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Richard Ellmann, during a long and distinguished career, won international recognition as a scholar, teacher of English literature, critic, and biographer. His magesterial life of James Joyce has been widely acclaimed as the greatest literary biography of the century. Ellmann was born in Highland Park, Michigan, in 1918. He studied at Yale and at Trinity College in Dublin. He taught at Harvard, Yale, Northwestern, Emory, the University of Chicago, Indiana University, and Oxford, where he was Goldsmiths' Professor of English Literature and Fellow of New College. His James Joyce (National Book Award, 1959) was preceded by Yeats: The Man and the Masks and The Identity of Yeats, and was followed by--among other greatly praised books--two volumes of Joyce letters, Eminent Domain, and Four Dubliners. Ellmann died in May 1987, in Oxford, soon after completing Oscar Wilde, to which he had devoted some two decades of study, research, and writing.
The late Ellmann worked 20 years on this magisterial biography. He tells the fascinating story of Oscar Wildewit and aesthete, poet and playwright, scapegrace and scapegoatmore fully and irresistibly than it has ever been told before. Ellmann captures Wilde's charm and high spirits and also the darker side of his personality, which led to increasingly public homosexual affairs at a time when homosexuality was legally a crime. Ellmann skillfully marshals his material (some of it new), and he writes brilliantly but unobtrusively. A masterpiece to match Ellmann's James Joyce (1959), this work is certain to trigger renewed interest in Wilde. Keith Cushman, Univ. of North Carolina, Greensboro