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Oscar Wilde, A Vagabond With a Mission: The Story of Oscar Wilde’s Lecture Tours of Britain and Ireland by Geoff Dibb

Geoff Dibb digs deep into ground over which Oscar’s biographers have so far merely skated. His tireless researches have produced a treasure trove of lecture extracts, contemporary press reports and ephemera that shine significant new light on a formative period in Wilde’s life and literary development.
                   JONATHAN FRYER, Writer and Broadcaster

The Oscar Wilde Society is proud to announce the publication of the first comprehensive study of Wilde’s lecture tours of Great Britain and Ireland. Using letters, memoirs, biographies, previously unpublished information and thousands of contemporary newspaper accounts, Geoff Dibb gives us a portrait of Wilde which we have never seen before. Click here to read a review by Matthew Sturgis.

Wilde lectured between 1883 and 1889 on important artistic and social topics of the day. Controversy was never far from everything he said and did. He drew audiences of thousands of people.

Hitherto these lectures have been given little attention but they had significant implications for Wilde’s artistic development and they also gave him an opportunity to re-enter the world of journalism.

These were very important years for Wilde: he became engaged and married Constance Lloyd, he took a new home in Chelsea, became a father to two sons and was an increasingly active homosexual.

All this happened as he travelled from Cornwall to Scotland, and from Norfolk to the west coast of Ireland, visiting almost every town of any significance in between. In particular the book looks in detail at Wilde’s visits to West Yorkshire, the North East of England, the Lake District, Scotland, Ireland and the West Midlands.

The book is hardback with 31 pages of colour illustrations and many black and white illustrations in the text.

It is available direct from the Society at £27.50 inclusive of post and packing in the UK. Postage for single copies outside the UK is £10.00 for Europe and £16.50 for the rest of the world. Please click here for an order form. Payment from overseas by Paypal please. Payment in the UK by Paypal or cheque made payable to the Oscar Wilde Society.

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Two works by Oscar Wilde, a Hellenist at Oxford.

The Oscar Wilde Society has issued the first edition of a hitherto unpublished work by Oscar Wilde. Oscar Wilde: The Women of Homer edited by Thomas Wright and Donald Mead.

This is now offered, direct from the Society, at no extra cost, with a copy of issue No. 41 of The Wildean – A Journal of Oscar Wilde Studies which includes the text of another work written by Oscar Wilde, then an undergraduate at Magdalen College, Oxford – Hellenism – with introduction, commentary and notes by Thomas Wright

The Women of Homer and Hellenism are available together, direct from the Society, at £30.00 inclusive of post and packing within the UK. Please click here to download a purchase form.

Oscar Wilde: The Women of Homer, edited by Thomas Wright and Donald Mead, is published by the Oscar Wilde Society in a limited cloth bound hardback illustrated edition. .

In 1876 Oscar Wilde, then an undergraduate studying classics at Magdalen College, Oxford, wrote an article surveying the chapter 'The Women of Homer' from John Addington Symonds's newly published Studies of the Greek Poets (Second Series). The article was both a review of Symonds’s book and a general introduction to the heroines of Homer's epics. Wilde failed to complete the piece, abandoning it after penning 8,500 words.

Wilde's manuscript has survived. Robert Ross seems to have contemplated including it in his Collected Edition of Wilde's works but he never finished the work of editing it. Wilde's article, 'The Women of Homer', is published here for the very first time. It is his earliest surviving prose work, and probably his first attempt at reviewing. It has been read by only a handful of scholars and Wildeans.

In this book, the typescript of the article which Christopher Millard prepared at the behest of Robert Ross is collated with Wilde's manuscript, and reproduced as a scholarly reference text illustrated by facsimiles of pages of the typescript and manuscript, and photographs. It is accompanied by a reading text, aimed at the general reader, in which Wilde's fragmentary article is re-ordered and fully annotated, and illustrated with designs by John Flaxman.

This charming edition of The Women of Homer is an elegant and intriguing addition to Wilde's oeuvre.

HellenismOscar Wilde: Hellenism, edited by Thomas Wright was published by the Oscar Wilde Society in the July 2012 edition of The Wildean – A Journal of Oscar Wilde Studies.

