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Oscar Wilde in America

The Interviews

OscarWilde, MatthewHofer

Publication Year: 2009

This comprehensive and authoritative collection of Oscar Wilde's American interviews affords readers a fresh look at the making of a literary legend. Better known in 1882 as a cultural icon than a serious writer (at twenty-six years old, he had by then published just one volume of poems), Wilde was brought to North America for a major lecture tour on Aestheticism and the decorative arts that was organized to publicize a touring opera, Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience, which lampooned him and satirized the Aesthetic "movement" he had been imported to represent._x000B__x000B_In this year-long series of broadly distributed and eagerly read newspaper interviews, Wilde excelled as a master of self-promotion. With characteristic aplomb, he adopted the role as the ambassador of Aestheticism, and reporters noted that he was dressed for the part. He wooed and flattered his hosts everywhere, and he tried out a number of phrases, ideas, and strategies that ultimately made him famous as a novelist and playwright. This exceptional volume cites all ninety-one of Wilde's interviews and contains transcripts of forty-eight of them, and it also includes his lecture on his travels in America.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Table of Contents

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pp. xi

To date, there has been no complete or reliable record of Wilde’s interviews in the United States and Canada in 1882. In Oscar Wilde Discovers America (1936), a trade book with few pretensions to scholarly accuracy, Lloyd Lewis and Henry Justin Smith identify forty-four interviews with the author in 1882, but they rarely quote more...

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pp. 1-9

“Interviewers are a product of American civilization, whose acquaintance I am making with tolerable speed,” the twenty-seven-year-old Oscar Wilde told an interviewer for the Boston Globe on 28 January 1882. “You gentlemen have fairly monopolized me ever since I saw Sandy Hook. In New York there were about a hundred...


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1. "Oscar Wilde's Arrival," New York World

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pp. 13-15

Oscar Wilde, the great English exponent of aestheticism, reached this port last evening on board the Williams and Guion steamship Arizona. Shortly after the vessel came to anchor off the Quarantine Station on Staten Island a World reporter put off in a rowboat managed by two sturdy oarsmen, and although the steamship was not much...

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2. "Oscar Wilde," New York Evening Post

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pp. 15-17

Mr. Oscar Wilde stood on the pier of the Williams and Guion steamship line at 11 o’clock this morning when a reporter of the Evening Post pushed through the crowd of admirers who surrounded him and asked the poet of the aesthetes what he understood by aestheticism. “I have defined it about two hundred times...

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3. "Our New York Letter," Philadelphia Inquirer

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pp. 17-18

Oscar Wilde, the young English poet and apostle of aestheticism, reached this city this morning. He came in the Arizona, which arrived last night but anchored off quarantine until this morning. Mr. Wilde is a smooth-faced young man, twenty-six years of age and six feet, four inches, in height. His hair is long...

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4. "The Theories of a Poet," New York Tribune

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pp. 19-22

Oscar Wilde, the poet and apostle of aestheticism, is at present living in a private house so that he may secure the quiet and freedom from interruption which his work demands. He occupies two rooms furnished in matter-of-fact style, and has his meals sent in from a neighboring restaurant. The center table of his parlor...

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5. "The Science of the Beautiful," New York World

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pp. 22-25

Mr. Oscar Wilde was visited by a World reporter yesterday morning in his new home in Twenty-eighth Street. He was seated before a writing table which was covered with invitations. He was dressed in a simple black velvet jacket, below which he wore a pair of beautiful brown trousers, from the bottoms of which his patent-leather...

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6. "A Talk with Wilde," Philadelphia Press

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pp. 25-31

As a Pennsylvania ferryboat swung into her slip at Jersey City at a few minutes before one o’clock yesterday afternoon, the crowd scattered about the dock explained in subdued tones: “There he is; see him, that’s Oscar Wilde.” The tall figure of the apostle of Aestheticism, clad in his olive-green overcoat with its otter trimmings...

