—ANOTHER DISCOVERED LECTURE—
In verifying Oscar Wilde’s tour of America, one occasionally come across previously unrecorded lectures, such as the ones at the seaside resort of Narragansett Pier, RI, a second talk given by Wilde in Saratoga Springs, and another he gave for the YMCA in Yorkville, New York City .
This last lecture in New York redefined what biographers thought had been Wilde’s final lecture in North America at St. John, in New Brunswick, Canada.
Now another lecture has emerged which also post-dates Wilde final Canada visit.
Continue reading Bridgeton, NJ
—A Newly Discovered Lecture—
In verifying Oscar Wilde’s 1882 lecture tour of North America, it was prudent to begin with the four published itineraries by Mikhail, Ellmann, Page, and Beckson. 
Unfortunately, none of these chronologies agrees with any other, and each is either incomplete or wrong in various respects—so it has been necessary to make numerous additions and corrections to dates, locations and lecture titles. 
It is a pleasing break to the routine when one discovers something new, such as a previously unrecorded event. Or, rarer still, a previously unknown lecture, as was the case with the redefining of Wilde’s final stop of the tour in New York on November 27, 1882.
Now another new lecture has emerged: it is an appearance by Wilde at Narragansett Pier.
Where is Narragansett Pier?—you might ask.
Continue reading Narragansett Pier
Oscar Wilde’s Reception in Kansas and the Sunflower Soirée.
I recently gave a talk on the subject of Oscar Wilde and the sunflower to the good people of the Maryland Agriculture Resource Council at their Sunflower Soirée, a yearly festival devoted to the Helianthus annuus. Literally, an annual event.
Between you and me, it was a wonderful occasion; but as there was a gloomy weather forecast I choose to focus on the portent to a poignant moment.
Continue reading The State of the Sunflowers
we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream
Bruce Springsteen, Born To Run.
Casual readers might not realize it but behind this blog there lies a project: namely to chronicle Oscar Wilde’s tour of America in a page-by-page detailed verification of more than 140 lecture dates—and in that pursuit, it was time to investigate another such event.
On this occasion I was able to retrace Oscar steps literally, as the venue was Freehold, in my home state of New Jersey—in preparation for which I sought some local inspiration at nearby POI.
Continue reading The New Jersey Turnpike
“A PRIDE I CANNOT PROPERLY ACKNOWLEDGE”
On St. Patrick’s Day 1882, during his lecture tour of north America, Oscar Wilde happened to be in St. Paul, Minnesota.
He had lectured the previous evening at the Opera House on The Decorative Arts, and, on the following evening, he returned to the same venue to attended a St.Patrick’s Day gathering. St. Paul was a city with a large Irish population and the event was one of several held that day to observe the occasion.
Despite inclement weather, the Opera House was full for a series of addresses on an Irish theme interspersed with vocal and instrumental selections. Towards the end of proceedings, Wilde was called upon to say a few impromptu words.
Continue reading St. Patrick’s Day 1882
In Alice in Wonderland there is a “caucus-race” which involves all concerned running around in a circle until eventually everyone is declared the winner.
With this allusion, Lewis Carroll gently satirizes the futility of political processes—which is topical as the US focuses on the US caucuses, which begin today in Iowa.
Continue reading Convention Bending
Oscar Wilde’s After-Dinner Rebuke to his Press Critics
Rewritten in 2019 for the Oscar Wilde Society newsletter. For membership go to: oscarwildesociety.co.uk/membership/
It is pleasing to see that recent Wilde studies continue to highlight the emergent nature of Oscar’s American experience, during which time he nurtured the art of public speaking, conducted his first press interviews, staged his first play, had his iconic photographs taken, and stockpiled—to use an American word—material for his future epigrams and works.
But there is a crucial American beginning for Oscar that has been under-appreciated: I refer to his first brush with literary society. It occurred during an event at 149 Fifth Avenue in New York City, the then home of an organisation of journalists known as the Lotos Club.
Continue reading I Can Wait
As a fellow Wildean I expect you are already suspicious of titular double entendres, so I do not expect the gratuitous title of this article will entice you far. However, lest there be any misunderstanding about the direction of our story, we shall remain in Earnest. And to spare you any possible disappointment, as the flirtatious Gwendolen might say: Honest Abe does not produce any vibrations.
Instead, Lincoln and the Adult Novelty Store, in keeping with the theme of this blog, is a historical detective story about Oscar Wilde, and the title, I assure you, is an ideal headline.
In verifying Wilde’s tour of America I have reached Nebraska.
The first task when examining Wilde’s tour stops is to establish the location for his lectures. In this case, it is the lecture which took place on April 24, 1882 in the city of—I sense you anticipate me—Lincoln, the state capital of Nebraska.
Continue reading Lincoln and the Adult Novelty Store
Lecturing in the midwest, Oscar Wilde meets pioneers and native Americans.
This is Boyd’s Theatre and Opera House in Omaha, Nebraska, as it was when Oscar Wilde lectured there.
If the surroundings look a little unmade (and Oscar complained about the muddy streets) it was to be expected—in 1882 the midwest of America was still a place of frontier development, something that the people of St. Paul ironically accepted:
By the time Wilde arrived in Omaha in March 1882, the geography of his American adventure had started to take shape.
Continue reading Cowboys and Indians
Book Review: Declaring His Genius, Oscar Wilde In North America, by Roy Morris, Jr.
BY JOHN COOPER
Those of us, like Mrs Cheveley, who are fond of calling things by their proper name, would struggle to categorize Declaring His Genius, by Roy Morris, Jr.
Let us start with what it is not. It is not profound enough to be a serious biography of an American Wilde—and, to be fair, it might never have been published if it were. Besides, one would not expect such an approach of a book that asserts that ‘Wilde may well have been a genius—at self promotion, if nothing else’ [my emphasis], which makes one wonder whether the author is convinced enough of Wilde as a thinker or writer to produce a critical study.
But neither is the book what it purports to be, which is an account of Wilde’s time in America—at least not exclusively. This is because the Wilde story Morris gives us is full of holes. By this I am not referring to the wealth of factual errors throughout the text which need only be problematic for the Wilde historian. As such there is no need to dwell on them here, beyond noting that the Introduction signals a disregard for integrity by adhering to remarks that sound ‘like something Wilde would have said’, explaining that the book ‘depends to a certain extent on anecdote, word of mouth, and local legend.’
—[See web site for list of scholarly errata]—
By holes I mean the opportunistic detours the book takes from a rounded theme of Wilde’s American tour which Morris fills with square pegs. The result is a flawed schema that places its protagonist amid an anthology of sometimes tangential, but often downright irrelevant, populist history.
Continue reading Identity Crisis | Book Review: Declaring His Genius