Additions And Corrections To Roy Morris Jr.’s Declaring His Genius: Oscar Wilde In North America (2013)
The following is a listing of additions and corrections to Roy Morris Jr's book on Oscar Wilde in North America Declaring His Genius (2013).
It is intended as a record for people researching Oscar Wilde in America, and, while no criticism of the book is intended, the extent of errata is its own appraisal and the need for correctness warrants the exercise.
* Page numbers and citations are from the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press hardback edition, 2013.
This refers to Wilde's alleged remark at New York Customs that he had nothing to declare but his genius. Morris accepts my research that established the earliest allusion to the remark in 1912, but fails to realize that, despite over a century of Wilde biography, no allusion has been found to exist in print, spoken, or otherwise prior to 1912. So it had not passed into legend at that time.
Celtic culture diversified into Gaels (Irish, Scottish and Manx) and the Brythonic Celts (Welsh, Cornish, and Bretons). The Beatles were from Liverpool in the north-west of England, and, despite the ancestry of two of them, they would not be regarded as Celts.
The appointment was made in 1853 (not 1863), the formal title being Surgeon Occulist in Ordinary to the Queen in Ireland. Morris probably takes the date from Ellmann, not realizing that this is one of the over 1000 addditions and correction to Ellmann Identified by Horst Schroeder.
This is a simplistic reading that falls prey to the anecdotal Wilde. The evidence is that Wilde studied hard to achieve his college distinctions. As Merlin Holland (Wilde’s grandson) has confirmed it took ‘considerable application as his contemporaries later testified and his surviving Oxford notebooks demonstrate’.
Maudlin (or more accurately Maudl’n) is how the name of the college is pronounced. It is not the English way of pronouncing the word in any other sense.
This is a misreading of standard texts on horticulture that were based on The Illustrated Dictionary of Gardening, L. Upcott Gill, 1887, which appears to be the source of the 1862 date. The original text in fact refers only to the Lilium auratum, or golden-ray Lily of Japan, that was first imported that year. Lilies have been known in England since Elizabethan times at least.
The implication is that Wilde adopted this form of dress prior to America, (i.e. before 1882), and thus “played his part” in responding to cartoons of the aesthetes. In fact, Wilde’s aesthetic costume was exclusively adopted for his American experience.
Frank Miles and Oscar were not school friends. Although the two met around the time Wilde was at Oxford, perhaps even at the college, Miles was not a student there. Miles was, in fact, homeschooled, did not attend university, and was already an established portrait painter when he met Wilde.
Patience was not written directly as a parody of Wilde but of the Aesthetes in general. The leading character of the play, with whom Wilde became synonymous after dressing like him for his lecture tour of America, was probably based on an amalgam of Dante Rossetti and Algernon Swinburne.
Morris places Wilde’s famous remark among his activities of 1881; while we do not know when Wilde first created the remark, it did not appear in print until 9 years later.
For the Guier Line read: the Guion Line. See S.S. Arizona.
The British farthing did not have an approximate value as implied. From the word ‘fourthing’, it was a unit of currency precisely one quarter of a penny, If Morris' allusion is intended to be a present day value it is still not correct as its value would be negligible.
The full title of the newspaper was ‘The World : a journal for men and women’. There was no 'London World'.
Sir William and Lady Wilde were not members of the British peerage. A knighthood is a non-hereditary order or decoration and does not confer the nobility of the peerage.
As explained above (q.v. Page 1), the alleged quote (I have nothing to declare except my genius) clearly did not ‘begin making the rounds’ in 1882. There is no evidence of it until 1912 and therefore to say Wilde ‘let it stand’ (i.e. in common currency at the time) is clearly wrong—a misreading of the remark's history.
Morris refers to Churchill as a dignitary at the time when he was only 8 years old.
For Saxony read Sarony. See here.
This is a common misconception, probably beginning with Lewis & Smith. This contemporary account (Philadelphia Press) is probably nearer to the truth:
There is no such place as the London Museum of History. The Monckton Milnes collection of pornography is in the British Library.
Clinton Place was not in the Bronx. There is a street by that name there now, but in 1882 the whole area was still undeveloped. The Clinton Place, where Wilde dined (at the apartments of Sam Ward) in 1882, was the name given to West 8th Street in Greenwich Village. Similarly, 8th Street is still known as St. Mark’s Place east of Third Avenue.
