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Oscar Wilde’s Stories for All Ages

Oscar Wilde’s Stories for All Ages

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Oscar Wilde’s Stories for All Ages

4/5 (12 avaliações)
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Lançado em:
Oct 15, 2009


One of the world’s best loved presenters meets one of the world’s greatest authors in this beautiful selection of timeless, haunting stories. Vividly brought to life through abundant illustrations and Stephen’s masterly introductions, Oscar Wilde’s short stories are here made accessible to an entirely new generation.

Whether you know it or not, the stories in this book are familiar. Like old friends whose charm and warmth never fade, Oscar Wilde's short stories have enchanted generations of readers, and this beautiful book makes them accessible to an entirely new readership.

Selected and presented by one of Wilde's biggest fans, the book includes a foreword from Stephen Fry, who will also supply short introductions to the stories themselves, explaining why they mean so much to him and why they should mean a lot to you too.

Meet the selfish giant, whose garden was cloaked in perpetual winter until he allowed the children to enter and play, the happy prince whose statue stood overlooking his city, who gave the rubies and sapphires embedded in his eyes and clothing to feed the poor, and the tiny swallow who helped him. And let's not forget the remarkable rocket who was so convinced that he would be the brightest, most remarkable rocket of all, yet who ended up in a ditch. There's also the Canterville ghost, so inept at being scary that every attempt to spook his American visitors results in failure.

Stephen Fry has always been passionate about Oscar Wilde's writing but he has a particular fondness for his short stories. In this beautifully illustrated book he shares with us what each story means to him and what he feels the reader can take away with them, whether they're five or fifty years old. As well as a general introduction, Stephen offers introductions to the stories themselves, taking the reader through his selection. Illustrated by Nicole Stewart, stunning artwork accompanies each story to give shape to the reader's imagination.

Whether you are buying this for yourself, for your wife, your son or daughter, for your nephew, your niece, your mother, your brother or your sister, the book will be a gift that you or they will cherish forever and return to time and time again. These are stories for adults and children of all ages, for all time.

Lançado em:
Oct 15, 2009

Sobre o autor

Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) was an Irish playwright, novelist, essayist, and poet. Celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic for his wit, he is rumored to have informed a customs agent upon his arrival in America, “I have nothing to declare but my genius.” Wilde’s health and reputation were destroyed by his imprisonment for “gross indecency” in 1895, and he died in poverty a few years after his release. Today, his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and his play, The Importance of Being Earnest, are recognized as masterpieces of English literature.  

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Oscar Wilde’s Stories for All Ages - Oscar Wilde



by Stephen Fry

Eighteen eighty-eight was a happy period in Oscar Wilde’s life that saw him comfortably established in Tite Street, Chelsea with Constance, his young, beautiful, clever and loving wife. He enjoyed a reputation as a literary cub who had realised his early Oxford promise and was rapidly growing into a fully maned literary lion. The couple’s two sons, Cyril and Vyvyan, were only three and two years old respectively at this time, so unless they were even more prodigiously gifted than their father it seems unlikely that they had yet read or had read to them the tales collected in The Happy Prince and Other Stories, which came out that very year.

In these stories, and in The House of Pomegranates, which was published three years later, Wilde’s gifts as story-teller, prose poet, wit and moralist came fully to the fore. For some readers, myself included, he never quite matched that particular combination so well in any other genre.

To the fairytales drawn from those two books have been added The Model Millionaire and The Canterville Ghost, which were originally published in Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and Other Stories but which we felt would augment this edition well.

Wilde’s children’s stories are simple enough to be understood and enjoyed by even the oldest adults. I have provided small separate introductions for each, but first a word about the author.

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde (1854—1900) continues to be a figure for all ages. Indeed, the more time that passes, the more he seems new and fit for us, or at least for some amongst us. Now that they no longer believe in the power of popular music or revolutionary politics to change the world it is to artists and intellectuals that idealistic and imaginative students will turn. Posters of Wilde and Einstein are more likely to be found on the bedroom walls of the young these days than images of Jim Morrison or Che Guevara, who offered so reliable a decorative imperative for my generation.

