Oscar Wilde In America


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

Racine

Wisconsin


(Old) Belle City Opera House

Saturday, March 4, 1882


The Decorative Arts

Verification

Newspaper reports

Chicago Tribune, March 6, 1882, 2

Chicago Tribune, March 7, 1882, 4

The Record-Union, (Sacramento, CA), March 6, 1882, 2


Wilde was in the middle of eleven consecutive days lecturing in eleven different cities. He was annoyed that the wrong lecture title was being advertised—and this together with the smaller towns he was visiting meant that audiences were much reduced. 


He was also becoming physically tired. 


On March 1 he cut short his lecture to a small audience in Dubuque, IA. On March 2 he lectured again to a "comparatively small audience" in Rockford, IL, and on March 3 he lectured again in Aurora, IL.


Wisconsin was the third state he had visited that week, and for this lecture on March 4 in Racine, he broke down before a small and unappreciative audience saying he was exhausted and unable to read his manuscript. 


It was nights like this that prompted Wilde around this time to write to his manager Col. W. F. Morse (Complete Letters, 146) in which he referred to the 'fiasco of the last ten days' and pleaded for a return to larger cities 'instead of wearing my voice and body to death over wretched houses here.'


Venue


Belle City Hall 

436-438 Main Street (second floor), Racine, WI


Built: c. 1868

Declined: 1882, with the opening of Blake Opera House

Converted: 1883, to offices of the Racine Journal 


Some confusion exists about whether this venue was also known as Opera House, or Belle City Opera House (possibly to give the Hall more prestige), but it is not to be confused with the later Belle City Opera House (built 1890 later the Rex) nor the Blake Opera House built in 1882, destroyed by fire two years later.

Accommodation


There is some confusion about whether Wilde traveled after the lecture to his next stop in Milwaukee or stayed overnight in Racine. 


An interview with Wilde appeared in the Milwaukee Sentinel the next morning ostensibly carried out at his Milwaukee hotel the previous evening, suggesting that Wilde had traveled to Milwaukee by a late train. However, this “interview” was largely fabricated being clearly plagiarized from other press interviews. The likelihood is that Wilde probably did stay overnight in Racine, leaving for Milwaukee on Sunday morning by 11:15 AM train as reported in the Racine Daily Journal the next day March 6, 1882.

Recommended reading:

Ebook cover Oscar Wilde On Dress  by John Cooper
Oscar Wilde On Dress hardback cover by John Cooper
Ebook cover Oscar Wilde On Dress  by John Cooper
Ebook cover Oscar Wilde On Dress  by John Cooper
Ebook cover Oscar Wilde On Dress  by John Cooper

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