This past week, the internet got very excited by the prospect that the grand old man of American letters and the young apostle of aestheticism hooked up in a New Jersey attic. Mallory Ortberg learnt about the meeting, which was arranged by publisher J.M. Stoddart, and allowed her imagination to run wild.
|Source: Sam Krause|
And why not? Stoddart left the pair alone for several hours at Whitman's request. None of us know for sure what happened behind the closed doors to Whitman's den on January 18th 1882, and there's certainly no harm in a little speculation.
When writing about the encounter in my comic book script about Wilde's American lecture tour, I tried to fill in the gaps myself, and came to the conclusion that the pair probably, at the very least, shared a kiss. After all, Wilde later claimed that the kiss of Walt Whitman was still on his lips. It might have been a metaphorical kiss. Or it might not. Nobody knows!
But one thing that Ortberg didn't mention about Wilde and Whitman's meeting is that it wasn't a one-off. On May 10th, after a visit to the Wild West and the silver-rush town of Leadville, Colorado, Wilde returned to New Jersey to call on his hero again. We know very little about this second meeting. But what we do know made me squeal with delight when I first read about it. Wilde came dressed as a cowboy. Yeehaw!
Discover more about Oscar Wilde's American lecture tour, and our comic about it, at oscarwildecomics.com