Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know

The Fathers of Wilde, Yeats and Joyce

by Colm Tóibín

'There is something interesting and intriguing to be found on almost every page' Guardian

'A father . . . is a necessary evil.' Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses


In Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know Colm Tóibín turns his incisive gaze to three of Ireland's greatest writers, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats and James Joyce, and their earliest influences: their fathers. From Wilde's doctor father, a brilliant statistician and amateur archaeologist, who was taken to court by an obsessed lover in a strange premonition of what would happen to his son; to Yeats' father, an impoverished artist and brilliant letter-writer who could never finish apainting; to John Stanislus Joyce, a singer, drinker and story-teller, a man unwilling to provide for his large family, whom his son James memorialised in his work.

Colm Tóibín illuminates not only the complex relationships between three of the greatest writers in the English language and their fathers, but also illustrates the surprising ways they surface in their work


'Toibin has a hawk-like eye for literary subtleties, and a generosity towards his subjects that is warm and unacademic.' The Sunday Times

'Full of insight and intrigue' Observer

'Searching, funny, generous' Irish Times

'Subtle, witty and often deeply moving' New Statesman

  • Penguin Books Ltd; October 2018
  • ISBN: 9780241354438
  • Read online, or download in secure ePub format
  • Title: Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know
  • Author: Colm Tóibín
  • Imprint: Penguin

In The Press

There is something interesting and intriguing to be found on almost every page

About The Author

Colm Tóibín was born in Enniscorthy in 1955. He is the author of nine novels including The Master, Brooklyn, The Testament of Mary and Nora Webster. His work has been shortlisted for the Booker three times, has won the Costa Novel Award and the Impac Award. His most recent novel is House of Names. He has also published two collections of stories and many works of non-fiction. He lives in Dublin.