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Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  679 ratings  ·  99 reviews
Tells the poignant story of Constance in the aftermath of Wilde’s trials and imprisonment, and of her brave attempts to keep in contact with him despite her suffering.The Irish Times

In the spring of 1895 the life of Constance Wilde changed irrevocably. Up until the conviction of her husband, Oscar, for homosexual crimes, she had held a privileged position in society.
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Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Published October 9th 2012 by Pegasus Books (first published 2011)
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Susan
Jan 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have to admit that I knew very little about Constance Wilde before reading this book, other than, of course, that she was Oscar Wilde's wife. However, I came to appreciate her as a strong woman, who did suffer but who always tried to do the right thing and fought hard to protect her sons.

Constance had a difficult upbringing. Her brother Otho, who she adored, was older than her and she was left with a widowed mother who both verbally and physically abused her. When her mother re-married,
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Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
I've not long finished Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde by Franny Moyle. The following review is offered in a slightly different spirit to those I've added here before. Moyle's book, which draws on over three hundred of Constance's previously unpublished letters, is an important work of scholarship, worthy of appreciation. But my review is also a personal apology, or a debt of honour, to a woman who was so much more than simply the wife of Oscar Wilde.

I've long been
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Christy B
Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde is a good account of the life of an often overlooked figure.

I admit, I've been interested in the life and work of Oscar Wilde for years, but have never given a second thought to his wife Constance. Shame on me! I feel like I need to apologize to her. She was a woman ahead of her time: intelligent, progressive, for women's rights, etc. She was also a children's writer.

From reading this biography I learned that Constance was an
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The Book Queen
Dec 18, 2015 marked it as maybe-read  ·  review of another edition
This looks absolutely fascinating. I've read almost all of Wilde's works and thoroughly enjoyed the lot, and I know he suffered horrible humiliation and treatment in the latter part of his life, but I somehow doubt he was a particularly pleasant person. Perhaps reading this will give me more insight into his character; for such a prolific writer he remains an elusive man.
Simsim
Feb 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant research work, brilliant woman. She should not be known as only the wife of Oscar Wilde.
Rachel
Feb 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first published biography of Constance Wilde, wife of Oscar Wilde. The many Wilde biographers haven't given her much attention, glossing over her life as entirely influenced by Wilde. For example, they often suggest she wore Aesthetic Dress to please Oscar, when in fact she was active in the Dress Reform movement before she met him, and that was no doubt a factor in their mutual attraction. Constance wore "artistic" gowns and divided skirts, an important statement for women of the ...more
Samuel
Oct 14, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, reviewed
The genius of Oscar Wilde might have been glorious, but a hundred years later it still has the power to blind. Brilliancy can let you get away with a lot; Wilde, the martyr on the altar of English hypocrisy, seems always to escape criticism. Harold Bloom remarked that Wilde "was right about everything." Christopher Hitchens, contrasting him with Gore Vidal, concluded that he, Wilde, was "never cruel." Stephen Fry's fondness for Saint Oscar is well known, and hardly unwarranted. But even the ...more
Lisa
Dec 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oscar Wilde and his beautiful young wife, Constance, were very much in love, and feted in both London and Paris. Constance, like Oscar, edited journals, wrote stories, and gave lectures. Her writing was highly regarded, and she gave Oscar a huge amount of help with his stories. Both Oscar and Constance were highly concerned with the Women's Movement, and Oscar edited the journal, Women's World.

They mixed with high society, and great artists like the actress, Sarah Bernhardt. They invited these
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Kerry
Oct 04, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
While the idea of researching a less-written about historical figure is compelling, this book is an excellent reminder why biographers concentrate on particular personalities and leave the others to the sidelines. The woman "behind the man" makes an interesting premise . . . but only if the woman is interesting herself.

I found myself wondering whether it was the author's fault for not making Constance Wilde's life more intriguing or if the writer should be praised for doing what justice to her
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Kate
Having been a Wildephile since I was a teenager, I've seen his life through the eyes of detail-oriented biographers, of his friends, of his son, of his detestable nemesis Bosie. After all this time, this book gave me a close introduction to his wife Constance. And COnstance's life revealed things I had not yet seen.

What a lovely couple they were when first married! So romantic, supportive and arty.

What their shared life eventually became reminds me of the saying that no man is a hero to his
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Carmen
May 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Barbara Schillinger
Constance was truly an admirable human being. I truly admire her loyalty to Oscar Wilde, her intellectual curiosity, her adventurous spirit for the time. I found the references to the Rational Dress Society fascinating and it is a subject that I would like to delve into further.

They were a fascinating couple and it is truly tragic and Bosie entered his life and destroyed it so completely. True Oscar had always been a homosexual but his other friends such as Robbie had respected his home life.

