Archive for the ‘Oscar Wilde’ Category

New Acquisition from the London Book Fair: Oscar Wilde Lecture in Dublin, 1883

July 15, 2013

From Head Librarian Gerald Cloud

Last month’s London Book Fair provided the Clark with some choice new acquisitions, including a rare first hand account of Oscar on the podium. The letter, seen below, was written by Hannah Ann Robinson, latter known by her married name, Nannie Florence Dryhurst, 1856-1930. Written to her future husband, Alfred Robert Dryhurst, the letter describes how Wilde addressed his Dublin audience on 22 November 1883.


Along with the letter is included the promotional flier advertising the two talks Wilde gave in Dublin that Fall. The Clark holds examples of other similar advertising fliers from Wilde’s American tour.

Dyrhurst herself would go on to become a schoolteacher, but more adventurously, a strong advocate for Irish Independence and various anarchic causes in Europe in the early-twentieth century.


“Wilde in San Francisco”

March 8, 2013

From Gerald W. Cloud, Clark Librarian

At the 46th California International Antiquarian Book Fair in San Francisco last month I asked Ed Maggs the question I ask as many booksellers as will listen, “Do you have any Wilde material?”  Ed replied that he did indeed and produced from his glass-fronted cabinet the photograph shown here:

William Morton Fullerton (1865-1952)

William Morton Fullerton (1865-1952)

Portrayed here is William Morton Fullerton (1865-1952), in an original cabinet portrait, inscribed “To André Raffalovich from William Fullerton. 1887.”  A quick check of the Clark’s catalog revealed that the library already owned correspondence between Wilde and Fullerton (in particular, a four page letter which Mr. Clark acquired in the Dulau sale, described thus: “Addressed from Paris, 1899. Commencing ‘Monsieur Melmoth’. A pathetic letter, refusing with extreme politeness and reluctance a request for a loan” [Dulau, 96]).

Hoping for a good story I asked, “But who was William Fullerton?” Mr. Maggs did not disappoint, and he kindly provided the follow account:

“William Morton Fullerton was one of the most interesting non-entities of the fin-de-siècle. His early literary talent never really developed throughout a career of jobbing journalism that peaked early with his coverage for The Times of the Dreyfus trial, and he is remembered now for the astonishing variety and vigor of his love life.

Leon Edel, in his one volume life of Henry James, on Fullerton: “Singularly attaching… a dashing well-tailored man with large Victorian moustaches and languid eyes, a bright flower in his button hole, and the style of a ‘masher’. He had considerable sexual versatility.” [see photo]

After Harvard, where he was intimate with George Santayana and close to Bernard Berenson, he moved to London where he befriended the writer and socialite Hamilton Aidé and became the lover of the notorious Lord Ronald Gower, sculptor and model for Lord Henry Wotton in The Picture of Dorian Gray. There was a long affair with the Ranee of Sarawak, Margaret Brooke, a short marriage to a Parisian woman who later blackmailed him (she was covertly paid off by Henry James and Edith Wharton), and a short but very intense love affair with Wharton. He was one of the “younger ardent men” (Edel) who gathered round James in the early 1890s, when he “made himself agreeable in a tender romantic way”, and is widely supposed to have been a large part of the inspiration for the character of the journalist Densher in The Wings of a Dove. The fling with Edith Wharton was a remarkable episode, in which one suspects the 46 year old novelist had her first fully realized sexual relations, the intensity of which led to the writing of the pornographic short story Beatrice Palmato, published in Lewis’s biography. Her letters to Fullerton, now at the University of Texas and partially published in the UT Library Chronicle, show a woman aware of Fullerton’s impossibility, but unable, on grounds of emotional intoxication, to let him go.