Wilde lectured at Horticultural Hall in Philadelphia but it was not the hall built for the Centennial Exhibition in Fairmount Park. Horticultural Hall was located at 250 South Broad Street, (below Locust), Philadelphia, PA. See the panel HORTICULTURAL HALLS IN PHILADELPHIA on this page for images and clarification.
For clarification, the 'earlier' reception at the home of Robert Stewart Davis took place the evening prior to Wilde's lecture. The assertion that many skipped this reception is a matter of opinion; the Philadelphia Times reported a long list of what it called “a notable company, representative of the intelligence and liberality of the city’s professional life.”
This is not true. The manuscript was among the effects sold at the time of Wilde’s bankruptcy. See Wilde and the Keats Letter.
1) Wilde left Omaha for California on March 22, the day after his lecture there, not on March 24.
2) The Union Pacific Railroad took Wilde only as far as Ogden, UT, where the Overland Route became the Central Pacific Railroad.
3) Wilde terminated his journey at Oakland, CA, not Sacramento.
This is a misunderstanding of the political and psychological make up of the British Isles in Wilde’s time. In the St.Patrick’s Day speech in St. Paul, Wilde did not mention the ‘British”, nor would he; but he did, however, mention the English more than once. For more see St.Patrick's Day 1882.
In 1882, and until the great fire of 1906, the Bohemian Club was located at 430 Pine Street, in San Francisco. Morris is referring the the club's current address, but he also gets that wrong: it is 624 Taylor Street, San Francisco, CA 94102.
Wilde had already left San Francisco by April 8, as he gave a second lecture in Sacramento on that date. It was from Sacramento that Wilde departed for Salt Lake City.
The Titanic voyage was in 1912, therefore 30 years after Wilde’s visit to America, not twenty.
Wilde did not compose The Ballad of Reading Gaol while in prison. It was composed in exile in France in the months following his release from prison. It is also not an ode (quite the opposite); its poetic form is a self-evidently a ballad.
Wilde lectured in Fremont, Nebraska not Fremont, Iowa.
Wilde lectured in Rock Island on April 29. It was his last lecture of the month, but it was not on the last day of April.
For clarification, Williams and Wilde were not contemporaries as this anecdote might imply.
Wilde scholar, JD Murphy, guards against any such inference by noting,: 'if this conjures up images of Wilde and Williams quaffing pints of Bass after the darts tournament in The Mitre pub the reader should consider the fact that Williams graduated from Pembroke College (Wilde was at Magdalen), three years before Wilde was born'.
The Galveston Pavilion was destroyed by fire on the morning of August 1, 1883, over a year after Wilde lectured there, not six weeks.
The inverted commas indicate a verbatim quotation; however, one example to illustrate that Morris' direct quotations may not be verbatim is this passage from The Daily Picayune (the correct title of the newspaper) of July 25, which was quoting the Boston Post:
Should read: Dr. Thomas De Witt Talmage. Repeats Ellmann's original error.
Not true. Wilde’s final lecture on the (Canadian) maritimes was a second appearance in St. John, New Brunswick, the following night, October 13, 1882. Indeed, Morris has already alluded to this on page 196.
Morris assumes Wilde’s north American lectures end at this point unaware, as were previous chroniclers, that Wilde lectured again in Bridgeton, New Jersey on October 26, 1882 and Yorktown, New York City, on November 27, 1882.
This remark was made to Edgar Saltus and recorded by him. Morris implies that Wilde said this to Marie Prescott, although no evidence of this exists (and it is unlikely). No doubt the error comes from a misreading of Ellmann who conflates Morris and Prescott in this story.
Wilde's UK lecture at Prince's Hall was on July 10 (not 11), but Wilde's UK tour did not 'kick off' there, it began on June 30 with a lecture on Modern Art Training at The Royal Academy Students' Club.
Should read August 21, 1883 (not 1882), 5.
The character (in The Picture of Dorian Gray) is not Lord Wotton; he is Lord Henry Wotton—in the same way that Wilde's own lover Bosie, as third son of the Marquis of Queensberry, is never Lord Douglas, but rather Lord Alfred or Lord Alfred Douglas.
This distinction lies in the nobility convention of primogeniture (first born) where courtesy peerages are only used by the heir apparent, i.e. a peer's eldest living son, and the eldest son's eldest living son, and so forth. In the novel Wilde’s character is Lord Henry Wotton, which indicates that the character is an heir presumptive (e.g. a brother, nephew, or cousin) and thus Morris’s reference to Lord Wotton is wrong.