I don’t suppose many people in America have given a talk about Oscar Wilde in a place where Oscar Wilde also gave a talk.
It is a feat more easily achieved in the UK where old theaters survive. But in America, so many of the opera houses and music halls where Wilde lectured have now been lost, many destroyed by fire, long ago.
So the possibility of emulating Oscar seemed elusive. Until, that is, I reached Newport, Rhode Island, while documenting Wilde’s lecture tour. It was then I realized that not only was such a repeat performance possible, it was in a place that was eminently worth visiting.
Much remains of the Newport that Oscar knew, and of the maritime resort built by the Vanderbilts, Astors, and Wideners, when a marble mansion out of town was the exclusive status symbol.
And Newport not only offered the chance to visit pleasant Wildean locations, there also happened to be a Wilde exhibition at the Preservation Society, and a chance to join the Victorian Society in America’s annual Summer School.
So I decided upon a six-day retreat to Newport —just as Oscar had done on his Summer break in 1882.