The Definitive Resource Of Oscar Wilde's Visits To America

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San Francisco


Platt's Hall

Wednesday, April 5, 1882

Irish Poets And Poetry Of The Nineteenth Century 


Newspaper report

San Francisco Chronicle, April 6, 1882, 3

* As San Francisco was the only city in which Wilde lectured four times, this is the only time he gave this lecture.

Newspaper Advertisement

Daily Alta California, April 2, 1882

Background to the lecture

San Francisco was the only city in America where Wilde lectured four times. Because of this he needed an additional lecture to add to the three he was already giving, which were: The English Renaissance, its successor The Decorative Arts, and The House Beautiful.


[See Lecture Titles for the development of Wilde's lecture topics].

Wilde chose as his subject Irish Poets and Poetry of the Nineteenth Century, an idea he had hinted at on St.Patrick's Day in St.Paul, where he made a rare expression of Irish nationalist sentiment. On that occasion Wilde was called upon to give only an impromptu speech, and he talked in general terms about Irish achievement and how the English occupation had arrested, but not dimmed, the development of Irish art.

In San Francisco, he created this full lecture, but focused on an aspect of the arts closer to his (and his mother's) heart and knowledge: Nineteenth Century Irish poetry.

Lecture content

Wilde began his lecture by noting how the English conquest had destroyed the development of art in Ireland (cf. his speech in St. Paul), but he reassured his listeners that the Celtic spirit could not die. It was, he said, the stuff of legends and romance, and a basis for politics and liberty.

For his generalizations on style and rhyme, and occasionally for his selections, Wilde relied heavily on Matthew Arnold's six-part essay On the study of Celtic literature (1867). Indeed, he quotes Arnold directly on MacPherson's Ossian.

For the record, Wilde illustrated his talk by mentioning or reading from, the following Irish poets, many of whom were nationalists:

Joseph Michael Barry (1817—1889)

Thomas Osborne Davis (1814—1845)

Aubrey Thomas Hunt De Vere (1814—1902)

Sir Charles Gavan Duffy (1816—1903)

Sir Samuel Ferguson (1810—1886)

Oliver Goldsmith (1728?—1774)

Gerald Griffin (1803—1840)

Denis Florence MacCarthy (1817—1882)

James Clarence Mangan (1803—1849)

Thomas D'Arcy McGee (1825—1868)

John Mitchel (1815—1875)

Thomas Moore (1779—1852)

Daniel O'Connell (1849—1899)

John Boyle O'Reilly (1844—1890)

Fr. Abram Joseph Ryan (1838—1886)

John Savage (1828—1888)

Speranza, Jane Francesca Elgee, Wilde's mother (1821—1896)

John Francis Waller (1810—1894)

Richard D'Alton Williams (1822—1862)


Platt's Hall

216 Montgomery Street, east side, just north of Bush Street, San Francisco, CA

Opened: August 6, 1860 (Henry B. Platt, contractor and proprietor)

Demolished: 1890


Wilde's base while in the Bay Area was The Palace Hotel in San Francisco.

Oscar Wilde In America | © John Cooper, 2024