Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Oscar Wilde Esq

I happened to spot an article about Oscar Wilde on the online Arts and Letters Daily recently. It surprised me to discover he was once the editor of a high market woman's magazine, devoted to literature, art and modern life.
Oscar was thirty-three years old and desperate to earn money to support his wife and two sons.
Curious to discover the sort of magazine which he'd edit, I downloaded a copy of the Woman's World from Google Books. 
The content of the magazine boasts of at least a hundred articles, short stories and poetry.  The Woodland Gods, the first article, seems wordy and would perhaps be boring reading for today's reader. There were no advertisements so the magazine probably earned its income from its sales.
Oscar asked Constance, his wife, and his mother to write for the magazine. In the edition I downloaded are Children's Dress in this Century by Mrs Oscar Wilde and a poem, Historic Women by Lady Wilde.
Arthur Fish, aged 27, was a sub-editor of the magazine. One could imagine the admiration in which he held his boss. He was soon arranging commissions, editing pieces and covering for Oscar while Oscar spent afternoons at his favourite café with his friends. Oscar wrote some of his most brilliant essays during the two years he spent at The Woman's World so the time wasn't wasted. We should give thanks to Arthur Fish - why do lapdogs to the great and famous have such uninteresting names - for The Critic as Artist and Pen, Pencil and Poison to name two of Oscar's essays.
In spite of Arthur doing most of Oscar's work, Oscar tired of being editor and spent less and less time in the office. Due to falling sales, he was dropped as editor and the magazine returned to its original format.
Perhaps The Woman's World couldn't survive without Oscar's brilliance or perhaps it was always just too boring a read. The magazine folded in 1890.
I'm sad to say that history doesn't record Arthur Fish's feelings when he lost contact with the dazzling effervescent man we know as Oscar Wilde.


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