Thank you for joining me here at Britishproducts.com, a website and hub forum celebrating all things British. Let me introduce myself, my name is Eilidh Fraser and I am an aspiring writer. During the course of my blog, I will be taking a look at British literature, past and present.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, in keeping with our Christmas competition, -good luck everybody, by the way, I hope you have liked and shared on our facebook page to have a change of winning the diamond. –I am going to focus on Christmas stories. The first of these, one of my favourites is ‘ The Happy Prince’ by Oscar Fingal O’Flaherte Wills Wilde to give him his full title.
Wilde, a social reformer, Irish nationalist, playwright, novelist, essayist and poet was born in Ireland on 16th October 1954. He died, at age of 46, in France on 30th November 1900.
Wilde is one of my favourite authors so I will be looking at his works and legacy in more detail in future blogs, today however I am going to focus on his children’s story, ‘The Happy Prince.’
‘The Happy Prince and other stories’ are published as a Collins Classic. The collection was first published in 1888 and was written by Wilde, in the first instance, as stories for his two sons, Cyril born 1885 and Vyvyan born 1886 following Wilde’s marriage to Constance Lloyd on 29th May 1884.
‘The Happy Prince’ is the story of a statue erected in a city to the memory of it’s prince. A prince who had lived his life within a palace, sheltered from sorrow and suffering. A swallow strikes a friendship with the statue and delays returning to Egypt with its flock. The prince, from his high position above the city, witnesses the suffering around him of the poorest occupants of the city. He is so moved by the torment of his subjects, he begs the swallow to pluck a ruby from his belt to give to a citizen, to use to relieve their suffering. The prince repeatedly warns the swallow that winter is coming, and that the bird must leave before the cold weather arrives. The swallow delays and at the prince’s behest plucks sapphires from the statues’ eyes to give to suffering souls in the city below. Although the winds grow colder, the swallow still refuses to leave the prince, and at the prince’s behest tears the gold leaf covering the statue, to give to the poorest subjects in order to relieve their depravation.
Finally, the swallow dies of cold and exhaustion. The prince’s heart breaks as he witnesses the death of his friend. The statue, bare of jewels and gold leaf is no longer perceived as beautiful and is taken down and burned in a furnace. The broken leaden heart does not burn. An angel sent to find the most valuable things in the city, finds the broken leaden heart of the prince and dead swallow and takes them to heaven.
There are many messages in Wilde’s poignant fairy tale, but one of the most tragic events in Wilde’s live, must surely be, that after his conviction and sentence of two years hard labour, which were served in Wandsworth and Reading Prison, was that immediately following his release, he fled Britain, and despite pleas to his wife Constance, he was refused access to his sons.