Reviews by Oscar Wilde
Author: Oscar Wilde
Genre: Non-fiction, Essay
Reviews by Oscar Wilde contains 98 reviews and writings by Wilde that provide insights into his literary reputation. This book was published posthumously in 1908.
1. Reviews by Oscar Wilde Summary
We have selectively summarized some of the content from Reviews by Oscar Wilde:
1.1. Dinners and Dishes
The article is a review or commentary on a book titled “Dinners and Dishes.” In the review, Wilde discusses the importance of cookery as an art and the need for understanding the principles of cooking, especially as society might be moving towards more affordable and practical food options. He praises the book for its brevity and lack of attempts at eloquence, noting that there is no need for artistic illustrations in a cookbook.
Wilde also expresses his agreement with the author’s views on certain culinary matters, particularly the proper preparation of macaroni. He highlights the book’s content, including instructions on cooking risotto, various salad recipes, and even a recipe for making Brussels sprouts more appealing. Additionally, the review criticizes the shortcomings of British cooks, emphasizing their lack of culinary skills and their inclination toward using extracts and essences.
The review also touches on the author’s experiences with different cuisines from various countries, mentioning specific dishes and their merits. Wilde suggests that the author should explore American cuisine, particularly the “square meal” and various delicacies found in the United States, and add them to the book.
Overall, the article is a whimsical and satirical commentary by Oscar Wilde on the subject of cookery, the state of British cooking, and the merits of the book “Dinners and Dishes.”
1.2. A Modern Epic
This article discusses a poem titled “Melchior” by Mr. Wills. In this review, Wilde reflects on the significance of epic poems in the context of a fast-paced age and questions whether such lengthy works are suitable for the modern era. He refers to Edgar Allan Poe’s belief that a poem should be concise and capable of being read in a short time to create a unified impression and effect.
Wilde acknowledges the various artistic elements that Mr. Wills incorporates into his poem “Melchior,” including the vision of a painter, the psychology of a novelist, and a playwright’s sense of dramatic situations. He appreciates how these elements are seamlessly blended into a unified work of art, describing “Melchior” as a rare and true poem.
The poem is dedicated to Robert Browning and explores the theme of expressing life through music, a concept that Browning had recognized as valuable in poetry. Wilde then provides a summary of the poem’s storyline, focusing on the character of Melchior, a musician and dreamer. He discusses the psychological complexity of Melchior’s character, influenced by the scientific law of heredity, and the tragic events that unfold in the narrative.
Wilde offers some critique of the poem’s style, mentioning occasional assonances of rhyme and the use of unfinished short lines. Despite these minor flaws, he praises the poem’s overall style for its noble melody.
1.3. Shakespeare on Scenery
In this article, Oscar Wilde discusses the use of scenery and stage settings in theatrical productions, particularly in the context of Shakespearean plays. He begins by addressing the hypothetical question of what Shakespeare himself would think of modern productions of his plays, which often feature elaborate sets and scenery.
Wilde references Shakespeare’s own writings, including passages from his plays, to argue that Shakespeare would likely have appreciated the use of scenery and props in his productions. He points out that Shakespeare, as a playwright and director, had to contend with the limitations of the Elizabethan stage, which lacked proper scenery and relied on actors to describe the settings through dialogue and descriptions.
Wilde suggests that modern productions, which employ visually striking scenery and props, offer a more direct and aesthetically pleasing experience for audiences. He argues that a well-mounted play, with beautiful scenery, can enhance the overall artistic enjoyment, and the eye can complement the ear in appreciating the play.
Wilde also defends the role of the scene-painter, who is sometimes overshadowed by the stage-carpenter in contemporary theater. He contends that scene-painters like Mr. Beverley, Mr. Walter Hann, and Mr. Telbin should be recognized as artists and even be considered for academic recognition, such as becoming Academicians.
1.4. A Bevy of Poets
In this article, Oscar Wilde reviews several poetry volumes by various authors. He comments on their style, content, and the quality of their work.
- “Echoes of Memory” by Atherton Furlong: Wilde praises the simplicity and charm of Atherton Furlong’s poetry, particularly emphasizing the suitability of Furlong’s lines for recitation by children. He mentions a poem titled “Lines on the Old Town Pump” and appreciates its innocence and suitability for young readers.
- “Sagittulæ” by E. W. Bowling: Wilde describes Bowling’s poems as delicate and lyrical, with elements of satire. He mentions specific poems like “Æsthesis and Athletes” and “Tragedy of the XIX. Century,” the latter dealing with a graduate examiner’s plight.
