Books: A Celebrant of Mixed Motives OSCAR WILDE

by Richard Ellmann; Knopf; 630 pages; $24.95

"I'll be a poet, a writer, a dramatist. Somehow or other, I'll be famous, and if not famous, notorious." Such heady ambitions are fairly common in the young, but the Oxford undergraduate who uttered these words in 1874 got all of his wishes, and then some. Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde not only achieved the most glittering renown of his era but the most abject humiliation as well. He flew higher and fell farther than any of his contemporaries, and his life had become a legend well before his death in a shabby Paris hotel in 1900. He had wrought his...

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