PHILIP DOSSICK

Peaches and Plumbs Booksellers

The Portrait of Mr. W.H.

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The Portrait of Mr. W.H.

5.57

 

 

 

Brimming with powerful imagery and symbolism, The Portrait of Mr. W.H., (its intensity sustained by roguish wit and moments of exquisite beauty), has delighted readers for well over one hundred years.

In 1609, the first edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets was published, featuring the mysterious dedication: “To Mr. W.H.”

Ever since, the identity of Mr. W.H. has been the subject of a series of fascinating theories—but none quite so ingenious as that of Oscar Wilde’s that the Sonnets were addressed to one Willie Hughes, a young, gorgeous boy member of his company, who specialized in playing women, and whose beauty inspired Shakespeare to some of his finest verse.

OSCAR WILDE (1854–1900) was an Irish poet, novelist, playwright, essayist, and short story writer. He is perhaps best known for Salomé, The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband, De Profundis, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, and The Picture of Dorian Gray. He is considered a literary colossus, and a central figure in the development of the modern novel.

He was notably celebrated as an artist persecuted for his homosexuality, a martyr for the cause of gay rights, and prosecuted for “acts of gross indecency with other male persons,” (sodomy) subsequently found guilty, and sentenced to two years hard labor at Reading Gaol prison. He died at the age of 45 and was buried in Paris.

 

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