Wildeana #8


Illustration by H. Paul.

Continuing an occasional series.

Front Free Endpaper has illustrations by one H. Paul from a “talking book” adaptation of Wilde’s The Happy Prince. This was a hardcover volume published in 1948 which came with a 78rpm vinyl disc containing a recording of the story by BBC newsreader Frank Phillips. Callum found the reading on YouTube. By coincidence I discovered this week that Klaus Kinski recorded some of Wilde’s stories in 1959, German versions of The Happy Prince (again) and The Selfish Giant, and also a reading of The Young King.

Wilde is strikingly prophetic in his denunciations of what he describes here as “authoritarian socialism”.  He says again that in the present state of affairs, at least some men with the advantages of privilege manage to find themselves, to realise their potential “If the Socialism is authoritarian; if there are governments to be armed with economic power as they are now with political power; if, in a word, we are to have industrial tyrannies, then the last state of man will be worse than the first.”  At least some can have freedom now, in this state, no-one would at all. Wilde sees no virtue at all in the equitable distribution of misery.  The collectivism of compunction which existed in Soviet Russia or Mao’s China was precisely the nightmare scenario he was warning against. It seems clear though that Wilde actually thought the sheer unattractiveness of this made it unlikely. “I hardly think any Socialist, nowadays, would seriously propose that an inspector should call every morning to see that each citizen rose up and did manual labour for eight hours”.  He may have ‘hardly thought’ it, but at the same time Wilde wrote this there were plenty of socialists who had just such a vision in mind – and sadly their type were to proliferate, and in some areas to predominate. No wonder that The Soul of Man was an inspiration to many revolutionaries rebelling against the Tsars of Russia, but was later suppressed and banned by Stalin himself.

Ben Granger takes a lengthy and perceptive look at The Soul of Man Under Socialism (1891), an essay of Wilde’s that seldom receives the same degree of attention as his other works.

• “As the weeks have gone by, it’s become clear to my actors that Dorian is the work of a much darker – more radical, and more modern – writer than the flippant genius we’re all so familiar with.” So says Neil Bartlett whose new stage production of The Picture of Dorian Gray is currently running at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin.

• A recipe for Oscar Wilde Strawberry Champagne cocktails? Yes, please.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Oscar Wilde archive

5 thoughts on “Wildeana #8”

  1. I really love Wilde’s “Soul of Man”; it was a piece I first I read during the course of a Wilde/Dowson/Baudelaire reading group a couple years ago. That and his fairy tales, especially “The Fisherman and His Soul”, were the high points of conversation.

    We also tried a champagne and absinthe cocktail; “death in the afternoon”, which I believe comes from Hemingway. We figured out it is named as such not because you drink it during the afternoon, but because you wish you could die the next afternoon.

  2. I actually don’t remember it tasting half bad. The sweetness of the champagne is balanced out by the bitterness of the absinthe. That said, champagne gives me a headache on the best of days so mixed with the green destroyer…

  3. John,

    Thank you so much for the recipe for the Oscar Wilde. I’ve done champagne with sliced strawberries, with a jigger of cognac and simple syrup each, and even with Chambourd, a lovely rasberry cordial. All have been quite good. I can well imaging that an ‘Oscar Wilde’ would be wonderful, and I fully intend on confecting a few on the next occasion that I have the means of doing so.

    I suspect, though, that the ‘pink champagne’ that Wilde so loved was one of the Rose (sorry, no accent) champagnes that are so loved in France, and by the late St. Julia Child. I recall also that near the beginning of Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger, Bond was treated to a feast of stone crab, dry toast and drawn butter with a pint silver tankard of ’50 Pommery Rose champagne. I find, though, that a Napa Mumm Rose sparkler does quite well as a substitute for the Pommery.

    Finally, I would agree with G that a “Death in the Afternoon Cocktail” is quite palatable. For the benefit of you and your readers, I hereby post a link to a recipe, courtesy of Wikipedia:


    I suspect, though, that the reputed lethal effects of the drink in question are due to the quantities of it that Papa H. was wont indulge himself: three to five such cocktails in a day. To that, John, I second your estimation: Yike, indeed!

    P.S. I am currently working on the twentieth chapter of what I fear will be a 25 chapter offering of my Cthulhu comedy, Bad Trip, I would be happy to send you a Kindle version upon publication, or to send a printed version in the event that the book sells. Again, my hearty thanks for your great help to me.

  4. I love champagne–the decent stuff anyway–but I’ve never tried it with cognac so I fancy making some of the Wilde cocktails. And speaking of Hemingway, the site that supplied the recipe has other literature-inspired creations worth looking at, including a Hemingway fish dish: bacon-wrapped trout with corn cakes.

    Afraid I don’t have a Kindle or any other e-reader at the moment. Every so often I think about getting an iPad (which I’d prefer over a Kindle) but I’m happy at the moment to not be spending even more hours each day staring at a screen.

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