I don’t think I’ve ever read that book. I might have to now.
First published as a serial novel in 1890, parts of it were considered too risqué and vulgar for audiences at the time, so a heavy-handed editor took on the task of stripping (haha) the most offensive parts or rewriting them entirely. Plus, Wilde had to go back to his drafts to edit even further before he could get it published as a novel. From the Guardian:
critics and academics in the US have not been universal in their praise of the uncensored version. Reviewing the new edition, author and columnist Brooke Allen wrote on the Barnes and Noble website that “whether the original text is actually ‘better’ than the book version published in 1891 is a moot point”.
“Some of Wilde’s original material may have been lost in the latter … but much was gained, too,” she wrote. “This annotated version, though a treasure for scholars and for anyone with a serious interest in Wilde, the 1890s, and Aestheticism, should serve as a supplement to the standard text rather than a replacement.”
Which is how it should be, I think. It’s important to be careful when reading older books because we can’t help but try to apply current ethics and ideologies into them (the Huck Finn thing comes to mind). In this case, understanding the reasons for the alterations in the first place is also important. Issues that affect us today were issues back then, too. Gay rights have come a long way but there’s still work to be done. Sexuality is still a taboo topic for a lot of people. They’re comfortable remaining uncomfortable with it for some reason, but others feel more freedom to be and do as they like and that’s not a new concept either. I think it’s terrific that this version of that classic piece of fiction will be available.