(London: Privately printed [by W. H. White & Co. of the Riverside Press, Edinburgh], 1904). 196 x 140 mm. (7 3/4 x 5 1/2"). 1 p.l., 87 pp. No. 107 OF 250 COPIES.
Original brown paper wraps. In a cloth chemise and morocco-backed marbled slipcase. Inner cover of chemise with morocco bookplate of Cortlandt Bishop. Mason 620. One half-inch fore-edge tear (from rough opening; not touching text) otherwise A SPLENDID COPY, little changed from the day it left the press.
First published in "The Fortnightly Review" in 1891, this is a pirated edition of an essay DNB describes as "perhaps the most memorable and certainly the most aesthetic statement of anarchist theory in the English language." Socialism is not something one would immediately associate with a man generally seen as the embodiment of the Decadent movement, but Wilde was a sharp critic of capitalism and its inequalities. The pursuit of wealth and private property was, Wilde felt, destructive to the human soul. In his view, "Socialism, Communism, or whatever one chooses to call it, by converting private property into public wealth, and substituting co-operation for competition, will restore society to its proper condition of a thoroughly healthy organism, and ensure the material well-being of each member of the community." This would free the individual to live and create without constantly worrying about money. Mason reports that the "Spectator" reacted with proper Victorian horror, seeing it as a call for an "anything goes" society where no laws would be allowed to restrict or restrain "individualism"; however, they patronizingly dismiss it as "being written merely to startle and excite talk." On the contrary, Wilde was quite sincere in his socialist beliefs, as revealed in his fairy stories, including "The Happy Prince." (ST14084)
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PJP Catalog: SE18BF.069