Wednesday, August 10, 2011

4. Poems in Prose

The online journal Victorian Network (Summer 2011) has published an essay by Jeremiah Mercurio (University of St. Andrews) on two unpublished drawings by Charles Ricketts. Part of a series of drawings dating from the early nineteen-twenties, they illustrate the Poems in Prose of Oscar Wilde. According to his letters to Gordon Bottomley, Ricketts first made sketches for an intended publication in the early eighteen-nineties. These were never used and were subsequently mislaid. In 1918 Ricketts found a batch of old sketches and drawings and in 1924 he executed eight new drawings 'in my old manner'.

Two of these are discussed by Jeremiah Mercurio in his essay 'Faithful Infidelity. Charles Ricketts' Illustrations for Two of Oscar Wilde's Poems in Prose'. He argues that while Ricketts's illustrations for 'The Disciple' and 'The House of Judgment' reproduce the meanings of the texts they represent, they also 'parody and elaborate on them'. This way, Ricketts was able to declare his 'independence as an illustrator' and 'his autonomy as a thinker'. Ricketts's 'illustrational strategies', according to Mercurio, are designed 'to disprove Wilde's description of visual art as limited compared to language'.

The article in the Victorian Network also illustrates the two drawings, which are kept in the collection of the Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery, Carlisle.

The 'Poems in Prose' have been published in The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Volume I. Poems and Poems in Prose (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2000).