People are sometimes surprised to learn that as young man Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), the poet, playwright and wit famous for his flamboyant and ultimately dramatic life in London and Paris, made two visits to America. Further, that each of these visits was important in informing his personal development, career, works, and legacy.
Now, Oscar Wilde In America announce its new online archive relating to Oscar Wilde and his visits to North America.
The first visit was for the entire year in 1882 during which Wilde conducting a Lecture Tour across the continent consisting of some 140 lectures spanning almost the entire year. The itinerary of this formative lecture tour has never been precisely compiled. There have been four major published versions but none agrees with any other. It is a major focus of the web site to provide a collaborative and definitive itinerary of the lecture tour using modern research techniques.
Many topics are examined including Wilde's American quotations. Key amongst these is the question whether Wilde really did utter the words, "I have nothing to declare except my genius." The web site provides the definitive analysis.
It was also shortly after his arrival in New York that photographs of Wilde were taken by Napoleon Sarony that have come to define the image we have of him today. The web site is the only place online that contains a comprehensive archive of all known images. In keeping with Wilde's desire for notoriety, one of these photographs was instrumental in establishing the U.S. law of copyright for photographs.
There have been countless thousands of performances of Wilde's plays worldwide in the last 130 years. But surprisingly, perhaps, the first ever production of an Oscar Wilde play was in New York many years before his great success on the London stage. In August 1883 Wilde's early play Vera; or, The Nihilists was staged and Wilde made a second visit to America for a month to oversee the production. The web site takes an analytical review of its production.
In the world of Wilde scholarship there exists much historical information relating to his time in America: works, ephemera, photographs, quotations, interviews, and more. The web site is a selected resource.
The work is authored by documentary historian John Cooper, who has spent decades researching Oscar Wilde with a particular focus on his time in New York City, where he conducts Oscar Wilde In New York guided walking tours.
Mr. Cooper is a long-standing member of the Oscar Wilde Society in London, a founding member of the Oscar Wilde Society of America, the former director of the Victorian Society In America, the moderator of the Oscar Wilde Internet discussion group at Yahoo, and a contributor to Oscholars, the Oscar Wilde academic journal.