Sometime in 1877 Oscar Wilde, then at Magdalen College, Oxford, wrote down some 2,700 words on the subject of ‘Hellenism’ (i.e. the ethos of Greek culture) making special reference to the city of Sparta. The piece was never published in his lifetime, nor was it apparently finished, having come down to us in fragmentary draft manuscript form. It is not clear whether Wilde wrote it with an eye to publication, or whether it is a series of notes that formed the basis of a lecture, but the latter seems the more likely explanation.

The great Wilde scholar Christopher Millard prepared a typescript of ‘Hellenism’, probably with the idea of publishing it in Robert Ross’ 1908 Collected Edition of Wilde’s works. ‘Hellenism’ was not included in that edition, however, and it would be a further seventy years before Millard’s typescript was published, by the Tragara Press, in their limited edition, Hellenism (Edinburgh, 1979).

Millard’s typescript differs greatly from Wilde’s original manuscript. Not only did he fill in the various gaps of Wilde’s manuscript, and shape the fragments into one continuous ‘essay’, but he also misread Wilde’s words in a number of places. The Tragara Press edition reproduces Millard’s interventions, and errors, without identifying them; it also presents the text without explanatory notes or an introduction. This Wildean edition, the first accurate text of ‘Hellenism’, is based on a fresh investigation of the surviving manuscript pages and Millard’s typescript.

The text of ‘Hellenism’ has also been annotated here for the first time, the notes explaining Wilde’s contribution to various intellectual debates, and revealing his enormous debt to Classical scholars such as J.P. Mahaffy and, above all, George Grote.

In his introductory essay Thomas Wright places ‘Hellenism’ in the context of Wilde’s scholarly and literary pursuits at Oxford, and relates it to his Irish Nationalist politics. Wright discusses the various mysteries surrounding its composition, describes the state and chequered history of the manuscript, outlines its themes and style, and considers the light it throws on Wilde’s creative process, and especially his use, and abuse, of his sources.

The aim of this publication is to bring a new and accurate text of this little-known early Wildean prose work to a wider general audience, and also to the attention of Wilde scholars, who have hitherto neglected it – partly, perhaps, because of the limitations of the Tragara edition. The need to publish ‘Hellenism’ has been made all the more pressing by the decision of the editor of Criticism (volume four of the Complete Works of Oscar Wilde currently being published by the Oxford University Press) not to include it in her selection of Wilde’s critical writings.

Oscar Wilde: Hellenism is a pendant to Oscar Wilde: The Women of Homer, and like that book, it is a valuable addition to Wilde’s juvenilia.

Praise for Oscar Wilde – The Women of Homer

"This book is a wonderful contribution both to Homeric and to Wildean studies". PETER ACKROYD

"The editors' skilful and sensitive rearrangement of the order of the raw manuscript into five sections has resulted in a remarkably coherent and readable essay. This is a beautifully produced edition of Wilde's earliest surviving prose work, one that is likely to satisfy the editors' hope that 'The Women of Homer' will take its place in Wilde's oeuvre."
       JOHN SLOAN from the review in The Wildean No. 34

  • Thomas Wright's Table Talk Oscar Wilde, the first English language collection of Wilde's spoken stories, was published in 2000 by Cassell & Co. Oscar's Books, his biography of Wilde the reader, was published by Chatto & Windus in September 2008. Death in Genoa was published by the Oscar Wilde Society in January 2010.

  • Donald Mead, the Chairman of the Oscar Wilde Society, is the Editor of The Wildean, A Journal of Oscar Wilde Studies.

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    NEW PUBLICATION: Death in Genoa by Thomas Wright

    The first edition of a new play by the author of Oscar’s Books.

    Death in Genoa is an imaginative dramatic reconstruction of Oscar Wilde’s visit to his wife’s grave in Genoa, on 26 February 1899 (a poignant and little-known episode in his life), and of the time he spent in the Ligurian city. The drama is based on fact, but it is a work of fiction.

    A ‘Made in Manchester/Dark Smile’ production, the audio play Death in Genoa was uploaded to the website of The Independent newspaper in December 2009. In the audio drama Simon Callow plays Oscar Wilde, and Samuel Barnett is Omero, a young Genoese rent-boy Wilde picks up, and who acts as his guide to the city.

