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BOOK REVIEWS represents a survey of thoughtful analyses and scholarship with which all serious students of Wilde will wish to be reacquainted. Michael Patrick Gillespie Marquette University A Wilde Chronology Norman Page. An Oscar Wilde Chronology. New York: G. K. Hall, 1991. χ +105 pp. $39.95 NORMAN PAGE, the general editor of the G. K. Hall Author Chronologies as well as the author of the Wilde, Byron, Dickens, and Dr. Johnson chronologies, states in the preface that, "whereas biographies are often, and quite understandably, vague over matters of fact (since it makes for tediousness to be forever enumerating details of dates and places), a chronology can be precise whenever it is possible to be precise." To be sure, Page adds that such a chronology does not substitute for a biography, though, as he states, "it may be acceptable as a form of 'alternative' biography, with its own distinctive advantages as well as its obvious limitations." In theory, the idea of a precise chronology for instant reference should provide the scholar and student with a convenient source of biographical details. Furthermore, the addition of an index should increase the book's efficiency for the reader. In general, Page's chronology fulfills these expectations, but there are problems along the way. Following a brief introduction of a little over a page, in which Page orients the reader as to the organization of the book, the Wilde chronology begins. The layout is certainly attractive, and the listings often involve extensive entries, often paragraphs, for various dates, not merely a phrase to indicate an event in Wilde's life. In addition, other significant dates—of cultural, historical, and literary significance—are added: for example, we are told that on 10 May 1857 the Indian Mutiny began and that on December 3 Conrad was born. On occasion, however, one wonders how far this device should go: would any Wilde students need to know that on 6 November 1860 Abraham Lincoln became the president of the United States? To complete the march of history, Page even includes a single line on the date of Lincoln's assassination (14 April 1865). Ultimately, as Page himself asserts, a chronology should provide precise details, but certain difficulties occur, as illustrated by the following selected examples. In describing Wilde's trip to Italy in 1875, Page 87 ELT 36 : 1 1993 mentions that Wilde wrote a sonnet on Dante. No title or publication date is given, nor is the name "Dante" listed in the index. (There are, incidentally, two indexes, one for Wilde's works, the other for persons: some significant notations listed in the chronology, such as the Scottish Masons, whom Wilde joined in 1876, are thus excluded from the "persons " index.) In citing Wilde's review of Volumes X and XI of the Encyclopedia Britannica, Page gives the date as 1879, an error in Ellmann's biography (the year is 1880). As for Page's remark that Wilde was the model for Bunthorne in Patience, Whistler seems more likely, and Swinburne was probably the inspiration for Grosvenor. In listing the publication of The Canterville Ghost," Page cites the New York Tribune in March 1887, but, in fact, it had already appeared in two installments in February and early March of that year in the Court and Society Review. In alluding to an expanded version of The Portrait of Mr. W. H.," Page makes no mention of the fact that the MS. was discovered in 1921 and published in that year. In giving the "first meeting" of the Rhymers' Club, Page relies on the editors of the Ernest Dowson letters for the date, 2 January 1891, an obvious error (the club was founded in May 1890). On the unlikely cause of Wilde's death from syphilis, Page merely quotes, without comment, from Ellmann 's biography (which generated much debate on the subject). On a next page, however, Page mentions meningitis as the cause of death. Following the chronology is a series of biographical sketches (most of them consisting of only a line or two) titled The Oscar Wilde Circle," a not altogether accurate designation. Such figures as Julia Ward Howe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Charles Eliot Norton, John Ruskin, Walt...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 87-88
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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