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Thread: “Missing” Oscar Wilde Play

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    “Missing” Oscar Wilde Play

    I just thought I’d post a link for those Oscar Wilde nuts who may not have come across his play For Love of the King. This was a play that was never meant to be published despite Robert Ross’s attempts to do so in publishing the collected works of Oscar Wilde in 1908. It was a play that was written to a family friend as a gift and from which Ross couldn’t get the permission to print it in the collect works and as a result it has become to be known in some circles as the “missing play”.

    Upon reading it it’s clear that it is not really meant for performance in the strictest sense, however it is a very interesting piece which shows Wilde’s love of the Eastern aesthetic and fairy tale combination. It is also interesting to note the prevalence of the peacock, a common aesthetic symbol relatively late in the Wilde canon (1894) and his instance of the finest detail of the play's construction.

    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/23229...-h/23229-h.htm

    I wonder if anyone will ever stage this play?

    Enjoy.

    Oscar Wilde (1854-1900).

    I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.
    Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.

    Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.

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    aspiring Arthurianist Wilde woman's Avatar
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    Fascinating. Thank you so much for the link, Neely. Admittedly, I have never read this play (and am now in the midst of it). I'll get back to you with some thoughts.

    BTW, I'm fascinated that this play is set in Burma, my parents' native country! Just when I thought Wilde couldn't get anymore interesting....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wilde woman View Post
    Fascinating. Thank you so much for the link, Neely. Admittedly, I have never read this play (and am now in the midst of it). I'll get back to you with some thoughts.

    BTW, I'm fascinated that this play is set in Burma, my parents' native country! Just when I thought Wilde couldn't get anymore interesting....
    Oh absolutely, Wilde just keeps on surprising. I've only read it recently because I'm doing a little work on Wilde and stumbled across it. What a find!

    I will hopefully pick up his Oxford Notebooks today which is the journals he kept while at Oxford containing notes of his Oxford reading - even more fascinating. These are hard to get hold of barring parting with about £100 for a copy so you can imagine I was pleased to find a copy at the university - it's about time the uni library turned up trumps.

    Yes please get back over the play...

    Oscar Wilde (1854-1900).

    I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.
    Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.

    Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.

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    aspiring Arthurianist Wilde woman's Avatar
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    It's an interesting little play, though I can see why it was never published. Its ending reminded me of his short story, "The Nightingale and the Rose".

    I was particularly interested by the Burmese-Italian girl (where did he come up with that combination) and the subsequent Burmese-Italian paradise that the king and the girl build together. To me, it seems like Wilde's fantasy of the ultimate exotic Other-world on steroids.

    I'm also interested in the mysterious Chinese wizard (why Chinese? Is it because the Chinese are also considered outcasts, just as a Burmese-Italian girl would be?) and his connection with the birds. I'm beginning to see just how much Wilde loved to use birds in his aesthetic.

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    Yes, self-sacrifice is something which runs through a lot of Wilde's work barring perhaps his social comedies, partially because he was interested in showing how there should be no victims in the creation of art, the slave who labours for the Kings robe etc, and partially as his flirtation with the Catholic faith amongst other reasons. I think that he would have used the half Italian aspect as a way of emphasising the girl’s beauty as well as it making her an outcast. Wilde praised the beauty of Italians even above the French, so I think as her beauty was central to her role in the play that is why probably he chose to make her half Italian. Why Chinese? I don’t know, I think that it just adds a little more exotic spice.

    It is a gem of a find either way, it is not every day that you come across new Wilde material, though there is quite a lot of it out there not in his collected works. If you’re interested you should look for his other “minor” essays and book reviews as there is some interesting stuff there. The first place to go for me would definitely be his “English Renaissance of Art” which formed the main part of his ’82 lecture tour of the US and Canada, if you have not read that already, it is certainly worth the read. I have it as part of a collection of stuff but it is available from Project Gutenburg. ERA is very under-read and under-rated in my opinion and should be put in all his collected works as a priority.

    He's one of my favourite parts of it:

    Love art for its own sake, and then all things that you need will be added to you.

    This devotion to beauty and to the creation of beautiful things is the test of all great civilized nations. Philosophy may teach us to bear with equanimity the misfortunes of our neighbours, and science resolve the moral sense into a secretion of sugar, but art is what makes the life of each citizen a sacrament and not a speculation, art is what makes the life of the whole race immortal.

    For beauty is the only thing that time cannot harm. Philosophies fall away like sand, and creeds follow one another like the withered leaves of autumn; but what is beautiful is a joy for all seasons and a possession for all eternity.
    Last edited by Neely; 03-21-2010 at 01:22 PM.

