False Bottom

Here we see an illustration and a photograph of Oscar Wilde in the same pose.

In a recent post I drew attention to the photograph (which is from the collections of the Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin), as it has recently taken its place among the list of known Sarony photographs of Oscar Wilde.

The reason for the photograph’s belated addition to the canon is that it does not appear to have been previously published, nor was there any digital example online—so it is true to say that it had never been widely, if at all, circulated.

And yet, its existence should not come as a complete surprise to Wilde scholars. To understand why, we must consider the part played by the corresponding illustration.

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A Scene at Long Beach

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The intrigue that followed a chance meeting with Oscar Wilde in 1882

A young girl whom Oscar Wilde met on vacation in 1882 became the lover of Wilde’s future niece and also had an affair with Wilde’s own lover’s future wife.

Confused? Then read on.

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Sam Ward, also seated in the above illustration.

It all began when Sam Ward, the author, gourmand and political lobbyist who had taken Wilde under his wing in America, invited him to Long Beach, the seaside resort on Long Island, New York.

After the holiday, on July 31, 1882, Ward wrote to his niece Maud Howe [1]:

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