Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Oscar Project: Day 3 of 365

I am in the process of going back through my collection with the purpose of double-checking what I do and do not have, and discovering some missing pieces along the way.  I thought I'd be getting up my master list today, but I'm starting to think that won't happen.

In the meantime, I have been long itching to show off my Oscar collection.  I started with just one book when I was a teenager (the big purple one, you'll see it) and over the past 15-ish years, it has expanded.  They can't all fit nicely into one photo, so I've broken them into smaller groups, plus one of those that are older than 75 years.  Well, one is 74, but I gave it a pass.

Also, this turned into a MUCH longer post than I'd originally intended, so read at your own risk.

These are the biographies, some better than others.  Frank Harris (second in from the right) got there first, but as a contemporary of Wilde's, still caught up in the salacious scandal, he gets a lot of things wrong and/or sensationalises them.  Richard Ellmann's (4th from left) is probably the best known, though also gets things wrong and as such is responsible for some nasty misconceptions.  H. Montgomery Hyde has written three Oscariana biographies in my collection:  One general biography (the creased paperback in the middle), one focusing on the time of his sentencing to his release from Reading Gaol (The Aftermath) and one of Lord Alfred Douglas, which I have yet to read because I still don't want to have sympathy for him.  The big one on the left is a "pictorial biography" with lots of really fantastic pictures; the bitty one in the middle is an exploration of Wilde's friends and family by the actor and Wilde fanatic Simon Callow.  I've not yet read the Pearson one, and so can't speak to it.  The two best ones, though are (1) Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde by Franny Moyle, which I'm in the midst of reading right now and am really enjoying, and (2) Built of Books by Thomas Wright, which is one of the best biographies I've ever read, period.

These are my Vyvyan and Merlin Holland* books.  Vyvyan Holland was Oscar's only surviving child, Cyril having died in WWI.  He published a pictorial biography of his own (centre) and an autobiography, Son of Oscar Wilde.  The rest of them are by Merlin Holland, Vyvyan's son, who is not only a national treasure, but really a gift to the world.  He's done so much for Oscar's legacy, I can't even begin to express it, and will try very hard now not to verbally flail on about how incredible he really is.  I think—think—these are all of his books, though I may well be wrong.  The two on the left are collections of Oscar's correspondence over his life.  The Wilde Album is another collection of pictures.  Third in from the right, in yellow and red, is The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde, which are uncensored transcripts of his libel case against Bosie's father, the Marquess of Queensberry, and are quite a powerful read.  The red damask-print book next to Real Trial is called Irish Peacock & Scarlet Marquess, which is the exact same thing all over again, only with the title it originally had when published in the UK.  I guess American readers just couldn't do a book with that flamboyant a title?  Anyway.  Because they contain some of Oscar's most supreme wit, I'm going to include the transcripts in my Project, even though it isn't material that Oscar penned; it is important enough to me.  The last one is Coffee With Oscar Wilde, part of a series of books with similar titles, all of which offer insight into their respective subjects under the guise of meeting for coffee and chatting.  It captures the essence of Wilde using actual quotes where appropriate, but mostly just a very keen insight.  The first time I read it, I cried at the end, it seemed that real.

*Following the scandal, Oscar's wife Constance moved to the European continent with their two children and changed their surname to Holland, which is a family name from her side, to keep a low profile.

 These are all* of the anthology/"Complete Works" books I have, none of which are, actually, complete.  The big purple one is my first, the one that's been with me longest, and which stayed with me during my teens, through Uni, and now on to my adult life.  Other than that, there's not much else to say.  Oh, the pink one on the end is turned cover-up because the spine is too faded to read properly.

*Not actually.  I've one more, a neon pink (no, really) hard cover tome which lives in my car so that I always have something guaranteed to be good if I'm stuck in a place and need to read.  I'd have included it here, only it is very cold outside today, and I'm quite lazy.

These are the books I have which, the Complete Works collections aside, are specifically Oscar's fiction.  The four in the middle are short(er) stories, and my two copies of The Picture of Dorian Gray are on either side.  I'm actually quite proud of myself that (again, Complete Works not withstanding) I only own two copies of Dorian, because there are so many pretty versions of it out there.  I've seen a couple that I may try to collect some day, which are beautifully illustrated inside and out.  The big one is one of my antique books, and so doesn't get much handling, whereas the paperback is my standby, and has been with me for more than ten years - by the spine you can tell it's well loved.

These are my poetry, prose, and other non-fiction anthologies which aren't from Merlin Holland.  The two of note are  (1) The Artist as Critic, from biographer Richard Ellmann, is a collection of his essays, literary criticism, and other such writings, and (2) The Uncollected Oscar Wilde, compiled by John Wyse Jackson, another collection of essays, lectures, and critical writings.  It is primarily thanks to these two that I'm now revising and expanding my master list.

 These are a hodgepodge of analysis, Oscariana fiction, and other such offerings.  From left to right:

  • Wilde - the script of the movie starring Stephen Fry as Wilde and Jude Law as Bosie.  It is beautifully and lovingly crafted, the soundtrack is impeccable, and if you've never seen it, please very much do so.
  • Oscar Wilde and A Death of No Importance by Gyles Brandreth - This is a truly silly thing, fiction, casting Oscar as a Holmesian detective when he's not dandying about writing plays or bumming rentboys.  It can only be described as bizarre, and contains an honest to god "What's in the box?!" moment.  Better yet, it is part of a series, which I think I need to get, against my better judgement.  Also, the author was a Conservative MP.
  • Oscar Wilde and the Yellow Nineties by Frances Winwar - Originally published in the '40s, this is an exploration of the Gay Nineties/Belle Epoque, as centred around Oscar and his circle, as well as other outliers.
  • Oscar Wilde: A Long and Lovely Suicide by Melissa Knox - a psychoanalysis of the man and his works.  I've yet to read this, and am saving it for when I've finished this grand escapade.
  • Oscar Wilde: A Study, From the French of Andre Gide - From the French author and Nobel laureate, this book is a reprint of a translation from the Cornell University library collection, dating back to 1905.  "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... by M. Gide.  It is now published in English for the first time, by special arrangement with the author."
  • Oscar Wilde by Katherine Worth - An analysis of his plays, both well known and obscure.
  • Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde by Moises Kaufman - This is a fantastic play, originally starring the brilliant Michael Emerson (Ben Linus from LOST, among others) as Oscar.
  • I Give You Oscar Wilde by Desmond Hall - a "biographical novel".  I've also not read this yet.
  • Oskar Wilde sein drama von Carl Sternheim - Look, I don't speak or read German.  But I know it is a dramatic play about Oscar and his trials, similar to Gross Indecency.  It is old as hell and falling apart, but some day, I swear it, I shall teach myself German by reading this.

And these are the antiques*, dating from a Collected Works volume from 1941 (far left) to another Works Of volume from 1909.  The books are not in order, but are dated as follows (left to right): 1941, 1931 (#361 of 1500 copies), 1930, 1925 (the German play), 1935, 1927, 1909 (#396 of 1000).  Some pictures of the interior pages of each follow, with the exception of the actual antique, which will eventually get its own post, as it is Very Special.

*I'm using this term liberally, I know.  Common practice is that only books over 100 years old are proper antiques, of which I have the one.  However, as they're all at least pushing that mark, they count to me, damn it.  

From 1941

From 1931
Dorian #361/1500

From 1930

From 1925

"What is needed is individualism!" from The Soul of Man Under Socialism

The play came originally from a bookseller in Oxford

From 1935

From 1927

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