Lot 246
  • 246

Wilde, Oscar

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Autograph letter signed (“Oscar Wilde”), 4 pages (9 x 5 3/4  in.; 228 x 145 mm), [Topeka, Kansas], 20 April 1882, to “My Dear Sir” in Topeka; in brown ink on two sheets of printed stationery from the Withnell House hotel in Omaha, the two sheets hinged together, lightly and evenly faded from once being matted, neat mends at eight slight fold tears at edges; with typed transcript. Red half morocco slipcase; spine scuffed.


With:  [Wilde].  A fine sepia tall cabinet-card albumen portrait photograph of Oscar Wilde, nearly full-length, posed in overcoat with fur trim and fur hat (7 3/8  x 3 7/8  in.; 188 x 98 mm), mounted on card with the imprint of N. Sarony, 37 Union Square, New York, copyright 1882. Shortly after arriving in New York from England (on 2 January 1882) Wilde visited the studio of Napoleon Sarony, one of the leading commercial photographers in the city. Sarony took some twenty different poses of Wilde (this one is marked “No. 3"), the photographs to be used during his  lecture tour.  In slipcase with above letter.


David Gage Joyce (sale, Hanzel Galleries in Chicago, 23 September l973, lot 167)


 Not in the editions of Wilde letters and presumably unpublished.

Catalogue Note

A Wilde response to a request for a poem.  Written during a one-day stay in Topeka while on his hectic, but very successful,  lecture  tour of North America in 1882.  On 20 April Wilde lectured at the Opera House in Topeka. He had just arrived from Leavenworth, Kansas, and would move on to Lawrence the next day. “... while it gives me much, very much pleasure to know that you have in Topeka a literary club which recognizes the claims of Art, still I am afraid that your addressing it on the subject of Aesthetics is hardly an adequate, or perhaps I should say a sufficiently romantic, motive for an original poem. You have none the less, however, my very best wishes for success, and remembering that you have already in Topeka a poet, which seems to me a feather, perhaps I may call it a peacock’s feather, in the city’s cap, I am none the less delighted to learn that there are orators also, ready to take as their theme that noblest of all themes, the mission of Art, and the value of Beauty.”

In a letter of the same day to a friend back in England, Wilde wrote: “The local [Topeka] poet has just called on me with his masterpiece, a sanguinary lyric of 3000 lines on the Civil War. The most impassioned part begins thus: ‘Here Mayor Simpson battled bravely with his Fifteenth Kansas Cavalry.’ What am I to do?” (The Letters of Oscar Wilde, ed. R. Hart-David, p. 114).