Oscar Wilde was already famous as a brilliant wit and raconteur when he first began to publish his short stories in the late 1880s. They have never lacked readers and admirers, George Orwell and W. B. Yeats among them. The stories give free rein to Wilde’s originality, literary skill, and sophistication. They include poignant fairy-tales such as “The Happy Prince” and “The Selfish Giant”, and the extravagant comedy and social observation of “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime” and “The Canterville Ghost”. They also encompass the daring narrative experiments of “The Portrait of Mr. W. H.”, Wilde’s fictional investigation into the identity of the dedicatee of Shakespeare’s sonnets, and the “Poems in Prose”, based on the Gospel stories.
In this audio guide to Wilde’s short stories, John Sloan of Harris Manchester College, Oxford introduces some of the themes and concerns that preoccupied Wilde the short story writer. Click on the links to listen to the clips.
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A “Jester at the Court of English Literature”?
- Wilde’s short stories have tended to attract less attention than his other writing, but a “rediscovery” of Wilde’s Irishness has led critics to re-examine them and reflect on how Wilde would develop his stories from tales he would tell to his friends and admirers.
A reconsideration of Wilde’s short fiction [4:19]
“Many secrets, many meanings”
Reading Wilde today