I 'Believe in Willie Hughes': The Portrait of Mr W.H.

Edited book (chapter)


Bickle, Sharon and Heneghan, Marie. 2019. "I 'Believe in Willie Hughes': The Portrait of Mr W.H." Roden, Frederick S. (ed.) Critical Insights: Oscar Wilde. Amenia, United States. Grey House Publishing (publisher for Salem Press). pp. 160-172
Chapter Title

I 'Believe in Willie Hughes': The Portrait of Mr W.H.

Book Chapter CategoryEdited book (chapter)
ERA Publisher ID9309
Book TitleCritical Insights: Oscar Wilde
AuthorsBickle, Sharon (Author) and Heneghan, Marie (Author)
EditorsRoden, Frederick S.
Page Range160-172
Chapter Number11
Number of Pages12
Year2019
PublisherGrey House Publishing (publisher for Salem Press)
Salem Press Inc.
Place of PublicationAmenia, United States
ISBN9781642653090
Abstract

Oscar Wilde’s The Portrait of Mr W. H. positions itself at the site of one of Literary History’s great mysteries: the identity of the young man of William Shakespeare’s sonnets. Framing the narrator’s obsessive pursuit of the young man is the title’s portrait of Willie Hughes, which is presented from the very start in the context of a discussion of literary forgeries. In fact, the portrait is a doubled lie: the name of Shakespeare’s boy-actor, Willie Hughes, is created from the fabric of the sonnets themselves, while the portrait is revealed as the work of a print shop in Holborn. Nevertheless, the forgery exists not to conceal the lie of Willie Hughes, but rather to reveal a truth. This chapter contextualise this unusual and often overlooked text within Wilde’s oeuvre. While it is often the question of the forgery that draws the attention of critics here we focus not on the way it spotlights the factitious passions of the “inexpert” reader and the way this then authorises Shakespeare’s, and ultimately Wilde’s, male-centred desire.

KeywordsWilde, The Portrait of Mr W.H., Decadence, Late-Victorian literature, Queer, Sonnets, Shakespeare, Celebrity, Fan Culture, desire, forgery, Literary History
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020470504. British and Irish literature
440599. Gender studies not elsewhere classified
Byline AffiliationsSchool of Humanities and Communication
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
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