Oscar Wilde In America


DETAiled verification of Oscar Wilde’s lecture tour of North America

Lincoln

Nebraska


University Hall

Monday, April 24, 1882 

(Morning)

Address To Students

Verification


Newspaper reports

The Weekly Nebraska State Journal, April 28, 1882, 8

Chicago Daily Tribune, April 25, 1882, 7


A short, impromptu talk, not advertised nor scheduled. It qualifies as a formal lecture owing to its setting and didactic content.

Venue


University Hall

11th and R Streets, Lincoln, NE now 920, O Street, Lincoln, NE


Built: 1869—1871

First class: September 1871

Premises: At the time of Wilde's visit, University Hall was the first and then still only building of the State University. It housed administration, a recitation hall, student classes, a boys' dormitory, the library, and a chapel (where Wilde gave his address).

Declared unsafe: 1925, after years of concern. That year the top two stories were removed.

Last class: May 21, 1948

Demolished: 1948


Source:

Nebraska-U, A Collaborative History

HISTORICAL IMAGES OF THE STATE UNIVERSITY BUILDING


Picture credit: Archive Images of Lincoln Nebraska

‍THE SORROW OF SOME COMMON PRISONER


‍Oscar Unknowingly Glimpses His Future


‍After his visit to the University, Wilde was taken to the state penitentiary and asylum across town.


‍He wrote to Helena Sickert about the visit the following day from his next lecture stop in Fremont, NE. In the letter, Wilde reported the whitewashed cells, hideous dress and manual labor of the prisoners, unknowingly presaging the circumstances of his own incarceration years later in Reading Gaol, where Wilde also was to fear for his sanity.


‍In prison, Wilde had requested reading matter including the works of Dante. which he read in full. One observation in his letter about the Lincoln penitentiary strikingly anticipated his own future experience in Reading Gaol; he wrote:  


‍In one [cell] I found a translation of Dante, and a Shelley.  Strange and beautiful it seemed to me that the sorrow of a single Florentine in exile should, hundreds of years afterwards, lighten the sorrow of some common prisoner in a modern gaol.

‍(Letters, p. 165)

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Oscar Wilde In America | © John Cooper, 2020