This Edition consists of 500 copies.
Fifty copies have been printed on hand-made paper.
WITH INTRODUCTION, NOTES AND BIBLIOGRAPHY
THE HOLYWELL PRESS
Donald Bruce Wallace,
of New York,
in Memory of a Visit last Summer to
A Pilgrimage of Love when we
watered with our Tears the Roses and Lilies
with which we covered
The Poet's Grave.
[The little poem on the opposite page first saw the light in the pages of the Dublin University Magazine for September, 1876. It has not been reprinted since. The Greek quotation is taken from the Agamemnon of Æschylos, l. 120. ]
M. Gide's Study of Mr. Oscar Wilde (perhaps the best account yet written of the poet's latter days) appeared first in L'Ermitage, a monthly literary review, in June, 1902. It was afterwards reprinted with some few slight alterations in a volume of critical essays, entitled Prétextes, by M. Gide. It is now published in English for the first time, by special arrangement with the author.
|Poem by Oscar Wilde||xi|
|Inscription on Oscar Wilde's Tombstone||11|
|Letters from M. André Gide||12|
|Oscar Wilde: from the French of André Gide||15|
|Sonnet 'To Oscar Wilde,' by Augustus M. Moore||89|
|List of Published Writings of Oscar Wilde||93|
|Bibliographical Notes on The English Editions||107|
|Cartoon: 'How Utter'
(From a Cartoon published by Messrs. Shrimpton at Oxford about 1880. By permission of Mr. Hubert Giles, 23 Broad St., Oxford).
|Oscar Wilde at Oxford, 1878|
(By permission of Mr. Hubert Giles).
|Oscar Wilde in 1893|
(From a Photograph by Messrs. Gillman & Co., Oxford).
|The Grave at Bagneux|
(By permission of the Proprietors of The Sphere and The Tatler).
|Reduced Facsimile of the Cover of 'The Woman's World'||96|
Oscar Fingall O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born at 1 Merrion Square, North, Dublin, on October 16th, 1854. He was the second son of Sir William Robert Wilde, Knight, a celebrated surgeon who was President of the Irish Academy and Chairman of the Census Committee. Sir William Wilde was born in 1799, and died at the age of seventy-seven years.
Oscar Wilde's mother was Jane Francesca, daughter of Archdeacon Elgee. She was born in 1826, and married in 1851. She became famous [Pg 2]in literary circles under the pen-names of 'Speranza' and 'John Fenshawe Ellis,' among her published writings being Driftwood from Scandinavia (1884), Legends of Ireland (1886), and Social Studies (1893). Lady Wilde died at her residence in Chelsea on February 3rd, 1896.
Oscar Wilde received his early education at Portora Royal School, Enniskillen, which he entered in 1864 at the age of nine years. Here he remained for seven years, and, winning a Royal scholarship, he entered Trinity College, Dublin, on October 19th, 1871, being then seventeen years of age. In the following year he obtained First Class Honours in Classics in Hilary, Trinity and Michaelmas Terms; he also won the Gold Medal for Greek and other distinctions. The Trinity [Pg 3]College Magazine Kottabos, for the years 1876–9, contains some of his earliest published poems. In 1874 he obtained a classical scholarship, and went up to Oxford, where, as a demy, he matriculated at Magdalen College on October 17th, the day after his twentieth birthday. His career at Oxford was one unbroken success. In Trinity Term (June), 1876, he obtained a First Class in the Honour School of Classical Moderations (in literis Græcis et Latinis), which he followed up two years later by a similar distinction in 'Greats' or 'Honour Finals' (in literis humanioribus). In this same Trinity Term, 1878, he further distinguished himself [Pg 4]by gaining the Sir Roger Newdigate Prize for English Verse with his poem, 'Ravenna,' which he recited at the Encænia or Annual Commemoration of Benefactors in the Sheldonian Theatre on June 26th. He proceeded to the degree of B. A. in the following term. He is described in Foster's Alumni Oxonienses as a 'Professor of Æsthetics and Art critic.'
He afterwards lectured on Art in America, 1882, and in the provinces on his return to England. About this time he wrote his poems, The Sphinx and The Harlot's House (1883), and his tragedy in [Pg 5]blank verse, The Duchess of Padua. The latter was written specially for Miss Mary Anderson, but she did not produce it. This was, however, played in America by the late Lawrence Barrett in 1883, as was also another play in blank verse, entitled Vera, or the Nihilists, during the previous year. He had already published in America and England a volume of Poems, which went through several editions in a few months.
