Oscar Wilde, His Life and Confessions, by Frank Harris

The Mystery of Personality

I transcribe here another letter of Oscar to me from the second year after his release to show his interest in all intellectual things and for a flash of characteristic humour at the expense of the Paris police. The envelope is dated October 13, 1898:—

From M. Sebastian Melmoth, Hotel d’Alsace, Rue des Beaux-arts, Paris.


How are you? I read your appreciation of Rodin’s “Balzac” with intensest pleasure, and I am looking forward to more Shakespeare — you will of course put all your Shakespearean essays into a book, and, equally of course, I must have a copy. It is a great era in Shakespearean criticism — the first time that one has looked in the plays not for philosophy, for there is none, but for the wonder of a great personality — something far better, and far more mysterious than any philosophy — it is a great thing that you have done. I remember writing once in “Intentions” that the more objective a work of art is in form, the more subjective it really is in matter — and that it is only when you give the poet a mask that he can tell you the truth. But you have shown it fully in the case of the one artist whose personality was supposed to be a mystery of deep seas, a secret as impenetrable as the secret of the moon.

Paris is terrible in its heat. I walk in streets of brass, and there is no one here. Even the criminal classes have gone to the seaside, and the gendarmes yawn and regret their enforced idleness. Giving wrong directions to the English tourists is the only thing that consoles them.

You were most kind and generous last month in letting me have a cheque — it gives me just the margin to live on and to live by. May I have it again this month? or has gold flown away from you?

Ever yours,



Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:02