“The difference between literature and journalism is that
journalism is unreadable, and literature is unread”
In case it hasn’t been glaringly obvious, this issue is dedicated to Oscar Wilde to commemorate the 118th anniversary of his death on the 30th November. If you have never read any of Wilde’s works, I implore you to do so! While many of his works were deemed scandalous at the time (to say the least), much of the content for us readers today is par for the course. However, the wit is not of this age and will never, I think, be encountered again. While the humour of his writings is legendary, with many of his quotations adorning posters, buttons, trinkets, Instagrams, Pinterest boards, and the like, it is his complete emotional connection with his characters that is pervasive – at least for me. But the man himself is far more interesting than any of his works and luckily for us, he was Irish. For those of you who don’t have the energy to google a few Irish facts, here are some to replace your daily social media ingestion:
Gan focal Gaeilge
Though raised in Ireland by his parents, Sir William Wilde and Jane Wilde, he did not speak a word of the Irish language. This is not to suggest he was incapable of learning a second language. In fact, Wilde was proficient in German, French, Italian, and Greek.
“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.”
Pro-Irish independence and anti-British, Jane Wilde wrote under the pseudonym of ‘Speranza’ and published poems in support of the Young Irelanders in The Nation. Following the death of her husband, Jane continued his works in collecting Irish folklore tales. In case there was any doubt of her political sympathies, here is a short excerpt from her poem “The Famine Years”:
“From the cabins and the ditches, in their charred, uncoffin’d masses,
For the Angel of the Trumpet will know them as he passes.
A ghastly, spectral army, before the great God we’ll stand,
And arraign ye as our murderers, the spoilers of our land.”
“Socialism itself will be of value simply because it will lead to individualism”
In his intention, ‘The Soul of Man under Socialism’, Wilde argues in favour of socialism in order to free the soul for individualism. He also discusses the concept of charity in a capitalist society, criticising that “charity creates a multitude of sins”. Wilde goes on to muse that many poor are ungrateful for the charity they receive, and this may seem like an outrageous, but not unexpected, statement from a man born to a ‘Sir’. However, he goes on to clarify that while the poor are “ungrateful, discontented, disobedient and rebellious…they are quite right to be so”.
“Artists have sex but art has none”
As an editor of The Woman’s World from 1887-1889 Wilde enthusiastically oversaw the development of the periodical into one inclusive of women’s accomplishments; from literature to archaeologists. Abiding by his contention that gendered writing was a stain on society, he also welcomed contributions from men to compliment the edition. In fact, he only left the position as his manager constrained his ambitions too much. But what of his contributions to the women’s movement in Ireland? As a supporter of the infamous The Yellow Book (1894-1897), a literature and art periodical closely linked to the aesthetic and decadent movements, he was aware of many of the New Woman’s movement writers including those of Irish heritage. It was through the publication that he befriended Irish writer, to name but one, George Egerton. (See recommendation list in sidebar) I would do Eleanor Fitzsimons an injustice by trying to paraphrase her