Making Oscar Wilde

ISBN : 9780198802365

Michele Mendelssohn
368 ページ
143 x 223 mm
  • Draws on compelling new archives and rare documents to tell the story of Oscar Wilde's life
  • A gripping and stylish account of Wilde's tumultuous rise, fall, and resurrection
  • A richly-illustrated combination of biography, cultural history, and masterful story-telling
  • Explores the fascinating social trends and controversies that rocked nineteenth century Britain, Ireland, and the United States as they moved towards modernity
  • A provocative and original interpretation that exposes the intimate connections that bind together national histories

Witty, inspiring, and charismatic, Oscar Wilde is one of the Greats of English literature. Today, his plays and stories are beloved around the world. But it was not always so. His afterlife has given him the legitimacy that life denied him. Making Oscar Wilde reveals the untold story of young Oscar's career in Victorian England and post-Civil War America. Set on two continents, it tracks a larger-than-life hero on an unforgettable adventure to make his name and gain international acclaim. 'Success is a science,' Wilde believed, 'if you have the conditions, you get the result.'
Combining new evidence and gripping cultural history, Michèle Mendelssohn dramatizes Wilde's rise, fall, and resurrection as part of a spectacular transatlantic pageant. With superb style and an instinct for story-telling, she brings to life the charming young Irishman who set out to captivate the United States and Britain with his words and ended up conquering the world. Following the twists and turns of Wilde's journey, Mendelssohn vividly depicts sensation-hungry Victorian journalism and popular entertainment alongside racial controversies, sex scandals, and the growth of Irish nationalism. This ground-breaking revisionist history shows how Wilde's tumultuous early life embodies the story of the Victorian era as it tottered towards modernity. Riveting and original, Making Oscar Wilde is a masterful account of a life like no other.


List of Plates
Prologue: What's the matter with Oscar Wilde?
PART ONE, 1854-1881
Turning Points
Do You Find the World Very Hollow?
Astonishing the Dons
Not Having Set the World Quite on Fire
PART TWO, 1882-1883
Colonel Morse's Campaign
Oscar Dear
Mr. Wild of Borneo, or The Paddy
Life Imitates Art
Is it Manhood?
The War of Art
Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing
Son of Speranza
Underground Men
Going South
The Confederate
PART THREE, 1883-1900
Success is a Science
You Have Made Your Name
By the Throat
Epilogue: The Private View
Appendix: The Mystery of Wilde's Black Valet


Michèle Mendelssohn, Associate Professor of English, Mansfield College, Oxford
Michèle Mendelssohn is a literary critic and cultural historian. She is Associate Professor of English Literature at Oxford University. She earned her doctorate from Cambridge University and was a Fulbright Scholar at Harvard University. Her previous books include Henry James, Oscar Wilde, and Aesthetic Culture and two co-edited collections of literary criticism, Alan Hollinghurst and Late Victorian Into Modern (shortlisted for the 2017 Modernist Studies Association Book Prize). She has published in The New York TimesThe GuardianAfrican American ReviewJournal of American StudiesNineteenth Century Literature, and Victorian Literature and Culture.

"Mendelssohn's remarkable book focuses on the American year ... it uncovers material missed by lengthier biographies, even Richard Ellmann's, and conveys the excitement of real research and discovery." - John Carey, The Sunday Times

"Now that America has come to seem so unsettled and so strange, Michèle Mendelssohn's Making Oscar Wilde help us to become more alarmed." - Colm Tóibín, The Guardian

"A retelling of Wilde's American adventure that genuinely makes you rethink vital elements of his life and work ... Mendelssohn's research is prodigious: she has tapped sources previously unavailable to other scholars." - Rachel Cooke, The Observer

"An extraordinary new take on Wilde. Even those who claim to know him intimately will be astonished and enthralled by Mendelssohn's fresh perspective on his multifaceted life." - Eleanor Fitzsimons, The Irish Times

"A fascinating account of how young Wilde's flair for self-promotion aligned with the birth of celebrity culture during the age of Barnum." - Jane Ciabattari, BBC Culture

