De Profundis, Ballad of Reading Gaol and Other Writings – Oscar Wilde

DPWilde lived on the edge, “feasting with panthers,” and enjoying the risk: “the danger was half the excitement.”…I wanted to eat of the fruit of all the trees in the garden of the world… And so, indeed, I went out, and so I lived. My only mistake was that I confined myself so exclusively to the trees of what seemed to me the sun-lit side of the garden, and shunned the other side for its shadow and its gloom.

Ballad of Reading Gaol The title comes from the Latin beginning of Psalm 130 where the writer laments out of the depth of his despair. Sublime though the writing is, one cannot help feel that it is a very long whinge. Also it lacks the pithy and comic phrases that pepper most of his other work. We don’t know whether it ever reached Bosie bit had it been addressed to me I would have been shamed to discover that it had later been published for all to see: Each man kills the thing he loves, the coward does it with a kiss; who lives more lives than one must die more deaths; there was no chapel on a day of hanging, no cross of requiem on murder’s grave

The Decay of Lying: Everyone who is incapable of learning has taken to teaching; Dullards are consistent; Lying – politicians; Life imitates art, not the other way round; Mrs. Arundel is a philistine because she wants him to admire a sunset; No great artist sees things as they really are or he’d cease to be an artist; the C of E is full of sceptics who don’t believe Noah or Jonah; ‘We (sic) have talked long enough’

The Critic as Artist part 1: There are some acute observations here and in part two, often expressed wittily. Today’s utilitarian society should heed them: Memoirs are written by people who have lost their memories; The public forgives everything except genius; Rousseau confessed his sins to the whole world, not to a priest; To give an accurate description of what never happened is job of the historian; it is dangerous to listen to someone older; Nothing worth knowing can be taught; One taste to discern vintage of wine – so don’t wade through a dull volume

The Critic as Artist part 2: to sit next to a man who has spent all his life educating others – awful; must love art above all other things (?); Journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community; Education should be for the love of beauty, the cultivation of character and the creative and critical faculties – tell that to the present government!

The soul of Man under Socialism: charity creates a multitude of sins – systemic roots not dealt with; know thyself = Gk be thyself; the poor think about money all the time; the government should leave mankind alone; to sweep with joy is an appalling notion; in the old days they had the rack – now they have the press.

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