The State of the Sunflowers

strike-me-sunflowerOscar 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

The New Jersey Turnpike

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

St. Patrick’s Day 1882

clover detail


“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

Convention Bending

caucus race.jpg

Iowa Focus

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

I Can Wait

Lotos Club New York.jpg

Oscar Wilde’s After-Dinner Rebuke to his Press Critics

Yesterday was December 27th, the date on which Oscar Wilde set sail from New York to conclude his 12-months stay in America.

So as the year ends, it seems appropriate to examine how Oscar might have reflected on his lecture tour, no doubt weighing the risk he had taken with his literary reputation for the sake of financial gain. In particular, to what extent the  ridicule of the press affected his personal appraisal of the tour.

Continue reading I Can Wait

Lincoln and the Adult Novelty Store

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.

lincoln-ass

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

Cowboys and Indians

boyds1882a

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:

text

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