The Modern Messiah

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A cartoon printed in the satirical magazine The Wasp to mark Oscar Wilde’s arrival in San Francisco.

When Wilde arrived in San Francisco he was greeted by thousands of people curious to see him.

This cartoon, entitled “The Modern Messiah,” which appeared in The Wasp on the eve of Oscar Wilde’s third lecture in San Francisco [1],  shows such a crowd, but in satirical style.

Heavily featured are sunflowers, one of the floral emblems of the aesthetic movement; another, calla lilies, known to decorate Wilde’s table at dinners in America, serve as the donkey’s ears. Also depicted in the scene are caricatured personalties resonant of Wilde’s visit, some of whom were thought responsible for bringing Wilde to San Francisco, and therefore supportive of him.

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Cowboys and Indians

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Lecturing in the midwest, Oscar Wilde meets pioneers and native Americans.

This is Boyd’s Theatre and Opera House in Omaha, Nebraska, as it was when Oscar Wilde lectured there.

If the surroundings look a little unmade (and Oscar complained about the muddy streets) it was to be expected—in 1882 the midwest of America was still a place of frontier development, something that the people of St. Paul ironically accepted:

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By the time Wilde arrived in Omaha in March 1882, the geography of his American adventure had started to take shape.

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Lillie Langtry’s Autograph

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Piecing together history: Oscar Wilde’s mail arrives.

In preparing my recent posting about Oscar Wilde and his lecture in Bloomington during the local council drainage meeting (which, incidentally has been replumbed to new depths under the title The Dilemma of Movements (so please reread), I was reminded that Wilde once wrote a letter from Bloomington. A moment’s research led to a minor historical jigsaw.

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The Dilemma of Movements

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Oscar Wilde’s lecture and the Bloomington council meeting: a draining experience for all concerned.

Local councillors in Bloomington, IL had a committee meeting arranged for the evening of March 10, 1882, so when Oscar Wilde was announced for the same date it was always going to be a tough choice: whether to attend the reported tedium of Oscar’s aesthetic lecture on art decoration, or continue in consideration of the town drainage—which was a pressing agendum that evening.

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Indecent Postures | Wilde Plays Cricket

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The summer game is upon us with the reminder that in Oscar Wilde’s earliest surviving letter, as well as in his final poem, there is mention of cricket.

In 1868, Oscar Wilde proudly wrote to his Mother that his school had beaten the visiting 27th Regiment at cricket by 70 runs [1]. Thirty years later, at the other end of his writing career, the initial description Wilde gives us of Charles Thomas Wooldrige, the tragic dedicatee of The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), is that a cricket cap was on his head.

What, you may ask, do these bookends portend? Well, precisely nothing. Or so I thought.

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