Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Wilde's Women: How Oscar Wilde Was Shaped by the Women He Knew by Eleanor Fitzsimons - 2015

Wilde's Women: How Oscar Wilde was Shaped by the Women he Knew by Eleanor Fitzsimons

"Life is too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it."
- Vera, or The Nihilists -

Last month I read The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit by Eleanor Fitzsimons, a very valuable addition to English literary history.

Here are a few of my thoughts:

"The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit by Eleanor Fitzsimons a portrait of an era as well as a literary biography.  

Nesbit is of significant culture import for her impact on English writers who grew up reading her work.  Her work does not hide from hard times but there is an optimistic spirit in her work, a curiosity and a joy about growing up.

The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit should be read by all who enjoy a first rate literary biography."

I was delighted to learn Fitzsimons has written a book focusing on the women in the life of Oscar Wilde.

" One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art." Oscar Wilde
- Phrases & Philosophies for the Use of the Young. Quoted in Notes on Camp by Susan Sontag

Oscar Wilde

October 16, 1854. - Dublin -born into an affluent family

Attended Trinity College and Oxford - educated in Greek, French and classical literature.

May 29, 1894 - Marries Constance Lloyd, they will have two children

July 1890 - The Picture of Dorian Grey is published

1895 - His highest regarded drama, The Importance of Being Ernest debuts

May 25, 1895 to May 18, 1897 - serves two years hard labour in an English Prison for homosexual acts.  Here he wrote De Profundis.  His health was terribly damaged while imprisoned.  He never fully recovered.

Oscar Wilde is the most sacred iconic LGBTQ figure.  My reading history with Oscar Wilde goes way back.  I am not sure how this happened but when Susan Sontag used quotes from Wilde in landmark essay Notes on Camp in 1964 I had already read The Picture of Dorian Grey.  From this essay I first began to sense varieties of artistic sensibilities, to see literary works as part of a greater culture.  The relationship between camp and homosexuality is complicated, for sure a connection exists.  Oscar Wilde's life as told by Fitzsimons illuminates this.

Wilde's Women: How Oscar Wilde Was Shaped by the Women He Knew  is a fascinating look at the importance of women in the life and work of Wilde, from his mother who was a widely published authority on Irish folklore to his wife Constance Lloyd as well as other less known figures.  Fitzsimons brings everyone to life.

Wilde's father was a highly regarded surgeon, his mother, Lady Jane Wilde was an Irish nationalist, an advocate for expanded rights for women, a multilingual translator and a collector of Irish folktales.  Through her Wilde's was raised in a household where women were both formidable and educated.  Fitzsimons goes into very interesting detail on the formative years of Wilde.  From an early age Wilde was drawn to beauty in art and in persons.

He first fell in love at Trinity College, with a beautiful girl.  He wanted to marry her but took to long and she ended up married to Bram Stoker.  All the while Wilde was publishing poetry.  He embarked on a lecture tour in America.  We are shown how he charmed his largely female audience and met lots of women, including some whose name you will recognize.

Upon returning to Ireland he married a sensible financially secure woman with whom he had two sons.  As far as is known for sure he had not yet had sexual contact with men.  He met actresses through his work as a playwright. He also became close to two famous at the time female writers.  We see through Fitzsimons insights that actresses were adapt  at playing the role of romance partners for a man increasingly unsure of his sexuality.  They were used to playing roles. (In a biographies I have posted upon on Somerset Maugham and J M Barrie we see romances never consumated with actresses.). They also more or less needed to suck up Wilde!

Wilde's down fall is well known.  Fitzsimons takes us into the underground world of Gay Dublin, from high society to rent a boys, While in prison most of his friends forgot about him.  There is a long detailed chapter on his trial.  

Fitzsimons has given us new insights into the life of Oscar Wilde and an insightful account of his mileau.

From website of The author

“Welcome. My name is Eleanor Fitzsimons. I’m a researcher, writer, journalist and occasional broadcaster. I’m represented by and I’ve just published my first book Wilde’s Women: how Oscar Wilde was shaped by the women he knew. My writing has been published in a variety of newspapers and journals including the Sunday Times, the Guardian, the Irish Times, Irish Tatler, the Dubliner Magazine, The Gloss, UCD Connections, Maternity & Infant; History Today and Woman Mean Business. I have also contributed regularly to Irish radio and television programmes. I was the sole researcher on several primetime television programmes for the Irish national broadcaster, RTE including ‘What Have The Brits Ever Done For Us’, an examination of the historic relationship between Britain and Ireland commissioned to coincide with the landmark visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Ireland, and ‘Bullyproof’, an IFTA winning documentary series on bullying.
I have a Bachelor of Commerce degree and a Master of Business Studies degree from UCD and spent many years working at senior management level in the market information sector in both Ireland and the UK. In 2011, I returned to University College Dublin after a twenty-three years absence and graduated twelve months later with an MA (first class honours) in Women Gender and Society. I tweet at @EleanorFitz”

Wilde changed things.  .  Readers of The Picture of Dorian Grey will  see more in it thanks to Fitzsimons.  I really like his fairy tales and can hear the sniggers of the homophobic.  

Oscar Wilde's import way transcends his work.  That being said, everyone needs to read The Picture of Dorian Grey at least twice.

I give my thanks to Eleanor Fitzsimons for this wonderful book and hope to follow her career for years to come.

Mel u


Suko said...

Wilde's Women sounds fascinating! I am a fan of this author's work.

Lisbeth said...

Great post about what seems like an interesting book. Really have to read something by Fitzsimons. Oscar Wilde is always an interesting character.