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Oscar Wilde In America

a selected resource of oscar wilde's visits to america

New Orleans, LA

The Decorative Arts | Grand Opera House | Friday, June 16, 1882

Wilde's first lecture in New Orleans.



Newspaper Report

The Daily Picayune (New Orleans, LA), June 17, 1882, 3



Newspaper Advertisement

The Daily Picayune (New Orleans, LA), June 10, 1882, 1



Public Ledger, June 17, 1882


Newspaper Notice

The Daily Picayune (New Orleans, LA), June 8, 1882, 1


historical note

Grand Opera House
Canal Street, New Orleans, LA (now the low-rise part of the Ritz Carlton, site of the former S.H. Kress & Co.)

Built: 1871 (as the 3rd Varieties Theatre)*
Renamed: 1881 (Grand Opera House)
Seating: 2052
Destroyed: 1906


* Built on the site two previous theatres destroyed by fire: The Varieties (1849-54) and The Gaiety (1855-70).


St. Charles Hotel *
St. Charles Avenue (between Common and Gravier Streets), New Orleans, LA

Built: 1852
Destroyed (fire): 1894



* The second hotel of this name on the site.

The first St. Charles Hotel designed by James Gallier 1835 and completed in 1837 was a similar Corinthian design but with a dome. It was destroyed by fire in 1851.The third "New St. Charles" was demolished in 1974.

Related: Old New Orleans

Mary Ashley Townsend


During his stay in New Orleans, Wilde accepted several invitations from commercial clubs and polite society. But he also took time out to call upon Mary Ashley Townsend ("Xariffa"), a critically acclaimed poet of the South. Wilde visited her at her residence and spoke in praise of her work and charming hospitality.

Below is an example of her New Orleans metaphor.

Down the Bayou

The cypress swamp around me wraps its spell,
With hushing sounds in moss-hung branches there,
Like congregations rustling down to prayer,
While Solitude, like some unsounded bell,
Hangs full of secrets that it cannot tell,
And leafy litanies on the humid air
Intone themselves, and on the tree-trunks bare
The scarlet lichen writes her rubrics well.
The cypress-knees take on them marvellous shapes
Of pygmy nuns, gnomes, goblins, witches, fays,
The vigorous vine the withered gum-tree drapes,
Across the oozy ground the rabbit plays,
The moccasin to jungle depths escapes,
And through the gloom the wild deer shyly gaze.

Distaff and Spindle: Sonnets, Lippincott, 1895

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