Rediscovered

Restored by John Cooper © 2020

A Rediscovered Photograph of Oscar Wilde

In my last article I alluded to how the erstwhile sinner, Oscar Wilde, had achieved the exalted air of sainthood. Unfortunately for collectors, with that classification comes the cliché that a good man is hard to find.

And nowhere is that maxim manifested more in Oscar Wilde’s case than in the promised land of lost pictures. On a scale of hardness-to-find, the rarest commodities are gold dust, hen’s teeth, and unseen photographs of Oscar Wilde.

At least that was the case until earlier this year when the happy hunting ground unearthed a little-known, and even less seen, image of Oscar which has now ascended to the canonical next life as Sarony 3A.

For Wildeans, that one discovery would be normally be rapture enough—however, another rare photograph has now seen the light.

It is worthy of investigation.

Continue reading Rediscovered

A Saint With A Past

A Sinner in Saint Louis

During his visits to America in the early 1880s, Oscar Wilde was merely a controversial figure. His fall from grace was more than a decade hence; or, to employ his own ethical framework, he was still a sinner who had a future.

This idea forms a part of Wilde’s redemptive aphorism in which he differentiates saints and sinners in just one respect: the passage of time. 


The only difference between the saint and the sinner
is that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.

A Woman of No Importance (1893)


Wilde’s dictum has devolved so much into the public domain that it is often misattributed to the ancients, so I shall not dwell upon it beyond noting that Grayson Quay recently provided an interesting, although circular, analysis of it here.

Besides, now that the Sinner in question has ascended to Saint Oscar—just as he once amusingly styled himself [1]—his quotation has reached the finality of QED. Nothing remains except for me to use it as a shaky segue into another saint with a Wildean past: namely St. Louis, Missouri and Oscar’s visit there in February 1882. 

The strain is worth the while, however, as it gives me the opportunity to focus on the two proximate men in the splendid St.Louis cartoon above.


Continue reading A Saint With A Past

Deepo

Illustration: James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960).

Nobody ever alleged that my allegiance to alliteration was anything other than alluring, so allow me to allude to this little Oscar Wilde story about the ladies Labouchère and Langtry, the Liberal, and the Lord of Language.

Or perhaps it would be even more obscure, and thus more intriguing, to say it is about Henrietta Hodson, Hester & The Two Henrys, and The Home Depot.

Either way, we must first place the tale in context.

Continue reading Deepo

Destroyed By Fire

dafoe-house.jpg

In my now completed itinerary of Oscar Wilde’s lecture tour of across North America in 1882, you will find logged the more than one hundred hotels or houses where Oscar stayed while lecturing, and illustrated are all the different lecture theatres, music halls, and opera houses where he spoke.

A commonality emerges among most of these venues, and it is exemplified in the phrase most often repeated in the chronicle: Destroyed by Fire—a common occurrence for many public buildings during an era of open hearths, gas lighting, indoor smoking, and a general lack of fire-resistant materials.

Some of the buildings Oscar visited suffered this fate more than once, but none were burned down more times than the Dafoe House in Belleville Ontario.

Continue reading Destroyed By Fire

One By One

Oscar-1

In a recent post I highlighted the difference between an illustration and a photograph of Oscar Wilde in the same pose—the result being that the photograph was the more authentic.

But what happens when there are differences between two versions of the same photograph?

In this case the image is Sarony No. 1—the famous iconic headshot of Wilde. The one on the right is the more familiar.

They do not quite look the same. But which one is a good egg, and which one is a Wilde goose chase?

Let us take a gander.


Continue reading One By One

False Bottom

Here we see an illustration and a photograph of Oscar Wilde in the same pose.

In a recent post I drew attention to the photograph (which is from the collections of the Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin), as it has recently taken its place among the list of known Sarony photographs of Oscar Wilde.

The reason for the photograph’s belated addition to the canon is that it does not appear to have been previously published, nor was there any digital example online—so it is true to say that it had never been widely, if at all, circulated.

And yet, its existence should not come as a complete surprise to Wilde scholars. To understand why, we must consider the part played by the corresponding illustration.

Continue reading False Bottom

Sarony 3A

New Sarony Photograph Identified

A rarely seen image of Oscar Wilde has recently been added to the series of photographs taken by Napoleon Sarony on January 5th, 1882.