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7. "The Aestethic Bard," Philadelphia Inquirer

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pp. 31-33

Mr. Oscar Wilde, the English aesthetic poet, arrived at the Aldine Hotel yesterday afternoon about four o’clock and proceeded at once to his rooms, where he passed the afternoon in seclusion. He had been very busy during the morning in New York and, with that and his journey to this city and the trying two hours of lionization...

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8. "What Oscar Has to Say," Baltimore American

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pp. 34-35

Washington, January 20.—It having been rumored that the reason why Mr. Oscar Wilde passed through Baltimore today en route to Washington, without stopping in that city, was owing to some disagreement with Mr. Archibald Forbes,1 the English war correspondent, who is at present in Baltimore. The correspondent of...

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9. "Wilde and Forbes," New York Herald

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pp. 35-38

Some of the Baltimore papers today charge Mr. Oscar Wilde with having broken faith with the Baltimore public in not appearing according to advertisement on the stage when Mr. Archibald Forbes lectured in that city last evening. A graver charge is that he had snubbed Baltimore society by rudely neglecting to appear...

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10. "An Interview with the Poet," Albany Argus

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pp. 38

In answer to an inquiry as to how he liked America, the poet said, “I really have seen almost nothing of your country. As I came up from New York this afternoon, I caught occasional glimpses of the river and I was charmed with its beauties. The blue hills in the distance, the forest still green in place, and the strange, regular outlines...

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11. "Oscar Wilde," Boston Herald

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pp. 39-47

Mr. Oscar Wilde arrived in Boston Saturday morning, after an all-night railroad journey from Albany, and went straightway to the Hotel Vendome,1 and was assigned to pleasant rooms, which, however, had not been specially decorated in his honor, as announced by some imaginative writer. In fact, good friends of Mr. Wilde...

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12. "The Aesthetic Apostle," Boston Globe

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pp. 47-51

Such was the card borne on a silver platter to the apostle of aestheticism, as he sat in his elegantly furnished parlors at the Vendome last evening shortly after his return from dining with Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Freeman Clarke, Phillips Brooks, and others at the Saturday Club.1 A gracious affirmative being received...

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13. Lilian Whiting, "They Will Show Him," Chicago Inter-Ocean

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pp. 51-53

Jan. 29.—The poet of the aesthetes arrived at the Hotel Vendome yesterday. I did not see the lily-laden lyrist make his entrée in the portals, but I have the assurance of one of our Sunday morning papers of today that “Mr. Wilde arrived about noon and entered the Vendome like any ordinary person”—a statement that...

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14. "A Man of Culture Rare," Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

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pp. 53-56

Oscar Wilde, his knee breeches, his business manager and his colored body servant arrived in the city late yesterday afternoon and were at once driven to the Osburn house, where rooms had been assigned them. The great leader in modern aestheticism at once retired to his apartment and did not again make his appearance until...

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15. "Wilde Sees the Falls," Buffalo Express

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pp. 57

Niagara Falls, Ont., Feb. 9.—The day was all that could be desired for sightseeing. Oscar Wilde, who made his headquarters at the Prospect House, breakfasted early, and wrapping himself in his long fur coat, stood out on the veranda of the hotel for nearly an hour steadily gazing at the scene before him. A carriage was...

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16. "The Apostle of Art," Chicago Inter-Ocean

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pp. 57-61

Oscar Wilde, the apostle of aestheticism, the lover of all sweet, beautiful, and darling things in nature, the John the Baptist of the religion of art, the much-talked- of English lecturer, arrived in Chicago last night and took rooms at the Grand Pacific. A reporter for the Inter-Ocean called upon him and was kindly received. The aesthetic...

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17. "Truly Aesthetic," Chicago Inter-Ocean

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pp. 61-64

Oscar Wilde sat in his room in the Grand Pacific last night, a room made bright and artistic with beautiful things. A large center-table was heaped with choice old books, some of them rare old curios, with precious broken binding and soulful mediaeval dogs’ ears. In the window’s embrasure was a beautifully intense...

