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This review is taken from PN Review 63, Volume 15 Number 1, September - October 1988.

ECSTACY WITH A C Oscar Wilde and others, Teleny, edited and with an introduction by John McRae (GMP: Gay Modern Classics) £12.95; £4.95 pb.

In both his life and work, Oscar Wilde seems to have been concerned to pin his honour and his sense of self-fulfilment to the principle that one ought never to shrink from the consequences of an idea or impulse. Thoughts and sensations, the author of The Picture of Dorian Gray might have said, only achieve definition and distinction by being pressed to their exquisite extreme: revelation - whether of beauty or of truth - can only arise amid circumstances of intensity, of excess.

It may be on the intuitive assessment of its affinity with the moods and values disclosed at such langorous length in Dorian Gray that one would want to make an attribution of responsibility for the present text, long rumoured to be by Wilde. Teleny, or The Reverse of the Medal first appeared in 1893, in an edition of two hundred copies priced at five guineas and thus aimed at an exclusive connoisseurship. (It is nice to note that the 1986 paperback bears a similar price.) Its publisher, Leonard Smithers, was, in Wilde's own words, 'the most learned erotomaniac in Europe', and, so the story goes, had pounced on the manuscript while it was circulating clandestinely among various members of Wilde's London circle. Its anonymous publication preceded by a year or so Wilde's dramatic trials and imprisonment for homosexual offences. Smithers was later to publish Wilde's The Ballad of Reading Gaol, by which time Wilde was in exile in France. Unfortunately, the surviving correspondence between ...


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