WILDE, Oscar (1854-1900). Autograph manuscript notes on philosophy, n.p. [Magdalen College, Oxford], n.d. [1876-1878], including words and phrases in Greek, mostly written on recto with related comments and references on facing verso, on lined paper, approximately 142 pages, 4to, in a notebook, contemporary cloth-backed marbled boards (a few ink blots, scuffed, splitting in spine); brown morocco-backed slip-case.
A REMARKABLE SURVIVAL FROM OSCAR WILDE'S DAYS AS AN UNDERGRADUATE AT MAGDALEN COLLEGE, OXFORD. The notes, based on lectures or Wilde's prolific reading of Greek and other philosphers and historians, notably Plato and Aristotle, also Livy, Herodotus, Mill, Spencer, Hume, Bacon, and Carlyle, are arranged under headings, such as: 'Difference between the Principles of science, art and morals in Aristotle', 'Hume says Bigotry is the offspring of Philosophy'; 'The reason for the Greeks not making much advance in science'; 'Association of Ideas and the Law of Causation'; 'Once you grant that nature is an external of the mind you must admit that consciousness is to be physiologically explained. A man is only to be explained by his environment and his heredity'; there are also notes on 'Popular and Philosophic Views', 'Pleasure and Desire'; 'Psychology', 'Ethics and Politics', and generally on topics which might be the subjects of examination questions.
Analysis of the two notebooks in the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library at UCLA has shown that he later drew upon them for his own lectures and writing (P.E. Smith and M.S. Helfand. Oscar Wilde's Oxford Notebooks, 1989), and the present notebook would have provided much material for similar purposes. The frequent references in it to Plato perhaps reflect Wilde's attendance of Walter Pater's lectures in Oxford at this time.
Wilde sat for his final examinations in Philosophy ('Greats') at Oxford in the summer of 1878, and was awarded a Double First class degree (he had excelled in his first examination in Greek and Latin two years before, and had been awarded the Newdigate prize for poetry in June). He was perhaps as surprised at this as some of his contemporaries, for he had confessed to his friend William Ward 'I am in despair about "Greats"' (letter of 19 July 1877 in The Complete Letters, London: 2000). He wrote later that 'Greats is the only fine school at Oxford, the only sphere of thought where one can be, simultaneously, brilliant and unreasonable, speculative and well-informed, creative as well as critical' (letter to Rennell Rodd, 4 December 1880). This notebook was presumably included in the sale of Wilde's manuscripts in 1895, when his other notebooks were sold.