Bench Master (The Paul Wilde Encounters. Book 2)
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His flair, having previously only been put into socialising, suited journalism and did not go unnoticed. With his youth nearly over, and a family to support, in mid Wilde became the editor of The Lady's World magazine, his name prominently appearing on the cover. Wilde worked hard to solicit good contributions from his wide artistic acquaintance, including those of Lady Wilde and his wife Constance, while his own "Literary and Other Notes" were themselves popular and amusing. The initial vigor and excitement he brought to the job began to fade as administration, commuting and office life became tedious.
Wilde published The Happy Prince and Other Tales in , and had been regularly writing fairy stories for magazines. The only evidence for this is two supposed puns within the sonnets themselves. Wilde, having tired of journalism, had been busy setting out his aesthetic ideas more fully in a series of longer prose pieces which were published in the major literary-intellectual journals of the day.
Having always excelled as a wit and raconteur, he often composed by assembling phrases, bons mots and witticisms into a longer, cohesive work. Wilde was concerned about the effect of moralising on art, he believed in its redemptive, developmental powers: " Art is individualism, and individualism is a disturbing and disintegrating force.
There lies its immense value. For what it seeks is to disturb monotony of type, slavery of custom, tyranny of habit, and the reduction of man to the level of a machine. Wilde envisions a society where mechanisation has freed human effort from the burden of necessity, effort which can instead be expended on artistic creation. George Orwell summarised: "In effect, the world will be populated by artists, each striving after perfection in the way that seems best to him. This point of view did not align him with the Fabians, intellectual socialists who advocated using state apparatus to change social conditions, nor did it endear him to the monied classes whom he had previously entertained.
Wilde considered including this pamphlet and The Portrait of Mr. The 1st version of The Picture of Dorian Gray was published as the lead story in the July edition of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine , along with five others. When Gray, who has a "face like ivory and rose leaves" sees his finished portrait he breaks down, distraught that his beauty will fade, but the portrait stay beautiful, inadvertently making a faustian bargain. For Wilde, the purpose of art would guide life if beauty alone were its object.
MS M.736 fol. 8v
Thus Gray's portrait allows him to escape the corporeal ravages of his hedonism, and Miss Prism mistakes a baby for a book in The Importance of Being Earnest , Wilde sought to juxtapose the beauty he saw in art onto daily life. Reviewers immediately criticised the novel's content and decadence, and Wilde vigorously responded in print.
That is all. The census records the Wildes' residence at 16 Tite Street,  where he lived with his wife Constance and sons.
Wilde though, not content with being more well-known than ever in London, returned to Paris in October , this time as a respected writer. He had continued his interest in the theatre and now, after finding his voice in prose, his thoughts turned again to the dramatic form as the biblical iconography of Salome filled his head.
He wrote a new play, Salome , rapidly and in French. A tragedy, it tells the story of Salome, the stepdaughter of the tetrarch Herod Antipas, who, to her stepfather's dismay but mother's delight, requests the head of Jokanaan John the Baptist on a silver platter as a reward for dancing the Dance of the Seven Veils. When Wilde returned to London just before Christmas the Paris Echo , a newspaper, referred to him as "le great event" of the season. Wilde, who had first set out to irritate Victorian society with his dress and talking points, then outrage it with Dorian Gray , his novel of vice hidden beneath art, finally found a way to critique society on its own terms.
On the surface a witty comedy, there is subtle subversion underneath: "it concludes with collusive concealment rather than collective disclosure". The play was enormously popular, touring the country for months, but largely thrashed by conservative critics. Peter Raby said these essentially English plays were well-pitched, "Wilde, with one eye on the dramatic genius of Ibsen, and the other on the commercial competition in London's West End, targeted his audience with adroit precision".
Wilde left and Alfred Douglas in Known to his family and friends as "Bosie", he was a handsome and spoiled young man. An intimate friendship sprang up between Wilde and Douglas and by Wilde was infatuated with Douglas and they consorted together regularly in a tempestuous affair. If Wilde was relatively indiscreet, even flamboyant, in the way he acted, Douglas was reckless in public.
Douglas soon dragged Wilde into the Victorian underground of gay prostitution and Wilde was introduced to a series of young, working class, male prostitutes from onwards by Alfred Taylor. These infrequent rendez-vous usually took the same form: Wilde would meet the boy, offer him gifts, dine him privately and then take him to a hotel room. Unlike Wilde's idealised relations with John Gray, Ross, and Douglas, all of whom remained part of his aesthetic circle, these consorts were uneducated and knew nothing of literature.
Soon his public and private lives had become sharply divided; in De Profundis he wrote to Douglas that "It was like feasting with panthers; the danger was half the excitement… I did not know that when they were to strike at me it was to be at another's piping and at another's pay. Douglas and some Oxford friends founded an Oxford journal, The Chameleon , to which Wilde "sent a page of paradoxes originally destined for the Saturday Review ".
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Lord Alfred's father, the Marquess of Queensberry, was known for his outspoken atheism, brutish manner and creation of the modern rules of boxing. In June , he called on Wilde at 16 Tite Street, without an appointment, and clarified his stance: "I do not say that you are it, but you look it, and pose at it, which is just as bad. And if I catch you and my son again in any public restaurant I will thrash you" to which Wilde responded: "I don't know what the Queensberry rules are, but the Oscar Wilde rule is to shoot on sight".
