This LibraryThing catalogue is a tribute to Oscar Wilde and Thomas Wright’s Oscar’s Books: A journey around the library of Oscar Wilde (known in the U.S. as Built of Books: How reading defined the life of Oscar Wilde). I have attempted to list most of the books mentioned in this literary biography; all the credit for the research must go to Thomas Wright and the scholars who came before him. Any errors or omissions in the LibraryThing catalogue, however, are mine.
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) is best known as a playwright and wit. Wilde was also a poet, classical scholar, essayist, novelist, critic, book reviewer, short story writer, journalist, gay man, husband and father. To European contemporaries who knew him mostly through his essays, Wilde was a philosopher and a leading figure of the Symbolist and Decadent movements. To his English contemporaries, Wilde was a dandy, bon vivant and social climber, a subversive Irishman and the butt of many jokes about Aestheticism. The English later came to think of Wilde as a degenerate criminal to be reviled, or as a case study in the dangers of Art. To me, he is a source of inspiration and a hero.
In Oscar’s Books, Wright details what books were in Wilde’s collection and what role they played in his personal and artistic development. Wright’s work to reconstruct Wilde’s library and track down volumes that he owned is poignant because the books were auctioned off — along with all the Wilde family’s possessions — when Wilde was arrested.
I hope that this LibraryThing catalogue will inspire you to read Thomas Wright’s book, as well as books from Wilde’s library. To understand the significance of the books in Oscar Wilde’s collection and the context in which he read them, I recommend:
- Oscar’s Books (hardback edition: Chatto & Windus 2008, ISBN 9780701180614; paperback edition: Vintage 2009, ISBN 9780099502722). Read reviews of Oscar’s Books by The Guardian, The Independent and Literary Review.
- Son of Oscar Wilde by Vyvyan Holland
- Oscar Wilde by Richard Ellmann
- Oscar Wilde by John Sloan (Oxford World’s Classics Authors in Context series)
- The Picture of Dorian Gray: A Norton Critical Edition edited by Michael Patrick Gillespie
- The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated, Uncensored Edition edited by Nicholas Frankel.
© JD Ellevsen 2011