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Lynn Dixon
Jul 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Kenny Roger’s The Gambler lyrics seem to apply to Franny Moyle’s Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde. He sang ‘Know when to walk away; And know when to run.’ This book is extremely well-researched as the factual documents are waxed together to tell the story of Constance Lloyd Wilde and her husband Oscar Wilde.

They knew each other early in life because their families were acquainted in Ireland. They married though her brother tried to warn her of some disturbing news
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Robert Bolton
A must for Wilde fans. Fascinating but sad.
Shauna
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Well researched

Actually, it was a little too well-researched. Very thorough, but the first half is a little overdone, with too much detail about Constance's various friends and habits. You realize how great she was and what a tool Oscar Wilde was.
Laurie
Feb 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There have been a lot of books written about Oscar Wilde, but this is the first about his wife, Constance Wilde, nee Lloyd. Usually portrayed as puritanical and unforgiving, this book, which utilized a lot of unpublished letters, shows a very different picture, one of a loving, intelligent, forgiving and forward thinking woman who was a talented but forgotten writer.

Constance’s life was difficult from the start; her father died when she was young and her mother was emotionally and physically
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Yara (The Narratologist)
I bought this book over two years ago, but only started reading it last week. The cover design of my edition, bright purple with a pink swirly font, combined with a title that sounds like it was ripped straight from the headlines of a gossip glossy really put me off initially (although come to think of it, the gossip columns played an important part in the story of the Wildes). Still, curiosity got the best of me in the end, and I’m glad it did. We all know what happened to Oscar Wilde, but the ...more
Liza
Aug 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
I had no idea what a douche bag Oscar Wilde used to be to Constance until i read this book. She was a remarkable human being with amazing talent for the arts and possessed extraordinary sense of fashion. After reading this biography, my outlook on Oscar Wilde has changed completely. He was a complete jerk and would take credit for ideas Constance would come up with, in which she happily accepted and became part of his shadow while he took the audience for a ride.

My perspective of Constance
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Deborah
Sep 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a huge relief to discover that Constance wasn't a total doormat, that she knew a nice frock when she saw one and that she was no wallflower when it came to casting off her corset. Hurrah.

Personally I am of the opinion that Constance knew exactly what she was marrying into and that her reward was the ultra exposure to society that association with Oscar brought. Very few people in upper middle class England married for love in those days - they married for position and/or money. I accept
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Kristy
Feb 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been keeping my eye out for a biography of Oscar Wilde for a while and spotted this in my local library. I didn't even know that Oscar Wilde was married! I had this image of him as a frivolous, eccentric and clever openly gay man. So he was to some extent, very frivolous and eccentric anyway but I didn't realise the lengths he went to to avoid being labelled as homosexual while at the same time bizarrely flaunting his affairs with men...Weird.

But anyway the book is about Constance who was
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Janet Ashley
Feb 04, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: could-not-finish
I really wanted to like this book. I am fascinated with Oscar Wilde and was intrigued by the idea of a book written from his wife's perspective. I like to read a good biography but apparently I have been spoiled by the likes of writers like Erik Larson, Stephen Ambrose and Laura Hillenbrand, who could make even the phone book interesting (to steal a line from American Idol). But Fanny Moyle somehow makes a potentially fascinating subject boring.....when I started rereading passages because I ...more
Portia Costa
Oct 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers interested in Victorian history and personalities
Not sure what to think about this one. It's difficult to judge the quality of the writing etc because appreciation of the book is so intimately wound up in one's impression of the subject of the book, Constance Wilde and by association, Oscar.

