Timed Writing 1
Following are two letters. The first is written by Oscar Wilde in reference to comments by the Editor of the St. James Gazette, in response to the publication of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. The second letter is the editor’s response.
Read both letters carefully, determining the purpose of each. In a well written essay, compare the rhetorical strategies that both authors employ, as well the letters’ effect upon the reader.
Letter #1: From Oscar Wilde (June 25, 1890)
Sir, I have your criticisms of my story, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and I need hardly say that I do not propose to discuss its merits or demerits, its personalities or its lack of personality. England is a free country, and ordinary English criticism is perfectly free and easy. Besides, I must admit that, either from temperament or from taste, or from both, I am quite incapable of understanding how any work of art can be criticised from a moral standpoint. The sphere of art and the sphere of ethics are absolutely distinct and separate; and it is to the confusion between the two that we owe the appearance of Mrs. Grundy, that amusing old lady who represents the only original form of humour that the middle classes of this country have been able to produce. What I do object to most strongly is that you should have placarded the town with posters on which was printed in large letters: MR OSCAR WILDE’S LATEST ADVERTISEMENT; A BAD CASE.
Whether the expression ‘A Bad Case’ refers to my book or to the present position of the Government, I cannot tell. What was silly and unnecessary was the use of the term ‘advertisement.’
I think I may say without vanity—though I do not wish to appear to run vanity down—that of all men in England I am the one who requires least advertisement. I am tired to death of being advertised. I feel no thrill when I see my name in a paper. The chronicler does not interest me any more. I wrote this book entirely for my own pleasure, and it gave me very great pleasure to write it. Whether it becomes popular or not is a matter of absolute indifference to me. I am afraid that the real advertisement is your cleverly written article. The English public, as a mass, takes no interest in a work of art until it is told that the work in question is immoral, and your reclame will, I have no doubt, largely increase the sale of the magazine; in which sale, I may mention with some regret, I have no pecuniary interest.
I remain, sir, your obedient servant
Letter #2: from the Editor of the St. James Gazette (June 25, 1890)
In the preceding column will be found the best reply which Mr Oscar Wilde can make to our recent criticism of his mawkish and nauseous story, “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Mr Wilde tells us that he is constitutionally unable to understand how any work of art can be criticism from a moral standpoint. We were quite aware that ethics and aesthetics are different matters, and that is why the greater part of our criticisms was devoted not so much to the nastiness of “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” but its dullness and stupidity. Mr Wilde pretends that we have advertised it. So we have, if any readers are attracted to a book which, we have warned them, will bore them insufferably.
That the story is corrupt cannot be denied; but we added, and assuredly believe, that it is not dangerous, because, as we said, it is tedious and stupid.
Mr Wilde tells us that he wrote the story for his own pleasure, and found great pleasure in writing it. We congratulate him; there is no triumph more precious to your “aesthete” than the discovery of a delight which outsiders cannot share or even understand. The author of “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is the only person likely to find pleasure in it.
***It is supposed to be a timed writing in 40 minutes so there is no given length, it is just what you are able to write in the allotted time (with a beginning, middle, and end of course)***