The Definitive Resource Of Oscar Wilde's Visits To America

Something To Live Up To

Cartoon by Thomas Nast.

Cartoon by Thomas Nast 1882

‍ Harper's Bazar, June 10, 1882, p.316

TITLE: Wilde on US. Something to "Live Up" To in America.

Source: Denver Public Library Digital Collections (Western History)

While he was in college at Oxford, Oscar Wilde said he found it difficult to live up to his blue china. 

Any ironic self-effacement in the remark was lost on an English Victorian press who seized upon it to parody Wilde for being effete and over-delicate. Cartoons appeared that showed Wildean figures doting on their porcelain and art work.

By contrast in America, the perception was that Wilde's mission was to civilize a more rugged population, particularly in the West. Thus, the symbols that Thomas Nast chose in this cartoon for Wilde to 'live up to' were the miners' hats and boots that Wilde had admired as being noble, sensible and practical. 

Nast depicts Wilde is in his familiar lecturing garb surrounded by lilies and sunflowers and, of course, with money bulging from his pockets.

The small word below the two sketched houses at the top reads LEADVILLE, which is the city in Colorado where Wilde lectured among silver miners on April 13, 1882.


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