All About Oscar

On 30 November 1900 in a rundown Paris hotel, the poet, dramatist, novelist, and society wit Oscar Wilde died. In November 2020, 120 years after his passing, Bonhams announced a major new exhibition dedicated to Wilde’s life and works to be staged at its London headquarters, 101 New Bond Street. Oscar Wilde: A Man for Our Times runs from 15 – 23 February 2021.

The exhibition features the collection of noted Wilde collector, bibliophile, and former dealer in Oriental antiques, Jeremy Mason, who has been collecting Wilde memorabilia for the last 55 years. The extensive collection of 500 books, files and boxes has been distilled to showcase the many facets of Wilde’s remarkable life and will present fascinating and rare highlights, including:

  • Portrait of Oscar Wilde by the famous New York photographer Sarony taken in 1882. Wilde’s flamboyant attire went viral: his velvet coat, knee-breeches, silk stockings, and patent leather shoes had one Midwest journalist wondering whether the fashionable young men of Milwaukee would „fear that their calves are wanting in symmetry“.
  • Autograph letter signed to Ada Leverson, [February 1895]. Written to thank the critic Leverson – always known to Wilde as ‘The Sphinx’ – for her glowing review of the first night of The Importance of Being Earnest. „Dear Sphinx, You are more than all criticisms. I have merely to thank you again and again for your desire to sound in my honour a daffodil-shaped horn… Bosie sends sweet words, and so does our Scotch friend Ross.“ By April Wilde was in prison awaiting trial.
  • The bill for flowers at Oscar Wilde’s funeral, made out to Robert Ross, amounting to 77 francs, submitted by Maison Helbig of 10 Boulevard Malesherbes, Paris, 2 December 1900.
  • Two delightful unpublished letters to a child, Beatrice Faudel-Phillips, in which Wilde warns that ‘People who break their engagements …..eventually become so stout, that their waistcoats don’t fit them, and the Doctors don’t allow them to eat whipped cream, ices, or indeed sweet things of any description’ and describes himself as a „wall flower“ who does not dance any more.

 

Other Things You Might Be Interested in:

Learn more about Oscar Wilde in this BBC Podcast episode of “In Our Time”.

I’d highly recommend seeing Wilde performed live but since that is out of the question under the current circumstances, there are also a number of film versions, for instance of his iconic play The Importance of Being Earnest. Here is the trailer for the 2002 film featuring Judi Dench, Colin Firth, and Reese Witherspoon.

This YouTube series “Klassiker der Weltliteratur“ presents a feature on Oscar Wilde (in German).