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ELT 40:2 1997 others the book's main virtue. Another gay critic, the Shakespearean scholar Stephen Orgel, has recently reminded us of Horace's Ode 1.4 (trans. David Ferry) that includes the beautiful lines to Sestius, "What will it matter, there, whether you fell in love/ With Lycidas, this or that girl with him, or he with her?" Bristow's readings show that it matters, here, whether we fall in love with him or her, that relations between him and him, and him and her, and her and her impinge on all of us, and that we are all in this drunken boat together. Regenia Gagnier _______________ University of Exeter Wildean Biography Richard Pine. The Thief of Reason: Oscar Wilde and Modern Ireland. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995. 478 pp. $35.00 "I LIVE in terror of not being misunderstood," Wilde once quipped. Today, though the subject of more than 15,000 books and articles of one sort or another, he remains something of an enigma that biographers, critics, and literary historians continually contend with. The author of this latest study to get at the "real" Wilde posits his subject is "equally ambivalent, sensational and strange." Accordingly, he approaches Wilde as a sphinx to be reckoned with. He questions why Wilde wrote apparently contradictory ideas into his essays and plays. Why, furthermore, did Wilde allow events to overtake him and then complain at the course which, it would seem, he was aware they would follow? Of major concern is Wilde's flip remark that he put all his genius into his life and only his talent into his works. Richard Pine, who did a short study of Wilde in 1983, is back again with a fuller presentation and more detailed explanations of what made Oscar tick. This time Pine takes full advantage of all recent scholarship, especially Ellmann's masterful biography, and he notes in a preface that he interviewed individuals connected to Wilde, that he had access to a large cache of material (now in the Bodleian Library), and that he spent considerable time at sites in Ireland where Wilde enjoyed his childhood and adolescence. As a consequence, Pine regards himself an "insider" able to zero in on his subject as an "outsider," someone who lived at an awkward angle to late Victorian society. Disappointment with Ellmann's biography encouraged Pine to do his expanded study. Not only did Ellmann fail to do for Wilde what he accomplished in his definitive studies of Joyce and Yeats, Pine main232 BOOK REVIEWS tains, but he did not give sufficient attention to two aspects of Wilde's life—his homosexuality and his Irish background. Unfortunately, Pine did not have the opportunity to evaluate two studies that were at the press when he completed his Thief of Reason: Gary Schmidgall's The Stranger Wilde, which delves into its subject's sexual orientation; and Davis Coakle/s Oscar Wilde: The Importance of Being Irish, which focuses on Wilde's Celtic background and its influence on his work. After conceding that it is virtually impossible to define "Irishness," Pine ventures, as he puts it, to divine that arcane quality found in Celts, past and present. In Part One, after demonstrating that the Irish mind has an inclusive rather than an exclusive imagination, he concentrates on Wilde as a modern-day Irishman. Of value is Pine's delineation of 7Yr na nog discernable in The Picture of Dorian Gray and several of Wilde's plays. 7Yr na nog, as Pine explains, is best understood as a trope indicative of eternal youth filled with joy and beauty. In those whose lives are less than stable, the term also connotes an opportunity "to live back." Jack/ Ernest Worthing, for example, leads a double life; Algernon Moncrieff lives by "bunburying"; Sir Robert Chiltern lives with a crippling secret; Mrs. Cheveley and Mrs. Erlynne live by trading the power of their secret pasts; Guide Ferranti pursues the murderer of his unknown father; Vera Soubaroff dies because she finds love in the house of the oppressor—and so on. These "poor reflections," as Pine dubs such Wildean visions and realities, "inhabit a house of contradictions." The disparate...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 232-234
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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