Queensberry only described the scene once, saying Wilde had "shown him the white feather", meaning he had acted in a cowardly way. He did not wish to bear Queensberry's insults, but he knew to confront him could lead to disaster were his liaisons disclosed publicly. Wilde's final play again returns to the theme of switched identities: the play's two protagonists engage in "bunburying" the maintenance of alternate personas in the town and country which allows them to escape Victorian social mores.
Although mostly set in drawing rooms and almost completely lacking in action or violence, Earnest lacks the self-conscious decadence found in The Picture of Dorian Gray and Salome. The play, now considered Wilde's masterpiece, was rapidly written in Wilde's artistic maturity in late Both author and producer assiduously revised, prepared and rehearsed every line, scene and setting in the months before the premiere, creating a carefully constructed representation of late-Victorian society, yet simultaneously mocking it.
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James's seemed like "brilliant parties", and the opening of The Importance of Being Earnest was no exception. Allan Aynesworth who played Algy recalled to Hesketh Pearson, "In my fifty-three years of acting, I never remember a greater triumph than [that] first night. Wilde's professional success was mirrored by an escalation in his feud with Queensberry.
Queensberry had planned to publicly insult Wilde by throwing a bouquet of rotting vegetables onto the stage; Wilde was tipped off and had Queensberry barred from entering the theatre. On 18 February , the Marquess left his calling card at Wilde's club, the Albemarle, inscribed: "For Oscar Wilde, posing somdomite" [ sic ]. Queensberry could avoid conviction for libel only by demonstrating that his accusation was in fact true. A team of private detectives had directed Queensberry's lawyers, led by Edward Carson QC, to the world of the Victorian underground.
Wilde's association with blackmailers and male prostitutes, cross-dressers and homosexual brothels was recorded, and various persons involved were interviewed, some being coerced to appear as witnesses, since they too were accomplices to the crimes Wilde was accused of. The trial opened on 3 April amongst scenes of near hysteria both in the press and the public galleries.
The extent of the evidence massed against Wilde forced him to declare meekly, "I am the prosecutor in this case". He characterised the first as a "prose sonnet" and admitted that the "poetical language" might seem strange to the court but claimed its intent was innocent. He claimed to regard the letters as works of art rather than as something to be ashamed of.
Carson cross-examined Wilde on how he perceived the moral content of his works. Wilde replied with characteristic wit and flippancy, claiming that works of art are not capable of being moral or immoral but only well or poorly made, and that only "brutes and illiterates," whose views on art "are incalculably stupid", would make such judgements about art. Carson, a leading barrister at the time, diverged from the normal practice of asking closed questions.
Carson pressed Wilde on each topic from every angle, squeezing out nuances of meaning from Wilde's answers, removing them from their aesthetic context and portraying Wilde as evasive and decadent. While Wilde won the most laughs from the court, Carson scored the most legal points. To undermine Wilde's credibility, and to justify Queensberry's description of Wilde as a "posing…somdomite", Carson drew from the witness an admission of his capacity for "posing", by demonstrating that he had lied about his age on oath.
Playing on this, he returned to the topic throughout his cross-examination. Carson then moved to the factual evidence and questioned Wilde about his acquaintances with younger, lower-class men. Wilde admitted being on a first-name basis and lavishing gifts upon them, but insisted that nothing untoward had occurred and that the men were merely good friends of his.
Carson repeatedly pointed out the unusual nature of these relationships and insinuated that the men were prostitutes. Wilde replied that he did not believe in social barriers, and simply enjoyed the society of young men. Then Carson asked Wilde directly whether he had ever kissed a certain servant boy, Wilde responded, "Oh, dear no.
He was a particularly plain boy — unfortunately ugly — I pitied him for it. Wilde hesitated, then for the 1st time became flustered: "You sting me and insult me and try to unnerve me; and at times one says things flippantly when one ought to speak more seriously. What makes a book live? How often this question arises! The answer, in my opinion, is simple. A book Hves through the pas- sionate recommendation of one reader to another.
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Nothing can throttle this basic impulse in the human being. Despite the views of cynics and misanthropes, it is my beHef that men will always strive to share their deepest experiences. Books are one of the few things incn cherish deeply. A book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunirion. Like money, books must be kept in constant circulation. Lend and borrow to the maximum — of both books and money! But especially books, for books represent infinitely more than money. A book is not only a fiiend, it makes friends for you.
When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold. Here an irrepressible impulse seizes me to offer a piece of gratuitous advice. It is this : read as Uttle as possible, not as much as possible!
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Oh, do not doubt that I have envied those who drowned themselves in books. I, too, would secretly Hke to wade through all those books I have so long toyed with in my mind. But I know it is not important. I know now that I did not need to read even a tenth of what I have read. The most difficult thing in Ufe is to learn to do only what is strictly advantageous to one's welfare, strictly vital. There is an excellent way to test this precious bit of advice I have not given rashly. When you stumble upon a book you would like to read, or think you ought to read, leave it alone for a few days.
But think about it as intensely as you can. Let the title and the author's name revolve in your mind.
Think what you yourself might have written had the opportunity been yours.