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.
Apologies for the hiatus from writing articles for this blog while I took time out to attend to two parallel projects.
First is my historical archive which was in need of an update to latest web standards and to address improvements to usability. Click on this link to Oscar Wilde In America to visit the new site.
Also the interim I contributed a major article to the latest edition of the academic journal The Wildean, the flagship publication of the Oscar Wilde Society. The article featured for the time ever in print all known photographs of Oscar Wilde taken by Napoleon Sarony in 1882 and 1883, as well as correcting existing and supplemented much new information about them. You can obtain copies of the journal from the Oscar Wilde Society here.
The signature image of the web site has been W.B. Richmond’s ”Electra at the Tomb of Agamemnon” (1874) shown at the top of this page—a work that Wilde had described in detail in his review of its showing at the Grosvenor Gallery in London .
The painting was the inspiration for a cartoon used as a centerpiece to a fake interview with Wilde in Punch magazine, the purpose of which was to ridicule the Aesthetic Movement that Wilde went to America to espouse. It depicts the Greek goddess Ariadne representing the grief of Aestheticism as she watches Wilde depart aboard the ship Arizona.
The web site upgrade is timely as it comes at conclusion of a ten year project of verifying and documenting Oscar Wilde’s lecture tour, which I shall feature in a separate blog article in the new year.
The twenty-sixth Oscar Wilde Society annual birthday dinner was held on October 13, 2017 at the National Liberal Club in Whitehall — a now familiar home for the Society and its regulars. However, for one delinquent expatriate member it was a first visit to this ‘new’ venue, a fact which prompted the surprised realisation that my previous birthday dinner was almost twenty years ago.
On that distant occasion the dinner was held at the Cadogan Hotel, an experience now so far removed from The National Liberal Club that it might have happened to an invented younger brother. This Wildean idea seemed apt because, if we condense the intervening two decades into the perspective of successive events, the two places emerge as opposite sides of the same coin of the Oscar realm.