WILDE (OSCAR) Photograph of Wilde, signed and inscribed, 1890
Lot 271
WILDE (OSCAR) Photograph of Wilde, signed and inscribed, 1890
Sold for £13,750 (US$ 23,111) inc. premium
Lot Details
Photograph of Wilde, signed and inscribed "Arthur Fish/ from his friend/ Oscar Wilde/ '90", showing Wilde head-and-shoulders, facing three-quarters to his left, wearing a black coat and wing collar, mounted on (?) original stiff card, very light toning where exposed, but in fine and attractive condition, approximately 240 x 190mm., [August] 1890


  • A MAGNIFICENT LARGE FORMAT PHOTOGRAPH OF WILDE, INSCRIBED TO HIS ASSISTANT EDITOR ARTHUR FISH: Fish was Wilde's long-suffering assistant during his editorship of The Woman's World, which ran from the November 1887 issue to that of October 1889. When Wilde could not be bothered to write his 'Literary and Other Notes', which happened with increasing frequency as his editorship progressed, he would call upon Fish to make up the deficiency. After Wilde left the paper, Fish stayed in touch. In the summer of 1890, Wilde wrote to congratulate him on his engagement; following this with a letter on 8 August: 'My dear Arthur Fish, You said you would like a photograph of me. I have got one for you. Will you come and get it, either tomorrow (Saturday) at six o'clock or Sunday at twelve o'clock. I fear you may be engaged, but should like to see you before your marriage, and give you my best wishes in person'. The editors of Wilde's letters identify this photograph as the one now in the William Clark Andrews Memorial Library, which is an identical image to our but inscribed 'To dear Arthur from his friend Oscar Wilde' (see The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde, edited by Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart-Davis, 2000, p. 444, the photograph reproduced at plate 47; Andrews Library, Box Wildeiana 14, item 21). By October, Wilde was indeed addressing Fish as 'My dear Arthur', but our photograph seems (to us) to fit better with the 'Dear Arthur Fish' of the 8 August letter and all preceding communications; in other words to be the photograph that Wilde had already signed, ready for Fish to collect. Its more warmly-worded sibling might even have been inscribed, impulsively, at that same meeting. Our photograph later belonged to Hesketh Pearson, author of The Life of Oscar Wilde, 1946. This classic biography drew on much first hand information, especially from George Alexander and Sir Beerbohm Tree, with whom Pearson had acted. It seems not out of the question that Arthur Fish, who lived on until 1940, gave Pearson this photograph himself.
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