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18. "Wilde," Cleveland Leader

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pp. 64-67

He came yesterday on the afternoon train over the Lake Shore Road. By “he” is meant the great apostle of aestheticism; the man who proposed, so far as lies within the power of one person, to revolutionize modern English and American art and bring us to a true conception of the beautiful and a perfect understanding...

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19. "With Mr. Oscar Wilde," Cincinnati Gazette

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pp. 67-71

Mr. Oscar Wilde arrived in this city yesterday morning from Cleveland, en route to Louisville, where he is to lecture this evening. He remained over a day, wishing to have a preliminary glance at certain objects of interest here before his return on Thursday for his lecture on “The English Renaissance” at the Grand Opera...

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20. "Oscar Wilde," Cincinnati Enquirer

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pp. 72-74

Oscar Wilde, the aesthete, arrived in the city yesterday, and took up his quarters in Burnet House, where a representative of the Enquirer met him late yesterday afternoon. The original of “Bunthorne” was reclining on a fauteuil when our ambassador entered his apartments. He arose rather more quickly than poetic grace demanded...

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21. "Utterly Utter," St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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pp. 75-78

An unusual bustle was visible about the corridors of the Southern this morning, which puzzled the guests as they entered. Knots of young men generally known in society stood around the pillars in attempted attitudes and seemed to be waiting intently. The clerks were more chipper than usual, and appeared to be expecting something...

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22. "Speranza's Gifted Son," St. Louis Globe-Democrat

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pp. 78-83

Mr. Wilde evidently desired time in which to run through the authorities on aesthetics in order to meet the reporter on equal terms. It must be remembered that he had entered the city at the Union Depot, had obtained a rear view of the Jail and the Four Courts, and had been whirled through the delightful boulevards...

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23. "Oscar As He Is," St. Louis Republican

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pp. 83-88

The pen pictures which have been drawn of Oscar Wilde universally by American newspapers are like the reflection of the convex mirror, faithful and yet distorted. No one seeing the true Oscar Wilde could fail to recognize him from them, and no one of any perception could fail to recognize just as clearly that the...

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24. "Oscar Wilde," Chicago Tribune

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pp. 88-93

Mr. Oscar Wilde, the celebrated aesthete, arrived in the city yesterday morning from Springfield, Ill., where he lectured Monday evening. He registered at the Grand Pacific Hotel, and was assigned to Parlor 11. About 2 o’clock yesterday afternoon a Tribune representative called at the hotel to see the apostle of the beautiful...

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25. "Philosophical Oscar," Chicago Times

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pp. 93-95

Oscar Wilde returned to the city yesterday from Springfield, where he lectured the night before, and is at the Grand Pacific Hotel. During his western trip he has occupied platforms in St. Louis, Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, and other cities. He says he was particularly pleased with Cincinnati. Its people have...

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26. "David and Oscar," Chicago Tribune

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pp. 95-98

Mr. Oscar Wilde was in the city yesterday afternoon, and, understanding that he had something to say in answer to Prof. David Swing’s criticism of him, published in a recent number of the Alliance, a representative of The Tribune called on him at the Grand Pacific Hotel. He lectured Friday evening in Aurora...

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27. "Oscar Wilde in Omaha," Omaha Weekly

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pp. 98-100

Mr. Wilde and his servant and Mr. Vale, his business manager, arrived in Omaha yesterday from Sioux City and ensconced themselves at the Withnell House. The day without the four walls of the hotel was blustering and the wind swept occasional eddies of dust along the streets, rendering it very disagreeable for anyone...

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28. "Oscar Wilde: An Interview with the Apostle of Aestheticism," San Francisco Examiner

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pp. 100-105

Oscar Wilde arrived in this city at noon yesterday by the overland train. The news that he was on the train induced hundreds of curious persons to go over to the Oakland depot in order to catch a first glimpse of this new lion. To these persons a cursory inspection revealed a tall, well-built, clean-shaven, eccentrically...

