The Complete Short Fiction of Oscar Wilde
This Penguin Classic contains twenty short stories by Wilde including The Portrait of Mr. W. H., The Happy Prince and more.
Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde (1854-1900) was a revered Irish writer and poet, best known for the masterpiece that is The Picture of Dorian Gray and the circumstances surrounding his arrest and subsequent two year sentence for “gross indecency” with another man as they liked to call it back then.
Wilde was suing the ‘Marquess of Queensberry’ for libel after he denounced Wilde as homosexual; however at the time Wilde was engaging in an affair with the Marquess’ son, Lord Alfred Douglas.
I was hesitant to pick up this anthology. Not because of the prose used or the dense language but because I was afraid of not liking it. This is always the case with Classic writings for me. I understand the history behind classic literature and the incredibly dense symbolism and transcendent expressions, but that doesn’t mean I, or anyone for that matter, is going to connect with the writing and experience it, rather than reading meaningless words that do nothing to open your mind to experience of reading a classic.
Having previously read and adored The Picture of Dorian Gray I somewhat knew what to expect from the incredibly creative mind of Oscar Wilde.
From the very first short story, The Happy Prince, there is an excessive use of personification. Which appealed to my inner Romanticist. Personification envelops a large portion of his short stories, as the ‘Happy Prince’ is a statue plagued by a bout of melancholy. While The remarkable rocket tells the tale of a group of opinionated rockets waiting and hoping to be let off for the king’s wedding…and then fizzle out and die.
If you find the idea of a nightingale speaking about true love and singing a rose to life (The Nightingale and the Rose) silly or ‘unrealistic’ then Oscar Wilde isn’t for you. The ability to have suspended disbelief while reading Wilde is a necessity.
“Death is a great price to pay for a red rose,” cried the Nightingale, “and Life is very dear to all. It is pleasant to sit in the green wood, and to watch the Sun in his chariot of gold, and hawthorn, and sweet are the bluebells that hide in the valley, and the heather that blows on the hill. Yet Love is better than Life, and what is the heart of a bird compared to the heart of a man?” –The Nightingale and the Rose
I’m 167 (of 257) pages in and so far I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this anthology. I’m loving the archaic use of capital letters, extreme but lovely use of personification and the transcendent quality that Wilde’s words can provoke.