Oscar Wilde: A Biography
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Oscar Wilde: A Biography

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  1,944 ratings  ·  83 reviews
In this long-awaited bioraphy, Wilde the legendary Victorian - brilliant writer and conversationalist, reckless flouter of social and sexual conventions - is brought to life. More astute and forbearing, yet more fallible than legend has allowed, Wilde is given here the dimensions of a modern hero. Based on fresh material from many hitherto-untapped sources, Ellmann depicts...more
Paperback, 632 pages
Published September 21st 1988 by Penguin Canada (first published January 1st 1987)
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MJ Nicholls
Wilde had to live his life twice over, first in slow motion, then at top speed. During the first period he was a scapegrace, during the second a scapegoat. Richard Ellmann’s superlative bio ranks alongside the finest in the genre, with his earlier James Joyce volume already firmly in the pantheon. From Wilde’s unhumble beginnings as the son of two reputable writers, to his college days in the thrall of Ruskin and Pater, to his flowerings as a poet and spokesman for aestheticism, Ellmann presents...more
David
Feb 15, 2008 David rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
It seems obvious that this would get a 5-star review. The wit and genius of Oscar Wilde. A scandalous life. The proven track record of Ellmann. What's not to love?

Answer - nothing. Ellmann doesn't make a single misstep in this astonishing biography. Imagine the challenges facing a Wilde biographer: the contradictions of an outrageous, larger-than-life subject whose brittle public persona masked his inner torments; Wilde's enormous drive, which led to success and acclaim, but also set in motion h...more
Dawn
I am not, as I once claimed, Oscar Wilde. I lost the green coat—the one I wore to America, with tufts of fur falling out of the collar, with shapely cuffs. I lost the books (their dedications), shoes (the tipped ones, the ones you lace right up to your britches), and the shape of my wife’s mouth when she said it, when she called my name, even that, even when I didn’t come.

And because I am not Oscar Wilde, because someone’s body is thinning in the dirt, I can still say this. Say, through this blu...more
Bruce
This is a dense and detailed biography. I enjoyed it even if it was slow going. The more one read, the more enchanting the work became, probably because Wilde himself is so much larger than life. From the beginning he was outrageous and deliberately cultivated such a persona. And from the beginning self-destructive tendencies were apparent; he seemed always to be walking on the edge of a precipice, the question being when and how he would tumble. His personality was in some ways like that of Zor...more
Brian Bess
Wilde at his wildest and mildest

After reading this book, I cannot help but review Oscar Wilde, the man and his life, as if it were a work of art in itself, as much as I can this biography of Wilde as depicted by Richard Ellmann. Wilde, as much as any historical figure, certainly as much as any creative figure, speaks loudly as an artifact of the age he embodied and from which he was consumed and discarded and as a creative figure whose own life was arguably a greater work of art than anything he...more
Pesh
Oct 28, 2008 Pesh rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Noran
this is one of my dearest treasures for the year 2008.what i have is actually a hardcover, picked at my 'used books' store for the price of my normal dinner at my favourite 'fast foods'. i couldnt believe it!!

it's a great story about a great person.

here is the most important thing about it: it is written with a subjective, condemning tone. and i felt the author should have surpassed the shadows of his subject's sexuality and other personality weaknesses, to simply objectively tell us the story!...more
Vijeta
I finally finished it and although it took me a year to read it, I finally did it. Now, this comment is representative of the fact that it is slow-going, but that mustn't deter any future readers and fans of Oscar Wilde. It took me so long because I was reading a hard copy and these days I find Ebooks much easier to navigate. Oscar Wilde by Richard Ellmann is a very detailed biography which brings out Wilde's enormous generosity and his boundless intellect. Wilde lived a life of tremendous fame...more
Johnny D
This book is a haunting and beautiful biography of the don of the Aesthetic Movement. It traces his life from his early days as the son of a prominent physician father and an eccentric socialite mother (Sperenza) to his competition with Bram Stoker for the hand of Frances Balcombe, to his early homosexual experiments and final death amod disgrace and anonymity in the exile of France.

Richard Ellmann wields his pen with alacrity, grace, and an intense sympathy for his subject that may leave you in...more
Suzanne Stroh
Lady Wilde almost runs away with the first half of this dense, beautifully written biography that won Ellmann a Pulitzer prize. I agree with reviewers who commented that perhaps there was a bit too much detail for entry-level readers. The sheer competency of this treatment of Oscar Wilde's brilliant, sad and troubled life means that we may never get the kind of definitive work I'd like. Ellmann, writing to midcentury literary tastes, treats Wilde's sexuality too obliquely for young audiences tod...more
Klytia
Per molti Oscar Wilde è quello scrittore inglese omosessuale che si esprimeva per aforismi: “posso resistere a tutto tranne alle tentazioni”.

