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.
Today is the birthday of a famous Irishman and, lest I insult your knowledge, I should quickly add that I do not refer to this young chap above—Wildeans need no reminding that Oscar celebrates his birthday today, October 16th.
Consider instead a curiosity about this date in Irish lore.
It was time for the press screening of The Happy Prince, Rupert Everett’s new bio-pic of Oscar Wilde’s post-parting prison depression, to be shown at the headquarters of Sony Pictures in New York ahead of its general release in the U.S. later this month.
I was becoming excited, and as I would be coming a long way, I decided to prepare in a manner becoming the movie.
Oscar Wilde was 27 years of age when left England for America on board the S.S. Arizona. By the time he reached New York eight days later he was 26—this being the age he insisted upon in press interviews. 
A simple mistake for anyone to make who was awful at arithmetic or a victim to vanity; but it takes a declared genius to incorporate the error years later into his works, as we shall see.
Here are Oscar and Bosie in May 1893 at the studio of photographers Gillman & Co. of Oxford, whose establishment was at 107 St Aldate’s Street. That location today, to set a tone of bathos, is a Ladbrokes Off Track Betting Shop.
This well known picture captures the boys relaxed and smoking, distant even—apparently between arguments. But upon inspection you’ll see that, in keeping with their lives, all was not as it seems.
It has long been assumed that all of the 1882 photographs of Oscar Wilde by Napoleon Sarony were taken during the same visit to his studio. Indeed, in all of Wilde studies there does not appear to be any record of an assertion to the contrary.
However, there is a convincing case to be made that the LAST FOUR photographs were taken at a later date.
When Oscar Wilde had this photograph taken by Napoleon Sarony in 1882, not only was he standing against the same wall that Sarah Bernhardt had stood against—but he was standing in EXACTLY the same spot.
It was a typescript of the (originally) unpublished portions of Wilde’s passive-aggressive prison masterpiece De Profundis.
It was prepared by Wilde’s literary executor, Robert Ross, for use in the 1913 trial when Lord Alfred Douglas (Oscar’s lover Bosie) sued a young Arthur Ransome for having the temerity to imply that a person he didn’t name just might have had a hand in Wilde’s downfall.
Not My Type
I politely declined to purchase the typescript, thinking it belonged much more appropriately within the hands (and budgetary means) of a public institution where visitors could see it.
Now, thanks to the power of the digital medium, everybody can see it.