People are sometimes surprised to learn that early in his career Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), the poet, playwright and wit famous for his flamboyant and ultimately dramatic life in London and Paris, made two visits to America.
Further, that each of these visits was important variously in informing his personal development, works, and legacy.
Oscar Wilde's first visit to 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 140 lectures. The itinerary of this formative lecture tour has never been precisely compiled—there have been several major previously published versions but none agrees with any other. A major focus of this web site is to provide a definitive itinerary of the lecture tour using modern methods of archival research.
It was also shortly after his arrival in New York that photographs of Wilde were 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 the photographs are displayed in one place. Here you can learn about each of the photographs, including one which, in keeping with Wilde's desire for making an impression, 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.
This web site is almost entirely informed by original research.
Pre-tour cartoons of Wilde as aesthetic, and even in this case androgynous, helped to established a curiosity to see him.
Find out where Oscar first said that fashion is merely a form of ugliness so unbearable that we have to alter it every six months.
Discover the storied history of the ship on which Oscar Wilde first sailed to America.
A fragment of Wilde's manuscript notes for his first lecture: The English Renaissance.
This web site was created by John Cooper based on 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 in America.
The entire project was created without funding, and is freely provided and noncommercial.
Oscar Wilde, 1883