    Thomas Wright's unabridged script of the drama is published here (for the audio broadcast an entire scene was cut). The book contains a long preface by the author describing the historical context and composition of the play. It is illustrated with a number of evocative photographs of late nineteenth-century Genoa.

    Death in Genoa is available direct from the Society at £8.00 inclusive of post and packing within the UK. Please click here to download a purchase form.

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    Oscar Wilde visits his wife's grave in Genoa, a journey of destiny.

    By P. C. Wright ("'Keep it Slow'" Bedford UK) 4 Feb 2010

    ‘This is a fascinating play which explores the complexity of Oscar Wilde. Wilde is not the dandy in the witness box or the scourge of English society with all the usual elaborated dramatics. This is a more human and complex character with children, and a wife he loved ; but still louche and unrepentant. Thomas Wright's play, and Simon Callow's Wilde conjure up a person with heart, shallowness, regret and a foreboding. This is a bitter sweet rite of passage as Wilde knowingly drifts towards his own fate. Absorbing and thought provoking. Excellent.’

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    The Oscar Wilde Society issues two regular print journals – The Wildean and Intentions - to all its members both in UK and, by airmail, to those overseas.

    The WildeanThe Wildean: A Journal of Oscar Wilde Studies

    To quote Jonathan Fryer in his biography Wilde (Haus Publishing, 2005):

    'The Wildean provides both stimulation to Wilde scholars and enlightenment to Oscar enthusiasts.'

    The Wildean is published twice a year and contains illustrated articles and correspondence on a wide range of topics relating to Oscar Wilde and his circle. Contributors include many distinguished writers on Wilde. In addition to articles about Wilde’s life and writings, often incorporating the results of new research, important books about Wilde are reviewed as soon as possible after publication.

    To quote Professor Pascal Aquien in the notes to his bilingual edition of Un Mari Idéal (GF Flammarion, 2004):

    ‘The Wildean regularly brings up to date the bibliography of Oscar Wilde.’

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    A combined Table of Contents for all the issues of The Wildean may be seen by clicking here.

    Here is an outline of the contents of the two most recent issues:

    The Wildean No. 45 was issued in July 2014

    CHRISTOPHER NASSAAR in ‘Oscar Wilde and the (Attempted) Murder of Conscience’ identifies conscience as the dominant presence in Oscar Wilde’s oeuvre, from his earliest fairy tales to the final post-reading Gaol material. To highlight Wilde’s concern deepens our understanding of his literature and offers a different perspective on it.

    MICHAEL SEENEY in ‘Wilde, Douglas and The Spirit Lamp’ considers the fifteen issues of this ephemeral university magazine of which six were edited by Lord Alfred Douglas. Wilde contributed three pieces and it featured in the cross-examination of Wilde during his first trial.

    IAN SMALL discusses ‘Editing Wilde and the OET Edition of the Complete Works.’ The primary task for any text editor is the provision of the ‘best text’, but in the last printed text of a work the author’s ‘final’ intentions may have been subject to revisions He considers editors’ treatment of the text of De Profundis, the Mitchell Kennerley edition of The Portrait of Mr W.H. and the French’s Acting Edition of Lady Windermere’s Fan.

    In the last of her three hitherto unpublished articles, ‘Heading for Disaster: Oscar’s Finances: The Wildes’ House Beautiful’ the late ANNE CLARK AMOR recounts the purchase of the lease of No. 16 Tite Street and its renovation and furnishing by Edward William Godwin. The Wildes were living beyond their means and short of totally changing their expensive lifestyle were heading for disaster.

    DONALD MEAD continues the narrative of Oscar’s finances in Chapter Four: ‘A Life Marred and Maimed by Extravagance’. He considers the costs of the Wilde’s household in Tite Street, Constance’s income from her grandfather, Oscar’s earnings from lecturing, literary work and as a playwright, and his hugely extravagant life with Bosie.

    DONALD MEAD, in ‘Earnings from Journalism’, analyses Wilde’s income and compares it with that of his contemporaries, including H.G. Wells and Bernard Shaw. In a further article, he considers how Wilde’s income and expenditure translate into present-day values.

