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.

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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.

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Cowboys and Indians

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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:

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By the time Wilde arrived in Omaha in March 1882, the geography of his American adventure had started to take shape.

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Identity Crisis | Book Review: Declaring His Genius

Book Review: Declaring His Genius, Oscar Wilde In North America, by Roy Morris, Jr.

morris-coverBY 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.

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Oscar Wilde’s Pony Tale

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Today is April 14, but what has it to do with Oscar Wilde, St Joseph, and the Pony Express?

April 14 is noted in history for the assassination of Abraham Lincoln as well as the sinking of the Titanic, however, the Google Doodle for today celebrates the 155th anniversary of the first Pony Express rider, whose journey to the west coast originated in St. Joseph, MO.  Google must know best because its choice for the day means we can cue Oscar Wilde.

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Oscar Wilde on Irish Poets

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Oscar Wilde’s lecture in San Francisco on Irish Poets

On this day in 1882 [1] at Platt’s Hall, Oscar Wilde delivered the ninth of ten consecutive lectures in California, and his fourth and last in San Francisco.

As San Francisco was the only city in America where Wilde lectured four times, he needed an additional lecture to add to the three he was already giving, which were: The English Renaissance, its successor The Decorative Arts, and The House Beautiful.

[See Lecture Titles for the development of Wilde’s lecture topics].

Wilde chose as his subject Irish Poets and Poetry of the Nineteenth Century (referred to in some texts as The Irish Poets of ’48), an idea he had hinted at on St.Patrick’s Day in St.Paul, where he made a rare expression of Irish nationalist sentiment.

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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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