- “Tuberose and Meadowsweet” by Mark André Raffalovich: Wilde considers this volume remarkable and filled with strange and beautiful poems. He acknowledges that Raffalovich is not a masterful poet but is a subtle artist in poetry. He points out that Raffalovich often mispronounces the word “tuberose” as a trisyllable but appreciates his poetic skills.
- “Sturm und Drang” by an anonymous writer: Wilde highlights the presence of poetic talent in this volume. He cites lines from a poem within the book and mentions that it combines elements of Matthew Arnold’s attitude with Tennyson’s style. While not all poems are equally impressive, Wilde acknowledges the merit in the work.
1.5. Parnassus Versus Philology
In this letter, Wilde expresses his distress over the etymology of the word “tuberose.” He is upset that the word is derived from “tuber,” suggesting that the flower is lumpy. Wilde argues that the word should have two derivations—one for poets and one for scientists. He believes that poets should focus on the beauty and delicate nature of the flower, while scientists can discuss its supposed lumpiness and underground growth.
Wilde’s letter humorously emphasizes his disdain for the scientific derivation of words related to flowers, suggesting that philology (the study of language) should not interfere with the romantic and poetic aspects of language. He also cites a quote from Shelley to support his argument and concludes by playfully making the word “tuberose” a dissyllable instead of a trisyllable.
1.6. Hamlet at the Lyceum
The article is a review of a theatrical performance at the Lyceum Theatre in London, featuring Sir Henry Irving and Miss Ellen Terry. The performance in question is a production of William Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet.” In the review, Wilde discusses various aspects of the production, including the performances of the actors and the overall presentation of the play.
Wilde praises the acting of both Sir Henry Irving and Miss Ellen Terry, highlighting their ability to bring Shakespeare’s characters to life with grace and precision. He particularly compliments Miss Terry’s portrayal of Ophelia, noting her talent for conveying complex emotions with simplicity. Wilde also mentions other cast members, such as Mr. Alexander’s performance as Laertes.
The review touches on specific scenes and moments from the play, offering Wilde’s thoughts on the actors’ interpretations. He also briefly comments on the costumes and scenery, with a mention of a perceived issue with the King’s costume.
1.7. Two New Novels
The article written by Oscar Wilde appears to be a book review featuring two novels: “In the Golden Days” by Edna Lyall and “Louisa” by Katherine S. Macquoid. Wilde provides his opinions and commentary on both novels in the review.
- “In the Golden Days” by Edna Lyall: Wilde mentions that the novel is set in England two centuries ago, as a departure from the contemporary setting that was more common in 19th-century literature. He comments on the author’s preface, in which she asks readers not to consider the book an “historical novel” due to potential fears or prejudices. Wilde disagrees with this stance, arguing that historical novels have been successful and that readers enjoy them. He praises the book as charming and not dull, highlighting the characters, including Joyce, a Puritan maiden, and Hugo Wharncliffe, the hero. While he finds some elements such as references to Dryden, Betterton, and Wills’s Coffee-House somewhat out of place, he appreciates the overall portrayal of the historical period.
- “Louisa” by Katherine S. Macquoid: Wilde notes that this novel is set in Italy and laments the prevalence of Italian settings in fiction. He mentions the plot, where a young English girl marries an Italian nobleman but eventually falls in love with an Englishman. Despite his reservations about the overuse of Italian settings, he praises the story’s power and the proper, pleasant ending. Wilde recommends the book, particularly for young readers.
1.8. Henry the Fourth at Oxford
The article is a discussion of a production of William Shakespeare’s play “Henry IV.” In the article, Oscar Wilde talks about the ambition of Dramatic Clubs to perform “Henry IV” and expresses his admiration for the play. He discusses the spirit of comedy and chivalry in the play, as well as the individuality of the characters and their contributions to the plot.
Wilde also praises the city of Oxford, where he witnessed a production of “Henry IV,” describing it as a place where life and art are perfectly blended. He emphasizes the importance of quick and imaginative observation of life in dramatic productions and the value of the actor’s art in conveying the beauty and meaning of Shakespeare’s work.
Wilde offers his thoughts on the specific actors and their performances in the Oxford production, highlighting the performances of Prince Hal, Falstaff, and Hotspur. He appreciates the historical accuracy of the costumes and the overall unity and attention to detail in the production.
