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Oscar Wilde Books

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890)

You'll never forget the tale of a young man who trades his soul for beauty. This was Wilde's only published novel. He later said that the characters in the novel were reflections of himself - the tortured artist was how he saw himself, the foppish lord was how the world saw him, and Dorian was who he would like to be.

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)

This comedy of mistaken identity, hypocrisy and the perils of duplicity turned out to be the last one Wilde ever wrote. Like most of his comedies, it pokes fun at Victorian social mores. Those mores, unfortunately, would have dire consequences for Wilde. On opening night, his lover's father attempted to break in to the theater to hurl vegetables at Wilde. He was unsuccessful, but launched a campaign against the playwright that ended with Wilde's disgrace and imprisonment.

Oscar Wilde, De Profundis (1905)

Wilde composed a 50,000 word letter to his lover Lord Alfred Douglas during his two years of imprisonment at Reading Gaol. He was not allowed to send it, but was able to carry it out with him on his release. A shortened version was published as De Profundis after his death. It is a moving exploration of grief, betrayal and faith. It is also, at heart, a very beautiful love letter.

Oscar Wilde, The Collected Poems of Oscar Wilde

While Oscar Wilde cultivated a flamboyant public persona, his poems provide an intimate look at his inner life. A gifted poet from an early age - he won prizes for his verse at university - Wilde reveals his heartbreak and hope in these poems. Particularly noteworthy is "The Ballad of Reading Gaol," the verse he composed about his imprisonment.

Richard Ellmann, Oscar Wilde (1988)

This was the final work by Richard Ellmann, a distinguished literary biographer whose biography of James Joyce is considered one of the best examples of the genre. It was published a few months after Ellmann's death and is a triumph. This minutely detailed book is the definitive story of Wilde's flamboyant, original and tragic existence.

Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart-David, eds., The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde (2000)

This giant volume published on the 100th anniversary of Wilde's death really is the complete record of his correspondence - seemingly every business note and thank you card he ever penned is in here. But the portrait of Wilde that emerges through his more expansive letters shows his serious, intellectual side, an aspect that is often obscured by the flippant persona he cultivated. Co-editor Merlin Holland is Wilde's grandson.

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