The present work is an attempt to compile a concise documentation of Wilde’s manuscripts and present the state of current research findings to a critical readership. This is by no means the end of the road. The missing pieces in the overall knowledge of the field call for the work to continue. Moreover, this initial compilation excludes a number of Wilde’s works. This work is not an evaluation or an interpretation of the findings, however – although the current state of research has been included where relevant. Interpretation would be a subsequent step.
Bibliographies always bring with them their particular challenges, and a bibliography of Wilde’s manuscripts and their provenances is a case in point. But these documents are the pillars on which Wilde’s oeuvre stands, and are indispensable for an understanding of his works. Wilde himself evidently appreciated the value of his manuscripts, as Guy and Small observe: “Of course the very fact that so many early drafts of Wilde’s works have survived at all is strong evidence of the value that he placed on them. He seems to have been reluctant to discard any of the material he wrote, and was always alert to the possibility that lines composed for, and then deleted from, one work could at a future date be transposed into another.”
This project is a kind of literary detective work with the goal of collecting the most reliable, verifiable information possible on the extant manuscripts of Oscar Wilde – as well as those which cannot be located today – with their provenances. The mosaic of manuscripts which thus appears can only be completed with further information from primary sources and from the research community. I am aware that this work involves gathering information and clues which may sometimes be incomplete. This is inevitable given the multitude of possible sources.
Guy and Small, Studying Oscar Wilde, p. 55n; see also note 53 above.