This book explores culturally significant encounters between sensuality and artifice in the poetry of Wilde, Symons, and Dowson. This book enquires into the problem of venerating artificiality and the inaccessibility of beauty associated with it whilst engaging in the sensuous, immediate experience as it is advocated by Walter Pater. It examines for the first time together poems by three protagonists of the 1890s: Oscar Wilde, Arthur Symons, and Ernest Dowson. It sees their poems as sites where the self sensually collides with or is immersed in their artifice. This is understood through the shift from Aestheticism to Decadence, which is marked by a greater emphasis on heterodox erotic experience. This study examines Wilde's early poetry and its role in triggering this shift. It shows how the idea of an erotic encounter with artifice reaches its apex in Symons, and how in Dowson it ripens into vexed non encounters. This is the first monograph study to focus exclusively on Decadent poetry. It gives original attention to Oscar Wilde's early poetry which has been relatively neglected. It provides original readings of Symons's and Dowson's poetry including poems never discussed before.
It makes a clear and explicit distinction between 'Aestheticism' and 'Decadence', defining the nuances of their relationship.