I lettori e appassionati sanno invece che la citazione è tratta dal romanzo “Il ritratto d Dorian Gray” così come molti degli aforismi usati e abusati sono tratti dalle commedie dello scrittore irlandese.
Ma soprattutto coloro che ammirano Wilde sanno che era un uomo di brillante intelligenza, un acuto osservatore della società della sua epoca che poi ritr...more
David Hill
Lately it seems I'm never happy with the length and level of detail of biographies. This one was a bit too long and detailed for me. I was curious about Wilde, but not to the degree that I wanted to read the letters he wrote his mother. I think I'd have enjoyed it more at 400 pages than 600. But this quibble is more about me than the book.

I didn't know much about Wilde. I hadn't read any of his poems and wasn't familiar with his plays and his other work. I probably learned what I knew about him...more
David B
Richard Ellman's fascinating biography follows Wilde from his beginnings as a brilliant student to his tragic end, when he haunted European locales that had delighted him in better times like a living ghost. The early part of the book is the least interesting. Wilde was one of the first useless celebrities-figures who gain notoriety simply because something odd or appealing about them keeps them in the public eye apart from any actual talent (although Wilde was, by all accounts, an excellent spe...more
Sonia
Honestly this book was mostly just "ok" for me, but I'm giving it a slightly higher rating because I think Ellman deserves it.

I picked this up thinking it was going to be filled with super tawdry details of Wilde's life, but mostly it was literary criticism paralleled by events that occurred during the writing of each of his works.

So it was okay. I wish it would have been a little more Wilde and a little less Wilde's contribution to literature.
Barbara Rice
No doubt that Oscar Wilde was a tortured genius, but he was also a narcissist and egotist, and in the end that may have contributed to his spectacular downfall. Well, that and Lord Alfred Douglas. This book is sympathetic to Wilde without pandering or making him to be grossly misunderstood. Worthwhile.
Caitlin
A meticulously researched book, a true lover of Wilde. A hard read at times because it seems that you must be very familiar with Wilde's work, even more obscure pieces, and his contemporaries. But he writes about the tragedy of Wilde's unjust imprisonment with great sensitivity.
MrsPeel
Great biography, but I had to make an effort to keep going.
To my way of reading, is a bit too academic, too much info which at times made me feel lost, but beautiful account of Wilde's life.
Baylee
Leggi la recensione su Lovely Dreams!

‘I have lived. Yes, I have lived. I drank the sweet, I drank the bitter, and I found the bitterness in the sweetness and the sweetness in the bitterness.’

Se amate questo scrittore, non potete assolutissimamente perdervi questa biografia. Sappiate che quando avrete voltato l'ultima pagina, saprete quasi quante volte andava in bagno Mr. Wilde. Il lavoro svolto da Ellmann, infatti, è certosino e accurato, oltre ad aver coperto quasi un ventennio della vita del c...more
Lindsey
"Biography lends to death a new terror." -Oscar Wilde

I am a bit of an Oscar Wilde fanatic (yeah... the action figure Grant gave me for my birthday is one of the coolest things ever!) And I wrote my English 251 author portfolio on him. In the course of research I came across this biography and it intrigued me (despite its massive size.) And it was well worth the time I put into it. I actually waited to open even the first page until I was on the plane to England and Oscar (well his memorial statu...more
Jimmy
My fascination with Mr. Wilde has puzzled me for quite some time. It's arrogant of me to feel kinship with such a notable character, I know..but there it is. It looms over me as if I were tethered to a balloon forever cast in it's shadow.

Ellmann's biography did nothing to alleviate my symptoms, but rather served to inflate that balloon all the more. In The Ballad of Reading Gaol, Wilde proposes that man always destroys that which he loves. While I think in some instances one has to reach deep in...more
Dorothy
This took my breath away. So many different emotions and feelings while exploring the life of Oscar Wilde. I had no idea of his brilliance and Victorian academic prowess. A trenchant observer of the human condition, he was by means incisive, pithy, seductive, loyal, overbearing, generous, egocentric, extravagant, profligate, loving and small-mindedly unkind.

