Complete Shorter Fiction – Oscar Wilde

Suzie Eisfelder

This book came across my desk as part of a deceased estate. It was a privilege to see those books, there was such a wide variety. Anything from Romanian texts, to Italian texts, to English literature and a miscellaneous mixture of other stuff. I took most of the English literature and sent the rest off the op shop. I read this because Oscar Wilde is one of those ‘must read’ authors and because I’d read his biography. I’m understanding more now, but I didn’t really enjoy his writing as much as I’d hoped. I read Lady Windermere’s Fan almost two years ago so I should have been prepared, but I really did want to read more Wilde having read his biography.

What do you get in this book?

  • Lord Arthur Saville’s Crime and other stories
  • The Happy Prince and other tales
  • The Portrait of Mr. W. H.
  • A House of Pomegranates
  • Poems in Prose

Each one was clever, with twists and turns to make me stop and think.

Under the heading of ‘Lord Arthur Saville’s Crime and other stories’ you get a clever little story about a ghost. ‘The Canterville Ghost’ gives us the story of a ghost in a vast house called Canterville Chase. The house was bought by an American couple who don’t believe in ghosts. Funny how the ghost still appears before the death of any member of the family. I thought this story very well put together. There’s a lot I can’t tell you due to spoilers but there is all the standard ghost imagery of blood appearing even after it’s been cleaned many times. And then there is the standard that seems to go with Americans not believing in things that are truly British and thinking they are better than the British. Wilde was really quite good at pointing all of these things out. Despite not liking Wilde much I did enjoy this story and found the ending quite satisfying.

And then there’s ‘The Devoted Friend’ which illustrates just how selfish and self-centred some people can be. It’s in the guise of a Linnet telling a story with a moral to a Water-rat. I couldn’t help seeing various people I know in the story which I felt a little bit sad.

Also in this text is an introduction by Isobel Murray, who is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Aberdeen. This copy I found on Booktopia has an introduction by Ian Small. It would be interesting to read both introductions and see how they both work.

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