The first lecture

Today is the 131st anniversary of Wilde's first lecture. At 8.30pm on the 9th January 1882, Wilde took to the stage of Chickering Hall and was confronted by a sell out audience of New York's great and good. Some had come to hear him speak on The English Renaissance, but many were more interested in his long hair and peculiar clothing. It was the first time Wilde had ever spoken in public to more than a handful of people, and it showed. He blushed, stood stock still, and read out his script in a kind of staccato, stressing every fourth syllable.

Still, the audience listened intently, laughed at all the right places, and many considered the night a great success (others didn't).

Before the lecture, Wilde wasn't convinced his trip to America would last more than a few weeks. Afterwards, with his status as a box office draw confirmed, he began a lengthy tour of the country's opera houses, theatres and music halls that would run until late October. Oscar Wilde had not yet conquered America, but the first battle was his.