Item of the Week: Vyvyan’s Arctic Sojourn

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In 1937, Oscar Wilde’s son Vyvyan Holland joined friend Richmond Temple, the manager of London’s Savoy Hotel, on a tour of Copenhagen, Helsinki and Arctic Finland.  He recorded their journey amongst the business and cultural elites of these places in a journal that the Clark was recently lucky enough to purchase.

Typed (with some hand-written corrections) and illustrated by multiple photographs, postcards and newspaper clippings, Holland’s often comic account takes the two men from London through Nazi Germany to Copenhagen, where Temple is an unwilling guest of honor at the Carlsberg Brewery and where the two Englishmen are the toast of the town, Temple for his position at the Savoy and Holland for being Oscar Wilde’s son.

After a short time in Stockholm, the two spend time shopping and drinking (as they do everywhere they go) in Helsinki, where they make the acquaintance of Alvar and Aino Aalto (amongst others).  They then head up north to Rovaniemi, where they are taken on some simultaneously harrowing and fun proto-snowmobile rides and see the Northern Lights.  Their trip ends with a brief stay in Paris, with some lady friends.

Holland’s diary of this trip is a wonderful addition to the Clark’s collections on Oscar Wilde and his circle, as well as a fascinating and entertaining look at travel amongst the social and intellectual elite in the years just before the Second World War.

Vyvyan Holland. A new Arctic diary, or, The perils of northern Europe. MS.2011.002.  William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, University of California, Los Angeles.

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