The recipient, André Raffalovich (1864-1934), wealthy aesthete and quintessential Uranian poet, established a literary salon in Mayfair, somewhat in the shade of Wilde’s salon in Chelsea. He was the life partner of John Gray (1866-1934), poet and nominal inspiration for the eponymous Dorian G. Gray fled the Wilde scandal into the arms of the Catholic church, and removed himself to Edinburgh, the predominantly Protestant of Scotland’s two great cities. Raffalovich followed him and, in the sort of gesture reserved unto the wealthy, built him a church. Raffalovich established his literary artistic circles in Edinburgh, and the two continued to see each other, once a week, after Mass. A small footnote is that the acquisition of Gray and Raffalovich’s library (from the church) marked the beginning of the career of Anthony d’Offay, initially a bookseller and later to become one of the giants of the modern art trade.” [courtesy of Ed Maggs]

Who could resist such a colorful character as Fullerton?  In any case, I could not and the photograph has been added to the Clark’s growing collection of Oscar Wilde and his Circle.

Wilde in the Market Place

January 3, 2013

Please join us on Thursday, January 31st at 4pm for 2013’s Clark Lecture on Oscar Wilde, which will feature Rick Gekoski speaking on “Oscar Wilde in the Marketplace.”

From the very start of his career, Oscar Wilde wanted to be noticed. He was the leading literary celebrity of his day, honed his epigrams, and ensured that his books were issued in beautiful limited editions, which would be attractive to collectors. Following his death an enormous market in Wilde books, manuscripts, letters and memorabilia developed, and a number of unscrupulous forgers took advantage of the burgeoning market for Wilde items. In the 1920s and 1930s a number of major collections were formed, of which William A. Clark, Jr’s holdings were the most significant. Oscar is still avidly sought after, and, as a rare book dealer, Dr. Gekoski has been able to help several collectors put together noteworthy collections.

Dr. Rick Gekoski is one of the world’s leading bookmen: a writer, rare-book dealer, broadcaster and teacher. He is the author of three books which trace his major enthusiasms, Staying Up: A Fan’s View of a Season in the PremiershipTolkien’s Gown and Other Stories of Great Authors and Rare Books and Outside of a Dog: A Bibliomemoir, as well as a critical study of Joseph Conrad and a bibliography of William Golding. An American who left for England in 1966, he was for some years a member of the English Department at the University of Warwick, and chair of their Faculty of Arts. He has established two private presses, The Sixth Chamber Press and The Bridgewater Press, which issue finely printed editions of leading writers, novelists and poets. As a broadcaster, he has written and delivered two series for BBC Radio 4: Rare Books, Rare People and Lost, Stolen, or Shredded: The History of Some Missing Works of Art.

This biennial lecture on Oscar Wilde is made possible by a generous endowment founded by Mr. William Zachs.

Please register for this free event at the website for the Center for 17th- and 18th-Century Studies.

Oscar Wilde by Frank Miles

Oscar Wilde by Frank Miles

“Wilde’s West Coast Collection” on BBC Radio 3

November 15, 2012

On November 25th, BBC Radio 3 will be broadcasting a Sunday feature about researcher Thomas Wright and his work on Oscar Wilde’s personal library — especially those books housed here in Los Angeles in the Clark’s collections!  More information is available via the BBC website, and we will be sure to post a link to listen online when one becomes available!

Not by Oscar Wilde: A Clark Quarterly Lecture

November 2, 2012

We were recently graced by the presence of a former Clark Fellow, Gregory Mackie, when he came to present his lecture Not By Oscar Wilde: Literary Forgery and Authorial Performance.  This lecture was a part of the Clark Quarterly lecture series.  Details about the lecture and upcoming Clark Quarterly lectures can be seen here.

Below is a gallery of images from the event – a great time was had by all.

Wilde Adventures in Cataloging

October 24, 2012

As anyone who has worked in the Clark’s Oscar Wilde collection knows, there is a lot of room for discovery.  One of these spaces for discovery is in the correspondence collection, where there are a large number of correspondents simply labeled as “unknown person.”  Sometimes, signatures on these letters are illegible (or seemed so to the original cataloger), while others are signed only with a first name, or with a confusing set of initials.

After this summer’s Oscar Wilde-themed NEH seminar, several scholars submitted corrections for items in the Wilde collection, including the identification of several letters written from Hungarian illustrator Willy Pogany to Ada Leverson.  These letters, written in both French and English, had been signed simply “Willy” and so were cataloged under “unknown person.”  In her search for letters related to French writer Rachilde, Petra Dierkes-Thrun came across these missives, and was able to positively identify Pogany as their author.

