Author: Oscar Wilde
Page Count/Review Word Count: 263
Oscar Wilde was notorious for flamboyancy and wit, but only one of them comes across in Intentions – I’m sure you can guess which one. Intentions consists of a couple of Wilde’s essays, and a couple more that masquerade as plays.
Now, when you think of an essay, it’s only natural to think of a dry chunk of text that was written for an academic thesis on the most boring subject imaginable. Not so with Wilde – despite being over a hundred years old, his essays are genuinely intriguing and offer a unique insight in to both the way that his mind worked and the way that Victorian society looked upon the arts.
Possibly most interesting are the thoughts expressed in ‘The Critic As Artist’ – despite being structured like a play, it’s little more than a soliloquy, and the character of Gilbert is essentially Wilde himself. In it, the Gilbert/Wilde hybrid speaks about how the art of criticism requires much more skill than the initial art of creation, and that critical faculties enable artistic creation in the first place, while criticism is free and independent of constraints.
Got that? It’s difficult to explain the nuances of Wilde’s essay in a summarisation, so if you want to learn more about his aesthetic philosophy, I suggest that you grab a copy of the book and read all about it. It’s the longest of all the essays in Intentions, presented as a dialogue in two parts. Get ready to bed yourself in.