Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What Oscar Wilde Was Thinking About One Hundred Twenty Years Ago This Week


Ronald Colman (l), Bert Lytell (c), May McAvoy (r), Lady Windermere's Fan, 1925, dir. Ernst Lubitsch

To Herbert Home
MS Fales

[Postmark 28 January 1891] 
16 Tite Street  

My dear Home, Many thanks, but I am dining out, otherwise I would come with pleasure to hear you read some delicate Herrick-like song, and Lionel read that sonnet on Wormwood that so fascinated me.  Ever yours.

                                                                                                                                                Oscar Wilde

The Duchess of Padua, Manuscript title page, 1883

To Arthur Clifton
MS Clark

[Postmark 28 January 1891]
16 Tite Street
My dear Arthur, The new last line  ‘Paradise’ is charming.  ‘Vice does not do as it is a word tainted in its signification with moral censure – vitium: what is faulty.

The evening was charming. I enjoyed it all.  Ever yours.


Actor, Theater Manager George Alexander, ca. 1901

To George Alexander
MS  Arents

[2 February 1891] 
16 Tite Street

My dear Aleck, I am not satisfied with myself or my work.  I can’t get a grip on the play [1] yet:  I can’t get my people real.  The fact is that I worked at it when I was not in the mood for work, and must first forget it, and then go back quite fresh to it.  I am very sorry, but artistic work can’t be done unless one is in the mood; certainly, my work can’t.  Sometimes  I spend months over a thing,  and don’t do any good; at other times I write things in a fortnight.

        You will be interested to hear that The Duchess of Padua was produced in New York last Wednesday, under the title of Guido Ferranti, by Lawrence Barrett.  The name of the author was kept a dead secret, and indeed not revealed till yesterday when at Barrett’s request I acknowledged the authorship by cable.  Barrett wires to me that it was a huge success, and that he is going to run it for his season.  He seems to be in great delight over it.

        With regards to the check for 50 pounds you gave me, shall I return you the money, and end the agreement, or keep it and when the play is written let you have the rights and refusal of it?  That will be just as you wish. 

        I am delighted to hear you had a brilliant opening at the St. James’s.  Ever yours.

                                                                                                                                                Oscar Wilde

[1]  Lady Windermere's Fan

To Edward Lawson
MS Private

[2 February 1891]
16 Tite Street

Dear Mr Lawson, The delightful article in your issue of this morning has inspired the enclosed letter.  I don’t wish to sign my name, though I am afraid everybody will know who the writer is:  one’s style is one’s signature always.

        I think, however, that the subject of modern dress is worth discussing, and of course yours is the paper that is in quickest touch with the public, and to which the public look for a topic to write on.  Believe me, truly yours

                                                                                                                                                Oscar Wilde

I know you like news of the stage.  This will be news.  On Wednesday last a blank verse romantic drama in five acts, called Guido Ferranti, was produced in New York by Mr Lawrence Barrett.  The name of the author was kept a profound secret.  The play achieved an immense success and excited much curiosity.  At Mr Barrett’s request the author revealed himself on Sunday by cable.  It was Mr Oscar Wilde.  He was anxious to have the play judged entirely on its own merits.  The result has justified his expectations.  The play is running to crowded houses.

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