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

I Can Wait (Revisited)

Lotos Club New York.jpg

Oscar Wilde’s After-Dinner Rebuke to his Press Critics

Originally published in 2015 now as rewritten for the Oscar Wilde Society newsletter. For membership go to: oscarwildesociety.co.uk/membership/

It is pleasing to see that recent Wilde studies continue to highlight the emergent nature of Oscar’s American experience, during which time he nurtured the art of public speaking, conducted his first press interviews, staged his first play, had his iconic photographs taken, and stockpiled—to use an American word—material for his future epigrams and works.

But there is a crucial American beginning for Oscar that has been under-appreciated: I refer to his first brush with literary society. It occurred during an event at 149 Fifth Avenue in New York City, the then home of an organisation of journalists known as the Lotos Club.

Continue reading I Can Wait (Revisited)

Oscar’s Oyster Supper

An Oyster Supper, 1852-1853. Hand-colored lithograph by Elijah Chapman Kellogg . Oysters were a popular food in Connecticut during the 19th century..jpg

Eating oysters in Connecticut is a big thing; and when in Hartford, CT, there was only one place to go: Honiss’ Oyster House. In 1981 the New York Times ran an article about the famous old place, now long since gone:

It isn’t every restaurant in Connecticut that can claim – as the Honiss Oyster House Company does – to have served Mark Twain, Babe Ruth, Andre Previn and Steve Martin, or to have the very booth where Buffalo Bill Cody ate regularly when he was in town with his Wild West Show.

Honiss’s dimly-lit basement walls are crammed with photographs of customers past. There are more than a thousand pictures in all, dating to the 1880’s, when Thomas Honiss and Fred Atchinson purchased the then-40-year-old restaurant downstairs in the United States Hotel.

What the newspaper did not mention, and possibly because the restaurant also failed to realize it, is that Oscar Wilde also partook of Honiss’ famous oysters while residing at the United States Hotel in 1882.

Continue reading Oscar’s Oyster Supper

Making (Up) Oscar Wilde

MAKING OSCAR WILDE by Michèle Mendelssohn
Oxford University Press (2018)

REVIEWED BY: John Cooper


One of the most noteworthy contributions to the recent surge in Wildean material has been Michèle Mendelssohn’s treatise Making Oscar Wilde (2018).

As the title suggests, it is an attempt to establish a premise for the shaping of Wilde’s persona—the latest in a history of such perspectives which has included disquisitions via his Irish roots, his American experience, his men, his women, his friends, his enemies, his wit, his letters, his published works, his unpublished works, his recorded life, his unrecorded life, and, for good measure, his afterlife.

Now Making Oscar Wilde takes a potentially useful and probably unique view through the prism of Wilde’s racial profile. On surface reading the work has much to commend it—but to discover whether it works as a construction we will have to disassemble it.

Continue reading Making (Up) Oscar Wilde

Mountain Lion

“Storm King at Cornwall,” by Hudson River artist Thomas Benjamin Pope. Wilde stayed at the Cornwall Mountain House located at an elevation of 1200 feet on the Western slope of the famous Storm King Mountain.
Oscar Wilde in the Catskills

After traveling across the vast expanses of the American south for more than a month, lecturing in 18 cities, Wilde returned to New York for some rest and relaxation with friends at the exclusive Summer resorts of the north-east.

On July 15, 1882. Oscar gave a courtesy lecture at the Casino during a week’s stay with Julia Ward Howe and friends at Newport, RI, (revisited here) and he did not lecture again for two and a half weeks.

During that time he:

— visited Long Beach with Sam Ward where he was to be found creating interest on the beach;
—cruised around Long Island for three days with Robert Roosevelt aboard his yacht, occasionally swimming, fishing and calling in at popular hotels;
—visited the actress Clara Morris at her retreat in Riverdale, NY;
—stayed with statesman John Bigelow at his summer home at Highland Falls, near West Point;
—vacationed at Long Branch spending a night as guest of former President of the United States, General Ulysses S. Grant, which must have provided a interesting counterpoint to his recent stay with Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederate States of America, at his home at Beauvoir;
—traveled to Peekskill to stay with clergyman and social reformer Henry Ward Beecher with whom he attended a church service and a military band concert.

After all that urbane socializing it was time to head for the hills for more urbane socializing—and a return to lecturing.

The social lion was about to become a mountain lion in The Catskills.

Continue reading Mountain Lion