WILDE (OSCAR) Autograph letter signed, 1884
Lot 245*
WILDE (OSCAR) Autograph letter signed, 1884
Sold for £3,500 (US$ 5,882) inc. premium
Lot Details
Autograph letter signed ("Oscar Wilde"), to "Dear Sir", stating: "I will have two new lectures at least next season – besides those I have delivered", adding in a postscript: "October will do – but my fee is always the same", 2 pages, contemporary docket, pin-holes, some discoloration, 8vo, dated by recipient 22 May 1884


  • WILDE OFFERS TERMS FOR A LECTURE TOUR, WRITING A WEEK BEFORE HIS WEDDING: Wilde was to marry Constance Lloyd on the 29th, and although she received a generous allowance from her family, he was forced to embark on a lecture tour to finance the considerable expense of decorating their house at Tite Street to the requisite high standard required of an arbiter of taste. This tour covered Britain, Scotland and Ireland, lasting from October 1885 until the following March, his subjects being The Value of Art in Modern Life and Beauty, Taste and Ugliness in Dress. The year before he had lectured on Impressions of America and The House Beautiful, and although in our letter he offers to repeat these in the forthcoming season, he does not seem to have done so. His fee varied from ten to twenty-five guineas per night, according the size of hall and audience. There is a view – expressed by Owen Dudley Edwards – that this question of finance, as raised in our pre-marital letter, played a crucial part in determining Wilde's destiny: 'His marriage was sexually vigorous, with his son Cyril born on 5 June 1885, at the Wildes' new home in London, 16 Tite Street, Chelsea, while his son Vivian ... was born on 3 November 1886. The resultant strain on the Wildes' finances led them to abstain from sexual intercourse. Constance inherited £900 a year from her grandfather John Horatio Lloyd QC, but Wilde's earnings were entirely freelance and involved contributions to his mother's upkeep. Remembering his father's sexual infidelities (resulting in at least three bastards), Wilde recoiled from the thought of sexual solace with other women, and Ross [his first male lover] seems to have exploited his sexual hunger and refusal to betray his heterosexual bed' (ODNB).

    It has been suggested that this letter, which is not printed in The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde, was addressed to Colonel Morse, who organized his American tours. From its explicatory tone, this seems to us unlikely; or indeed that it is addressed to G.W. Appleton, who worked in Morse's London office and handled the British end of things: it seems more probable that it was sent to someone who was, instead, requesting an appearance from Wilde.
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