01-09-1882

Wilde's Lecture Tour: Before and After

OSCAR WILDE gives his first lecture on “The English Renaissance of Art” in New York. It was on this visit-slash-publicity tour that Wilde famously responded to a customs official’s request if he had anything to declare with “I have nothing to declare except my genius.”

In December 1881, Oscar sailed for New York to travel across the United States and deliver a series of lectures on aesthetics. The 50-lecture tour was originally scheduled to last four months, but stretched to nearly a year, with over 140 lectures given in 260 days. In between lectures he made time to meet with Henry Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Walt Whitman. He also arranged for his play, “Vera,” to be staged in New York the following year. When he returned from America, Oscar spent three months in Paris writing a blank-verse tragedy that had been commissioned by the actress Mary Anderson. When he sent it to her, however, she turned it down. He then set off on a lecture tour of Britain and Ireland.