When reading “The Portrait of Mr. W.H.” I could not help, but feel as if Wilde was describing himself in his deeply introspective analysis of Shakespeare’s sonnets addressed to Mr. W.H.. The way he described the feelings of Shakespeare and the brilliant muse of the proposed Willie Hughes was much too personal to be simple conjecture. The passion Wilde addressed this mystery with was not the passion of a man unfamiliar with the intricacies of the feelings he described. As we know, Wilde was a man whose passions lied with the male gender. I cannot help but feel, when I read this short story, that Wilde is desperately trying to give his audience a clear representation of his own artistic agony. Being infatuated with the same gender landed Wilde in prison for a few years. This piece, I believe, is a clear look through the window of the author’s soul.
A controversial figure in his time, Wilde’s brilliance can not be ignored despite his tarnished reputation surrounding his sexuality. His words in this piece blur the lines between Shakespeare and Wilde until it feels like the author is just talking about his own experience. When reading this, I felt it was different from the other works we have read in class. To me, it read almost like a diary entry, lamenting his own not-so-secret love by transferring his obsession to researching the identity of another’s object of inspiration.
He wonders why he spent so much time on this project, but matters of the heart do not make sense. Being led by your heart sometimes takes you down the rabbit hole, and that is a little of what we are seeing here. Mr. W.H. is a being of pure conjecture, but the author wholeheartedly believes him to be true during his period of infatuation with him. The moment he shares his research and ideas we see the narrator do a complete one eighty. Once his passion project was out in the open, all the love was lost. Here we can see the seductive nature of a secret, which may hold true in Wilde’s own sexual preferences. Because it was forbidden and dangerous a homosexual relationship might be more seductive to Wilde. His written work is a masterpiece of art bursting with beautifully crafted ideas and arguments, but his diverse portfolio and many of the arguments he makes begs the question of a lasting passion. He is a man diametrically opposed to the ordinary, and believes art is a technique that is ever evolving into something new and astonishing. Maybe Wilde himself was one of his works of art, dedicated to the ideal of astonishment. There is no question of his passion or his preference for the male gender, but upon further reflection of this piece and his life as a whole, Wilde is the culmination of all his contradicting ideals. Specifically, in this story about Mr. W.H. gives us a transparency to the author that we rarely get to see. Making art is a labor of love, despite loving in such a judgemental time, Wilde persevered to give us his truly beautiful art.