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Oscar Wilde

4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  2,670 Ratings  ·  115 Reviews
SOLD (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 d ...more
Hardcover, 680 pages
Published 1988 by Knopf (first published 1987)
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(showing 1-30)
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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
Feb 15, 2008 David rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jul 18, 2010 Bruce rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 20, 2012 Brian Bess rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 20, 2008 Dawn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Johnny D
Jan 31, 2009 Johnny D rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 10, 2008 Pesh rated it really liked it  ·  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!
‘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 sua vita.

Detto questo, sappiate che ho impiegat
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 toda
Feb 03, 2012 Vijeta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
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
Aug 31, 2010 Sonia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: have
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.
Walter Spence
Jun 12, 2014 Walter Spence rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An exhaustive biography; reading it exhausted me.
Jul 08, 2014 Kaethe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I read it and I thought it was the best biography of all time. It helps that I love Wilde I guess.
May 30, 2015 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A 4 for the level of research but probably a 3 in overall enjoyment, this is a densely written and researched book, at times a bit overwhelming. Having read Wilde's stories and plays (skipping the poetry), I was aware of the broad outlines of his life but not much more (besides having stayed in a charming little hotel in Halifax, NS, where he had once stayed).

It was difficult to keep track of the many friends and aquaintances as they appeared and reappeared through the book, but with such a busy
David B
Jul 27, 2014 David B rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
David Hill
Dec 13, 2009 David Hill rated it liked it
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
Theresa Leone Davidson
A wonderful biography of Wilde's life and everything that was happening to him while he wrote his many great works, like The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest, as well as his short stories, like my favorite, The Happy Prince. I knew some facts surrounding his arrest and imprisonment before reading this but didn't know a lot, like how it started with his libel suit against his lover's father, the Marquess of Queensberry, so that was of particular interest, as was Wilde's ...more
Oct 29, 2011 Lucy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The unreadable in pursuit of the dislikeable.
Turgid prose that doesn't know when to stop, at times awkward construction, and far too little about the effect this ghastly man had on his wife and children. One has to feel sorry for OW but if ever a man was author of his own downfall, he was the man. I know things now about the late nineteenth century that I wish I didn't. In fact, I wish I hadn't read this book at all.
Barbara Rice
Sep 22, 2012 Barbara Rice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 18, 2009 Rhonda is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I added this book to my 'To Read' list in 2009 and still haven't gotten to it. It won the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography and is about the man I most love to quote.

Guess I'd better get on with it.
Whitney Milam
Beautiful and devastating. Has given me such a deeper and fiercer appreciation of Oscar, his work, his philosophy, his relationships, and all the infuriating injustices he endured. AVENGE OSCAR WILDE.
Sep 12, 2010 Caitlin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Michael Kokias
If you want to know every detail of Wilde's life, Ellmann is the place to go. This was not read for fun, this was read for a class all about Oscar Wilde, so this book was perfect. Did I read every word? No. Did I read half the words? Probably... But I had to lug this colossus of a book around with me everywhere as I hopelessly attempted to make a dent in it. The insight is amazing; the detail is too much, which is a good thing if that is what you're looking for. You may say that I have no right ...more
Mar 17, 2017 Malvina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I did not think a 632 page biography would be so gripping. Richard Ellmann provides a very readable picture of Oscar Wilde - as another Goodreads reviewer put it - at his mildest and his wildest. I knew he'd been incarcerated towards the end of his life for homosexuality and that it had pretty much broken him; reading his story was truly astonishing. He appears a man larger than life until his 'exile' on the Continent at the end. I enjoyed reading about his works, how they came about, and the st ...more
Sep 29, 2013 Dorothy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
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
Virginia Arthur
Jan 18, 2016 Virginia Arthur rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I feel it is best if you understand this is a history book not only about a brilliant intellectual narcissist but a portrait also of the time in which Wilde lived. It is, as others have described it, dense, detailed, footnoted out the wazoo...oops, should perhaps put this another way...

The sexual habits of Wilde and his consorts made me uncomfortable (they would go off "in search of boys") so I quickly moved on through these portions but by today's standards, Wilde may have qualified as a pedoph
Jan 27, 2011 Lindsey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
"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
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
Jan 05, 2015 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful biography – a little too steeped in classical culture and literature for me to understand all the allusions properly, unfortunately. Covers Wilde in his flawed outrageousness and folly, brilliance and conceit, extravagance and tragedy. A huge personality; indulgent, dissipated and suffering, and, in the end brave in his understanding the significance of his life and of his death, and making sure that they were fitting in scale. Wilde became the conscience, after his death, of Victori ...more
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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
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