- The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, Volume 3; The Picture of Dorian Gray: The 1890 and 1891 Texts
As with the other volumes in this series, Bristow’s is an ambitious undertaking to present a definitive scholarly edition of Oscar Wilde’s lone novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Bristow begins this edition with a lengthy Introduction in which he outlines the composition and publication history of both the 1890 novella that appeared in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine and the longer book of the same title that was published by Ward, Lock & Co. the following year. In addition to discussing the composition and publication history of this work, Bristow also discusses the critical reception of the novella The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) and how this reception shaped Wilde’s changes that appeared in the book version of the novel. During the course of his introduction, Bristow makes a good case for Wilde’s desire to maintain his doctrine of aestheticism in the book, despite adverse criticism of the novella. Bristow further argues that, rather than viewing the novella as a trial run or draft for the book version, the novella ought to be considered as a separate work that stands on its own merits. Bristow makes a good case for such an interpretation, although his quibble with Donald L. Lawyer on the topic seems unnecessary—at least regarding Lawyer’s ordering of the two versions in his Norton Critical edition of the novel since such editions are not intended as definitive scholarly editions but rather as solid research and teaching texts. In such a text, it would be odd (and perhaps confusing for students) to put the J. B. Lippincott edition first, whereas putting the Lippincott edition first in Bristow’s edition makes perfect sense.
The Introduction is followed by an Editorial Introduction in which Bristow discusses the various manuscripts, typescripts, printed editions, and other materials that he collated in preparation for producing this edition. Both the Introduction and the Editorial Introduction demonstrate Bristow’s thorough familiarity with the textual materials from which he constructs [End Page 157] his edition. Bristow collates the various editions and states of these versions, as well as looking to corroborating evidence found in letters and other similar sources to come to terms with Wilde’s intentions and to explain his own editorial choices. Bristow also considers Wilde’s relationship with his publishers in determining whether various changes and deletions ought to be considered authoritative. In numerous editorial decisions, Bristow makes the wise choice to err on the side of caution. Bristow also includes bibliographic descriptions of the American serial, British serial, and book versions of the novel. Regarding the text itself, Bristow—as we noted above—makes the good choice to include both the Lippincott edition and the book editions of The Picture of Dorian Gray. Bristow uses the Lippincott version of The Picture of Dorian Gray as the base text for his edition of the novella. For the novel edition, however, Bristow could have chosen between the foolscap quarto edition and the octavo. Bristow makes a good case for the quarto as his base text, basing his selection on its greater authority over the octavo. The result is a well-constructed text that is of great use to both students and scholars of Wilde’s novel. Further adding to the usefulness of this text is the fact that all of the variants appear not in an appendix or in notes at the back of the volume but rather as footnotes so that one can quickly compare variant readings and follow the process by which Bristow arrives at the text.
In addition to an authoritative edition and useful introduction and apparatus, Bristow provides extensive notes on sources, allusions, and background material both for the Lippincott edition and the book edition, cross referencing the two versions in the process. One comes away from reading these notes with a good understanding of the novel and the context in...