I found it a compelling read, but it just made me realise how alien the life of these middle/upper class Victorians is to me. I feel sorry for Constance, for a lot of the things that happened to her, and the disaster Oscar inflicted on her... but she's also
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Vanessa Meachen
I didn't know much about Constance before reading this, and I was delighted to discover her through this book; what a fascinating portrait of her life, her relationship and her work, particularly with movements like the Rational Dress Society. She comes across as complex, intelligent and compassionate, both far-sighted and a product of her times. The book offers a very sympathetic treatment of both Constance and Oscar, while still being clear about their individual faults - it's Bosie Douglas ...more
Audrey
Apr 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well written biography about the often tragic life of Constance Wilde. It is an excellent and well written biography which is so sad In the last few chapters - it brings you to tears. Oscar Wilde ruined Constance's life, she lost everything, but she loved him until the end. All her beliefs in Wilde had been ripped apart and she had been lied to and deceived yet she never gave up fighting for the sake if her sons. She died so young at 40 leaving her two sons bereft. Oscar Wilde died two years ...more
Glenys
Aug 14, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Glenys by: Radio 4
Having just read Alan Hollinghurst's novel The Stranger's Child, I could believe that the task of the biographer is impossible, but this is an excellent example of the art. Constance Wilde is a neglected figure, almost a cipher in the mythology around the tragic, self-destructive genius of her famous hushand. However, this interesting biography brings her to life as a complex, independent and spirited woman, and creates a vivid picture of cultural life in England at the end of the 19th century.
Lyn
Feb 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Totally fascinating account of the sad story of the wife of Oscar Wilde and their two sons. Extraordinary detail about late Victorian society, the Aesthetic movement, early feminism, the fight for "rational dress" and the gradually changing role of women in this period. Oscar Wilde's two years in prison were little compared to the tragic repercussions for his family, both before, during and after his imprisonment. Very interesting book.
Alcornell
A cautionary tale, a view of another time, told in clear if overly detailed prose and quotations from primary sources. I left the book with a real fondness for Constance, and a new and surprising sympathy for O and his sons. Those Bon mots we love from Oscar Wilde wouldn't be nearly so well known today if his wife hadn't seen to it. Nothing is so simple as it seems, is it?
Pauline
Jan 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have never read a book about Oscar wilde as another reviewer noted I just assumed he was an openly gay artistic type!! To find out he ad a wife and children and what they were put through because of his dalliances is terribly sad.
I now intend to read an Oscar Wilde book now to hear the other side of the story as I saw rupert Everett talking about how tragic Oscars life was! I am intrigued
Madeleine Emerald Thiele
Constance Mary Holland (2nd January 1859 – 7th April 1898) was buried at 4pm on the 9th of April 1898 in the Protestant section of the Campo Santo cemetery in Genoa. The ‘Cimitero monumentale di Staglieno’ is a cemetery based in the hillside in the district of Staglieno of Genoa, Italy, and is a beautiful resting place, noted for its monumental sculpture.

In her own way, and within the limitations and confines of a woman’s role in the nineteenth century, Constance was (or at the very least
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Barbra Ann
Mar 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Constance Lloyd Wilde [Hubbard] married an artist because she loved art ... did she love Oscar? Her upper-class socialite lifestyle and its myriad of ways to distract did encourage the 'avant garde' side of life in a time when 'gay' was outside the norm. Their darling children were more than enough reason to be good parents. Measured against their times, I think the notoriety [and fear of] spun their universe and landed Oscar in jail [gaol]. But a minor character, the Marquess of Queensbury ...more
Cecilia Jones
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting, however very sad

I had recently finished a book with reference to Oscar Wilde and his wife Constance and wanted to know more. Constance was a woman before her time and obviously loved with her whole heart even when her heart was being ripped to shreds by what appears to be an extremely self centered and self absorbed man. I found this book very informative of the period in which they lived and very well researched. I hope that all parties involved in this tragic love story have found
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Former television producer, currently a freelance author.
“something specific to do to prevent my continually dreaming ’til I get perfectly morbid.22 With” 0 likes
“As a self-confessed Pre-Raphaelite - a term that by the 1880s was interchangeable with ‘Aesthete’ - Constance was carrying a torch whose flame had ben lit in the 1850s by a group of women associated with the founding Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood painters. Women such as Elizabeth Siddal and Jane Morris, the wives respectively of the painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the poet, designer and socialist William Morris, had modelled for the Pre-Raphaelite artists, wearing loose, flowing gowns.
But it was not just their depiction on canvas that sparked a new fashion among an intellectual elite. Off canvas these women also establised new liberties for women that some twenty years later were still only just being taken up by a wider female population. They pioneered new kinds of dresses, with sleeves either sewn on at the shoulder, rather than below it, or puffed and loose. While the rest of the female Victorian populace had to go about with their arms pinned to their bodies in tight, unmoving sheaths, the Pre-Raphaelite women could move their arms freely, to paint or pose or simply be comfortable. The Pre-Raphaelite girls also did away with the huge, bell-shaped crinoline skirts, held out by hoops and cages strapped on to the female undercarriage. They dispensed with tight corsets that pinched waists into hourglasses, as well as the bonnets and intricate hairstyles that added layer upon layer to a lady’s daily toilette.
Their ‘Aesthetic’ dress, as it became known, was more than just a fashion; it was a statement. In seeking comfort for women it also spoke of a desire for liberation that went beyond physical ease. It was also a statement about female creative expression, which in itself was aligned to broader feminist issues. The original Pre-Raphaelite sisterhood lived unconventionally with artists, worked at their own artistic projects and became famous in the process. Those women who were Aesthetic dress in their wake tended to believe that women should have the right to a career and ultimately be enfranchised with the vote.
[…] And so Constance, with ‘her ugly dresses’, her schooling and her college friends, was already in some small degree a young woman going her own way. Moving away from the middle-class conventions of the past, where women were schooled by governesses at home, would dress in a particular manner and be chaperoned, Constance was already modern.”
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