With this as inspiration, I recently went through many of the letters cataloged as being from “unknown persons” and realized that many names and signatures are actually completely legible (at least to my eyes!).  Moreover, the advent of the internet has made it much easier to confirm the identities of these “unknowns” — something that would have been almost impossible in the 1950s and 1960s when many of these letters were first cataloged.

This letter, written to Oscar Wilde from John Haden Badley, is perhaps the most egregious cataloging oversight.  Not only is Badley’s signature legible, but the letter is written on letterhead marked “Bedales,” the name of the famous coeducational school he founded in 1893.  Wilde’s older son Cyril was a student at Bedales in 1894, when this letter was written.  In it, Badley tells Wilde he “fully agree[s]” that “the power of reading and writing English” are of “far more importance than the mere acquirement of information,” but that 9-year-old Cyril was “full young yet to read the ‘Odyssey’ with appreciation” and that the question of starting Cyril on violin lessons should perhaps wait until it becomes clear whether or not he has any musical aptitude.  Badley does agree, though, that Wilde’s “Canadian canoe” would be a welcome addition to the school, but suggests that it perhaps should not arrive until the spring, when the water will be warmer.

J.H. Badley’s signature

Other newly identified letters include actress Emily Thorne asking Wilde to consider her for one of the old lady parts in his newest play (Box 67/Folder 66); Dublin solicitor John Doherty negotiating with Wilde terms of a lease or sale of the Wilde family hunting lodge, Illaunroe (Box 14/Folder 43); and a Wilde fan named Bertha Gent-Wood writing Robbie Ross in 1907 about the beauty of his friendship with Wilde (Box 28/Folder 59), among several others.  The descriptions for these letters have been added to our online finding aid to the correspondence in our Oscar Wilde and his Literary Circle Collection.  A full list of newly identified letters is below.


GT Atkinson to AJA Symons, 23 May 1931, Box 2/Folder 57
John Haden Badley to Oscar Wilde, 15 Sept 1894, Box 3/Folder 29
Thomas Balston to AJA Symons, 66 Apr 1926, Box 3/Folder 30
John Doherty to Oscar Wilde, 10 Dec 1883, Box 14/Folder 43
Bertha A Gent-Wood to Robert Baldwin Ross, 5 Feb 1907, Box 28 Fld 59
Willy Pogany to Ada Leverson, 1907 (3 letters), Box 51/Folder 47
Paul A. Rubens to Ada Leverson, 26 Feb 1912, Box 59/Folder 18
Emily Thorne  to Oscar Wilde, 19 Jan 1893, Box 67/Folder 66

Scholars gone Wilde: an NEH Summer Seminar at the Clark

August 9, 2012

Earlier this summer, the Clark Library was graced with the presence of 16 new scholars under the direction of UCLA Professor of English and authority on Oscar Wilde, Joe Bristow.  These 17 minds were gathered together for a five-week long National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar at the Clark Library entitled “Oscar Wilde and His Circle.”  As the third NEH seminar on Wilde to be held at the Clark, this incarnation made great use of Wilde’s manuscripts and personal papers, as well as extending the range of view to his circle of friends and colleagues.

The seminar’s participants met in the Clark’s Drawing Room for discussions, and used the reading room extensively, often doubling up on tables or queueing up to gain access to the same manuscript.  The library staff was kept on our toes, learning a lot more about the collection along the way.

Wilde Scholars in the Drawing Room

Many thanks to Professor Bristow and all of the scholars in attendance for giving such attention and life to our Oscar Wilde holdings.

Oscar Wilde’s Tite Street house for sale!

July 20, 2012

Oscar Wilde’s former home in Tite Street is up for sale!  The Telegraph reports that the home is listed at £1.295 million.  Some photographs of the house’s interior and exterior are available on the listing realty company’s website.

This summer’s exhibition: “Oscar Wilde in Translation”

June 19, 2012

“Oscar Wilde in Translation”

June 18-September 28, 2012

Curated by Gerald W. Cloud

The summer exhibition opened at the Clark today, just in time for next week’s NEH Seminar (“Oscar Wilde and his Circle”).

