New Sarony Photograph Identified
A rarely seen image of Oscar Wilde has recently been added to the series of photographs taken by Napoleon Sarony on January 5th, 1882.
Its rarity is evidenced by the fact that it does not appear to have been been published in any publicly available print medium to date, nor anywhere else previously online.
However, a proof print of it has lain dormant in the extensive Wilde holdings of the Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin—in the James McNeill Whistler collection to be precise—and their copy might be the only extant print.
Let us see how this photograph re-emerged and how it affects the total count of known Sarony images of Oscar Wilde, let’s start the ball rolling.
Continue reading Sarony 3A
In a recent post I railed somewhat about the use of primary sources.
Well sources don’t come any more primary than the recent discoveries of Wildeana that were made at the Free Library of Philadelphia prior to the Oscar Wilde season early this year.
Continue reading Salomé
Contemporaneous. Documented. Reliable.
Personal testimony in chronicles and memoirs has forever been the basis of recorded history. Like the legal status of eye-witness testimony, accounts created during living memory have an immediacy that often frees them of taint or nuance. Not all of it is reliable, of course, so researchers should evaluate the source, the subject, and the period before the facts. And we shall get to that.
But first we need to address the inadmissible, principally the hearsay of second-hand material which is often less well defined, and less reliable. Take Columbus, for instance. And before you think this a characteristic segue into Ellmann getting the date wrong for Oscar Wilde’s lecture in Columbus, Ohio, it isn’t—although he did. I mean that yesterday was Columbus Day here in the United States, and on the subject of unreliability I am reminded of Washington Irving‘s supposed history of Christopher Columbus’ first visit to the Americas. For it was Irving who popularized the myth that Columbus set sail thinking he would fall off the edge of the world, when, in reality, the intrepid Italian knew all along about the earth’s curvature—he just miscalculated the circumference. Read Darin Hayton’s salutary article on Irving’s fabrication.
Almost as damaging as intentionally false history is unintentionally false biography. Because all too often new biography is simply an echo chamber of old biography, in which successive viewpoints grow increasingly redundant and incoherent.
Such historiography may have been acceptable, or at least accepted, in the days when collective knowledge was indistinguishable from reflective guesswork. But in an age of digital access to archival newspapers, journals, records, and books, there is no longer any excuse for apocryphal scholarship, and nowhere is this discipline more acutely needed than in the study of Oscar Wilde.
Continue reading Primary Sources
Literary Metaphor at the Oscar Wilde Festival in Galway
Focused though I am on Oscar Wilde In America, I like to keep an eye on the bigger picture. However, I know that to see the brushstrokes up close it is sometimes necessary to depart from topical and geographical constraints and visit the works themselves.
So last weekend I attended the Oscar Wilde Festival in Galway, Ireland, where I discovered part of the canvas rendered in two books with contrasting techniques.
Continue reading Useful Editions