Sunday, 29 April 2012


Oscar Wilde was a declared  aesthete  who professed  his views  both in his  works and way of life.  His extravagant look and public behaviour aimed at defying the complacent respectability and cheap   taste  of the Victorian middle and upper classes,  their prudery regarding morals, sex, art and their obsession  with status and  money.  His views were strongly influenced by  the art critics John Ruskin and William Pater,  who asserted  the priority of  art and beauty  in individual  and  social life  and the independence of art from  any   moral, political or utilitarian  purpose, that is  the aesthetic doctrine of "art for art's sake"  (i.e., art has no aim but its own  perfection).                                                  
Such devotion to the aesthetic-decadent  creed was counterbalanced   by  the   moral concern,  present  in  all his works,  exposing  contemporary  evils.  In fact   his comedies are only apparently superficial, as they make fun of Victorian moralism, hypocrisy and prejudices in a light, witty  style. Wilde possessed a deep sense of humanity and  he developed great concern for the poor and the outcast, who were secluded from the safe and optimistic world of rich Victorians; the terrible experience of imprisonment made his sympathy more intense, as emerges from The Ballad of Reading Gaol, which contains some very touching lines.

A contradictory  personality  and versatile artist, Wilde never enjoyed much favour  among  contemporary  critics. Only in the course of the 20th  century  he came to be considered  an outstanding  man of letters for the sharp analysis of his time, the skilful  use of the most  different  genres and his brilliant style.

The Picture of Dorian Gray was published first by Lippincott's Magazine in 1890 and in expanded book form in 1891, added with six chapters. The book has some parallels with Wilde's own life. At Oxford he became a close friend of Frank Miles, a painter, and the homosexual aesthete Lord Ronald Gower, and it seems that they both are represented in Dorian Gray. In the story Dorian, a Victorian gentleman, sells his soul to keep his youth and beauty. The tempter is Lord Henry Wotton, who lives selfishly for amoral pleasure. "If only the picture could change and I could be always what I am now. For that, I would give anything. Yes, there's nothing in the whole world I wouldn't give. I'd give my soul for that." (from the film adaptation of 1945). Dorian starts his wicked acts, ruins lives, causes a young woman's suicide and murders Basil Hallward, his portrait painter, his conscience. However, although Dorian retains his youth, his painting ages and records every evil deed, showing his monstrous image, a sign of his moral leprosy. The book highlights the tension between the polished surface of high life and the life of secret vice. In the end sin is punished. When Dorian destroys the painting, his face turns into a human replica of the portrait and he dies. "Ugliness is the only reality",  summarizes Wilde.


Sunday, 8 April 2012


Easter Wings  
Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
Most poor:
With thee
O let me rise
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

My tender age in sorrow did begin:
And still with sicknesses and shame
Thou didst so punish sin,
That I became
Most thin.
With thee
Let me combine
And feel this day thy victory:
For, if I imp my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

George Herbert