Sharon Springs, NY


My research into Oscar Wilde’s 1882 lecture tour of North America has often found me in his large, and daunting, footsteps.

It began over 20 years ago with a guided tour of New York City where Oscar spent more time than anywhere else on the continent; and my work has since encompassed journeys to many places Oscar knew, several of which have including speaking engagements in places ranging from the same theatre of the upscale Newport Casino in Rhode Island where Oscar ushered in Mrs Vanderbilt with a witty remark, to the good folk of the Agriculture Resource Council at their Sunflower Soirée in a field in Maryland.

But never before I have replicated Oscar’s tour so closely as I shall on August 11, 2022, when, 140 years to the day that Oscar Wilde gave a talk in Sharon Springs, NY, as part of a Summer vacation in the Catskills, I shall be doing precisely the same. Or, more formally, I shall be delivering the Klinkhart Hall Arts Center’s inaugural Oscar Wilde Memorial Lecture.

The event is allied to the Arts Center’s wider Poetry Festival, an annual tradition established by Festival founder Paul Muldoon, the award-winning Irish poet and professor of poetry, at which distinguished poets are invited to read, talk about their work, and conduct poetry workshops, all free to the public.

© John Cooper, 2022

The Wildean

The Wildean, Journal of the Oscar Wilde Society

COMPLEMENTARY ARTICLES IN THE CURRENT ISSUE OF THE WILDEAN

—A Publication of the Oscar Wilde Society—


During the less furtive period of his post-prison exile, many young men passed fleetingly through Oscar Wilde’s life, most of whom are either lost to posterity or little more than unidentified footnotes. But two such acquaintances have recently gained in renown, being recognized as adding interest, and even significance, to the Wilde story.

Both of these young men emerged from a short period during the Summer of 1899 when Wilde escaped the combined heat of Paris and an unpaid hotel bill, to spend time out of the city at a charming riverside hotel called L’Ecu on L’Île d’Amour at Chennevières-sur-Marne.

One of these young men, with a hitherto unheralded connection to Wilde, was Christian Frederick Gauss, a future dean at Princeton, who can now be seen to have been a potential love interest for Wilde and the dedicatee of one of his poems.

The other is the mysterious figure of Thomas Langrel Harris about whom Oscar wrote so bitterly during his last months in Paris, but whose biography as an ill-fated young artist and scoundrel was, until recently, unknown.

Oscar Wilde Society members who have recently received the July issue of The Wildean will have been fascinated by each of these young men featured in two related articles: ‘Three Times Tried’ by the present author; and ‘Oscar Wilde’s Infamous Young Swindler’, by Patricia J. Fanning.

To learn more about the Oscar Wilde Society and to receive its scholarly journal The Wildean and other benefits, visit: https://oscarwildesociety.co.uk, or simply click below to join:

JOIN The Oscar Wilde Society

The Oscar Wilde Society, a literary society devoted to the congenial appreciation of Oscar Wilde, is a non-profit organization which aims to promote knowledge, appreciation and study of Wilde’s life, personality, and work.

© John Cooper, 2002


* For a parallel study of Thomas Langrell Harris by Matthew Sturgis see Broken Brothers on this blog.

L’Île d’Amour


Beg, Steal, and Borrow on Love Island

During July 1899 while in retreat from a sweltering Paris, Oscar Wilde spent some time at a small hotel called L’Ecu on L’Île d’Amour at Chennevières-sur-Marne.

He described the place a “a lovely spot—and island with trees and a little inn” at which he lodged by the river. While there, Oscar found rest, recreation, and even some romance. But it wasn’t all plain sailing.

Wilde was very hard up and in fear of being hounded by the agent of his Paris hotel who wished to settle his unpaid bill. He sent a telegram to his publisher, Leonard Smithers, asking for a loan. He wrote to Frank Harris enquiring if he had any spare cash for a handout. And to make matters worse a scoundrel acquaintance stole money from him before abruptly leaving the resort. Oscar muddled through, though, and by the end of the month he was back in Paris, moving out a hotel he could not afford, and into one that he could—a much more humble abode where he lived and where eventually he died.

As we enter the dog days of this year, here in memory of Oscar’s last real holiday are a few period photographs and postcards of the surroundings of his little love island, to give you a sense of where for one short summer he talked pleasingly to new friends and wrote pleadingly to old.

© John Cooper, 2022

Continue reading L’Île d’Amour

Broken Brothers

Thomas Langrell (aka Langrel) Harris


Oscar Wilde and Thomas Langrell Harris

—A Guest Blog by Matthew Sturgis—


In February of 1900, Oscar Wilde wrote to his young friend and admirer, Louis Wilkinson, lamenting, ‘I am very sorry you are in correspondence with Langrel Harris [sic]. He is a most infamous young swindler, who selected me – of all ruined people – to swindle out of money. He is clever, but little more than a professional thief. He introduced himself to me, and induced me to make myself responsible for his hotel bills, left me to pay them, and stole money besides. What the French call “un sale individu”. Don’t write to him any more, or know him. But how did you know him? Please tell me by return.’1

In Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart-Davis’s magisterial 2000 edition of Wilde’s letters, a short note remarks – ‘This curiously named character [Langrel Harris] has eluded identification.’ In the past twenty years, however, the World Wide Web has grown ever larger and ever finer – and it has become possible to catch even such elusive figures – and recover something of their fugitive careers. And the career of Thomas Langrell Harris – as he was more properly called – was fugitive in more senses than one.

Continue reading Broken Brothers