The Green Carnation

ISBN: 1410108449
ISBN 13: 9781410108449
By: Robert Smythe Hichens

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Reader's Thoughts

Michael Flick

:::yawn:::Tedious feeble satire. The tone and text are true to Wilde, only missing his wit and charm.


Hilarious send-up of Wilde's pre-trial public persona.


A very beautifully written book, but at times I felt it had no plot line. Well, thats what I get for reading books from the 1800s.


As another reviewer has pointed out, this is not a well-written book in any sense. But if, like me, you read Ellman's life of Oscar Wilde and realised that the whole Aesthetic thing was tedious and tasteless, then this is the book to reinforce your judgement. I'm with the 'heroine' - at least, the major female character - who decides she doesn't want her eight year old son wearing a green carnation. Makes sense, doesn't it?


Well! Clearly we've come pretty far in 100 years. Hard to believe this disjointed and oblique parody of Oscar Wilde's style and lifestyle played any part in Wilde's getting sentenced to 2 years' hard labor and effectively being expelled from his homeland for the rest of his life. The only harm I could imagine this book causing anybody nowadays is it causing them to fall dead asleep. The wink-wink cloaked references to homosexuality are SO cloaked as to be nonlegible -- I mean, Middlemarch reads gayer than this, and unlike this book, Middlemarch doesn't save its most damning criticism for a cruel takedown of, of all things, CHOIRBOYS. There's no plot, no momentum, no society intrigue, and little to no humor (I LOL'ed once; compare this to an onstage version of "The Importance of Being Earnest" I saw earlier this week, where I was basically LOL'ing nonstop). Worst of all, the baroque epigrammaticness of it all is so totally over the top and inserted so unnecessarily it gets to the point of seeming completely random. The extra star is for the only redeeming part of the book -- the Mrs. Valtesi character, whose sole purpose seems to be to act like some sort of Wildean color commentator for the reader, keeping a running sarcastic commentary on all the sarcastic comments being made by the other characters.

Catherine Siemann

Reading The Green Carnation is like reading Real Person Fanfic about Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas. Not Real Person Slash, as the novel is too insistently discreet in its codings of homosexuality to explore their relationship to any great extent beyond mentor/mentee, although there are many references to Lord Reggie's inability to really love women. Hichens knew Wilde and Douglas socially, and at first his satire seems fond, but a harsher critique is made through the vehicle of Lady Locke, a wealthy young widow who, despite her fondness for Lord Reggie, rather judgementally (though prudently) declines his marriage proposal. The approximations of Wilde's and Douglas's conversation, in the persons of Esme Amarinth and Lord Reggie, aren't bad, though clearly parodic; there's also a dowager who seems to have drifted in from one of Wilde's plays. Worth reading for Wilde fans who can handle some bitchiness directed in the great wit's direction.


i read a lot about it's so earger to know why this novel firstly pulichised anonymously?!! can this novel be "roman a clef''? it's utterly refering to Oscar Wilde by ''Esme''the green carnation offended Lady Locke's sight...poor her if she would would live by 2009 and what grotesque she may feel by current new fads?!the conclusion was logically anticipated that Lord Raggie was consciouly absurd for ''her'' after all!!!


