Oscar Wilde and Victorianism

It has been so good to look back at all the features of Victorianism from the end of the century perspective provided by Oscar Wilde! I wonder how the Wilde of 2090 will review the shenanigans of the first decades of the 21st century? An interesting speculation!

At all events, with Wilde’s hindsight one can see so much more clearly what was wrong with so many of the attitudes that were driving Victorianism forward- in the wake of Romanticism: “progress”, “great expect(or)ations”, “utility”, “earnestness” etc. etc. And Oscar Wilde, like William Shakespeare 400 years before him, was trying to rescue “beauty” from the clutches of sanctimonious, hypocritical, grandiose people like the GROTESQUE Lady Bracknell, or the vapid, empty-headed likes of Cecily and Gwendolyn, or the arrogant, idiotic, unfunny likes of Algernon Moncrieff and Jack (John) Worthing.

Does Wilde succeed, in salvaging “beauty” from the sordid, materialist, world around him? Here is an interesting blog topic to consider: take any one of Wilde’s poems and discuss whether or not the aim and achievement of this poem (eg “Impression du Matin”) is to rescue “beauty” from the clutches of the world? 

A related blog topic is: do you think Wilde’s poem captures some of the qualities of this painting by Whistler upon which the poem is supposedly based?

Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge c.1872-5 by James Abbott McNeill Whistler 1834-1903

Nocturne: Blue and Gold – Old Battersea Bridge c.1872-5 James Abbott McNeill Whistler 1834-1903 Presented by the Art Fund 1905 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N01959

For full details on this painting and the controversy it caused click here on the Tate Gallery

Another blog topic is: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty” – that is all 

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.  John Keats (“Ode on a Grecian Urn”).

What do you think these mysterious lines mean, and do you think they have any relevance to what Oscar Wilde was attempting in his writing? Read them in the context of the whole poem…. 



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