In 1884 Oscar Wilde married Miss Constance Mary Lloyd, a daughter of the well-known Q. C., by whom he had two sons, born in June, 1885, and November, 1886, respectively. Mrs. Wilde died in 1898, and his only brother, William, in March of the following year.
[Pg 6]During the next five or six years after his marriage, articles from his pen appeared in several of the leading reviews, notably 'The Portrait of Mr. W. H.' in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine for July, 1889, and those brilliant essays afterwards incorporated in Intentions, in The Nineteenth Century and The Fortnightly Review. In 1888 he was the editor of a monthly journal called The Woman's World. In July, 1890, The Picture of Dorian Gray appeared in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine. It was the only novel he ever wrote, and was published in book form with seven additional chapters in the following year, and is one of the most remarkable books in the English language.
With the production and immediate success of Lady Windermere's Fan early in 1892, he was at once recognised as a dramatist of the first rank. This was followed a year later by A Woman of [Pg 7]No Importance, and after brief intervals by An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest. The two latter were being played in London at the time of the author's arrest and trial.
Into the melancholy story of his trial it is not proposed to enter here beyond mentioning the fact that he was condemned by the newspapers, and, consequently, by the vast majority of the British public, several weeks before a jury could be found to return a verdict of 'guilty.' On Saturday, May 25th, 1895, he was sentenced to two years' imprisonment with hard labour, most of which period was passed at Wandsworth and Reading.
On his release from Reading on Wednesday, [Pg 8]May 19th, 1897, he at once crossed to France with friends, and a few days later penned that pathetic letter, pregnant with pity, in which he pleaded for the kindlier treatment of little children lying in our English gaols. This letter, with his own name attached, filled over two columns in The Daily Chronicle of May 28th. It created considerable sensation—a well-known Catholic weekly comparing it 'in its crushing power to the letter with which Stevenson shamed the shameless traducer of Father Damien.' A second letter on the subject of the cruelties of the English Prison system appeared in the same paper on March 24th, 1898. It was headed: 'Don't Read This if You Want to be Happy To-day,' and was signed 'The Author of The Ballad of Reading Gaol.' The Ballad of Reading Gaol was published early in this same year under the nom de plume 'C.3.3.,' Oscar Wilde's prison number. Its authorship was acknowledged [Pg 9]shortly afterwards in an autograph edition. Since that time countless editions of this famous work have been issued in England and America, and translations have appeared in French, German and Spanish. Of this poem a reviewer in a London journal said,—'The whole is awful as the pages of Sophocles. That he has rendered with his fine art so much of the essence of his life and the life of others in that inferno to the sensitive, is a memorable thing for the social scientist, but a much more memorable thing for literature. This is a simple, a poignant, a great ballad, one of the greatest in the English language.'
Of the sorrows and sufferings of the last few years of his life, his friend Mr. Robert Harborough Sherard has written in The Story of an Unhappy Friendship, and M. Gide refers to them in the following pages.
After several weeks of intense suffering 'Death [Pg 10]the silent pilot' came at last, and the most brilliant writer of the nineteenth century passed away on the afternoon of November 30th, 1900, in poverty and almost alone. The little hotel in Paris—Hotel d'Alsace, 13 rue des Beaux Arts,—where he died, has become a place of pilgrimage from all parts of the world for those who admire his genius or pity his sorrows. He was buried, three days later, in the cemetery at Bagneux, about four miles out of Paris.
 In 1890 Lady Wilde received a pension of £50 from the Civil List.
 The subject for this year, 1874, was 'The Fragments of the Greek Comic Poets, as edited by Meineke.' The medal was presented annually, from a fund left for the purpose by Bishop Berkeley.
 The demyship was of the annual value of £95, and was tenable for five years. Oscar Wilde's success was announced in the University Gazette (Oxford), July 11, 1874.
 On Wednesday, May 1st, Oscar Wilde, dressed as Prince Rupert, was present at a fancy dress ball given by Mrs. George Herbert Morrell at Headington Hill Hall.
 'The Newdigate was listened to with rapt attention and frequently applauded.'—Oxford and Cambridge Undergraduates' Journal, June 27, 1878.
 The degree of B. A. was conferred upon him on Thursday, Novemher 28, 1878.
 Amongst the places he visited were New York, Louisville (Kentucky), Omaha City and California. In the autumn of this same year, 1882, after leaving the States, Mr. Wilde went to Canada and thence to Nova Scotia, arriving at Halifax about October 8th.
