Attempting to tell an author's life through the books he read is a risky enterprise. In this remarkable new biography of Oscar Wilde, Thomas Wright makes a convincing start with his claim that books were the greatest single influence on his subject’s life. Wilde's first reading of some of his favourites was, says Wright, ‘as significant as his first meetings with friends and lovers’. Indeed, he later used gifts of books to seduce young men.
Wilde, born in 1854 and raised in a well-to-do, book-filled house in Dublin's Merrion Square by a literary mother who called herself Speranza and performed public recitations of poetry, devoured the printed word from an early age. At his Enniskillen boarding school, Portora, he ran up a staggering book-bill of