Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Oscar Wilde

Cerebus #120 (March 1989)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

(from Note From The President, Cerebus #148, July 1991)
The more I learned about Oscar [Wilde], the more I resented his lack of productivity. Aside from one really good play (Importance of Being Earnest) and one really good short novel (The Picture of Dorian Gray), most of his work is derivative or second rate. I like it but I think I'm objective enough to admit that very little of what he did stands the test of time for most people. I resent the fact that most of his time was spent entertaining second and third-rate intellects; or even more loathsome, the aristocracy. He is almost universally acknowledged as the greatest conversationalist of his day. In a time when the ability to hold the attention of a table of diners was a thing for which many were noted, Oscar reigned supreme. Only a handful of his stories, anecdotes and discourses have survived even as fragments (thanks mostly to the Roberts; Sherard and Ross, and Richard le Gallienne). 

And, yet, that was Oscar wasn't it?

How much better to entertain a roomful of strangers, lingering over a bottle of good wine and innumerable cigarettes, playing with notions and ideas, weaving epigrams and fables; striking just the right note with each companion so that even those who were the most scornful of him, who had arrived determined to despise him and to revile him, found themselves smiling, then laughing; charmed, captivated; having the time of their lives. 

How much better that, than seclusion and study. Why be prolific when one could be charming? Why produce when there's so much to consume?

I have to credit all the research that I did on Oscar Wilde for convincing me that I don't want to be like that. If I can end my life with a large body of completed works and a reputation as a cantankerous old hermit I'll consider my time well spent.

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