Mad, Bad, Dangerous To Know: The Fathers of Wilde, Yeats, and Joyce

Scribner. Oct. 2018. 256p. bibliog. ISBN 9781476785172. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781476785196. LIT
Tóibín (Columbia Univ., Univ. of Manchester, Univ. of Liverpool; The Master, Brooklyn) here presents the biographies of the fathers of three Irish authors. Of the trio discussed, only Sir William Wilde (1815–76) was successful: writer, archaeologist, epidemiologist (for which he was knighted), physician, and founder of Dublin's first ear and eye hospital. Much of the Wilde chapter deals with William's legal imbroglio with Mary Travers, who accused him of rape, while another large portion treats Oscar Wilde's De Profundis, written when Wilde was imprisoned in Reading Gaol, and read aloud by Tóibín in Oscar's cell on October 16, 2016. Most of the third chapter, about John Stanislaus Joyce (1849–1931), examines James Joyce's presentation of his father in his fiction, specifically Ulysses. Whereas John's son Stanislaus, who lived with his father, portrays him negatively in My Brother's Keeper and his Complete Dublin Diary, James is less critical. The section on John Butler Yeats (1839–1922) is the least engaging, since Yeats did little with his life. Here the focus is on his epistolary romance with Rosa Butt, daughter of the lawyer who represented Travers.
VERDICT Well written but based entirely on secondary sources, thus providing no new information. [See Prepub Alert, 4/9/18.]
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing