London: James R. Osgood, McIlvaine & Co., 1891. Original yellow-green cloth decorated in gilt.
First Edition of this group of four essays on literature, art, society and criticism -- which consisted of 900 copies (plus 600 printed for America with the Dodd, Mead imprint). Published just a week after Wilde's only novel THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, INTENTIONS precedes all of his famous plays which came out during the span 1893-1899.
In the opening essay, Wilde laments the "decay of Lying as an art, a science, and a social pleasure." He takes to task modern literary realists like Henry James and Émile Zola for their "monstrous worship of facts" and stifling of the imagination. What makes art wonderful, he says, is that it is "absolutely indifferent to fact..."
The next essay, "Pen, Pencil, and Poison," is a fascinating literary appreciation of the life of Thomas Griffiths Wainewright, a talented painter, art critic, antiquarian, friend of Charles Lamb, and — murderer.
The heart of the collection is the long two-part essay titled "The Critic as Artist." In one memorable passage after another, Wilde goes to great lengths to show that the critic is every bit as much an artist as the artist himself, in some cases more so. A good critic is like a virtuoso interpreter...
Finally, in "The Truth of Masks," Wilde returns to the theme of art as artifice and creative deception. This essay focuses on the use of masks, disguises, and costume in Shakespeare [Goodreads].
Charles Ricketts created the Fin-de-Siècle binding design and lettering -- in the same year that he also designed, for the same publisher, the binding of TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES.
This is a near-fine copy -- there is faint mottled fading that always seems to afflict this book's cloth, but there is little wear other than minor rubbing at the extremities (small partly-erased signature on the endpaper). INTENTIONS has become a difficult title to acquire in better condition. Mason 341. Item #14525