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.
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”.
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 . 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.
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?
Following 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.