People are sometimes surprised to learn that early in his career Oscar Wilde (1854—1900), the poet, playwright, and wit famous for his flamboyant, dramatic, and ultimately tragic life in London and Paris, made two visits to America and Canada.
Further, that each of these visits was important variously in informing his personal development, works, and legacy.
Oscar Wilde's first visit to North America was for the entire year of 1882, during which time he conducting a lecture tour across the continent, including two tours of Canada, in which he undertook some 141 lectures. The itinerary of this formative lecture tour has never before been precisely compiled—there have been several major previously published versions but none agrees with any other, and all contain inaccuracies. It is a major focus of this web site to provide a definitive itinerary of the lecture tour utilizing modern methods of archival research.
It was also shortly after his arrival in New York that Wilde had a series of photographs taken that have come to define the image we have of him today. This web site is the only repository in book form or online where all of those photographs are displayed in one place. Here you can learn about each of the photographs, including the famous Number 18 which was instrumental in establishing the U.S. law of copyright for photographs.
There have been countless thousands of performances of Wilde's plays worldwide in the last 130 years. But it is an under-appreciated fact that the first ever production of an Oscar Wilde play was in New York many years before his great success on the London stage. In August 1883 Wilde's early, and unsuccessful, play Vera; or, The Nihilists was staged—and Wilde made a second visit to America for a month to oversee the production. This web site examines the background to the play.
In the world of Wilde scholarship there exists much historical information relating to his time in America: works, ephemera, photographs, quotations, interviews, and more are collected on this web site.
This project is entirely informed by original research.
Oscar Wilde meets Walt Whitman at his home in Camden, New Jersey.
The city where Wilde’s 1882 lecture hall and hotel are still standing..
An illustrated tour of Wilde’s American tour in 32 features.
A new addition to the Sarony series of photographs of Oscar Wilde rarely seen.
This web site was created by John Cooper based on over 30 years of private study and countless hours in libraries and online since 2002. He is solely responsible for all original research, writing, editing, and web design.
The site has been used by scholars, institutions, and the media around the world and is the largest online resource on the life and times of Oscar Wilde.
The entire project was created without funding, and is freely provided and noncommercial.
Oscar Wilde, 1883