The Happy Prince and other stories by Oscar Wilde (1888)

In May 1888, 4 months after the 22 year-old Kipling published ‘Plain Tales from the Hills’, the 33 year-old Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde published ‘The Happy Prince and other stories’, nine fairy tales for children. I’m rereading them in a lovely illustrated old Puffin edition (1973). It cost 25p. Wilde takes up Victorian sentimentality where Dickens dropped it, but whereas Tiny Tim or Little Nell were accompanied by the comic, the grotesque and Dickens’s unquenchable verbal energy, Wilde strives for a melodious smoothness, clothing his sweetly weeping tales in fin-de-siecle silver and gold.

“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.”

The Happy Prince and other stories on Amazon

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