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29. "Oscar Wilde's Views," San Francisco Morning Call

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pp. 105-109

Oscar Wilde arrived here yesterday on the overland train. A Call reporter who met him at Port Costa was introduced to a tall, large-faced man, with pleasant light brown eyes, winning smile, muddy complexion, and a charming manner. The two things about the gentleman which have given Gilbert’s pen and Du Maurier’s pencil...

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30. "Lo! The Aesthete," San Francisco Chronicle

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pp. 109-115

The 8 o’clock ferryboat to Oakland yesterday morning carried a committee of reception, self-appointed, to meet Oscar Wilde, the apostle of aestheticism. The committee consisted of Manager Locke, several Bohemian Club men1 and the usual flock of reporters that gathers on the railroad approaches to the city when some...

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31. "Oscar Arrives," Sacramento Record-Union

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pp. 115-123

As a fitting introduction to the apostle of modern aestheticism, a Record-Union representative yesterday morning met Oscar Wilde at the depot with a bouquet of the choicest flowers that could be culled from Sacramento’s floral wealth, and being received by that gentleman with cordiality, the twain sat down to breakfast...

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32. Mary Watson, "Oscar Wilde at Home," San Francisco Examiner

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pp. 123-128

The English language is popularly supposed to be a vehicle of expression that was perfected long ago. It is intended not to conceal but to express thought, and only persons who labor after originality, like Robert Browning,1 for instance, give themselves the trouble to twist its words into new meanings. Yet, strange to say, there...

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33. "Oscar Wilde," Salt Lake Herald

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pp. 128-130

No part of America it appeared has struck Mr. Wilde so favorably as California, but as he said, “I have still to see Colorado.” Whatever may be the effect of Denver and Leadville, it is at present certain that San Francisco and the West Coast have captivated the poet, for Mr. Wilde intends to return there next year with...

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34. "Oscar Wilde," Denver Rocky Mountain News

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pp. 130-134

Last evening’s train over the Cheyenne division was delayed about half an hour, and seated in the drawing-room car of the train was the much talked of Oscar Wilde, who manifested some regret and annoyance at the unexpected delay. The aesthete is not handsome, and yet he is remarkably fine-looking. About his person...

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35. "Art and Aesthetics," Denver Tribune

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pp. 134-139

The train which brought Oscar Wilde over the Denver Pacific railroad last night was thirty minutes late, on account of a delayed connection at Cheyenne, and for this reason alone he was exactly thirty minutes behind the usual time for raising the curtain at Tabor Grand Opera house. He arrived in the midst of a...

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36. "What Mr. Wilde Says About Himself," Manchester Examiner and Times

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pp. 139-140

Mountain climbing is not a subject of general interest, and some of my readers may be glad to turn from Pike’s Peak to hear a word about Oscar Wilde the Great. I met Mr. Wilde a few days ago in Kansas and had a long conversation with him. In the eastern cities his photograph was most conspicuous, and Mr. Wilde told...

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37. "Aesthetic: An Interseting Interview with Oscar Wilde," Dayton Daily Democrat

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pp. 141-146

A representative of the Democrat paid Mr. Wilde a visit in his room at the Beckel House just after he had finished his dinner yesterday. A more opportune moment for an interview could not have been chosen, for the old truth, well known, that a man’s sociability and talkativeness are at their best when the inner man has...

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38. "Oscar Wilde's Return," New York World

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pp. 146-147

“After I left the East,” said Mr. Wilde, “I found a people that struck me as more representatively American than those in the other states. It was west of Chicago that I found America. Here in the older country the people are very closely akin to the English. I arrived at last in San Francisco in the spring. The peach trees were...

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39. "Oscar Wilde in Montreal," Montreal Witness

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pp. 147-150

Few men, at least of his age, have been so much talked about, and certainly none so much laughed at, as Oscar Wilde. Curiosity as to his personal appearance has been by no means abated by the many descriptions published, for readers at once recognize the fact that in some cases the most vivid language is useless to convey a correct...