Wilde comes down to us, clad in velvet and silk, the Duke of Dandies, the Prince of Bohemia, the Patron Saint of sexual outcasts and radical outsiders everywhere. His good nature as much as his good wit retain the power to scorch the bourgeois, the philistine and the unfriendly in our world. That his life ended with such bitter suffering, betrayal and pain, followed by so complete a resurrection in reputation and influence serves to reinforce that messianic image he retains. It is interesting to me that so many of the early stories presented here, created at a time of riches, renown and contentment, seem so strongly to prefigure the themes of sacrifice, injustice, cruelty and suffering with which we associate the final chapter of his extraordinary life. None of which ought to lead you to believe that the fairytales are gloomy affairs. Far from it. Nor should one believe that a dandy is, of necessity, a person of no importance, no gravitas, no high purpose. We have more to learn from dandies and dandyism than from most scholars and moral scientists. Sadly, they are a species in decline today. I wish I had been cut out to be one myself, but I don’t have the courage, the instinct, the seriousness of mind, elegance of leg or cut of shoulder. Fortunately there are figures like the artist Sebastian Horsley who continue to fly the silken flag, but it seems to me an indication of our age that Wilde is still radically misunderstood by the middle-brow, the middle-class and the middle-aged who are so apt to think being funny betokens a lack of seriousness, whereas of course only humourlessness betokens that.

But enough. There are plenty of biographies of Wilde. There was even a most excellent film made of his life in 1997, which I could not recommend more highly if I were involved in it myself. There are plenty of editions of Wilde’s work too, you might think, including every story collected here. What can justify yet another? The answer to that is Nicole Stewart. Nicole is an Australian artist I have come to know over the years since she nobly consented to design my website www.stephenfry.com way back in July 1999. She has continued to work on it, investing it with a quality, colour and glory way beyond its merits. She and Andrew Sampson, the website’s producer and my partner in all things online and digital, came up with this idea after I had recorded some of these stories in audiobook form, and what you now hold in your hands is the result.

I can think of no higher praise for Nicole’s illustrations here than to say (fully aware that it is the height of impudence) that Oscar would have adored them.

Stephen Fry




An often overlooked characteristic of Oscar Wilde is his interest in social politics and the poor. He understood all too well that only the well-off imagine that poverty can be described as noble or dignified. His essay The Soul of Man Under Socialism remains one of his very finest works and many of the ideas in it find fabulous (in the literal as well as the usual sense of that word) realisation in this perfect fairytale, The Young King.

When you begin to read it you might think that this is a very Oscar Wilde story indeed. A beautiful youth surrounded by beautiful objects and exquisitely wrought works of art ornately described in exquisitely wrought prose. How very Oscar. But the story is really a moral fable that teaches us to understand where beauty grows. How acutely contemporary its concerns seem to us today, when the manufacture of every designer shirt and the sourcing of every banana and the provenance of every ounce of coffee make us quiver with self-conscious guilt and wobble with liberal shame. I don’t think we can claim that Wilde invented the idea of ethical purchasing, but he certainly gave it perfect expression.

I suppose the less faithful amongst us will find the ending a little too sentimentally Victorian for our tastes, but I think its startling pictorial nature excuses the religiosity. It is a simple enough moral: true beauty comes from the spirit; surface beauty can be horribly ugly. I hold it true today, that until you have sat in the lobby of a five-star hotel and watched the rich people with their Vuitton luggage, their Graff jewels and their Hermès blouses you have never seen true ugliness. It wasn’t Wilde who said ‘If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the kind of people he gives it to’, but it is a point of view he understood.

There is real dialectic in this tale, however, real argument. It would have been easy for the Young King to go straight from his dream to the church without meeting such stubborn and convincing opposition on the way. An argument is put to him from a working man that the King’s wealth creates wealth for others and that for him to eschew luxury is to wrench bread from the mouths of the poor. Wilde was no naïf when it came to politics. We could perhaps charge him with an over-pious Victorian ending, but the story leaves us with a question we all wrestle with to this day: Should we accept terrible injustice, inequality and poverty simply because the world is so complex that only the most radical change could eliminate them?


IT WAS THE NIGHT BEFORE the day fixed for his coronation, and the young King was sitting alone in his beautiful chamber. His courtiers had all taken their leave of him, bowing their heads to the ground, according to the ceremonious usage of the day, and had retired to the Great Hall of the Palace, to receive a few last lessons from the Professor of Etiquette; there being some of them who had still quite natural manners, which in a courtier is, I need hardly say, a very grave offence.

The lad—for he was only a lad, being but sixteen years of age—was not sorry at their departure, and had flung himself back with a deep sigh of relief on the soft cushions of his embroidered couch, lying there, wild-eyed and open-mouthed, like a brown woodland Faun, or some young animal of the forest newly snared by the hunters.

