- The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde: Volume VIII: The Short Fiction ed. by Ian Small
edited by Ian Small; pp. 640.
Oxford UP, 2017. $158.63 cloth.
The oxford English Texts edition of The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde has now published its eighth volume (this latest being a collection of Wilde’s short fiction) and has consistently shown itself to be the definitive scholarly edition of Oscar Wilde’s works. Prior to the OET edition, Wilde’s canon was sorely in need of good textual editing, with most previous editions of Wilde’s work relying on flawed early collected editions. The OET edition has remedied this problem and consistently supplied accurate texts for scholars of Wilde’s writings. The latest volume in this series continues that trend.
Unsurprisingly, given his previous editing work in this series, Ian Small has produced a careful and thoughtful edition of Oscar Wilde’s short fiction, which stands up well against previous editions. Small’s extensive introduction clearly traces the (sometimes scant) evidence that exists concerning the composition and development of Wilde’s short fiction. Small provides good support for the choices he makes in determining copy text as well as his justification for the emendations he does make to his copy texts. His decision to use the first English book editions of these works makes sense given the fact that Wilde would have made his final revisions to these versions of the stories and that Wilde typically allowed his editors to regularize his punctuation, capitalization, and similar issues. Small’s decision not to use the first book edition of “Mr. W.H.” also makes sense because of the questions surrounding its authority, something that Small argues convincingly in his introduction to the origins, composition, and publication history of this tale.
I particularly like Small’s inclusion of both the original, shorter version of “Mr. W.H.” and the longer version, a version that Small has had to put together from various sources (again clearly outlined in his introduction). This task is similar to what he did previously when editing De Profundis for the Oxford English Texts edition of that work. Similarly, Small makes a good decision to include Wilde’s translation of Turgenev’s piece “A Fire at Sea.” This is one of Wilde’s lesser-known works, and its inclusion in this volume is welcome.
Of course, the greatest value of this volume is its providing an authoritative version of Wilde’s various works of short fiction, something that has been lacking until now. Along with an authoritative text, the next most valuable contribution this edition makes is its extensive annotations to the stories, far more extensive than those provided in any other edition of the stories. Along with the texts, introduction, and annotations, Small includes a list of Wilde’s writings from 1885–89, an introduction to the textual editing practices he employs, and an appendix containing a translation of Wilde’s “The Birthday of the Infanta” (“L’Anniversaire de la Naissance de la Petite Princesse”). All of these will be useful to those studying Wilde’s short fiction. [End Page 293]
All in all, the Oxford English Text edition of Wilde’s short fiction will be a valuable resource to readers of Wilde’s fiction for years to come, and it certainly belongs in any research library’s collection.
john peters is a University Distinguished Research Professor at the University of North Texas. He is the author or editor of a dozen books with such publishers as Cambridge University Press, Broadview, W.W. Norton, Brill, Ohio State University Press, and Routledge. His articles have appeared in such journals as Philosophy and Literature, College Literature, Victorian Review, Studies in the Novel, Studies in Short Fiction, and English Language Notes. He has also translated the Japanese poet Takamura Kōtarō’ s book The Chieko Poems (Green Integer, 2007).