The Dilemma of Movements


The Scatology of Oscar Wilde’s Bloomington lecture

Local councillors in Bloomington, IL had a committee meeting arranged for the evening of March 10, 1882, so when Oscar Wilde was announced to lecture later the same evening 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 contemplating the town drainage—which was the pressing agendum that evening.

For councillors wishing to have a foot in both camps it was a choice between the executive and the decorative. What made matters worse was that Oscar was scheduled to begin his lecture at a point when the politicians would be, so to speak, in full flow—an awkward time for any member to withdraw. The decision testing Bloomington’s civic duty must have been divisive. It was the dilemma of movements: to come out on the side of aesthetics or remain closeted.

For the resolution to activities we must consult the local daily organ, The Pantagraph, to see whether the Bloomington council achieved a quorum or merely decorum.

From press reports we learn that there was indeed a minor brain drain among the drain brains in favor of Oscar’s lecture. But happily there was much relief on both side that evening: first for those attending the lecture when Oscar’s finished his business, and second for those still sitting in the drainage committee when a motion was eventually passed.


  • Pictured at top is Durley Hall, identified here for the first time as the venue for Wilde’s lecture in Bloomington, IL.
  • Clippings from The Pantagraph (Bloomington), March 11, 1882, pp. 3 and 4.

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).

6 thoughts on “The Dilemma of Movements”

  1. 1877 11 22 The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois): “Col. W.F. Morse. of the Emma Abbot [1850.12.9-1891.1.5] concert troup, is at the Ashley House. – Miss Emma Abbott will appear on Friday evening of next week at Durley Hall.”
    Any biographical info on Morse?


    1. Yes, if this Morse was on a theatrical tour with Emma Abbot it would have made him ideal for arranging Wilde’s speaking venues and hotels. Wouldn’t read too much into Durley Hall, however, as it was the obvious, perhaps only suitable, theatre in town.


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