Sarony photograph #19 must have been a favorite of Wilde’s as it is almost certainly the one he was referring to when, in March 1882, he wrote to his tour promoter, Richard D’Oyly Carte, to suggest that a lithograph of himself would help business. He said: “The photograph of me with head looking over my shoulder would be the best – just the head and fur collar.”
It is not surprising, therefore, that one occasionally sees this photograph signed by Wilde as a gift for friends, and two such examples can be seen in the footnotes.
However, a third example, featured above, is of more interest because it is inscribed: “pour mon ami, Carroll Beckwith” which, even for most Wilde scholars, invites two questions: who was Carroll Beckwith, and why is Wilde’s inscription in French?
A.A. Milne and Z.Z. Top are not just at the opposite ends of the 20th century’s cultural and chronological spectrum, they are also polar examples of another kind.
I mean, of course, in the alphabetical use of two initials as a form of nomenclature, which, as a device, often makes for a memorable moniker. Oscar Wilde, in his time, knew a few characters thus named, including two of the most celebrated: W. B. Yeats and H. G. Wells.
However, on this day I should like to focus on two similarly styled, but lesser known, artists in the Wilde story, for they share a bond more profound than the form of their familiar names: I refer to F. D. Millet and W.T. Stead.
F. D. MILLET
Francis Davis Millet was an American painter, sculptor, and writer with whom Wilde became acquainted quite early on in his American lecture tour of 1882.
On January 11 that year Millet was invited to a reception given for Wilde at the Dress Association on W. 23rd St., hosted by the proprietor of that cooperative enterprise, the journalist and actress, Kate Field. Also present were the actress Clara Morris, E.C. Stedman, and other artists and painters including Elihu Vedder.