He had always attracted the adolescent, and in this way has influenced the literary and intellectual awakening of each generation that has followed his own… This peculiar appeal to the young arises not only from the romantic iconoclasm of Wilde’s ideas, but also from the almost adolescent zeal with which he champions them. … “Disobedience,” he reminds us, “is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion.” Here the best of the nineteenth century speaks through its most wayward representative.
[Virginia] Woolf demonstrated to my 16-year-old self how through history woman had been under-educated, denied legal and economic independence, while the round of pregnancy and child-rearing had consumed her creative life.
What I loved about Woolf’s polemic was the sense of a great intellect at work, and yet righteous anger burned below the unruffled surface.