Wilde’s affected aestheticism was for him merely an ingenious cloak to hide, while half revealing, what he could not let be seen openly … Here, as almost always, and often even without the artist’s knowing it, it is the secret of the depths of his flesh that prompts, inspires, and decides…
Wilde’s plays reveal, beside the surface witticisms, sparkling like false jewels, many oddly revelatory sentences of great psychological interest. And it is for them that Wilde wrote the whole play––let there be no doubt about it…
Try to let some understand what one has an interest in hiding from all. As for me, I have always preferred frankness. But Wilde made up his mind to make of falsehood a work of art. Nothing is more precious, more tempting, more flattering than to see in the work of art a falsehood and, reciprocally, to look upon falsehood as a work of art… This artistic hypocrisy was imposed on him… by the need of self-protection.” by André Gide, on Oscar Wilde, from The Journals of André Gide
“Men should dress more in velvet as it catches the light and shade … knee-breeches are more comfortable and convenient … low shoes and silk stockings should be used in the drawing room” - Mr. Wilde, trendsetting in the 1880s
My own Darling Boy,
I got your telegram half an hour ago, and just send a line to say that I feel that my only hope of again doing beautiful work in art is being with you. It was not so in the old days, but now it is different, and you can really recreate in me that energy and sense of joyous power on which art depends.
Everyone is furious with me for going back to you, but they don’t understand us. I feel that it is only with you that I can do anything at all. Do remake my ruined life for me, and then our friendship and love will have a different meaning to the world.
I wish that when we met at Rouen we had not parted at all. There are such wide abysses now of space and land between us. But we love each other.
Goodnight, dear. Ever yours,
Oscar” by Oscar Wilde, in a letter to Alfred Douglas, “Bosie”, written shortly after Wilde was released from prison. He had been convicted to two years hard labor for what hypocritical Victorian society called ‘gross indecency’ (AKA for being gay).
I only slept a few hours when I went to bed, and feeling that I could not sleep any more, got up. I had hung my shaving glass by the window, and was just beginning to shave. Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder, and heard the Count’s voice saying to me, “Good morning.” I started, for it amazed me that I had not seen him, since the reflection of the glass covered the whole room behind me. In starting I had cut myself slightly… the cut had bled a little, and the blood was trickling over my chin. I laid down the razor, turning as I did so half round to look for some sticking plaster. When the Count saw my face, his eyes blazed with a sort of demoniac fury, and he suddenly made a grab at my throat. I drew away, and his hand touched the string of beads which held the crucifix. It made an instant change in him, for the fury passed so quickly that I could hardly believe that it was ever there.
‘Take care,’ he said, ‘take care how you cut yourself. It is more dangerous than you think in this country.’” by Bram Stoker, in Dracula, my latest read in Victorian lit, so far I’m enjoying it a lot more than Jekyll & Hyde!
‘One person I was sure would represent me as capable of anything - What I felt was dreadful! - My resolution was soon made, and at eight o’clock this morning I was in my carriage. Now you know all.’
Elinor made no answer. Her thoughts were silently fixed on the irreparable injury which too early an independence and its consequent habits of idleness, dissipation, and luxury, had made in the mind, the character, the happiness, of a man who, to every advantage of person and talents, united a disposition naturally open and honest, and a feeling, affectionate temper. The world had made him extravagant and vain - Extravagance and vanity had made him coldhearted and selfish. Vanity, while seeking its own guilty triumph at the expense of another, had involved him in a real attachment, which extravagance, or at least its offspring, necessity, had required to be sacrificed. Each faulty propensity in leading him to evil, had led him likewise to punishment. The attachment, from which against honour, against feeling, against every better interest he had outwardly torn himself, now, when no longer allowable, governed every thought; and the connection, for the sake of which he had, with little scruple, left her sister to misery, was likely to prove a source of unhappiness to himself of a far more incurable nature. From a reverie of this kind she was recalled at the end of some minutes by Willoughby, who, rousing himself from a reverie at least equally painful, started up in preparation for going, and said…” by Jane Austen, Elinor pondering on Willoughby’s confession in Sense and Sensibility
‘Are you prose or verse?’
‘I write verse, but I dabble in the other thing.’ It was the answer I had expected.
‘Very good. Will you come to my place to-morrow night at eight? Tobacco. Beer. Talk.’
‘I love beer. I adore tobacco. Talking is my life. I will come.’
‘Here is my card. Eight o’clock tomorrow. Good-night.’ And so I left him.
He came, and it turned out that he worked in a bank from ten to four every day, and played the wild bohemian every night. His beard was a disguise. He spent his evenings seeking for adventure, he said, and apologized to me for earning an honest living. He was really delightful. So are our friendships made; there is no difficulty about them, no diffidence; you try a man as you would a brand of tobacco; if you agree, then you are friends; if not, why then you are but two blind cockchafers who have collided with each other in a summer night, and boom away again each in his own direction.” by Arthur Ransome, early 1900s, narrating his days as a struggling writer in Bohemia in London