Let me just start off by refuting the official summary, which states that "Gay men in turn-of-the-century Paris wore green carnations in their buttonholes." Wilde wore a green carnation and encouraged his devotees to wear them on at least one occasion, but it was never a widespread practice and its connotations with homosexuality were established long afterwards. It is tempting to regard Wilde as a prototype gay activist, proudly queer, suffering prison rather than deny his true nature, but like most 19th century homosexuals, Wilde did not make his nature widely known. In fact he perjured himself in his eagerness to deny his homosexuality, and was "outed" by his prison sentence. No one can blame him for lying in a court of law; two years of hard labour was very often fatal, and his friends did not expect him to live more than six months in jail. Back to the novella. It is a straight-out parody of the Aesthetic Movement and of Oscar Wilde and his lover Lord Douglas aka Bosie in particular. No doubt it was more hilarious to the 19th-century reader, much the way today's barbs about hipsters or emo kids will be meaningless in 100 years. But in their day, the Aesthetics were much mocked, and satirical cartoons of Wilde and dismissive reviews of his lectures were published in many newspapers. The plot is fairly flimsy; the elder society man Esme Amarinth has corrupted young Reggie Hastings until he, too, is intolerable - daring in his wit, sometimes amusing, yet also petulant and shallow and extremely vain about his handsome appearance, which he bolsters with all the care afforded to a young aristocrat. Reggie meets Lady Locke at a country house party; she becomes superficially enchanted with his good looks, but ultimately dissuaded by his shallowness and rejects him.Hitchens' writing seems to suggest that Hastings was not such a bad sort until he fell in with the degenerate Amarinth. This is somewhat a reversal of the real-life Wilde and Bosie, for, although the former was much older, it was the latter whose lured Wilde into increasingly dangerous waters; "feasting with panthers," as Wilde described his sexual liasons with valets and boot blacks and the lower class of rent boy. Amarinth's dialogue is so derivative of Wilde's quips that he is clearly a parody of the great writer, but unlike Hastings, Bosie was already thoroughly corrupted when he met Wilde and began their famous affair.There may be some coded references to homosexual but nothing terribly overt, probably more recognizable to the 19th century reader than to the modern one, but the idea of a louche, libertine older man corrupting a fresh-faced younger one is certainly a Victorian trope with strong underpinnings of homosexual threat. Never averse to a bit of free publicity, Wilde appeared to take the publication of The Green Carnation in good stride, even sending a congratulatory telegram to the young Hitchens. But once disaster struck and Wilde was on trial, Hitchens withdrew the novella immediately, appalled that it might be used to cause further damage to Wilde's reputation. Because of the trial and imprisonment, and what we know today of Wilde's life, The Green Carnation is hopelessly dated. We can never return to that time when the brilliant young Aesthetic Wilde was mocked for his long hair and love of beauty and any hints that he was a "Mary Ann" were mostly harmless. We can't read this book the way it was intended to resonate; inevitably we'll think of Wilde's trial and imprisonment that ensured he died a young but broken man. For that reason, I recommend this for Wilde fans, or scholars of the Aesthetic movement, and not for fans of 19th century fiction.

Lara Biyuts

*Life imitates art--so do I* The green carnation, Oscar Wilde’s attribute, as we know, though his favorite colour was vermillion, this artificial flower appears in books here and there. Many writers have a dig at it as well as its owners--“It is said, a wild flower smells warmer if it’s smashed”--and the green carnation has become the first symbol of people, who declare their homosexuality, a precursor to the rainbow flag. Despite the widespread opinion, the green carnation became a gay emblem after Oscar’s death and not before. Wilde's descendent Merlin Holland (in his “Irish Peacock and Scarlet Marquess”) adduces the logical argument: if the carnation were used as a symbol for a declaration of the sort in Wilde’s lifetime, then the Marquis of Queensberry, in his prosecution of Wilde, had no need to prove anything, searching hints between lines of The Picture of Dorian Gray. The green carnation could do what the white lilies and sunflowers could not--the flowers which made Wilde a target of caricaturists and which were but creations of nature. The green carnations as such did not exist in Wilde’s times. As far as I know, usual carnations were placed in a special nutritive liquid, which lent them the “Irish” colour. A good example of ennobling Life by Art. According to Richard Ellmann, the green carnation first came into being or rather appeared in public at the premiere of Lady Windermere's Fan in 1892, February 20. That night Wilde asked several friends and an actor to put green carnations in their buttonholes. “What does it mean?” asked Robertson. Wilde replied: “Nothing. Let everyone rack brains over it.” [my inverse translation:]In 1894 was first published the scandalous novel The Green Carnation by Robert Hichens whose lead characters are closely based on Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas (aka Bosie). The book features the characters of Esme Amarinth (Wilde), and Lord Reginald (Reggie) Hastings (Douglas). The words put in the mouths of the hero and his young friend in the story are mostly gathered from the sayings of their originals. Robert Hichens spent nearly a year "in the company of the men" and was able to accurately recreate the atmosphere and relationship between Oscar and Bosie. The book was believed to be a satire to aestheticism, and at the same time it proved to be a non-fiction depicting, an uncomplimentary characterization of the “chevalier of the green carnation”, however, this did not prevent many from ascribing its authorship to Wilde, which necessitated him to write an official refutation: “…Yes, I’ve invented this delightful flower. But I have nothing to do with the common second-rate book that has misappropriated the flower’s weirdly beautiful name. The flower is a work of art. The book is not by any means.” [my inverse translation:]The weird flower took root not only in Britain; in the early 20th century, describing exteriors of Russian aesthetes, the Moscow reporters frequently mentioned the green carnations in ears or hair.The book The Green Carnation was withdrawn from circulation in 1895, but by that time the damage had been done. Wilde soon stood three consecutive trials for Gross Indecency and was sentenced to two years at hard labor. The book was one of the works used against him by the prosecution. The Green Carnation was republished in 2006 as a hardcover.