He was charmingly eccentric, gracious while devastating and an agent provocateur.

By midway through this biography I was persuaded he was a...more
Katey
This wavered between 3 and 4 stars for me. While there's lots of details, which are up to the reader to decide if they're worthwhile or not, I respect a bio that includes as much as possible, if only for the sake of transparency and truth. But another recent book I've read, Explosive Acts: Toulouse-Lautrec, Oscar Wilde, Felix Feneon, and the Art & Anarchy of the Fin de Siecle, has a good deal about O. Wilde, and while this book didn't contradict anything from Sweetman's tome, the tone of it...more
Brian
Richard Ellman won the Pulitzer for his work on Oscar Wilde, and with good reason: it's not only the definitive look at the Irish poet, playwright, critic, and martyr, but it's also a ripping good read. Wilde was a movie star in a time before movies, a tabloid staple, and a constant bestseller, and Ellmann makes him -- and his work -- come alive.

Following Wilde's rise to literary and theatrical fame, a series of colossally bad decisions lead to his imprisonment and disgrace -- another ending we...more
John Savvopoulos
Διάβασα την πανέμορφη ελληνική έκδοση αυτού του έργου του Ellmann από τον οίκο Πατάκη σε μετάφραση Ελλεάνας Πανάγου. Μου έκανε εντύπωση ότι ένα τόσο ενδιαφέρον βιβλίο κυκλοφόρησε για πρώτη φορά στην χώρα μας το 2009. Στην Αγγλία είχε εκδοθεί το 1987.
Πρόκειται για την πληρέστερη βιογραφία του Oscar Wilde. Ο Richard Ellmann παρακολουθεί το σύνολο της ζωής του διάσημου συγγραφέα σαν να έζησε μαζί του. Ένα εντυπωσιακό έργο που χωρίς να ηρωοποιεί, αντιθέτως στέκεται κριτικά απέναντι στον Wilde, μας...more
W
Richard Ellman won fame as the greatest literary biographer of all time for his life of JAMES JOYCE. There he revealed the man that made the myth. Here, I think is surpasses that work and reaches his zenith as a biographer. Wilde is the tragic modernist, and Ellman provides not simply a scrupulous history of the author, but reveals the fearfully denied soul that struggles with God and the self, the sacred and the profane, the yo-yoing of sin and the sublime that defines the human condition. He s...more
Kaethe
I read it and I thought it was the best biography of all time. It helps that I love Wilde I guess.
Heather Knight
As usual, Ellmann produces the definitive biographical work, this time on Ireland's witty, outrageous, doomed Oscar Wilde. You can expect plenty of detail, culled from letters, diaries, first-hand accounts etc. What's sad is, if you've read his Joyce biography, it's hard to believe that THIS is the guy who ends up in prison for "unnatural acts". What comes across, through all the bon mots, is Wilde's generosity and good nature. You feel twice as bad for him for watching his friends abandon him a...more
Julia
I admit that I have an undying love for all things 1890s, and I don't expect others to be as purely fascinated as I am. But if you are interested in Beardsley, Beerbohm, Lord Alfred Douglas, and Queensbury (and if you know who they are!); if you want to know how a tragic, insecure, decadant genius lived his life from beginning to end; if you are fascinated by what color shirts Oscar asked his mom to send him at boarding school; and if you are interested in 600 pages worth of these details, then...more
Bruce Reiter
I read this biography because of an upcoming trip to Ireland. It is excellent and complete. The missing star in my rating is because it is almost six hundred pages in length and not all of the French is translated, a bummer for those of us who do not read the language. It is an easy read of a complex man with philosophies described and discussed in detail. I am grateful that I did not live in those times although the odds of moving in such elitist circles are unimaginable.
Jess
What I learned....I can resist everything except temptation.//I like persons better than principles, and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world.//I sometimes think that God in creating man somewhat overestimated his ability.//It is better to be beautiful than to be good. But... it is better to be good than to be ugly.//Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.//
King
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Richard David Ellmann was a prominent American literary critic and biographer of the Irish writers James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, and William Butler Yeats. Ellmann's James Joyce (1959), for which he won the National Book Award in 1960, is considered one of the most acclaimed literary biographies of the 20th century and the 1982 revised edition of the work was similarly recognised with the award of the...more
More about Richard Ellmann...
James Joyce The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry The Norton Anthology of Modern & Contemporary Poetry, Vol 1: Modern Poetry Yeats: The Man and the Masks

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