To Mrs. CAREW
The apparently endless difficulties against which I have contended, and
am contending, in the management of Oscar Wilde's literary and dramatic
property have brought me many valued friends; but only one friendship
which seemed as endless; one friend's kindness which seemed to annul the
disappointments of eight years. That is why I venture to place your name
on this volume with the assurance of the author himself who bequeathed to
me his works and something of his indiscretion.
May 12th, 1908.
The editor of writings by any author not long deceased is censured sooner
or later for his errors of omission or commission. I have decided to err
on the side of commission and to include in the uniform edition of
Wilde's works everything that could be identified as genuine. Wilde's
literary reputation has survived so much that I think it proof against
any exhumation of articles which he or his admirers would have preferred
to forget. As a matter of fact, I believe this volume will prove of
unusual interest; some of the reviews are curiously prophetic; some are,
of course, biassed by prejudice hostile or friendly; others are conceived
in the author's wittiest and happiest vein; only a few are colourless.
And if, according to Lord Beaconsfield, the verdict of a continental
nation may be regarded as that of posterity, Wilde is a much greater
force in our literature than even friendly contemporaries ever supposed
he would become.
It should be remembered, however, that at the time when most of these
reviews were written Wilde had published scarcely any of the works by
which his name has become famous in Europe, though the protagonist of the
aesthetic movement was a well-known figure in Paris and London. Later he
was recognised--it would be truer to say he was ignored--as a young man
who had never fulfilled the high promise of a distinguished university
career although his volume of Poems had reached its fifth edition, an
unusual event in those days. He had alienated a great many of his Oxford
contemporaries by his extravagant manner of dress and his methods of
courting publicity. The great men of the previous generation, Wilde's
intellectual peers, with whom he was in artistic sympathy, looked on him
askance. Ruskin was disappointed with his former pupil, and Pater did
not hesitate to express disapprobation to private friends; while he
accepted incense from a disciple, he distrusted the thurifer.
From a large private correspondence in my possession I gather that it
was, oddly enough, in political and social centres that Wilde's amazing
powers were rightly appreciated and where he was welcomed as the most
brilliant of living talkers. Before he had published anything except his
Poems, the literary dovecots regarded him with dislike, and when he began
to publish essays and fairy stories, the attitude was not changed; it was
merely emphasised in the public press. His first dramatic success at the
St. James's Theatre gave Wilde, of course, a different position, and the
dislike became qualified with envy.