BBC Radio 7, 29 November - 3 December 2010
Read by Simon Callow, these five programmes charted Wilde's rise, decline and rapid fall. Narrated by Merlin Holland, who edited the complete letters in 2000, they told a cautionary tale of someone who, although brilliant at his art, suffered from overweening hubris - the belief that he was somehow immune from censure and not subject to the processes of justice allocated to ordinary people. While we might sympathize with him as a victim of a repressive society unable (and unwilling) to tolerate difference, we nonetheless feel that Wilde in many ways contributed to his own demise. The letters revealed a tendency to over-indulge: Wilde certainly loved Lord Alfred Douglas passionately, but he couched his love in such glutinously over-sentimental language that it seems as if he was trying to write one of those three-volume novels that Miss Prism wrote and inconveniently left in the pram at Victoria Station (from The Importance of Being Earnest). The letters seemed like public performances in themselves - a feeling that was only intensified by Callow's presence in the programme. The actor is a very public performer, who has made no secret of his sexuality; as he read the letters, he seemed to revel in the fact that Wilde had written them for public, as well as private consumption.