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Peter Ackroyd: The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde

A fairly straightforward fictionalised account of Oscar Wilde’s last year, after he had been released from Reading Gaol and gone into exile in Paris. Ackroyd calls it a last testament but it is really Wilde’s musing about his life and what went wrong. They failed to understand him as an artist – that’s his first beef. Obviously, his sexuality and Queensberry’s vindictive attacks on him, which led to the libel suit, which led to jail, were another huge problem for him. Last, and by no means least, Wilde feels, with probably considerable justification, that the English were out to get him as he was Irish. The commonality of artists, Irishmen and homosexuals is stressed and Ackroyd does a credible attempt at showing how Wilde’s via crucis stems from his membership of all three of these groups. Quite fun but I suspect I enjoyed Ellman’s biography of Wilde more.

Publishing history

First published 1983 by Hamish Hamilton