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43 A «SOUL« REMEMBERS OSCAR WILDE By Welford Dunaway Taylor (University College, The University of Richmond) Students of Oscar Wilde have missed an opportunity to comment on a fictional treatment^of their subject found in Shadows of Flames (I915), a novel by Amélie Rives (Princess Troubetzkoy). This oversight is primarily due to the novel's being published -fifteen years after Wilde's death. Also, American readers who celebrated Miss Rives as one of their popular authors in the late 1880's and throughout the «90's scarcely noticed her after the Great War. Her depiction of Wilde is based upon her two periods of association with him: summer, I889 and summer, 1894. On the former occasion , she swept into London an international celebrity, having the previous year shocked the English speaking world with her sentimental novel The Quick or the Dead?! an¿ -with her marriage to John Armstrong Chanler, international playboy and great-grandson of John Jacob Astor. Soon after arriving from America, the Chanlers were absorbed into the group which would soon be dubbed "the Souls" by one of its prominent members. Though this circle prided itself on being intellectually avant-garde, and though it boasted fiery spirits like Margot Tennant, Herbert Asquith and George Curzon, it was adamant in its exclusion of Oscar Wilde. Nevertheless , while the members kept their social distance, they admired Wilde from an intellectual point of view, so the new Mrs. Chanler felt free to associate both with the group and with the aesthete and was able to sustain lifelong friendships with both. There is a slight possibility-? that she had been among the "scant two hundred patrons" who had gone to Richmond, Virginia, to hear Wilde lecture on July 12, 1882, during his American tour. Also, the two must have corresponded before this, her first, visit to London. Wilde wrote her just after her arrival and accompanied his note with a copy of his "fairy tales''^ and the number of Nineteenth Century which contained "The Decay of Lying.I|fc "The article," he stated, "is written for artistic temperaments: the public are not allowed a chance of comprehension, so you will know what I mean by it."7 The book was inscribed "For Amélie Rives, from her sincere admirer, Oscar Wilde. London - A rose-red July. «89."° According to surviving records, the paths of the aesthete and the novelist did not cross between late summer, 1889, and mid-summer, I894. The Chanlers left England to tour the continent and to return to Paris in the autumn of I889. There they established residence and she studied painting. Not long after they returned to Virginia in the late summer of I89I, she resumed writing and before her next trip to England in I894, published three novels and one drama.9 Though critics had consistently judged two of these novels as superior to her earlier work, she arrived in England un- 44 happy and alone, having just separated from Chanler. Her friendship with Wilde was soon resumed, this time on a far more meaningful basis; for he would soon be responsible for changing the course of her life. Earlier in 1894, he had met Prince Pierre Troubetzkoy, a young Italian painter who had come to England to do portraits. Early in the summer the Prince and the estranged Mrs. Charier were guests at a garden party given by Hamilton Aïde.10 a generous critic of her work. Wilde, also a guest, introduced the prince to her, presumably because he thought two such beautiful people should know each other.U Later in the summer Wilde noted in a letter to Alfred Douglas that the Prince had painted "a lovely picture"1 of her and that he (Douglas) should have the Prince do his too. Wilde must have been pleased when Mrs. Chanler became Princess Troubetzkoy in February, I896, and she must have felt a mixture of gratitude and horror as she remembered his hospitality of 1894 in the light of the trials of I895. However, no record exists of the feelings of either for the other until the appearance of her novel in 1915. By this time her final meeting with Wilde lay over...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 43-48
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
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