    ANTONY EDMONDS in ‘I don’t think twopence for social position – Attitudes to Class at the Wilde Trials’ says that Wilde was in fact posing when he made himself out to be a man without social distinctions and his playing to the gallery in court had disastrous consequences.

    In ‘A Woman of No Resemblance’ ANTONY EDMONDS shows conclusively that a frequently reproduced photo of ‘Constance, about 1894’ is not of Constance Wilde at all. In ‘An Ideal Boy’ he considers a carte de visite photograph by a Worthing firm of a boy wearing serge jacket and flannels, and a straw hat: could this conceivably be Alphonse Conway, Oscar’s ‘happy, good-humoured companion’ of the Worthing summer of 1894?

    JESSICA M. BROPHY in ‘The Unspoken Solidarity Between Ruskin and Wilde’ examines the seemingly stark contrast between the aesthetic theories of Ruskin and Wilde, but finds, on a closer look, a fused association of aesthetic thought, theory and practice.

    THOMAS LLOYD VRANKEN in ‘The Convergence of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain’ describes how they almost met in America in 1882, and finally met, albeit briefly, when their paths crossed in Bad Nauheim, ten years later.

    RYAN FLANAGAN sheds light on Wilde’s work by looking at it through the lens of Synge in ‘Character Invention in The Importance of Being Earnest and The Playboy of the Western World: A Functional Analysis’.

    MICHAEL SEENEY reviews Charles Ricketts, Everything For Art: Selected Writings edited by Nicholas Frankel. It demonstrates the breadth of Ricketts’s interests and, as Frankel hopes, shows him as an intellectual force in his own right.

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    The Wildean No. 44 was issued in January 2014

    MICHAEL SEENEY in ‘An Ideal Husband: The First Night’ describes the brilliant and fashionable audience for the first staging of Wilde’s play at the Haymarket Theatre on 3rd January 1895, the reviews in the press, and its closure after the Queensberry trial. Gilbert Burgess’s fascinating ‘Talk with Mr Oscar Wilde’ published in The Sketch is reproduced in full, together with a number of photos from the ‘Special Supplement’ about the play.

    ALISON MILBANK in ‘Positive Duality in The Picture of Dorian Gray’ considers how Wilde’s novel situated itself self-consciously in a Gothic tradition of writing, imitating such works as Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Oval Portrait’ and Meinhold’s Sidonia the Sorceress. With a Gothic awareness of our past selves, our mixture of beast and angel, and our duality, change and reconciliation are all possible. In the first of two hitherto unpublished articles, ‘Heading for Disaster: Oscar’s Finances’, the late ANNE CLARK AMOR describes the total disarray of Sir William Wilde’s financial affairs and Oscar’s extravagances as an undergraduate which continued until his lucrative American tour relieved him of his immediate difficulties.

    MICHAEL B. FORREST in ‘The Oscar-like Thread’ considers the role and place of women as portrayed by Katherine Mansfield, and her debt to Oscar Wilde, who was an ever-present influence on her writing.

    MAHO HIDAKA in ‘When Japanese Tradition Meets a Western “Wit and Dramatist”’ relates the Japanese reception of Wilde’s comedies in the Meiji era. Salomé was premiered in Japanese in 1913 and has been repeatedly performed ever since, but the wit, rhythm and wordplay of his comedies is largely lost in translation , and the culturally and socially unfamiliar humour and conversation difficult to appreciate.

    LINDA STRATMANN in ‘The Marquess of Queensberry: rediscovered’ describes how she was attracted to the idea of writing about Queensberry because he was a larger than life character whose life was full of drama, tragedy and conflict. She found not a monster of evil, but a volatile, difficult, awkward, unhappy man terribly damaged by circumstances.

    GERARD HANBERRY in ‘Discovering Oscar Wilde in the Heart of Galway’ describes the properties purchased by Oscar’s great grandfather Ralph Wilde, his grandfather Thomas Wills Wilde and his father, Sir William Wilde.

    MATTHEW STURGIS reviews Oscar Wilde: A Vagabond with a Mission by Geoff Dibb, ad finds it a work of scholarship full of new information, new connections and fresh insights. It adds hugely to our knowledge and understanding of Wilde and does so with real style. It is a necessary addition to any Wildean library.

