The Battle for Oscar Wilde's Legacy
New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in BiographyNew Books in British StudiesNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network October 24, 2017 Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed
Laura Lee’s Oscar’s Ghost: The Battle for Oscar Wilde’s Legacy (Amberley Publishing, 2017) offers a detailed investigation of a conflict involving the writer and his two friends with whom he maintained sexual relations, Lord Alfred Douglas and Robert Ross. In her endeavor to disclose the root of the conflict that, as a matter of fact, marked and instigated Oscar Wilde’s decline, Laura Lee attempts to consider different perspectives, illuminating the progression of the conflict and its influences and aftereffects. This story, although centering around Oscar Wilde, discloses how Alfred Douglass and Robert Ross’s response to the writers professional and personal turmoil shapes the way the conflict is comprehended.
Oscar’s Ghost, as Laura Lee mentions in this interview, is inspired by De Profundis: the work that presents Oscar Wilde’s intimate confession and indicates the writer’s transformation, triggered by his prison experience. Humiliation, on the one hand, and desire to recover, on the other hand, signal the writer’s ambiguous perception of his own self. His confessional work, to some extent, captures his ambiguity and offers insights into emotional, psychological struggles that seem to be unresolved. In Wilde’s case, a confessional endeavor brings forth not only revelation, but pain as well. The process of embracing oneself through revealing the intimate, more often than not, is inseparable from revisiting experiences that involve others. In his confessional letter, Oscar Wilde redefines himself while speculating about his relationships with Alfred Douglas and Robert Ross. Confession is intimate but it is public as well: do those involved in a confession feel comfortable being part of an intimate narrative that is not theirs? As Oscar’s Ghost demonstrates, this tension between the private and the public cannot be underestimated.
In addition to a detailed account of facts, which at times reads as a detective story, Oscar’s Ghost also engages with the historical, political, and social realms of London, in particular, and other European cities of the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. By describing the dynamics of Oscar Wilde’s relationships with Alfred Douglas and Robert Ross, Laura Lee captures the sense of collapse and crisis that appeared to be pervading at a national and international level. The decline of aristocratic privileges produces one of the most powerful influences on the shaping of public ideological and political perceptions, which appear to be intricately connected with Oscar Wilde’s personal and professional story.
Laura Lee is a full-time writer. She’s authored twenty books, fiction and nonfiction.