And, indeed, it was the hunters who had found him, coming upon him almost by chance as, bare-limbed and pipe in hand, he was following the flock of the poor goatherd who had brought him up, and whose son he had always fancied himself to be. The child of the old King’s only daughter by a secret marriage with one much beneath her in station—a stranger, some said, who, by the wonderful magic of his lute-playing, had made the young Princess love him; while others spoke of an artist from Rimini, to whom the Princess had shown much, perhaps too much honour, and who had suddenly disappeared from the city, leaving his work in the Cathedral unfinished—he had been, when but a week old, stolen away from his mother’s side, as she slept, and given into the charge of a common peasant and his wife, who were without children of their own, and lived in a remote part of the forest, more than a day’s ride from the town. Grief, or the plague, as the court physician stated, or, as some suggested, a swift Italian poison administered in a cup of spiced wine, slew, within an hour of her wakening, the white girl who had given him birth, and as the trusty messenger who bare the child across his saddle-bow, stooped from his weary horse and knocked at the rude door of the goatherd’s hut, the body of the Princess was being lowered into an open grave that had been dug in a deserted churchyard, beyond the city gates, a grave where, it was said, that another body was also lying, that of a young man of marvellous and foreign beauty, whose hands were tied behind him with a knotted cord, and whose breast was stabbed with many red wounds.

Such, at least, was the story that men whispered to each other. Certain it was that the old King, when on his death-bed, whether moved by remorse for his great sin, or merely desiring that the kingdom should not pass away from his line, had had the lad sent for, and, in the presence of the Council, had acknowledged him as his heir.

And it seems that from the very first moment of his recognition he had shown signs of that strange passion for beauty that was destined to have so great an influence over his life. Those who accompanied him to the suite of rooms set apart for his service, often spoke of the cry of pleasure that broke from his lips when he saw the delicate raiment and rich jewels that had been prepared for him, and of the almost fierce joy with which he flung aside his rough leathern tunic and coarse sheepskin cloak. He missed, indeed, at times the fine freedom of his forest life, and was always apt to chafe at the tedious Court ceremonies that occupied so much of each day, but the wonderful palace—Joyeuse, as they called it—of which he now found himself lord, seemed to him to be a new world fresh-fashioned for his delight; and as soon as he could escape from the council-board or audience-chamber, he would run down the great staircase, with its lions of gilt bronze and its steps of bright porphyry, and wander from room to room, and from corridor to corridor, like one who was seeking to find in beauty an anodyne from pain, a sort of restoration from sickness.

Upon these journeys of discovery, as he would call them—and, indeed, they were to him real voyages through a marvellous land, he would sometimes be accompanied by the slim, fair-haired Court pages, with their floating mantles, and gay fluttering ribands; but more often he would be alone, feeling through a certain quick instinct, which was almost a divination, that the secrets of art are best learned in secret, and that Beauty, like Wisdom, loves the lonely worshipper.

Many curious stories were related about him at this period. It was said that a stout Burgomaster, who had come to deliver a florid oratorical address on behalf of the citizens of the town, had caught sight of him kneeling in real adoration before a great picture that had just been brought from Venice, and that seemed to herald the worship of some new gods. On another occasion he had been missed for several hours, and after a lengthened search had been discovered in a little chamber in one of the northern turrets of the palace gazing, as one in a trance, at a Greek gem carved with the figure of Adonis. He had been seen, so the tale ran, pressing his warm lips to the marble brow of an antique statue that had been discovered in the bed of the river on the occasion of the building of the stone bridge, and was inscribed with the name of the Bithynian slave of Hadrian. He had passed a whole night in noting the effect of the moonlight on a silver image of Endymion.

All rare and costly materials had certainly a great fascination for him, and in his eagerness to procure them he had sent away many merchants, some to traffic for amber with the rough fisherfolk of the north seas, some to Egypt to look for that curious green turquoise which is found only in the tombs of kings, and is said to possess magical properties, some to Persia for silken carpets and painted pottery, and others to India to buy gauze and stained ivory, moonstones and bracelets of jade, sandalwood and blue enamel and shawls of fine wool.

But what had occupied him most was the robe he was to wear at his coronation, the robe of tissued gold, and the ruby-studded crown, and the sceptre with its rows and rings of pearls. Indeed, it was of this that he was thinking tonight, as he lay back on his luxurious couch, watching the great pinewood log that was burning itself out on the open hearth. The designs, which were from the hands of the most famous artists of the time, had been submitted to him many months before, and he had given orders that the artificers were to toil night and day to carry them out, and that the whole world was to be searched for jewels that would be worthy of their work. He saw himself in fancy standing at the high altar of the cathedral in the fair raiment of a King, and a smile played and lingered about his boyish lips, and lit up with a bright lustre his dark woodland eyes.

