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Oscar: A Biography

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  189 ratings  ·  30 reviews
Oscar Wilde's life – like his wit – was alive with paradox. He was both an early exponent and a victim of 'celebrity culture': famous for being famous, he was lauded and ridiculed in equal measure. His achievements were frequently downplayed, his successes resented. He had a genius for comedy but strove to write tragedies. He was an unabashed snob who nevertheless delighte ...more
Hardcover, 740 pages
Published October 4th 2018 by Head of Zeus
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Average rating 4.33  · 
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Eric Anderson
Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I don't often read biographies but when I saw that Matthew Sturgis' recent book on Oscar Wilde has been shortlisted for this year's prestigious Wolfson History Prize I thought this would be a great opportunity to learn more about Wilde's life. Sturgis' extensive biography is deliciously comprehensive and draws upon a lot of recent research and untapped material about Wilde to give a really authoritative, well-rounded understanding of this infamous, irresistibly flamboyant and brilliant writer. I ...more
Francis Shaw
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The definitive Oscar bio to date. Well written and engrossing. The author paints the clearest picture we have of the complexity of Oscar Wilde. Highly recommend it.
This is one of the best biographies I have read in a long time. I have always been a fan of Oscar Wilde. The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of my favourite books of all time. That being said, I didn't know too much about his life. Matthew Sturgis does an incredible job fleshing out who Oscar was from birth to his death. I loved being a bystander in Victorian society as Wilde reached his fame and ultimate demise. Sturgis goes into the minutiae of Wilde's life so if you do not enjoy reading highly ...more
Apr 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
An immensely readable biography of Oscar Wilde.

When I was sixteen, I was obsessed with Oscar Wilde. In retrospect, I realize it was because he was the first queer person that confirmed for me that queerness had a history- those were the days before internet access, before I was really aware of my own sexuality - I just felt a connection I couldn’t yet name. At that time, I read everything I could find about him, including books I got via interlibrary loan and bookorders ~from abroad (which weren
Aug 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019
It's no secret that I adore Oscar Wilde, so this new biography went straight to my TBR the second I spotted it. Drawing on fresh, very thorough research and previously unavailable material, this is a wonderfully comprehensive examination of the life of a fascinating personality.
Jonathan Fryer
Jul 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When I heard Matthew Sturgis was writing a biography of Oscar Wilde, my initial reaction was “Why?”. Surely everything had already been said? I have two whole bookcases full of books about Wilde and his work and his circle of family and friends, including three volumes of my own. For many years, Richard Ellmann’s Oscar Wilde (1987) in its bright green dust-jacket was seen as definitive, but the meticulous work of scholars over the decades then identified a whole string of errors and omissions. I ...more
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
i love my gather (gay father)
Helen Carolan
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Here's a book about one of the most interesting and funniest men ever, and yet I found this book tedious. Noting new in it and what there was didn't capture Wilde at all.
Rohase Piercy
Nov 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating book – densely written, but how else can one do justice to the life and career of Oscar Wilde? It's full of wonderful anecdotes right from the start, and unlike many other biographies it takes the trouble to document many of the little details of Oscar's early life in Ireland as well as his life in exile in France during the last three years of his life.

As with his biography of Aubrey Beardsley, Sturgis has really tried to get under the skin of his subject and understand hi
Beth Rawson
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful. I've read many biographies of Oscar Wilde but this one draws on fresh and extremely thorough research.
Will Mayo
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It's an old familiar tale, that of Oscar Wilde. A man famous for being famous, in the manner of today's reality stars, for his wit in ladies' drawing rooms who was then lampooned in newspaper cartoons and musicals such as Gilbert And Sullivan's "Patience," he then truly launched into the limelight with a lecture in the United States, attending a voodoo ceremony in Louisiana and meeting Walt Whitman in New Jersey along the way and achieving a spectacular lecture in a silver mine out West under th ...more
Eddie Clarke
Oct 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, lgbt, abe
A well-balanced, perceptive, sympathetic and readable biography. This will probably become the standard Oscar text. Slightly let down by too frequent typos, a few in primary quotations.
Simon Bardwell
Overlong! Not as good as the previous biography of Wilde that I read. This is one is very thoroughly researched and the author has gone to great pains to read everything about Wilde that he could. It seems perhaps a strange complaint - but I found it too detailed and at times it dragged for me. The description of the American tour would be an example where some of the detail could have been happily left out.

