herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Oscar Wilde 1854-1900

Oscar Wilde 1854-1900

It is 115 years since Oscar Wilde, with a sigh of relief, rolled over and uttered his last epigram: "This wallpaper will be the death of me - one of us will have to go"

Oscar was only 46 when he died, but he had managed to become the greatest writer of mannered comedy in the English language.

A legendary wit and conversationalist, and a splendid poet, it must have been too much for the English to take at that time that here was a genius from Dublin who could not only out talk them, but write better than they did.

I could catch a glimpse of Oscar's personality perhaps from his grandson Merlin Holland, who is a good friend.

At the time of this anniversary we might feel that Oscar's poems, because of his all-round gifts for many forms of literature, have never been given their rightful place. For instance, some think that Oscar's Reading Gaol is the best ballad in English, and there is a growing feeling that his mastery of poetic form has not been fully recognised.

It is hard to find a poem in which the difficult sonnet form has been better used than in Oscar's Helas.

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