Oscar Wilde. The Artist

'Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not the sitter'

Oscar Wilde was fond of paradoxes. Unconsciously he also seemed
to make them sublimely and tragically intrinsic to his life. Yet they were never 'tragically' intrinsic to his work, which he defended at all costs, right up until the end, at only forty-six years of age. His short life's work, published and preserved for posterity is his glorious banner of victory and achievement. Whilst those who were bent on using him and destroying him, remain the losers, of 'no importance'. They fade into the past, become the dust of time, the theme of The picture of Dorian Grey, which seems to be a veiled allusion to Alfred Douglas himself.

But naturally Wilde's work never needed defending. That during his trial the author was more intent on speaking in defence of himself as an artist, than as a person falsely accused, and charged with what at that time was considered to be a criminal offence, also seems paradoxical.

If Lord Alfred Douglas had any talent as a poet, or any talent at all, it was, and will always be dwarfed by the treacherous role he played in Oscar Wilde's life. He was spoilt and extravagant, and the following also points out his intellectual limitations.
Although Wilde had originally written his Salomé in French, for a reason more likely to be Alfred Douglas requesting it himself, Wilde commissioned him to translate it into English. The translation was very much criticised. For the line that reads- On ne doit regarder que dans les miroirs,  for example, Alfred Douglas translated it as- One should not look at mirrors. As he couldn't abide criticism, he accused Wilde of having made the errors in the first place.

Even though Wilde had to redo most of the translation, he allowed 'Bosie' to be credited on the title page as the translator. Douglas ungracefully accepted this by once more revealing his weakness and vanity by comparing such title-page crediting with the sharing of it as- "the difference between a tribute of admiration from an artist and a receipt from a tradesman."

As part of the conclusion of the introduction specially written for Complete works of Oscar Wilde, (Collins) Oscar Wilde's son, Vyvyan Holland, wrote the following passage-

While in prison, Wilde wrote the letter to Lord Alfred Douglas, part 
of which was published in 1905 by Robert Ross, under the title of De Profundis. In a letter to Robert Ross he wrote; "This is indeed an Encyclical letter, and as the Bulls of the Holy Father are named from their opening words, it may be spoken of as Epistola: in Carcere et Vinculis. (In prison and in chains). The manuscript was not revised by Wilde, although he intended to do this, as shown by the letter he wrote to Robert Ross: "As soon as you have read it, I want you to have it copied for me. As regards the method of copying, I wish the copy to be done on good paper and a wide rubricated margin should be left for corrections". A copy of De Profundis was made and sent to Alfred Douglas; but after reading the first few pages, he destroyed it, probably thinking, rather naïvely, that there was no other copy in existence. Douglas strenuously denied ever having received the letter, and could not go back on this without contradicting himself.
After my father's death in 1900, Alfred Douglas tried to get hold of the MS. but Robert Ross settled the matter by sealing it up and presenting it to the British Museum, with the proviso that it should remain sealed for sixty years, that is to say until 1960, at the end of which time it might safely be presumed that everyone mentioned in it would be dead. (...)".

Regarding a more recent 'homage', I dare say Oscar Wilde would have been horrified and insulted by Danny Osborne's coloured, sculptural portrayal of him in Merrion Square, Dublin. He would have objected to his being rendered and seen in such an impossible, uncomfortable and vulgar position for posterity, and would have regarded it as completely unæsthetic, uncharacteristic, and thus naturally paradoxical..

To end this second reference to Oscar Wilde, here's his Sonnet To Liberty, which again appears to be appropriate with regard to present-day, world events. This is followed by one of his poems in prose.

Not that I love thy children, whose dull eyes
See nothing save their own unlovely woe,
Whose minds know nothing, nothing care to know,
But that roar of thy Democracies,
Thy reigns of Terror, thy great Anarchies,
Mirror my wildest passions like the sea
And give my rage a brother---! Liberty !
For this sake only do thy dissonant cries
Delight my discreet soul, else might all kings
By bloody knout or treacherous cannonades
Rob nations of their rights inviolate
And I remain unmoved--- and yet, and yet,
These Christs that die upon the barricades,
 God knows it I am with them, in some things.

The Artist.

One evening there came into his soul the desire to fashion an image of The Pleasure that abideth for a Moment.     And he went forth into the world to look for bronze.    For he could only think in bronze.  
      But all the bronze of the whole world had disappeared, nor anywhere in the whole world was there any bronze to be found, save only the bronze of the image of The Sorrow that endureth for Ever.
    Now this image he had himself, and with his own hands, fashioned, and had set it on the tomb of the one thing he had loved in life.  On the tomb of the dead thing he had most loved he had set this image of his own fashioning, that it might serve as a sign of the love of man that dieth not, and a symbol of the sorrow of man that endureth for ever.    And in the whole world there was no other bronze save the bronze of this image.
    And he took the image he had fashioned, and set it in a great furnace, and gave it to fire.
    And out of the bronze of the image of The Sorrow that endureth for Ever he fashioned an image of The Pleasure that abideth for a moment.

Oscar Wilde. On Socialism
Oscar Wilde. De Profundis

Introduction by Mirino. Text from- Complete Works of Oscar Wilde (Collins). Sources include Wikipedia (Oscar Wilde). Photograph by George Charles Beresford of Lord Alfred Douglas, 1903, from the National portrait Gallery. (Wikipedia Commons). Portrait of Oscar Wilde by Toulouse Lautrec. With grateful thanks. August, 2011

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