"A stylish account of [Wilde's] tumultuous rise, fall and resurrection ... a hugely important and enjoyable book." - Mal Rogers, The Irish Post

"The story of Wilde's American tour has often been told before; but never like this. [...] Mendelssohn is the first critic to refute the triumphant self-serving spin put on the tour by both Wilde and his promoters." - Kate Hext, The Times Literary Supplement

"Fascinating." - The New Yorker

"Mendelssohn's scrupulous account humanizes Wilde." - Alexander C. Kafka, The Washington Post

"Mendelssohn's contribution to Wilde's legacy is her fresh look at the American tour, providing social and cultural context. A familiar biography embedded in a lively cultural history." - Kirkus

"Both tragic and touching, Mendelssohn has penned a biography worthy of its subject. She takes the reader behind the scenes of Victorian England and post-Civil War America to reveal a secret self-creation that would make modern internet influencers turn green with envy." - Best Books We Read in 2018, The Advocate

"You may not think there is new stuff to learn about Oscar Wilde, but there is - as this book proves. Michèle Mendelssohn has succeeded in throwing new light on Wilde's remarkable American lecture tour. Thoroughly researched and beautifully written, this is a valuable addition to Wildean scholarship." - Gyles Brandreth, President of the Oscar Wilde Society and author of The Oscar Wilde Murder Mysteries

"Michèle Mendelssohn's vividly written, consistently illuminating, and lavishly illustrated book is full of surprises, above all in showing how Wilde's Irishness played into the story of race relations in post-Civil War America." - Michael Gorra, author of Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece

"An original, meticulously-researched and beautifully-paced account of how a modern writer invented himself, and was invented, as an international artist-celebrity. He made his world, but not in conditions of his own choosing. This stylish meditation on the mysteries of identity illustrates Wilde's belief that the best way to intensify a personality is to multiply it." - Declan Kiberd, author of Ulysses and Us

"One of the most devastating, complex and presently political literary biographies I've ever read." - Eileen Myles, author of Chelsea Girls

"A scholastic triumph, this highly original book rewrites the story of Oscar's tour of America with new, vivid detail, from fresh, unmined sources. Presenting the young Wilde caught in up a complex web of social and racial prejudices, Mendelssohn not only offers us a surprising view of Oscar through the lens of c19th America, but refocuses the young Wilde for a new generation." - Franny Moyle

"Michèle Mendelssohn's Making Oscar Wilde is a fresh, exciting and illuminating study of the construction of celebrity and reputation. Looking at Wilde's trip to the United States in 1882, Mendelssohn shows both how stereotypes of the wild Irish immigrant and the minstrel show, and the promotional strategies of Wilde and his tour manager, made him a controversial star. The story of St. Oscar will never be the same." - Elaine Showalter, Professor Emerita of English, Princeton University

"Enlightening and provocative ... Making Oscar Wilde is a breezily paced and entertaining read, and throughout Mendelssohn's style is refreshingly unstuffy." - Gregory Mackie, Literary Review of Canada

"A vivid, intelligent look at Victorian celebrity culture through the rise to fame of one of its brightest stars." - New York Journal of Books

"Mendelssohn's vibrantly written, deeply realised reassessment of the origins and character of Wilde's celebrity achieves what is likely to have been her ultimate goal: to change the landscape of Wildean biography in significant, possibly definitive ways, while implicitly laying the groundwork for other studies yet to come. It is no mean achievement." - Joseph Donoghue, The Wildean

"Michèle Mendelssohn's astonishing demonstration [shows] that just when you thought you knew everything about the life of Oscar Wilde, there's more. [...] Someone could make a movie out of Making Oscar Wilde." - Andrew Holleran, The Gay & Lesbian Review

"Mendelssohn's book reveals a man for whom the word charisma could have been invented, but also a man living on the edge. [...] This portrayal of Wilde will only add to the lustre of his reputation." - Steve Craggs, The Northern Echo