Child and Man: the Development of a Catholic Mind

  • Jarlath Killeen
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)


This chapter attempts to establish why it was that Wilde was attracted to Catholicism rather than Protestantism from an early age, and also sets out to demonstrate that it was a folk-Catholic, rather than either a Continental or English Catholic, imagination which pervaded Wilde’s creative experiments. To do this, I will look closely at one of the crucial moments of Wilde’s childhood, the death of his sister Isola in 1867. This event was of such a traumatic nature that Wilde was forced to find a coherent means of interpreting it. Through a reading of ‘Requiescat’, the poem in which Wilde commemorates Isola’s death, I will show why it was that Wilde saw folk-Catholicism as the best means of interrogating reality. The rest of the chapter traces the reverberations of this interpretation in two different pieces, The Sphinx (1894) and ‘The Sphinx without a Secret’ (1891), as the themes examined in ‘Requiescat’ resonate loudly in these two works.


Burial Ground Secret Society Catholic Priest Religious Struggle Catholic Community 
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Copyright information

© Jarlath Killeen 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jarlath Killeen
    • 1
  1. 1.University of KeeleUK

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