Not A Joy Forever

A cartoon depicting Oscar Wilde at the end of his visit to America in 1882 in contrasting poses.

Oscar Wilde’s American visits resulted in mixed fortunes: he failed to make any material literary advance, and although his tour met with a mixed reception critically, it was a great commercial success. We can see these fortunes reflected in the Judge cartoon.

On the left, recognizing the commercial success of his lecture tour, Oscar is shown surrounded by lilies and sunflowers (the floral emblems of the aesthetic movement), and showered with gold. On the right we see him somewhat shabbier, and with his bags packed at Castle Garden, the receiving station at New York: under his arm is Vera, the play Wilde brought with him and for which he struggled to find interest. The play was eventually staged in New York in August 1883 but was a withdrawn after only a week.

The caption, A THING OF BEAUTY NOT A JOY FOREVER, is a reference to John Keats, a favorite of Wilde, whose epic poem Endymion begins “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever”.

The Judge was a weekly magazine published in the United States from 1881 to 1947. It was launched by artists who had seceded from its rival Puck. The founders included cartoonist James Albert Wales, dime novels publisher Frank Tousey and author George H. Jessop. The first printing was on October 29, 1881 and while it did well initially, it soon had trouble competing with Puck. But by the 1900s, the magazine had become successful, reaching a circulation of 100,000 by 1912. Harold Ross, editor of Judge between April 5 and August 2, 1924 used his experience on the magazine to start his own in 1925, The New Yorker. The success of The New Yorker, as well as the depression, put pressure on the magazine: it became a monthly in 1932 and ceased circulation in 1947.

Published by

John Cooper

John Cooper is a independent scholar who has spent 30 years in the study of Oscar Wilde. He is a long-standing member of the Oscar Wilde Society, a founding member of the Oscar Wilde Society of America, and a former manager of the Victorian Society In America. For the last 20 years Cooper has specialised in Wilde’s 1882 lecture tour becoming a consultant on Wilde’s American experience to biographers and the wider media. Cooper lectures on Wilde and has conducted new and unique research into Oscar Wilde visits to New York culminating in a guided walking tour. Online he is a popular blogger and the creator of the noncommercial archive 'Oscar Wilde in America’ which incorporates his work on the Sarony photographs, and a detailed documentary verification of Wilde’s American lecture tour. In 2012 Cooper rediscovered Wilde's essay The Philosophy Of Dress that forms the centerpiece to his book Oscar Wilde On Dress (2013).

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