Adam Dunn

I’m not sure why there are so many negative reviews of this book. I could quite easily imagine someone really enjoying it.I had read on Wikipedia that this book was pulled from the shelves in 1894 after Wilde was imprisoned for the gay content in the book, which is not true. In the 1948 reprint of the book, the author states he pulled the book from the shelves voluntarily after Wilde’s imprisonment as he thought it would be in poor taste to satirize a man facing hard time in jail. The author mentions hearing about unlicensed American reprints in the early 1940’s and deciding to re-issue the book at that time.The author is famous for his work satirizing the 1890’s, the “naughty nineties” I think they were called, so I was expecting this book to be more of a send up than it was. Wikipedia in defining satire says “its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon” which is what we get here in The Green Carnation.I was wondering if the author, Hichens, was gay himself, but he died in 1950 so it’s hard to know. He never married, and even Wilde married, so that’s a good indication I suppose.I had anticipated more of a send up of Wilde, making him look ridiculous, and instead got this book penned by a possibly gay devotee. I will agree that the novel does fit the Wikipedia definition, in that there is a lot of constructive social criticism. In fact that’s pretty much the entire book, with the plot, Wilde et al go to the country and scare the locals, a little lacking.The book starts off exploring Wilde (as Esme Amarinth) and the world around him:"I only saw about a dozen in the Opera House to-night, and all the men who wore them looked the same. They had the same walk, or rather waggle, the same coyly conscious expression, the same wavy motion of the head. When they spoke to each other, they called each other by Christian names. Is it a badge of some club or some society, and is Mr. Amarinth their high priest? They all spoke to him, and seemed to revolve round him like satellites around the sun."And once the group is assembled, Wilde spends most of it pontificating on life:“Virtue is generally merely a form of deficiency, just as vice is an assertion of intellect.”"These strawberries are very good," he said. "I should finish them, only I hate finishing anything. There is something so commonplace about it. Don't you think so? Commonplace people are always finishing off things, and getting through things. They map out their days, and have special hours for everything. I should like to have special hours for nothing. That would be much more original."Much of the book is discussions on sin and virtue. In some cases the book becomes a portent of things to come, such as the following about injustice:“Good people love hearing about sin. Haven't you noticed that although the sinner takes no sort of interest in the saint, the saint has always an uneasy curiosity about the doings of the sinner?”"Society only loves one thing more than sinning," said Madame Valtesi, examining the moon magisterially through her tortoise shell eyeglass."And what is that?" said Lady Locke."Administering injustice."I had read other reviews that said the gay issue wasn’t apparent, but for 1894, I found it pretty open:“A man is unnatural if he never falls in love with a woman. A boy is unnatural if he prefers looking at pictures to playing cricket, or dreaming over the white naked beauty of a Greek statue to a game of football under Rugby rules. If our virtues are not cut on a pattern, they are unnatural. If our vices are not according to rule, they are unnatural.”Followed by:“To be unnatural is often to be great. To be natural is generally to be stupid.”In the author’s 1948 introduction he details the three times he met Oscar Wilde before he published the book, and the most interesting part of the book is to picture Wilde pontificating as he must have done at the time. I thought the following, said of Wilde in the guise of Mr. Amarinth, summed it up beautifully:"I don't care to hear the opinions of Mr. Amarinth," she answered in a low voice. "His epigrams are his opinions. His actions are performed vicariously in conversation. If he were to be silent he would cease to live."


This book is one long "Hipsters suck!" rant. Hipsters in 1895 England being dandy aesthetes like Oscar Wilde and Bosie. It's like, "Look at these rich kids, pretending to be *authentic* and being *creative* the privileged bastards. I am seething with... with... envy! No wait, I shouldn't be. At least I am not a gaymo like tbose fags." It was really funny to read. Not funny like it was clever (because it wasn't) but funny like a car crash.


The worst kind of petty dull and unimaginative rich-kid-authored asinine limp and wasteful trash.

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