Declaring nothing apropos (except astonishment) I send from America footage I recently discovered of Oscar Wilde’s son Vyvyan Holland.
It is in the form of a TV interview alongside Brian Reade, curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, during a segment on the CBS TV arts program Camera Three about a V&A Aubrey Beardsley exhibition which had transferred to New York’s (then-named) Gallery of Modern Art.
The rare TV showing was a opportunity for Vyvyan to rival his more media savvy wife, Dorothy, who had made her latest appearance on American TV earlier in the month discussing fashion on the ABC show Girl Talk.
It provides a chance to see Vyvyan’s unassuming manner as he reveals personal experiences such as shooting moose and witnessing a bedridden bearded Beardsley.
Continue reading Vyvyan Holland
O’Flahertie Will Get You Nowhere
I recall learning the word polyonymous from this Word-a-Day web site—it means having many names. It resonates because I always suspected Oscar of being a confirmed and secret polyonymist, freely dispensing with at least three of his five birth names which he considered too much ballast for the heights he soared, and then changing his name altogether when he came back down to earth.
Continue reading On This Day
When we think of the name Douglas we usually have in mind Oscar’s golden lover-Boysie of that ilk—we do not necessarily conjure up visions of the rugged American screen legend, Kirk Douglas.
But today there are two reasons why we should.
Continue reading Wilde and Douglas (Kirk)
A previously unpublished autograph letter by Oscar Wilde appeared at auction last week in North Carolina.
The item is a note sent by Wilde to Anne Lynch Botta, the 19th century doyenne of New York literary society, in which he expresses regret at not being able to attend a reception owing to his impending departure for Canada.
Aided by the letter’s evident authenticity and the fact that the consignor is a direct family descendant, it sold at auction for $5,500.
Continue reading Missionary Proposition
SAY IT AIN’T SO, ST. JOE.
What a shame. The venue where Oscar Wilde lectured in St. Joseph, Missouri in April 1882, was destroyed by fire on Monday this week.
No longer a theater, it may have been just another empty converted office building symbolic of a Midwest hollowed out by recession, but it was still there. Unlike so many of the Wilde’s lecture venues which were lost to fire in gaslit days, surely, one thought, this building had survived that fate.
But no, and here’s what makes the loss a little more personal.
Just a day earlier I had been discussing which city from Wilde’s lecture tour that I would most like to visit. No kidding. I said St Joseph, Missouri. One reason was that both Wilde’s hotel and lecture theater were extant, and very few cities that can boast that—although there is one fewer now.
Continue reading Wilde Fire
If you have six hours to spare, here is Neil Bartlett reading De Profundis. All of it.
PHILADELPHIA LIBRARY ACQUIRES RARE TYPESCRIPT OF UNPUBLISHED PORTIONS OF WILDE’S “DE PROFUNDIS”
On a balmy Sunday lunchtime last Spring I found myself in the refreshment area of the prestigious New York Antiquarian Book Fair. The ambience and the food were very pleasant, perhaps suspiciously so, which I should have seen as a portent for what I was about to discover had I not been obliviously fitting in.
My café table had an inlaid chessboard and the kindly stranger opposite made the first move. “Are you a dealer or a collector?” he asked, with an air of inevitability that suggested a third alternative had not previously existed. As I was that third alternative I countered with the vague department store defense: “I’m just browsing.” It was a gambit designed to replace the probability of being neither with the possibility of being either.
However, it soon became apparent to me, if not to my new friend, that even the self-imposed rank of ‘browser‘ had wildly overstated my standing as a potential customer.
Continue reading King’s Ransome
Next up in Philadelphia’s Oscar Wilde season is Mickle Street
Mickle Street is a new play about the famous OFOWW/WW meeting of 1882.
As it happens, the encounter between Wilde and Whitman took place not in Mickle Street, but at the home of Walt’s brother, George, in nearby Stevens Street, two years before Whitman purchased the house in Mickle Street that is now a house museum to his memory.
It matters not: the Mickle Street setting gives Walt his own domain and the historically accurate housekeeper integral to the piece. Besides, another reason for forgiving the choice of title is that Mickle Street is not even called Mickle Street any longer. Indeed, one might not be instantly lured into a literary tryst between two gay 19th century poets if Michael Whistler had succumbed to accuracy and called the play “Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard”.
Continue reading Mickle Street: Preview
I was consulted—in an extremely minor way—for this piece on NBC.
Bravo to MSNBC and UK politician David Lammy who takes up Oscar’s courtroom justification.
To accompany the world premiere of the Morrison/Cox opera Oscar in Santa Fe, NM, this adapted excerpt from my book Oscar Wilde On Dress appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican’s arts magazine Pasatiempo.
For more on Wilde and dress see: