Oscar Wilde on Irish Poets

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Oscar Wilde’s lecture in San Francisco on Irish Poets

On this day in 1882 [1] at Platt’s Hall, Oscar Wilde delivered the ninth of ten consecutive lectures in California, and his fourth and last in San Francisco.

As San Francisco was the only city in America where Wilde lectured four times, he needed an additional lecture to add to the three he was already giving, which were: The English Renaissance, its successor The Decorative Arts, and The House Beautiful.

[See Lecture Titles for the development of Wilde’s lecture topics].

Wilde chose as his subject Irish Poets and Poetry of the Nineteenth Century (referred to in some texts as The Irish Poets of ’48), an idea he had hinted at on St.Patrick’s Day in St.Paul, where he made a rare expression of Irish nationalist sentiment.

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A Scene at Long Beach

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The intrigue that followed a chance meeting with Oscar Wilde in 1882

A young girl whom Oscar Wilde met on vacation in 1882 became the lover of Wilde’s future niece and also had an affair with Wilde’s own lover’s future wife.

Confused? Then read on.

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Sam Ward, also seated in the above illustration.

It all began when Sam Ward, the author, gourmand and political lobbyist who had taken Wilde under his wing in America, invited him to Long Beach, the seaside resort on Long Island, New York.

After the holiday, on July 31, 1882, Ward wrote to his niece Maud Howe [1]:

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Conspicuous (Even By His Absence)

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Oscar Wilde could be found almost everywhere in 1882

This phenomenon has been well-documented, most recently in David Friedman’s Wilde in America (2014) which portrays Wilde as being so intent upon fame that he had a strategy for achieving it—a view with much validity.

Whatever Wilde’s personal strategy was, however, he was compounded in the effort by his own tour publicity, the popularity of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience and its burlesques, and a general curiosity of the people to see him. As a result, one might wonder whether it is possible to be too ubiquitous.

Take the world of advertising.

Wilde was so famous on his American tour that his name was used by advertisers to generate media exposure for products with which he had no connection.

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More on Boys’ Names

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The source of Oscar Wilde’s pun on Ernest/Earnest

In an earlier article I tried to show that in John Gambril Nicholson’s verse Of Boys’ Names (Wilde’s putative source of the Ernest/Earnest pun) there are other boys’ names with Wildean parallels.

Research now leads me to a further connection.

In a back issue of The Book Collector (Summer, 1978), there is chapter about Nicholson’s 1892 Love in Earnest: Sonnets, Ballades, and Lyrics (the anthology  that includes the poem in question).

Continue reading More on Boys’ Names

Frankel and Earnest (and other boys’ names)

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Nicholas Frankel’s scholarly edition of The Annotated Importance of Being Earnest

I am fascinated by the editorial introduction and inter-leaf annotations in Nicholas Frankel’s new scholarly edition of The Annotated Importance of Being Earnest [1]. The publisher, Harvard University Press, tells us that Frankel’s running commentary, “ties the play closely to Wilde’s personal life and sexual identity, illuminating literary, biographical, and historical allusions.”

Quite right. The book include not only insights into Wilde’s meaning, but also information about the chronology of Wilde’s textual changes, some of which were made four years after the play was first staged. All this is quite revelatory for those who, like me, appreciate the research that must have gone into it. Or, put another way, it’s the kind of thing you’ll like if you like that kind of thing.

However, this article is not a book review. I have something revelatory of my own.

Continue reading Frankel and Earnest (and other boys’ names)

“Oscar” the Opera | The Art Of Darkness

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Oscar, the opera in Philadelphia

The last time Oscar Wilde visited Philadelphia it was to promote an opera. That was during a lecture tour of America in 1882 when a required part of his raison d’être was to be the poster-boy for Gilbert & Sullivan’s latest offering Patience—a comic opera whose purpose was to ridicule the adherents of the Aesthetic Movement. Not that it mattered to Oscar Wilde that he was the movement’s leading representative and the person most closely identified with the ridicule. He always knew he would outlive the mob mentality, and it is an ironic measure of the wisdom of Wilde’s indifference that he has triumphantly returned to Philadelphia as the subject of an opera himself. The question now is: if Oscar the man was indifferent to Patience, would he have had any patience for Oscar the opera?

Continue reading “Oscar” the Opera | The Art Of Darkness

The Portrait of Mr WHYY

rt_header3Following my appearance on the truncated piece about Wilde on WHYY TV’s Articulate with Jim Cotter (they decided against the planned full show on Oscar, but that’s television), I appeared today on Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane, WHYY’s flagship radio interview program that examines local & national news, current trends, and ideas.

I was a guest along with famed countertenor DAVID DANIELS, who plays the Oscar Wilde in the opera Oscar, and the composer  THEO MORRISON, to talk about Wilde and his imprisonment, which is the main theme of the opera.

You can listen to the show here

Not related:
Oscar Wilde’s story: The Portrait of Mr. W. H.