Its rarity is evidenced by the fact that it does not appear to have been been published in any publicly available print medium to date, nor anywhere else previously online.

However, a proof print of it has lain dormant in the extensive Wilde holdings of the Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin—in the James McNeill Whistler collection to be precise—and their copy might be the only extant print.

To see how this photograph re-emerged and how it affects the total count of known Sarony images of Oscar Wilde, let’s start the ball rolling.

Continue reading Sarony 3A

The Rest Is History

Oscar Wilde by Napoleon Sarony, 1882

There is a pleasing symmetry in the idea of the flamboyant Napoleon Sarony photographing Oscar Wilde because they were both specialists in posing—albeit from opposing perspectives. So it is not surprising that they also had parallel views about it.

Continue reading The Rest Is History

Web Site Upgrade

Ariadne

BACK TO THE BLOG

Apologies for the hiatus from writing articles for this blog while I took time out to attend to two parallel projects.

First is my historical archive which was in need of an update to latest web standards and to address improvements to usability. Click on this link to Oscar Wilde In America to visit the new site.

Also the interim I contributed a major article to the latest edition of the academic journal The Wildean, the flagship publication of the Oscar Wilde Society.  The article featured for the time ever in print all known photographs of Oscar Wilde taken by Napoleon Sarony in 1882 and 1883, as well as correcting existing and supplemented much new information about them. You can obtain copies of the journal from the Oscar Wilde Society here.

Featured Image

‍The signature image of the web site is W.B. Richmond’s ‍”Electra ‍at ‍the ‍Tomb ‍of ‍Agamemnon” ‍(1874) shown at the top of this page—a work ‍that ‍Wilde ‍had ‍described ‍in ‍detail ‍in ‍his ‍review ‍of ‍its ‍showing ‍at ‍the ‍Grosvenor ‍Gallery ‍in ‍London [1].

The painting was the inspiration for a cartoon ‍used as a centerpiece ‍to ‍a ‍fake ‍interview ‍with ‍Wilde in Punch magazine, ‍the ‍purpose ‍of ‍which ‍was ‍to ‍ridicule ‍the ‍Aesthetic ‍Movement ‍that ‍Wilde ‍went ‍to ‍America ‍to ‍espouse. ‍It depicts ‍the ‍Greek ‍goddess ‍Ariadne representing ‍the ‍grief ‍of ‍Aestheticism ‍as ‍she ‍watches ‍Wilde ‍depart ‍aboard ‍the ‍ship ‍Arizona.

More on the web site here about ARIADNE IN NAXOS.

The web site upgrade is timely as it comes at conclusion of a ten year project of verifying and documenting Oscar Wilde’s lecture tour, which  I shall feature in a separate blog article in the new year.

The web site also contains much ‍historical ‍information ‍relating ‍to ‍Wilde’s ‍time ‍in ‍America: ‍works, ‍features, ‍lecture subjects, ‍quotations, ‍interviews, ‍and more.

Please visit the site and let me know of any errata. There are bound to be many as I have only one pair of eyes.

© John Cooper, December 2019


[1] “The Grosvenor Gallery” Dublin University Magazine, 90, July 1877, 118-26.


Note
The Oscar Wilde In America web site was created by John Cooper based on over 30 years of private study and countless hours in libraries and online since 2002. He is solely responsible for all original research, writing, editing, and web design.

The site has been used by scholars, institutions, and the media around the world and is the largest online resource on the life and times of Oscar Wilde in America.

The entire project was created without funding, and is freely provided and noncommercial.

Bridgeton, NJ


—ANOTHER DISCOVERED LECTURE—

In verifying Oscar Wilde’s tour of America, one occasionally come across previously unrecorded lectures, such as the ones at the seaside resort of Narragansett Pier, RI, a second talk given by Wilde in Saratoga Springs, and another he gave for the YMCA in Yorkville, New York City [1].

This last lecture in New York redefined what biographers thought had been Wilde’s final lecture in North America at St. John, in New Brunswick, Canada.

Now another lecture has emerged which also post-dates Wilde final Canada visit.

Continue reading Bridgeton, NJ