    DONALD MEAD considers the progress of the OUP edition of Wilde’s Complete Works and looks forward to the time when, eventually, a fully searchable edition will be available online.

    JOHN PETERS reviews Volume V of the Complete Works – Joseph Donoghue’s edition of The Duchess of Padua and of Salomé, both the original French version and Douglas’s translation. He finds it an excellent edition, far better than the existing alternatives, with informative introductions and demonstrating a wealth of historical knowledge about the dramatic context and tradition in which the plays were written.

    THOMAS WRIGHT reviews Volumes VI and VII of the Complete Works – Wilde’s Journalism edited by John Stokes and Mark W. Turner. They have edited Wilde’s newspaper pieces with extraordinary diligence and care and display a familiarity with Wilde’s writing and biography that can only be the result of years of study. Whilst he may not agree with all their editorial decisions on the attribution to Wilde of certain anonymous articles, they have carried out a virtually impossible task with thoroughness and expertise.

    MICHAEL SEENEY reviews Karen Sasha Tipper’s fourth volume of Lady Jane Wilde’s letters (to Constance Wilde, friends and acquaintances, with selected correspondence received.) The tetralogy gives a rounded picture of Speranza’s thought and interests and one should be grateful for the patience and tenacity needed to transcribe them.

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    The Wildean: A Journal of Oscar Wilde Studies is a publication of permanent interest and back copies of previous issues are available for purchase. Click here for a list of available numbers and prices.

    To quote Professor Joseph Bristow,

    'The Wildean is brimful of good things'.

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    The Society’s programme of forthcoming events, with booking forms, is published in Intentions, a Journal/Newsletter which is issued to all members about five times a year.

    Intentions, edited by Michael Seeney, is fully illustrated in colour and also gives information about public performances of Wilde plays, other theatrical occasions and films. In each issue there is a detailed survey of newly published books of Wildean interest, with publishing details, synopses and comment.

    Intentions is also a journal of record for Society events. To take just a few examples:

    At recent Birthday Dinners the Society has enjoyed a talk by Simon Wilson on Jacob Epstein’s Wilde monument in Père Lachaise, and Oliver Parker’s rare and generous insight into the film-making process including the problems of bringing Dorian Gray to the screen. Neil McKenna (author of The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde) gave a talk on ‘Edward Shelley: A Boy of Some Importance’ and Rick Gekoski an authoritative and very entertaining lesson in how to form a book collection, including the formation and disposal of the John Simpson Collection.

    At recent Society lunches Neil McKenna talked about 'Fanny and Stella' (Boulton and Park); Thomas Wright and Simon Scardifield presented 'Oscar's Books' ; Don Mead and Thomas Wright presented 'Oscar Wilde: The Women of Homer'; and Gyles Brandreth gave some background to his series of detective stories featuring Wilde; and Joy Melville spoke on Ellen Terry.

    Intentions records the Society’s visits including those to Paris for the commemoration by Société Oscar Wilde en France of Wilde’s re-interment at Père Lachaise , and to Reading Gaol (copiously illustrated with contemporary and archive photographs and drawings) and

    Intentions publishes interesting and unusual items culled from sometimes obscure sources. Recent issues contain an article by Constance Wilde in The Young Woman on 'How to Decorate a House'; a review by Willie Wilde of a performance of 'Helena in Troas'; and an article in Harper's Weekly in January 1882 about Wilde 'Our Aesthetic Visitor'.

    Intentions regularly reproduces advertisements, rare trade cards and other commercially produced items connected with Oscar Wilde and his works.

    Click here to see a recent example of Intentions

    Occasional publications

    Special publications for members include Don Mead's guides prepared for the Society visits to places associated with Wilde. Oscar Wilde in Paris was recently reissued on the occasion of the Society’s participation in the commemoration of the re-interment of Wilde’s remains at Père Lachaise organised by Société Oscar Wilde en France. Oscar Wilde in Dublin, and Oscar Wilde in Dieppe and Berneval were also updated for successive visits. The various sites are identified in the notes, so that the booklets may also be of use to the unaccompanied visitor.
    Copyright 2014 - The Oscar Wilde Society