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Book Reviews Ellmann's Oscar Wilde Horst Schroeder. Additions and Corrections to Richard Ellmann's 'Oscar Wilde'. Braunschweig: Technische Universität Braunschweig, 1989. 82 pp. 12DM IN THIS 82-PAGE SOFT-COVERED "BOOKLET," Horst Schroeder has systematically accomplished what other critics have only sporadically suggested since the publication of Richard Ellmann's Oscar Wilde (1987). In such a lengthy text, it was perhaps inevitable that Ellmann, particularly in his final months, would slip into error or omission. As though painfully aware that possible objections to his enterprise might be raised, Schroeder states: "The present booklet is concerned only with the shortcomings of Ellmann's Oscar Wilde. On the face of it, this seems to be outrageously mean, and yet it is the highest tribute I can pay to Ellmann's genius." Once this apologia is stated, Schroeder proceeds with the sober business of scholarship, which is generally meticulous and impressive. Schroeder's methodology is simple and direct: he follows the overall structure of Ellmann's biography, listing page numbers and passages in bold face, then in ordinary type providing corrections or additions in brief comments or lengthy paragraphs. Schroeder's procedure results in a readable series of some 220 annotations, an agreeable companion to the biography. Of particular importance is that he provides documentation that Ellmann omits in his notes. Also, for those who have the first British impression, errors corrected in later printings (including the first American impression) are cited and marked with an asterisk. However, those who have the American edition, published by Knopf in 1988, will discover that the pagination is different from that of the British edition, which Schroeder should have cited in his introduction as the basis for his annotations or—even better—used the corresponding page numbers of the American edition as well. Initially , there is a gap of only a page or two between them, but by the end of the biography, there is a 48-page difference between the two editions. Schroeder's vade mecum thus becomes increasingly difficult to follow; still, patience is usually rewarded. While many of Schroeder's corrections have to do with expected slips of the eye and pen in Ellmann's quotations from Wilde's works, there are others indicating either faulty scholarship, quotations from Wilde erroneously identified, or internal contradictions in Ellmann's presentation. Often, Schroeder points out errors in dates and names 463 ELT: Volume 33:4 1990 in connection with significant events in Wilde's life. If there were only a handful of such errors in such a lengthy biography, one might discount them as expected or harmless, but the profusion of errors requires a reliable record of corrections since Ellmann's book is likely to remain the standard biography for many years. One hopes that Schroeder will augment his present work with additional corrections and additions in a second edition. Despite his devotion to his difficult task, Schroeder exhibits human fallibility in one instance when he erroneously attributes error to Ellmann by stating that he has misquoted Wilde's remark that Pater's Studies in the History of the Renaissance was "my golden book." The source of the quotation, says Schroeder, is Swinburne's "Sonnet (With a copy of Mademoiselle de Maupin)": "This is the golden book of spirit and sense,/ The holy writ of beauty. . . ." But Ellmann is, in fact, quoting not from Swinburne's sonnet but from Yeats's autobiography ("The Tragic Generation" section of The Trembling of the Veil), which quotes what Wilde presumably told Yeats on the first night of their meeting concerning Pater's Renaissance: "It is my golden book; I never travel anywhere without it." Also, Schroeder overlooks an error that I feel particularly obligated to point out. On p. 126 of the American edition, Ellmann quotes Max Beerbohm's description of Oscar's brother, Willie: "Quel monstre! Dark, oily, suspect yet awfully like Oscar. . . ." The source for this passage (into which Ellmann introduces some minor errors in transcription ) is given as Max Beerbohm's Letters to Reggie, ed. Rupert Hart-Davis (1965). In point of fact, the passage is from Max and Will: Max Beerbohm and William Rothenstein, Their Friendship and Letters , 1893-1945, eds. Mary...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 463-465
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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