    Oscar Wilde (1854-1900).

    I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.
    Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.

    Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.

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    aspiring Arthurianist Wilde woman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neely View Post
    I think that he would have used the half Italian aspect as a way of emphasising the girl’s beauty as well as it making her an outcast. Wilde praised the beauty of Italians even above the French, so I think as her beauty was central to her role in the play that is why probably he chose to make her half Italian.
    Yes, Wilde did have quite a love affair with Italy, didn't he? I recall running into several of his poems which spouted the praises of various Italian cities.

    Quote Originally Posted by Neely View Post
    If you’re interested you should look for his other “minor” essays and book reviews as there is some interesting stuff there. The first place to go for me would definitely be his “English Renaissance of Art” which formed the main part of his ’82 lecture tour of the US and Canada, if you have not read that already, it is certainly worth the read.
    Interesting, I will look into it. I'd be interested in reading more about his aesthetic philosophy. Admittedly, I have not read all of his essays, but could you recommend one in which he talks about that?

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    Interesting, I will look into it. I'd be interested in reading more about his aesthetic philosophy. Admittedly, I have not read all of his essays, but could you recommend one in which he talks about that?
    Well it’s an interesting subject, I’m currently drafting a dissertation on one aspect of it. There are no absolute essays where he talks about his particular aesthetic of art directly, rather his thoughts are scattered across a number of his works. Neither is it easy to tie Wilde down to his aesthetic exactly, as Julia Brown says in Cosmopolitan Criticism Oscar Wilde’s Philosophy of Art “the aestheticism developed in Wilde’s writing cannot be reduced to a simple assertion” whether this be a “predominance of beauty or the autonomy and disinterestedness of art” he always resists definition on these grounds and does tend to contradict himself quite often in places. Despite of this however he is very solid on a number of areas in which Wilde seems to be relatively consistent throughout his life. Basically some of this could include:

    1 Art for art’s sake (Gautier’s term strictly) i.e. art has no other claim except in revealing its own beauty.

    2 Self-development through one’s relationship to art, as in “the good we get from art is not what we learn from it, it is what we become through it.” This is like that of Ruskin but in many respects goes beyond him a little.

    3 Pleasing the “soul” through sensual experience. Close to that above or in Keats’s idea of surrounding yourself by beautiful things, but Wilde again goes beyond this taking it to extremes. One example of this could be in the famous refrain from Dorian Gray whereby Lord Henry would echo: “to cure the soul by means of the senses, and senses by means of the soul” if you create your soul though sensual experience then it makes sense to surround your life by beauty.

    4 Political, in that he sees mass production or the capitalist mindset as a threat to individuality. This could be found in his support of the likes of William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites.

    5 Romanticism over Realism in literature or the cultivation of the Greek or Hellenic spirit found in his love of the appropriate literature.


    In terms of best where to go to read this in his works, I would start with his early lecture “English Renaissance of Art”:

    “English Renaissance of Art”:
    http://www.online-literature.com/wilde/2310/

    This is quite an interesting piece which I didn’t really take that seriously at first for reasons that Wilde was on this tour (of the US) for a number of other reasons, but I think that Wilde is perfectly serious here. It is true that he has borrowed much of this thinking from other sources such as Pater, Ruskin, Keats, Whistler amongst others, but it is still a good place to start nevertheless. Throughout you have to always bear in mind that it is not “Wilde’s aesthetic” but a lecture on a certain part of the aesthetic movement in Britain at the time, so you have to pick out Wilde’s thinking from amongst other aspects. From there you need to read:

    “The Decay of lying”
    http://www.online-literature.com/wilde/1307/
    This interesting dialogue will open up some of Wilde’s thinking on individuality, or Romanticism over realism in literature.

    “The Soul of Man Under Socialism”
    http://www.online-literature.com/wilde/1309/
    This “utopian” essay needs to be read to see Wilde’s political and idealistic opinion of art and art’s potential.

    From there De Profundis has elements of Wilde’s aesthetic from a darker perspective which is interesting, aside from everything else that is going off in that piece. Other than that any number of his works contain his aesthetic philosophy, you just have to flick through Dorian Gray to see it in abundance, it runs through it like a backbone.

    I think that Wilde’s aesthetic of art is very interesting – obviously, everything Wilde is interesting to me – but in particular I think there is something of great interest here that is often overlooked by many people, it is according to Brown “Wilde's most important and elusive legacy” which I probably wouldn’t disagree with.

    Oscar Wilde (1854-1900).

    I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.
    Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.

    Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.

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