IT'S 1995, only a step away from the millennium, and we can be forgiven for thinking that the fin de siecle is now officially under way. Last year saw an early outbreak of activity, which chiefly took the form of a lot of books about turn-of-the-c enturybuildings in Prague. But this spring it is just 100 years since Oscar Wilde brought that first, fatal libel case against the Marquis of Queensbury, and publishers are certainly going Wilde. Oscar Wilde: The Importance of Being Irish by David Coakl ey isone of several projected titles on Wilde , this one published by Town House in Dublin, and concentrates on one aspect of this fascinating and multifarious figure.
Interest in the end-of-century phenomenon takes several forms: Johns Hopkins University Press are about to bring out an anthology edited by Elaine Scarry called Les Fins de Siecle: English Poetry in 1590, 1690, 1790, 1890, 1990, which is undoubtedly a thorough way to look at things. It only makes you wonder about 1490.
Well, in about 1495 (or perhaps the year before) Rabelais was born. The last decade of the previous century had seen the appearance of The Canterbury Tales. And in 1795, 200 years ago, John Keats was born.