WILDE, Oscar (1854-1900). Intentions. The Decay of Lying. Pen Pencil and Poison. The Critic as Artist. The Truth of Masks. London: James R. Osgood, McIlvaine and Co., 1891.
8o. Original green cloth, gilt-lettered on front cover and spine, uncut (spine faded, few stains to covers). Provenance: Florence Stoker, Wilde's early love and later the wife of novelist Bram Stoker (née Balcombe, presentation inscription); Anonymous owner (sold Sotheby's London, 13 December 1993, lot 91).
FIRST EDITION. PRESENTATION COPY, INSCRIBED BY WILDE TO HIS FIRST LOVE, FLORENCE STOKER on the blank leaf facing the title: "Florence Stoker from her old friend the author. June '91."
Wilde met Florence Balcombe in the west of Ireland in August 1875. "She was seventeen to Wilde's twenty... A lively affection for each other developed. At Christmas Wilde presented her with a small gold cross which united their names. The idea of marriage was in the air..." (Richard Ellman, Oscar Wilde, London, 1987). Wilde wrote a series of love poems for his beloved at this time, which reflect the sexual and emotional ambivalence he felt towards Florence. "The poems show more interest in complications than consummations" (Ellman).
Three years later, in 1878, Florence Balcombe accepted an offer of marriage from Bram Stoker (then known as an Irish civil servant and drama critic). Wilde was disappointed, but accepted the news because he felt he was not in a position to marry, since the obligatory two years' wait after diagnosis of syphillis had not yet expired. He wrote to her a letter of farewell, requesting the return of the gold cross, for it "serves as a memory of two sweet years--the sweetest of all the years of my youth--and I should like to have it always with me" (Letters, p.54). Wilde always considered Florence his first true passion, as when he wrote to Ellen Terry years later: "She thinks I never loved her, thinks I forget. My God how could I..." (Letters, p.74). Mason 341.