The Unrepentant Years,” Nicholas Frankel’s subtitle to his new biography of Oscar Wilde, announces his revisionist project to overturn the traditional view that Wilde—a man who was convicted of sodomy, held in an isolation cell, and then released from prison—was broken by two years of hard labor and a poor diet, finally dying in misery and poverty. That Wilde did exist, grieving over the loss of friends and children, Frankel admits, but only in Wilde’s last debilitating year when it became apparent that he was dying—probably as the result of a middle ear infection that had been inadequately treated in prison. No doubt Wilde suffered excruciating torment, but he did not succumb and even began to thrive as he responded to better treatment and the opportunity to write, producing two masterworks, The...

 

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