Début du siècle

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Memorabilia of Oscar Wilde’s Friends From World War I

Oscar Wilde, essential figure of the fin de siècle though he was, joked with Robert Ross that he would not outlive it. Oscar, who was usually right about everything, wasn’t far wrong: he died in November 1900.

He left behind friends who were to belong to a new movement, an artistic circle I might call the début du siècle, who inherited a world of change that was soon to become a world at war.

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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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