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Oscar Wilde Questions

Posted by Robert Benoist on February 22, 2005

In Reply to: Oscar Wilde Questions posted by David FG on February 22, 2005

: : : First I'd like to thank all of you. It looks like a lot of people like to discuss Oscar Wilde, and for me that's wonderful.
: : : I'd like to ask what is the meaning of the word "poor" in sentences that have nothing to do with being poor, such as: "His poor dear mother and I are inseperable" or "Poor lady Brandon treats her guests exactly as an auctioneer treats his goods. She either explains them entirely away, or tells one about them except what one wants to know."
: : : I was also wondering about the expression "explains them entirely away" in this context.

: : : Another question: How would you interpret the word "genius" in the sentence: "Beauty is a form of Genius - is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation."?
: : Ok, lots of issues. 1. "Poor," in these contexts is very mild form of "pitiable." Not to be pitied actively, but to be judged critically.
: : 2. Explains them entirely away = talks far too much/for too long about them, thus unintentionally reducing their mystery and value.
: : 3. Genius = superlative innate gift.

: Wouldn't 'unfortunate' be a close approximation to 'poor' in this sense?


I agree "Unfortunate" is right. It is used in the Shakespearean sense 'alas poor Yorick, I knew him well'. Perhaps the most celebrated use of the adjective in this sense. In Victorian England, and as used by Wilde, the use can be seen to have an element of condescension and would generally be used of a social inferior or someone to feel sorry for.

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