The summer game is upon us with the reminder that in Oscar Wilde’s earliest surviving letter, as well as in his final poem, there is mention of cricket.
In 1868, Oscar Wilde proudly wrote to his Mother that his school had beaten the visiting 27th Regiment at cricket by 70 runs . Thirty years later, at the other end of his writing career, the initial description Wilde gives us of Charles Thomas Wooldrige, the tragic dedicatee of The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), is that a cricket cap was on his head.
What, you may ask, do these bookends portend? Well, precisely nothing.
It shows Oscar in a quite demure pose as if he had something to hide. But fear not, he is exposed only below the knee.
Wilde’s long hair and knee-breeches excited many a soirée in 1882, prompting one commentator to note that Oscar “pants” after a certain celebrity, but that he should make it two because a pair of pants is something he obviously needs.
Advertisers, too, had Wilde’s trousers in mind. This example uses an image of a long-haired Oscar and the slogan Pants Down Again—presumably the price. What advertisers did not realise was that Oscar would soon take the slogan literally.
When he returned to America in 1883, he reversed the trend. Instead of long hair and short pants, Oscar confounded observers by wearing his hair short and his pants long. His Neronian coiffure was certainly a radical change; but while the hair was now up, it would seem the pants were down once again.