This is a comprehensive reference work on Oscar Wilde's life and work. The encyclopaedia includes entries covering every work by Wilde, published and unpublished, with bibliographical details and reference sections listing critical studies for futher reading. The author has cited the locations of Wilde's manuscripts with brief descriptions and various works attributed to Wilde, such as "Teleny; or the Reverse of the Medal" and "For Love of the King" are also discussed, with evaluations of such attributions. In addition, significant events in Wilde's life, such as his American, Canadian, and British lecture tours, his three trials and his prison years, receive extended treatment, as do such literary and cultural entries as paradox, dandyism, Aestheticism, decadence, the green carnation, the well-made play, the Religion of Art, satires and parodies of Wilde and his works, Freemasonry and the Uranians. Also the bibliographical entries, tracing Wilde's relationships with the many artists and writers of the time as well as family members, bring together information. Finally a comprehensive index provides readers with immediate access to the books contents.
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This encyclopedia, which is the first to concentrate on Oscar Wilde, offers information on Wilde's art and personal life, the social mores and cultural trends of his time, and the persons who had a significant role in his life. Other entries offer details on literary movements, such as aestheticism; or fashion and theater; or selected symbols, such as the green carnation, a signal of decadence in the 1890s. Karl Beckson is a professor of English at Brooklyn College, City University of New York.
Entries are arranged alphabetically, and the majority are devoted to Wilde's writings. Wilde's works cover a wide range of forms--essays, poetry, reviews, drama, fiction. Each work has a separate entry, with bibliographic details (first appearance; if published; subsequent revisions; inclusion in a collected volume). For more important works, the background, sources, and critical reception are discussed, and the location of manuscripts is noted. Many poems that were not published in Wilde's lifetime are included, even if they were never completed. Often the plot of a fictional work is provided, and in the case of a play, the production details. Although some literary entries are brief, the discussions of major works such as The Importance of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Grey are lengthy and thorough. Among the more interesting entries that deal with other aspects of Wilde's life and career are those on the prison years, the American lecture tour (with complete schedule), and the biographical entries on George Bernard Shaw and Constance Wilde. Under newspapers and periodicals, there are several pages on the wide variety of papers in which Wilde published, from the penny Pall Mall Gazette to Lady's World.
This volume provides a chronology and an introduction by Wilde's grandson, Merlin Holland. There is no general bibliography, although many entries include scholarly references for further reading. See reference guide the reader to appropriate entry headwords. The general index, with main entries designated by page numbers in boldface, integrates names, title, subjects, and places. The illustrations are sparse but at times helpful in giving a sense of place (Wilde's Reading Prison cell) or providing a face (Yeats in the 1890s) to a familiar name.
Whether the reader is a student, or a specialist in the writings of Oscar Wilde, or just interested in English literature of the late nineteenth century, this easy-to-use and very readable volume will satisfy interests and provide answers. It should complement such works as Oscar Wilde: An Annotated Bibliography (Greenwood, 1993) and is recommended for academic and large public libraries.
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