Wilde in America

You wait 80 years for a new book about Oscar Wilde's 1882 American lecture tour, and two are published within a couple of years!

In 1936, Lewis and Smith published a door stopper of a book, Oscar Wilde Discovers America: 1882. It's a fun read, although it's now considered wildly inaccurate. But, then again, Wilde was no fan of the truth himself. What he might have considered less forgiveable was Lewis and Smith's tendency to veer from one topic to another, like a drunk uncle at a wedding. They include a lot of details that most Wilde aficionados could happily live without (e.g. the popularity of lawn tennis among late 19th century Americans).

Roy Morris Jr.'s 2013 book on Wilde's American Tour, Declaring his Genius: Oscar Wilde in North America
This is why Roy Morris Jr.'s Declaring his Genius: Oscar Wilde in North America, a slimmed down version of the story, was so welcome. Given how much Wilde crammed into that one year, it's surprising that it took his biographers so long to mine this rich seam. After all, a quick perusal of the Amazon catalogue shows that virtually every other aspect of his life has been raked over, told, and retold by generations of writers.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that another book on Wilde's America tour is due to be published this autumn!

David M. Friedman's Wilde in America, forthcoming from Norton.
While the Morris book, published by Harvard University Press, appeared to be targeted at hardcore Wilde fans, Friedman's seems intended for a wider audience. According to the April edition of the Oscar Wilde Society's newsletter, Friedman structures his book "around nine lasting principles of fame creation, devised by Wilde". Although Wilde never, to my knowledge, set down any rules for achieving notoriety, after living a year in the intense glare of the media -- and being interrogated by the ubiquitous American interviewer on more than 100 occasions -- he had certainly learned how difficult and rewarding fame could be.

As one who has been immersed in Wilde's American adventure for over two years now, I am probably looking forward to Friedman's book more than most. But you should pre order a copy too. Go on, go Wilde!

Discover more about Oscar Wilde's American lecture tour, and my comic about it, at oscarwildecomics.com