Brenda Maddox

Fallen from the Trees

The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde

By

Fourth Estate 2 volumes 1216pp £35 order from our bookshop

Calling any collection ‘complete’ tempts fate. As Dr Tom Staley of the Humanities Research Center in Austin, Texas, says, ‘As soon as any collection of letters is published, more fall out of the trees.’ In the case of Oscar Wilde, however, the editors of these 1,500 or so letters have enjoyed a commanding position. Merlin Holland is Wilde’s only grandson and Rupert Hart-Davis, who died last year, edited the two previous collections, published in 1962 and 1985. Even so, Holland acknowledges ‘a disturbing new trend’ in which owners of previously unpublished Wilde letters hold them back for future commercial gain in the auction room.

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