Oscar Wilde In America


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

New Orleans

Louisiana


Grand Opera House

Friday, June 16, 1882


The Decorative Arts

Verification

Newspaper report

The Daily Picayune, (New Orleans, LA), June 17, 1882, 3


Newspaper advertisement

The Daily Picayune (New Orleans, LA), June 10, 1882, 1


Venue


Grand Opera House

Canal Street, New Orleans, LA (now the low-rise part of the Ritz Carlton, site of the former S.H. Kress & Co.)


Built: 1871 (as the 3rd Varieties Theatre)*

Renamed: 1881 (Grand Opera House)

Seating capacity: 2052

Demolished: 1906


* Built on the site two previous theatres destroyed by fire: The Varieties (1849-54) and The Gaiety (1855-70).

Accommodation


St. Charles Hotel *

St. Charles Avenue (between Common and Gravier Streets), New Orleans, LA


Built: 1852

Destroyed (fire): 1894


* The second hotel of this name on the site.


The first St. Charles Hotel designed by James Gallier 1835 and completed in 1837 was a similar Corinthian design but with a dome. It was destroyed by fire in 1851.The third "New St. Charles" was demolished in 1974.


Related: Old New Orleans

Ephemera


Public Ledger, June 17, 1882

The Daily Picayune (New Orleans, LA), June 8, 1882, 1

 MARY ASHLEY TOWNSEND


During his stay in New Orleans, Wilde accepted several invitations from commercial clubs and polite society. But he also took time out to call upon Mary Ashley Townsend ("Xariffa"), a critically acclaimed poet of the South. Wilde visited her at her residence and spoke in praise of her work and charming hospitality.


Below is an example of her New Orleans metaphor.


Down the Bayou


The cypress swamp around me wraps its spell,

With hushing sounds in moss-hung branches there,

Like congregations rustling down to prayer,

While Solitude, like some unsounded bell,

Hangs full of secrets that it cannot tell,

And leafy litanies on the humid air

Intone themselves, and on the tree-trunks bare

The scarlet lichen writes her rubrics well.

The cypress-knees take on them marvellous shapes

Of pygmy nuns, gnomes, goblins, witches, fays,

The vigorous vine the withered gum-tree drapes,

Across the oozy ground the rabbit plays,

The moccasin to jungle depths escapes,

And through the gloom the wild deer shyly gaze.


Distaff and Spindle: Sonnets, Lippincott, 1895

MARY ASHLEY TOWNSEND

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Oscar Wilde In America | © John Cooper, 2020