The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde
Neil McKenna

The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde

The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde is Neil McKenna’s acclaimed and controversial first biography. The books charts fully for the first time Oscar Wilde’s astonishing erotic odyssey through Victorian London’s sexual underworld.

This bestselling book makes a compelling and convincing argument that Oscar Wilde was driven personally and creatively by his powerful desires for sex with young men and that his work can only be fully understood in terms of his sexuality.

Drawing on a vast array of previously unknown and unpublished material, The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde meticulously and brilliantly reconstructs Oscar Wilde’s emotional and sexual life, painting an astonishingly frank and vivid psychological portrait of a troubled genius who chose to martyr himself for the cause of love between men.

Book Details:

  • Author: Neil McKenna
  • Published Year: 2003
  • Rights Sold
    • UK: Random Century
    • US: Perseus
    • Turkey: Imge Kitabevi Yayinlari
    • Lithuania: Vida
Neil McKenna

Neil McKenna

Neil McKenna is an award-winning writer and journalist who has written for the Independent, the Independent on Sunday, the Observer, the Guardian, the New Statesman and Channel 4 Television.Neil's bestselling biography The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde was published by Century in 2003 and by Basic Books in the United State, won widespread and glowing reviews on both sides of the Atlantic and was nominated for several awards. Previously, Neil wrote two ground-breaking books – On the Margins and The Silent Epidemic – about men who have sex with men and the Aids epidemic in the develo...
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Book Reviews

  • "A groundbreaking new biography of our greatest queer martyr"
    The Observer
  • "Neil McKenna’s book is the most important to have been written about Wilde for many years. It is whiskey to Ellmann’s water. This is because McKenna understands and reveals ... for the first time the real nature of Wilde’s developing sexuality and its role in his artistic as well as his personal life.’"
    Senator David Norris, the Irish Independent
  • "This is far and away the best biography of Oscar Wilde to date’"
    Professor John McRae, the Oscholars
  • "It cannot be recommended to highly. Extraordinary, intensely passionate and quite beautiful."
    Manchester Evening News
  • "a bold book"
    The Guardian
  • "Where this biography really excels is in recreating the fevered atmosphere of the late Victorian homosexual underground and the paranoia of the political establishment in the face of Wilde’s bold crusade."
    The Mail on Sunday
  • "Intriguing and entertaining ... McKenna makes an impassioned plea for re-gaying Wilde"
    The Times
  • "Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll in a smoking jacket ... fascinating"
    The Pink Paper
  • "Brilliantly written and meticulously researched this new biography tells you everything you ever wanted to know about Oscar Wilde but never dared to ask.’"
  • "McKenna's masterful, eminently readable new work takes a sharp, very productive turn in Wilde scholarship… the most exciting and important Wilde scholarship to be published in decades."
    Publishers Weekly
  • "McKenna offers a brilliant portrait of Wilde's literary genius and his often-tortured personal life…this majestic study offers a glimpse into the complex sexual mores of the Victorian world, where Wilde lived his homosexual literary life with bravado. A nice complement to Richard Ellmann's definitive Wilde biography, this is recommended for all libraries."
    Library Journal
  • "The genius of McKenna's book is that-- for the contemporary reader-- he reinvents Wilde as the flagrant, determined, and highly politicized homosexual that he was. (As I said, Wilde would have loved it.)…There are so many great things about The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde it's difficult to know where to begin. What McKenna has done-- and this is a brilliant, radical move in Wilde scholarship-- is to take as his premise that Wilde's homosexuality was integral to his physical, emotional, intellectual, and political life…This is a biographical re- invention of which Wilde would have been proud."
  • "Neil McKenna's masterful biography of the 19th-century poet and playwright…Overall this book achieves the rare distinction of making the familiar fresh. It's an unvarnished look at the life of Oscar Wilde that's all the more compelling for its candor."
    Rocky Mountain News
  • "Neil McKenna has produced a superb new portrait of the secret life of one of the 19th century's most tragic and beguiling figures…This meticulous reconstruction of Wilde's "sexual journey" breaks important new ground by placing Wilde at the center of a pantheon of gay sexual revolutionaries…This book reads like the great tragedy Wilde's life was. One of the greatest joys of writing it undoubtedly came from the numerous Wilde aphorisms that McKenna was able to intersperse in the text. Wilde once remarked that there were only three ways to get into society: feed it, amuse it or shock it. "He used all three tactics simultaneously," McKenna observes, and the results are magnificently recorded in these pages."
    Washington Post