Towards the end of the article, Wilde suggests that degrees should be granted for good acting, and he encourages the Oxford Dramatic Society to continue producing plays like “Henry IV,” which combine the passions of the present with the picturesqueness of the past. He believes that such productions can offer a unique and powerful blend of realism and romance.
1.9. Modern Greek Poetry
The article discusses modern Greek poetry and its relationship to the classical Greek literary tradition. Wilde begins by noting the contrast between ancient Greece, where the Muses and art held a prominent place, and modern Greece, where commerce and politics have taken precedence.
Wilde praises the modern Greek poetry of the 19th century, emphasizing that it carries echoes of the spirit of ancient Greek poets like Tyrtæus and Theocritus. He highlights the beauty and passion found in the warlike ballads of Rhigas and Aristotle Valaôritês, as well as the charm and pastoral imagery in the folk-songs of George Drosinês. Wilde expresses a preference for these more idyllic and lyrical aspects of modern Greek poetry over the martial themes.
The article also mentions other poets who have taken inspiration from Greek legends and folklore, producing works that evoke the artistic spirit of Greece. Wilde appreciates the artistic form given to these legends and cites an example of a poem about the building of St. Sophia, which draws from local stories in Thrace.
Towards the end of the article, Wilde discusses a ballad by Kostês Palamas, inspired by the story of an aged woman who had participated in the Greek War of Independence. He admires the portrayal of this real Greek heroine and her unique perspective on womanhood, which contrasts with traditional views. Wilde finds the volume of modern Greek poetry to be delightful reading overall, with translations that, while not universally perfect, are often felicitous and pleasing in style.
1.10. Olivia at the Lyceum
In this article, the focus is on a dramatic adaptation of Oliver Goldsmith’s novel “The Vicar of Wakefield” titled “Olivia.” Wilde discusses the advantages and challenges of adapting novels into dramatic forms, praising the balance between sentiment and science in the play. He commends the talents of the actors, particularly Miss Terry and Mr. Irving, for their performances in the production. Wilde also critiques certain aspects of the play and the division of the last act into three scenes but overall praises the artistic quality of the production at the Lyceum Theatre under Mr. Irving’s management. The article provides insights into the performance and its various elements, demonstrating Wilde’s appreciation for the art of the theater.
1.11. As You Like It at Coombe House
This article discusses a performance of William Shakespeare’s play “As You Like It” that took place at Coombe. Wilde begins by comparing this outdoor performance to a similar scene described in Théophile Gautier’s novel, highlighting the enchanting elements of poetry and picturesque beauty in the setting. He expresses his admiration for the play being performed outdoors in a natural woodland setting, emphasizing that comedy, such as “As You Like It,” is more suitable for outdoor presentations compared to tragedy, which relies more on individual characters.
Wilde describes the natural setting and the sense of being in a real forest, which added to the charm of the play. He mentions the advantages of the open-air presentation, including the gradual entrances and exits of characters through the forest, which created a more immersive experience for the audience.
Wilde also praises the actors and their natural and artistic performances. He mentions specific actors and their roles, highlighting the effectiveness of their portrayals. He particularly praises Lady Archibald Campbell’s performance as Orlando and mentions other notable cast members.
The article briefly touches on costume design and color schemes, noting some discordant elements but overall commending the costumes for their simplicity and ease.
1.12. A Handbook to Marriage
The article, written by Oscar Wilde, is a review and recommendation of a book titled “How to be Happy though Married: Being a Handbook to Marriage.” The book, authored by an anonymous writer described as a “Graduate in the University of Matrimony,” is praised by Wilde despite its potentially alarming title.
Wilde begins by mentioning various authorities and historical figures quoted in the book who have had diverse views on marriage, ranging from humorous perspectives to serious ones. He highlights that marriage is a subject where women tend to agree and men disagree, with the author of the book being a proponent of married life.
Wilde notes that the book includes an interesting chapter on “marriage-made men” and references individuals like Bismarck, John Stuart Mill, Mahommed, and Lord Beaconsfield as examples of men whose success can be attributed to the influence of their wives. He also acknowledges the changing role of women in society due to higher education.
The review includes humorous anecdotes and stories related to marriage vows and wedding ceremonies, adding to the entertaining and informative nature of the book. Wilde applauds the author’s sensible views and the collection of amusing stories in the book.
Towards the end, Wilde recommends the book as an excellent wedding present for young couples, describing it as a “complete handbook to an earthly Paradise” and comparing the author to a guidebook author for matrimony and happiness.
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