Lillie Langtry’s Autograph


Piecing together history: Oscar Wilde’s mail arrives

When I was preparing my recent posting about Oscar Wilde and his lecture in Bloomington during the local council drainage meeting, I was reminded that Wilde once wrote a letter from Bloomington.

A moment’s research led to a minor historical jigsaw.

In the Complete Letters (p. 147) there is an undated letter from Wilde to his manager written from Bloomington, Illinois. As Wilde spent only one day in Bloomington, this letter can now be dated March 10. It begins:

Dear Colonel Morse, The mail has just arrived.

Not an earth-shattering event in itself, although I’m sure Oscar was pleased to hear from friends overseas. But turning to Bloomington’s daily paper The Pantagraph, we see that Wilde’s account was in balance. The newspaper contains a report below [1] which confirms that there was indeed correspondence that Wilde had “just received.”

Moreover, we learn that one letter he received that day was from Lillie Langtry, and that he clipped her signature from the note as a presentation to Theodore Braley, the editor of a local newspaper.


Braley died in 1919 but what did he do with that autograph?

I’m sure collectors are suspicious of signatures clipped from their provenance, but one wonders whether the example of Langtry’s autograph at the top of this page (taken from an online auction) is the very one Oscar presented that day.

[1] The Pantagraph (Bloomington), March 13, 1882, p.4

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John Cooper

John Cooper is a researcher, author, blogger and documentary historian. As a long-standing member of the Oscar Wilde Society in London, a founding member of the Oscar Wilde Society of America, and a former manager of the Victorian Society In America, he has spent 30 years in the study of Oscar Wilde, having lectured on Wilde, and contributing to TV, film, and academic journals including The Wildean and Oscholars. Online he is the designer, author and editor of this noncommercial archive Oscar Wilde in America, blogger, and moderator of the Oscar Wilde Internet discussion groups at Yahoo and Google. For the last 14 years he has specialized in new and unique research into Oscar Wilde in New York, where he conducts guided walking tours based on the visits of Oscar Wilde. In 2012 John rediscovered Oscar Wilde's essay The Philosophy Of Dress that forms the centerpiece to his recent book Oscar Wilde On Dress (2013).

One thought on “Lillie Langtry’s Autograph”

  1. Excellent John – love your humor and Lily’s signature. Have you seen the latest edition (June/July) of Irish America Magazine (online)? Something of our Hero in there. I’m still reading his poems on my over-crowded breakfast table. Keep ’em coming, my friend – for many years to come, I hope. You bring light to the unenlightened, joy to the grim, and information to the curious. Best, Peter

    Liked by 1 person

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