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August 9, 2010

Y.S. Lee Guest Post

Hey guys! Today I have a guest post by the awesome Y.S. Lee, author of the Agency trilogy.

Welcome! This is the fifth essay about Notorious Victorians I wrote to celebrate the publication of my second novel, The Body at the Tower. Today and tomorrow, I’ll be looking at different aspects of Victorian celebrity – the way it develops and explodes.

Oscar Wilde’s public persona – languid, extravagant, quippy – often overshadows his body of work. He was a poet, essayist, playwright and novelist, but sometimes it seems that he’s best remembered for having been gay. This, of course, is far from the full picture.

Wilde adored being the centre of attention from a very young age – from his childhood, as a clever student of French and German, to his brilliant undergraduate career at Oxford. At university, he cultivated his persona – the peacock costumes, the drawled witticisms – and proclaimed himself an aesthete, someone highly sensitive to beauty. After graduation, he went on a lecture tour of North America, where enthusiastic cheers and loud sneers followed him across the continent. Perhaps the kind of attention didn’t matter: he was achieving celebrity. (Sound familiar, readers of 2010?)

Wilde returned to London, began writing journalism, married, and had two children. He later turned to fiction, writing short stories, his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, and satirical plays. At this period, he also began having sex with men – an illegal act in Victorian England. It was a dangerous double life, pitting Wilde the intellectual dandy against Wilde the sexual outlaw. Even so, what tipped him from thrilling spectacle into disgraceful scandal was Wilde’s own inability to understand how perilous this balance was. Wilde was, in many ways, the author of his own downfall.

When accused of being a sodomite (a Victorian term that comes from the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah), Wilde sued his accuser for criminal libel. It’s extraordinary to think that he expected to win. Wilde’s sexual activities were dug up and exposed to pubic scrutiny. The disgrace destroyed his career, his marriage (his family changed their surname and moved to the Continent), and his reputation. After serving his prison sentence, Wilde retreated to France, where he died in relative poverty.

Wilde’s journey from celebrity to exile was fuelled by his lifelong passion for attention, his insistence on flirting with notoriety. It’s a case of pushing a little too far, a little too long, and being surprised to find, instead of an adoring audience, a judging, unsympathetic public. Join me tomorrow when I look at a another Victorian celebrity who created his own public spectacle for entirely different reasons.


I found this guest post awesome for a few reasons, primarily because the day I received this post I had just started reading The Picture of Dorian Gray and was wondering about the author. So imagine my surprise when I got home and saw this in my inbox! Thanks Y.S. Lee!

Find Y.S. Lee

And be sure to check out the rest of the tour
Mon. 8/2 - Kristi (The Story Siren)
Tues. 8/3 - Kristen (Bookworming in the 21st Century)
Wed. 8/4 - Sarah GreenBeanTeenQueen
Thurs. 8/5 - Lizzy (Cornucopia of Reviews)
Fri. 8/6 - Ari (Reading in Color)
Mon. 8/9 - Mariah  (A Reader's Adventure)
Tues. 8/10 - Steph Su (Steph Su Reads)
Wed. 8/11 - Cecilia (The Epic Rat)
Thurs. 8/12 - Laura (Laura’s Review Bookshelf)
Fri. 8/13 - The Book Smugglers

*All Pictures are from the author's website


  1. I also have been reading The Picture Of Dorian Grey..about half way through.!

  2. Personally, I think Oscar Wilde is the best writer of all time. And the novel The portrait of Dorian Gray the most complete. It brings intrigue and love. Many greetings.


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