Paolo Bugliani

Anatomising the Life of the Artist: The Incomparable and Ingenious History of Mr. W.H. and Modern Biographic Fiction

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This paper focuses on Oscar Wilde’s literary treatment of the history of Willie Hughes as both a model for modern fictionalised biographies and the heir of a specifically British tradition of life writing, which is tackled here from a double perspective. On the one hand, The Incomparable and Ingenious History of Mr. W.H. will be discussed in terms of its diegetic nature, expanding on its ties with Walter Pater’s Imaginary Portraits and experiments in fictional biography. On the other, Wilde’s text will be scrutinised from a non-fictional perspective that aims to throw light on its possible links with eighteenth- and, even more interestingly, seventeenthcentury forms of human-life ‘dissection’ that had Samuel Johnson and Robert Burton among their forerunners.


  • Oscar Wilde
  • life writing
  • late-nineteenth-century short fiction
  • Walter Pater
  • imaginary portrait
  • anatomy


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