|Original façade of the Savoy Theatre, 1881, from Wikipedia|
The walk from the RA to the Savoy only takes 19 minutes (according to Google Maps), but I have taken the liberty of shortening the distance. Also of compressing the summer into the time it takes to turn a page: Wilde and Langtry have just come from the RA's Summer Exhibition, which ends in August. But Patience didn't open at the Savoy until October 10th.
The Savoy was long the home of Gilbert and Sullivan, but in 1931 it was to host the first UK performance of Oscar Wilde's play Salome (the only performances given during his lifetime were in Paris).
Wilde would have been less keen to sit through another performance of Patience. The operetta was a light spoof of aestheticism, the creed of "art for art's sake" that Wilde was widely perceived to lead.
|The original interior of the Savoy, photographed in 1920|
As Oscar took a seat in a rear box, the audience turned en masse to get a good look at the curiosity from across the Atlantic. The New-York Tribune reported the next day that "numberless opera glasses turned toward the poet, but he appeared entirely unconscious of the scrutiny". But of course, appearances can be deceptive.
The main point I wanted to get across in this page is that Oscar is, at this point in the story, practically penniless. Danica has done a great job of conveying that, and I especially love how she's rendered Wilde's face in that final panel: Oscar has avoided what could have been an embarrassing admission of penury, deflected Langtry's request with a quip, and adopted a mask of superiority. Although he would normally indulge Langtry's every whim, he poses as bored, and suggests the riverside walk that he would ordinarily do anything to avoid.
It was Oscar's money troubles that on October 1st 1881 led him to accept D'Oyly Carte's invitation to tour America as a walking-talking advertisement for Patience, with a hastily penned telegram that read "Yes, if offer good."
The offer was good, and Oscar was soon on his way to conquering America.
Discover more about Oscar Wilde's American lecture tour, and my comic about it, at oscarwildecomics.com