It occurred to me that maybe I was the wrong person reading it and that the book is inten
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Used this bad boy to write my thesis. Big and bulky, full of loads of information. Didn't read it cover to cover (god bless indexes) but still did my best.
Nov 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining biography of a man whose life must be a biographer's dream. Oscar Wilde was all about excess and self-esteem: as a young man he managed to make himself the 19th-century equivalent of a social media star on the basis of an Oxford poetry prize and good social connections, as a newly-wed he and his wife were the sort of couple who would have regularly appeared on the celebrity pages. As money problems pushed him to actually work at being a writer, he was an ov ...more
Feb 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is probably the most in depth biography of Wilde ever written: 600+ pages, 36 hours on audio (which is how I read it, though I've referred to the ebook from time to time too). I've read many Wilde biographies before, including of course Richard Ellman's, which I think is technically longer. But somehow even that one does not feel as complete to me as this one does.

The biggest struggle, I think, with writing about Wilde's life is how easy it is to write about the "character" of Oscar Wilde,
Ravi Zutshi
Sep 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very well written, thought provoking reference. I thoroughly enjoyed reading

this and learned so much.
Daan Bultje
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Laurens Marysse
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art, biography, canon
A very comprehensive biography of the best-known Irish dandy. Well documented with many references to the influences on Oscar Wilde's work. Recommended.
Mar 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Oscar Wilde is a figure that still very much pervades our popular culture. Perhaps without even realising their origins many of us are familiar with his aphorisms and witty slogans. A particular favourite of mine is: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars” and “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” This is a point that Matthew Sturgis makes in the opening to this impressive and incredibly immersive biography. Wilde was an individual that very much tried to be ...more
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredibly comprehensive

This detailed biography is suitable for those making a first foray into Wilde's life but will also enhance the knowledge of those who have read the works earlier biographers.

I felt that it was particularly strong on Wilde's formative years and his trials and fall from grace. I also liked the insight into his character (which almost made me feel as if I knew him) and the unbiased presentation of a far from perfect human being who, although talented, was also selfish, misg
Stu Worthington
Sep 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a very long read but definitely worth it. Lots of detailed information about the circumstances, atmosphere and incidents that helped to shape Oscar's life and those who supported or opposed him. He couldn't resist the ready quips and clever/callous comments that helped to alienate friends and foes alike but made his plays and stories so outstanding.
His desire for other males appears not to have been a great surprise to many and could have been appeased in private without causing a st
Aug 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since I’m currently living just around the corner from the famous Reading Gaol, I wanted to find out more about Oscar Wilde. He certainly led an interesting life, but I didn’t feel a huge connection to Wilde himself, which made it rather an abstract reading experience. Before his plays found success, he was ahead of his time in the dubious achievement of becoming a celebrity largely by acting like one. He was famously imprisoned for ‘gross indecency’ after intimate details of his homosexual rela ...more
Dec 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
This is an extensive historical biography about the infamous Oscar Wilde. A poet who died rather early at age of 46 in Paris. There is much into this book and I doubt that you ever have to read another one about Oscar, as this book is fairly enough for life. Well it does tell you a good deal about the poet. Some parts of this book aren't so exciting, it's him writing his plays and doing his lectures. But the chapters when he is getting more and more into homosexuality and getting to now the love ...more
Susan Sullivan
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating biography of Oscar Wilde - lengthy but still a page turner.
Frances Thornton
An absolute masterpiece!
Eszter Molnár
May 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read this on and off for 1.5 years.I never knew Oscar Wilde's life had so many ups and downs. A fantastic biography.
Everyone should have a friend like Ross who stood by him until the bitter end.
Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
An incredibly comprehensive biography of Oscar Wilde; fascinating and absorbing. Highly recommended.
May 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Extremely well-researched and balanced, teasing out both the myriad character flaws alongside great acts of kindness. The subject’s life is obviously a topic into which a biographer can very much get their teeth and no account of Wilde is ever going to be boring. I have to say, ranked against the previous definitive autobiography by Richard Ellman I found it slightly drier in style and marginally preferred the older book. However, I’d not hesitate to recommend this to anyone wanting to read a hi ...more
laura Nugent
rated it it was amazing
Feb 12, 2019
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Play Book Tag: Oscar: A Life - Matthew Sturgis - 4 stars 4 11 Sep 01, 2020 12:41AM  

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There's something great about a paperback book: They're perfect book club choices, you can throw them in your bag and go, and they've been out in...
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“Make some sacrifice for your art and you will be repaid – but ask of art to sacrifice herself for you and a bitter disappointment may come to you.’ oscar wilde” 0 likes
“When standing and talking – [he] bent the head forward condescendingly to his listener (a trick inherited from his mother), was easily audible in any drawing-room through the buzz of conversation and filled and permeated a room with his presence… Attitude when seated and talking – Leant forward from his waist towards his listener; fixed his eyes full upon him; made much play with his right arm and hand, moving the arm freely from the shoulder, and letting the large hand with its full and fleshy palm move freely on the wrist. When he made a point… would throw himself back in the chair and look at his auditor as much as to say: ‘What can you find to say to that?” 0 likes
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