamus Heaney, 5 May 1988

... to persist beyond a moment or two of genial acknowledgment. To fall in love with oneself may, as Oscar Wilde observed, be the beginning of a lifelong romance, but to fall in love with the lengthened shadow of one’s writerly possibilities as projected by the mellow light of kindly critical attention – that is the beginning of folly. The act of ...


Christopher Ricks, 21 November 1985

Gentlemen in England 
by A.N. Wilson.
Hamish Hamilton, 311 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 02 411165 1
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... to do is lay your finger alongside your nose and mention ‘the brilliance of a young poet called Oscar Wilde’, or mount an exchange like this:     ‘Has anyone ever come across this bearded scribbler called James?’     ‘A friend, surely, of darling Tourgenieff’s?’ asked Eggy.     ‘Who spoke enthusiastically of him to ...


David Gilmour, 1 June 1989

Prepared for the worst: Selected Essays and Minority Reports 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Chatto, 357 pp., £15.95, April 1989, 0 7011 3459 3
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... between the last two categories. The Heroes section would include pieces on Tom Paine and Oscar Wilde, a passionate vindication of Noam Chomsky (‘among the few Americans of his generation to lay claim to the title of original thinker’) and a long, thoughtful portrait of Professor Shahak, the great Israeli human rights activist. There is a ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Looking Ahead, 18 May 2000

... and his ‘much-neglected’ poetry have been unfairly overlooked in all the fuss about Oscar Wilde. Murray has had privileged access to a Home Office file that shouldn’t have been opened till 2043, and his long list of illustrious acknowledgments (again, I’ve only seen an advance proof) includes Lady Eccles and Anthony and Lady Violet ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Have you seen their sandals?, 3 July 2014

... bowler hat. He also fell in love, temporarily, with Lillie Langtry, whose velvet-slippered friend Oscar Wilde said that ‘where there is no extravagance there is no love.’ These days the male fashionistas get to drink champagne in the sun and become overnight stars on people’s mobile phones. The London menswear collections stir up a mayflies’ nest ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Servant’, 9 May 2013

The Servant 
directed by Joseph Losey.
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... back, and they set up a ménage à deux that is a sort of apotheosis cum parody of gay marriage as Oscar Wilde might have pictured it. They squawk, squeal, prance, hit each other, make peace, get along divinely. By this time it’s clear that the servant is the master in all kinds of senses, and not just for a day, and Bogarde is not content until he has ...

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