Review by Choice Review
In the early chapters of this volume, historian Foldy presents an account of the three trials involving Wilde. Much of this material is well known, for Foldy relies on the classic Trials of Oscar Wilde, ed. by H. Montgomery Hyde (1948), and to some extent on the collection of newspaper articles focusing on the trials in The Oscar Wilde File (1988), though not on compiler Jonathan Goodman's narrative or interpretation. Foldy speculates on whether some highly placed government figures were determined to convict Wilde of "gross indecency" in order to protect Lord Rosebery, the allegedly homosexual prime minister, from a potential scandal that could have imperiled his Liberal Party. However, Foldy's "evidence" is less than convincing. In succeeding chapters he proceeds beyond Hyde and Goodman, exploring the "cultural climate of the trials." His labored discussions--for example, of the concepts of homosexuality and decadence--are problematic: "decadence" (the term the Establishment used to condemn moral and artistic decline) is not adequately distinguished from literary "decadence" (a challenging new artistic vision that anticipated modernism). For extensive collections serving upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty. K. Beckson; Brooklyn College, CUNY
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