Russian translation of Ballad of Reading Gaol, 1904.

Measuring the reception of any author is a complicated matter.  What criteria should be used?  At the Clark, an early decision was made to collect not only the original, rare, and limited editions of Wilde’s works, but also foreign language translations of his poetry, prose, and drama in an effort to document Wilde’s reach and the breadth of his popularity and readership.  In the critical study, The Reception of Oscar Wilde in Europe, Stephano Evangelista focuses his anthology on the translated texts as one means of measuring an author’s influence and authority—he points out that only “Shakespeare, Conan Doyle, Stevenson, and Dickens, among British or Irish literary figures have appeared more widely in translations over the past thirty years.”

Pulp paperback translation of Dorian [n.d.]

At the time that Wilde’s works started to be translated his most significant works were yet to be written, yet his reputation stretched well beyond England.  Wilde toured America as a celebrated lecturer in 1882-83, and French writers such as Edmond de Goncourt and Andre Gide recorded impressions of Wilde in their journals as early as 1884.  The German scholar Max Nordau when writing about the decadent writers of the late nineteenth century paid notable attention to Wilde in his study Entartung (1892; translated as Degeneration, London, 1895).  Wilde’s popularity approached its apogee in 1895, that is, just before the scandal of his trial against the Marquis of Queensbury—which he lost—and his subsequent trial for “gross indecencies”—which he also lost, leading to a prison term.

Fantasiën, the first Dutch translation of Wilde’s Fairy Tales, 1889.

The exhibition features holdings from the Clark Library related to the works, influences, and education of Oscar Wilde as well as translations of Wilde’s works with an aim to contextualize Wilde’s movement from one language to another, one culture to another, and offer some insight into Wilde’s influence as a literary figure over a period of time that included his rapid ascension and precipitous fall.

Item of the Week: Oscar Wilde, Private Detective?

February 9, 2011

Oscar Wilde is remembered for many things, his writing, his poetry, and his infamous trial for gross indecency in 1895.  But what few remember are his crime-solving exploits with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Although Wilde was (as far as historians can tell) never an actual sleuth, he plays one in three new novels by Gyles Brandreth.  Set in London beginning in 1889, Wilde and his sidekick Doyle (in a nod to actual history, the pair had met that same year, according to Doyle’s autobiography) take on a series of brutal murders which stump detectives at Scotland Yard.

In book 1, entitled Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders (UK) or Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance (USA), Wilde and Doyle attempt to solve the murder of sixteen-year-old Billy Wood, a murder which could reveal itself to be a deadly cult ritual.

In book 2, entitled Oscar Wilde and the Ring of Death (UK) or Oscar Wilde and a Game Called Murder (USA), Wilde and Doyle attend a dinner party including such literary luminaries as Bram Stoker and Robert Sherard.  Wilde proposes a dinner game wherein everyone writes down who they would most like to murder, if they were unable to be caught.  It seems innocent, until the first named victim turns up dead the very next day.

In book 3, Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man’s Smile (UK & USA), Wilde travels to Paris to collaborate with theater manager Edmond La Grange and Sarah Bernhardt.  Several murders lead him directly to the heart of the La Grange Theater Company, putting both his life and reputation in mortal danger.

The author has been praised for his thorough knowledge of Wilde’s persona and mannerisms.   The Sunday Express writes that “Brandreth also gives his hero speeches of great beauty and wisdom and humanity.” The Sunday Times agrees, writing that “the rattlingly elegant dialogue is peppered with witticisms uttered well before he ever thought of putting them into his plays.”  Others praise the addition of treats for fans of Sherlock Holmes, as Brandreth intimates that Wilde was in fact an inspiration for the famous literary detective.

Wilde himself wrote, “All but two of my five names have already been thrown overboard.  In time, I shall discard another.  A century from now, my friends will call me Oscar; my enemies will call me Wilde.”  Brandreth appears to have added another moniker to Wilde, that of star literary detective.  Fans of Brandreth can expect several more books in the series, as it is planned to contain as many as 9.  The Clark currently holds the first three volumes.

From Jessica Smith, Reading Room Assistant.