The Definitive Resource Of Oscar Wilde's Visits To America

The New Jersey Shore

—Verifications and Accommodation—

Unlike most tour stops which have their own pages, the New Jersey shore lectures (like his tour of the Catskills) are listed here as a group. 

This is not merely because they are geographically connected, but also because Wilde, as he traveled around the resorts and points of interest, was often in various places on the same day. Further, it is difficult to be definitive about  Wilde’s whereabouts during the Summer months when his movements were less well recorded, and sometimes inaccurately. Typically, however, he resided at the hotels in which he lectured. 

Planned Tour Dates?

The above itinerary of Wilde lectures along the Jersey Shore  was published on August 20th, 1882 and carries the imprimatur of Wilde’s tour sponsor Richard D’Oyly Carte. So in both authority and proximity to events one would expect the itinerary to be accurate. However, doubt exists about two of them owing to a lack of primary sources to verify the events. One, in Spring Lake, probably did not take place; and one other, at Ocean Beach, was probably changed in favor of Atlantic City. See details below.

Verification of date. 

The Times (Philadelphia, PA), Aug 22, 1882, 4 

Sea Bright

Octagon Hotel

Monday, August 21, 1882

Newspaper report

Red Bank Register, August 30, 1882

“Oscar Wilde recently lectured at Sea-bright, and according to the Sentinel, he was very dreary and uninteresting putting many of his audience to sleep.”

Long Branch

West End Hotel

Tuesday, August 22, 1882

Newspaper reports

The New York Herald, August 23, 1882, 10

The Boston Globe, August 23, 1882, 1

Wilde lectured in the evening to 400 people, mostly ladies in the dining hall of the hotel while music played in the nearby parlors.

Wilde may not have stayed at the hotel as he was guest of Alexander Henderson of the Standard Theatre, New York, where Patience , the opera ridiculing Wilde and his type, was playing.

The Times (Philadelphia, PA), Aug 24, 1882

Wood County Reporter (Grand Rapids, WI), Sep 7, 1882, 4

Spring Lake?

Monmouth House

Wednesday, August 23, 1882

Probably Did Not Take Place

Wilde’s published itinerary (above) includes a lecture at Spring Lake, but no record has yet been found that it actually took place. The Spring Lake lecture was one of four or five at nearby resorts arranged on consecutive days and so may not have sold well.

It is also possible that Wilde declined the event. Reports exist to the effect that Wilde, “who was to lecture” failed to appear on the beach as announced, and his absence led some local boys to hang (by the arm-pits) an effigy of Oscar from a flagpole, complete with corset, sunflower, knee-breeches and Japanese parasol. The readiness of such a likeness suggests a preparedness for ridicule that Wilde might have heard about it, and this could explain why he failed to appear. This would also be in keeping with similar avoidance tactics for his lecture the following day in Asbury Park, where it was reported that he “made himself scarce during the day” to evade curiosity seekers, and, similarly at Cape May he entered his hotel via a side door. 

When departing the Jersey Shore at Cape May he told an abusive crowd at the station that they did not know how to behave. (See under Cape May below).

Asbury Park

Coleman House

Thursday, August 24, 1882

Newspaper article

Camden Daily Courier, September 2, 1882, 1

Atlantic City


Friday, August 25, 1882

Wilde’s movements between August 23-25 remain sketchy so care must be taken when citing lectures on these days.

Wilde’s published itinerary has him on August 25 at Columbia House in Ocean Beach. However, as with the Spring Lake lecture (above) this was one of four or five at nearby resorts arranged on consecutive days and so may not have sold well. The Ocean Beach lecture might have been abandoned in favor of Atlantic City, where a lecture is indicated.

Indication only (opposite)

The Democratic Advocate, August 26, 1882, 2

Reminiscence (opposite)

Here Wilde’s tour manager, Colonel W. M. Morse recalls accompanying Wilde on a lecture in Atlantic City.

The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde: Together with Essays and Stories by Lady Wilde, Volume 15: Oscar Wilde, his life, with a critical estimate of his writers, ch. IV American Lectures. (Aldine, 1910)

Cape May

Stockton Hotel

Saturday, August 26, 1882

Newspaper report

The New York World, August 19, 1882, 3

The Times (Philadelphia, PA), August 27, 1882, 1

Wilde lectured in the dining room of the Stockton Hotel, not at Congress Hall as reported elsewhere.

The following morning Wilde left by train to Philadelphia, where he dined at the Bingham House, before traveling onwards to New York and Saratoga.

Below: West Jersey Railroad Depot, Cape May.

Oscar Wilde In America | © John Cooper, 2024