 The announcement in The Times of May 31, 1884, was as follows:—'May 29, at S. James's Church, Paddington, by the Rev. Walter Abbott, Vicar, Oscar, younger son of the late Sir William Wilde, M. D., of Dublin, to Constance Mary, only daughter of the late Horace Lloyd, Esq., Q. C.'
 Of The Importance of Being Earnest the author is reported to have said, 'The first act is ingenious, the second beautiful, the third abominably clever.' It was revived by Mr. George Alexander at the St. James's Theatre on January 7, 1902; and Lady Windermere's Fan on November 19, 1904.
Oct. 16th, 1854—Nov. 30th, 1900.
verbis meis addere nihil audebant et super illos stillabat eloquium meum.
JOB XXIX, 22
R. I. P.
Inscription on Oscar Wilde's Tombstone.
Château de Cuverville,
par Criquetot L'Esneval,
Quelque plaisir que j'aurai de voir mon étude sur Wilde traduite en anglais, je ne puis vous répondre avant d'avoir correspondu avec mon éditeur. L'article en question, après avoir paru dans 'l'Ermitage,' a été réunie à d'autres études dans un volume, Prétextes, que le Mercure de France édita l'an dernier. Un traité me lie à cette maison et je ne suis pas libre de décider seul.
Votre lettre a mis quelque temps à me parvenir ici, où pourtant j'habite. Dès que j'aurai la réponse du Mercure de France je m'empresserai de vous la faire savoir.
Veuillez croire, Monsieur, à l'assurance de mes meilleurs sentiments.
Septembre 9, 1904.
Je laisse à mon éditeur le soin de vous écrire au sujet des conditions de la publication en anglais de mon étude..... Je désire, comme je vous le disais, que la traduction que vous proposez de faire se reporte au texte donné par le Mercure de France dans mon volume Prétextes, et non à celui, fautif, de 'l'Ermitage.'....
Le texte des contes de Wilde que je cite s'éloigne, ainsi que vous pouvez le voir, du texte anglais que Wilde lui-même en a donné. Il importe que ce texte oral reste différent du texte écrit de ces 'poems in prose.' Je crois, si ridicule que cela puisse paraître d'abord, qu'il faut retraduire en anglais le texte francais que j'en donne (et que j'ai écrit presque sous la dictée de Wilde) et non pas citer simplement le texte anglais tel que Wilde le rédigea plus tard. L'effet en est très différent.
Veuillez croire, Monsieur, à l'assurance de mes sentiments les meilleurs.
Septembre 14th, 1904.
I was at Biskra in December, 1900, when I learned through the newspapers of the lamentable end of Oscar Wilde. Distance, alas! prevented me from joining in the meagre procession which followed his body to the cemetery at Bagneux. It was of no use reproaching myself that my absence would seem to diminish still further the small number of friends who remained faithful to him—at least I wanted to write these few pages at once, but for a considerable period Wilde's name seemed to become once more the property of the newspapers.
Now that every idle rumour connected with his name, so sadly famous, is hushed; now that [Pg 16]the mob is at last wearied after having praised, wondered at, and then reviled him, perhaps, a friend may be allowed to lay, like a wreath on a forsaken grave, these lines of affection, admiration, and respectful pity.
When the trial, with all its scandal, which so excited the public mind in England threatened to wreck his life, certain writers and artists attempted to carry out, in the name of literature and art, a kind of rescue. It was hoped that by praising the writer the man would be excused. Unfortunately, there was a misunderstanding here, for it must be acknowledged that Wilde was not a great writer. The leaden buoy which was thrown to him helped only to weigh him down; his works, far from keeping him up, seemed to sink with him. In vain were some hands stretched out: the torrent of the world overwhelmed him—all was over.
It was not possible at that time to think of defending [Pg 17]him in any other way. Instead of trying to shelter the man behind his work, it was necessary to show forth first the man as an object of admiration—as I am going to try to do now—and then the work itself illuminated by his personality. 'I have put all my genius into my life; I have put only my talent into my works,' said Wilde once. Great writer, no, but great viveur, yes, if one may use the word in the fullest sense of the French term. Like certain Greek philosophers of old, Wilde did not write his wisdom, but spoke and lived it, entrusting it rashly to the fleeting memory of man, thereby writing it as it were on water.
Let those who knew him for a longer time than I did, tell the story of his life. One of those who listened to him the most eagerly relates here simply a few personal recollections.