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40. "Oscar Wilde: The Arch-Aesthete on Aestheticism," Montreal Star

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pp. 151-153

Mr. Oscar Wilde arrived at the Windsor Hotel yesterday, where he very kindly received our reporter this morning. He was found amid the ruins of a substantial-looking breakfast, and there was nothing in his appearance to indicate that he had been sitting up all night with a lily, unless, indeed, the fact of his breakfasting...

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41. "Oscar Wilde," Toronto Globe

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pp. 154-155

Mr. Oscar Wilde arrived in the city yesterday morning on the Grand Trunk express from the East. A deputation of gentlemen belonging to the city was at the station to receive him and escort him to the Queen’s Hotel. By previous engagement he attended the lacrosse match between the Torontos and St. Regis Indians...

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42. "The Aesthete at the Art Exhibition," Toronto Globe

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pp. 155-156

Mr. Oscar Wilde visited the exhibition of the Ontario Society of Artists yesterday afternoon, where he was shown around by Mr. T. M. Martin.1 The aesthete spent about an hour there, criticizing the different works freely and with a quickness of perception which showed him to possess clear and welldefined ideas of true...

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43. "Oscar Wilde Talks of Texas," New Orleans Picayune

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pp. 156-158

“There are in Texas two spots which gave me infinite pleasure. These are Galveston and San Antonio. Galveston, set like a jewel in a crystal sea, was beautiful. Its fine beach, its shady avenues of oleander, and its delightful sea breezes were something to be enjoyed. It was in San Antonio, however, that I found more...

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44. "Oscar Wilde: Arrival of the Great Aesthete," Atlanta Constitution

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pp. 158-161

When Oscar Wilde reached Atlanta yesterday from Macon, he disembarked from the train and stalked with measured tread to the Markham, flanked by his valet; when he entered the arcade of the Markham, he advanced to the radiator and came to a halt. There he posed; one hand sought the spot where the heart was supposed...

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45. "Oscar Dear, Oscar Dear!" Charleston News and Courier

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pp. 162-165

The arrival of the apostle of modern aestheticism was an event which would have been marked by something of a demonstration, but for the fact that very few people knew at what hour the apostle would reach the city. A few moments after 1 o’clock yesterday an open carriage stopped in front of the ladies’ entrance to...

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46. "Loveliness and Politeness," New York Sun

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pp. 165-166

Mr. and Mrs. Steele Mackaye1 were in Mr. Wilde’s party, which was returning from Long Beach. Mr. Wilde was dressed in a light gray suit of Irish frieze, with a high-crowned slouch hat of light gray. He removed his hat as he read the paragraph, allowing his abundant long hair to descend about his face. Then he chuckled...

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47. "The Apostle of Beauty in Nova Scotia," Halifax Morning Herald

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pp. 166-172

The afternoon train from St. John on Friday brought beauty’s latest evangel to our province. He came not surrounded by a halo of blue and purple glory, not in a carved car, not in a Greek urn. He rode on the engine. He saw the little hills rejoicing merrily. He saw Moncton, and noticed the irradiant wonder of the Transcript editor. He...

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48. "Oscar Wilde Thoroughly Exhausted," New York Tribune

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pp. 172-173

Oscar Wilde is living in furnished rooms at present in West Eleventh Street. He has not delivered any lectures recently, and although he may occasionally appear upon the platform again in this country, he does not contemplate giving any further serious attention to the lecture business for the benefit and aesthetic enlightenment...

APPENDIX: Wilde’s Lecture “Impressions of America”

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pp. 175-181

Bibliography of All Known Interviews with Oscar Wilde

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pp. 183-186

Works Consulted

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pp. 187-188


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pp. 189-193

About the Author, Production Notes

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pp. 195-196

E-ISBN-13: 9780252092886
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252034725

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2009