‘But what had occupied him most was the robe he was to wear at his coronation, the robe of tissued gold, and the ruby-studded crown, and the sceptre with its rows and rings of pearls. Indeed, it was of this that he was thinking tonight, as he lay back on his luxurious couch…’

After some time he rose from his seat, and leaning against the carved penthouse of the chimney, looked round at the dimly-lit room. The walls were hung with rich tapestries representing the Triumph of Beauty. A large press, inlaid with agate and lapis-lazuli, filled one corner, and facing the window stood a curiously wrought cabinet with lacquer panels of powdered and mosaiced gold, on which were placed some delicate goblets of Venetian glass, and a cup of dark-veined onyx. Pale poppies were broidered on the silk coverlet of the bed, as though they had fallen from the tired hands of sleep, and tall reeds of fluted ivory bare up the velvet canopy, from which great tufts of ostrich plumes sprang, like white foam, to the pallid silver of the fretted ceiling. A laughing Narcissus in green bronze held a polished mirror above its head. On the table stood a flat bowl of amethyst.

Outside he could see the huge dome of the cathedral, looming like a bubble over the shadowy houses, and the weary sentinels pacing up and down on the misty terrace by the river. Far away, in an orchard, a nightingale was singing. A faint perfume of jasmine came through the open window. He brushed his brown curls back from his forehead, and taking up a lute, let his fingers stray across the cords. His heavy eyelids drooped, and a strange languor came over him. Never before had he felt so keenly, or with such exquisite joy, the magic and the mystery of beautiful things.

When midnight sounded from the clock-tower he touched a bell, and his pages entered and disrobed him with much ceremony, pouring rose-water over his hands, and strewing flowers on his pillow. A few moments after that they had left the room, he fell asleep.

And as he slept he dreamed a dream, and this was his dream. He thought that he was standing in a long, low attic, amidst the whirr and clatter of many looms. The meagre daylight peered in through the grated windows, and showed him the gaunt figures of the weavers bending over their cases. Pale, sickly-looking children were crouched on the huge cross-beams. As the shuttles dashed through the warp they lifted up the heavy battens, and when the shuttles stopped they let the battens fall and pressed the threads together. Their faces were pinched with famine, and their thin hands shook and trembled. Some haggard women were seated at a table sewing. A horrible odour filled the place. The air was foul and heavy, and the walls dripped and streamed with damp.

The young King went over to one of the weavers, and stood by him and watched him.

And the weaver looked at him angrily, and said, ‘Why art thou watching me? Art thou a spy set on us by our master?’

‘Who is thy master?’ asked the young King.

‘Our master!’ cried the weaver, bitterly. ‘He is a man like myself. Indeed, there is but this difference between us that he wears fine clothes while I go in rags, and that while I am weak from hunger he suffers not a little from overfeeding.’

‘The land is free,’ said the young King, ‘and thou art no man’s slave.’

‘In war,’ answered the weaver, ‘the strong make slaves of the weak, and in peace the rich make slaves of the poor. We must work to live, and they give us such mean wages that we die. We toil for them all day long, and they heap up gold in their coffers, and our children fade away before their time, and the faces of those we love become hard and evil. We tread out the grapes, and another drinks the wine. We sow the corn, and our own board is empty. We have chains, though no eye beholds them; and are slaves, though men call us free.’

‘Is it so with all?’ he asked.

‘It is so with all,’ answered the weaver, ‘with the young as well as with the old, with the women as well as with the men, with the little children as well as with those who are stricken in years. The merchants grind us down, and we must needs do their bidding. The priest rides by and tells his beads, and no man has care of us. Through our sunless lanes creeps Poverty with her hungry eyes, and Sin with his sodden face follows close behind her. Misery wakes us in the morning, and Shame sits with us at night. But what are these things to thee? Thou art not one of us. Thy face is too happy.’ And he turned away scowling, and threw the shuttle across the loom, and the young King saw that it was threaded with a thread of gold.

And a great terror seized upon him, and he said to the weaver, ‘What robe is this that thou art weaving?’

‘It is the robe for the coronation of the young King,’ he answered; ‘what is that to thee?’

And the young King gave a loud cry and woke, and lo! he was in his own chamber, and through the window he saw the great honey-coloured moon hanging in

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