ALBUM - OSCAR WILDE, ANNIE OAKLEY and BUFFALO BILL

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Lot 151
ALBUM - OSCAR WILDE, ANNIE OAKLEY and BUFFALO BILL

Sold for £ 2,160 (US$ 3,016) inc. premium
ALBUM - OSCAR WILDE, ANNIE OAKLEY and BUFFALO BILL
Unusually attractive autograph album, compiled by May Ostlere, composer and author, many signatures appearing on trompe-l'oeil cards against watercolour backgrounds (often incorporating the Stars and Stripes or scenes from the Wild West), signatories including Oscar Wilde (signing in company with the actress May Fortescue, the original Ella in Gilbert and Sullivan's satire on the aesthetic movement, Patience, and Lady Dorothy Nevill, society hostess and author, their signatures in purple ink against the Stars and Stripes), Buffalo Bill ("True to friend & foe/ W.F. Cody/ Buffalo Bill/ May 7th 1887", under a pen-and-ink drawing of him hunting a buffalo), with members of his Wild West Show, including Annie Oakley (subscribed "I Aim to please"), Annie's husband Frank E. Butler, and Buck Taylor (subscribed "King of the Cowboys"), sundry 'coloured banjoists', William Sweeney and five other members of Buffalo Bill's 'Cow Boy Band' at the Wild West Camp, and many other British and foreign entertainers, journalists etc; ownership of May Ostlere with her London address and verse admonition to any finder on fly-leaf, some 200 pages, a few leaves loose, light dust-staining or other evidence of handling, calf boards, 8vo, mostly 1887 and 1888 and early 1890s

Footnotes

  • Quite a few of these signatures appear to have been obtained in 1887, on the occasion of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show which drew huge crowds to the great American Exhibition held that spring at Earls Court and Olympia; an event that has been seen as not only establishing the fictionalized Wild West as an international phenomenon but as marking the beginnings of American cultural hegemony over Britain and the rest of Europe. May Ostlere, the compiler of this album, clearly enjoyed a measure of privileged access: Buffalo Bill's signature is dated 7 May, whereas the show did not officially open until the 9th (a special preview had been given for the Prince of Wales and his family on the 4th and a command performance for the Queen herself was to be given on the 11th). She is listed in the British Museum Catalogue as author of Dead! (1890), a tale, and Mirabelle (1890), a novel. She was also composer of the popular 'Hypatia Waltz' and edited the Album of Twenty-Five Favorite Songs for Girls, which is still in print. In 1887 she published the Buffalo Bill Polka, 'composed for and dedicated to The Honble W.F. Cody by special permission'.

    It appears that Oscar Wilde, too, may have visited the show, something that does not seem to have been hitherto recorded; and that - as seems all too probable - he did so in the company of two fashionable and artistic ladies. From the Stars and Stripes drawn on his page, which matches that signed by Annie Oakley, it is apparent that his signature was collected in an American context (or so perceived by the compiler of this album). The fact that the signatures of May Fortescue and Lady Dorothy Nevill are written below his, in the same distinctive Wildean purple ink, leaves no doubt that all three were encountered at the same time, and in each other's company. A dated signature appearing on the same page below fixes a terminus ante quem of 16 August 1887. That May, Wilde had been appointed editor of the Lady's World and he devoted much of the month to buttering up potential contributors, Lady Dorothy being among those lending their name to the project. He was also keen on securing American authors, writing, for example, to Julia Ward Howe (Complete Letters, ed. Holland and Hart-Davis, p.303); and was of course a veteran of the American touring circuit himself. So it would have been lax of him had he not - along with half of fashionable London - paid tribute to Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill at Earls Court that summer.
ALBUM - OSCAR WILDE, ANNIE OAKLEY and BUFFALO BILL
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