Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Sample page #7

Here's the final sample page for Oscar Wilde Conquers America (page 1page 2page 3page 4, page 5, page 6). Click it for full size.


Oscar and Lillie take a stroll down the south bank of the Thames, just to the east of the Palace of Westminster. Wilde is penniless, but feels compelled to buy his companion a huge bouquet of lilies. It was often rumoured of Wilde that he made a show of parading down Piccadilly with a single lily in his hand, before laying the flower on Lillie Langtry's doorstep. When quizzed about this pilgrimage, which he was said to perform daily, Wilde replied that "it's not whether I did it or not that's important, but whether people believed I did it".

The boy who cries out "Lor'! How rich you are!" is taken from a story recollected by Charles Ricketts, a graphic artist who designed the covers for several of Wilde's books. In 1932 Ricketts, writing under a pseudonym (more than 30 years after Wilde's death, it remained dangerous to admit an association with the fallen playwright), recounted that "Wilde had gone to Convent Garden to purchase some Jersey lilies to give to Mrs. Langtry and was waiting for a hansom when a street arab, fascinated by the orange flowers, exclaimed 'How rich you are!'" [1]. The irony, of course, is that at that time Wilde was anything but.

Wilde escorts Langtry to her home and tries to steal a goodbye kiss. We don't know for sure whether Wilde's obsession with Langtry amounted to anything more than the infatuation of a young poet for a beautiful muse, but there are suggestions in Wilde's poetry that he may have desired consummation. Richard Ellman [2] points to the poem 'Roses and Rue', which Wilde dedicated 'to L. L.'. In this poem, a young man stoops to kiss a woman who responds only with laughter and then runs away when rain begins to fall. As the woman waves goodbye to the youth, she cries out "You have wasted your life". When Ellman recounts the scene, which he plainly believed to be based on a true incident, he adds the line "You have only yourself to blame that you are not famous".

In Roses and Rue, this comment cuts the youth to the quick ("Ah, that was the knife!"). Here, it is the inciting incident that sets Oscar off on a journey to prove himself to Lillie, a woman who so courts fame that, though married, she has become mistress to the Prince of Wales. If Oscar wants to win Lillie's heart, he will need fame. Fortunately, an invitation to tour America is in the post. With it will come international superstardom, as Wilde emerges as the first celebrity famous for being famous.

[1] Ricketts, C. (1932). Recollections of Oscar Wilde. London: Nonesuch. p29
[2] Ellmann, R. (1987). Oscar Wilde. London: Hamish Hamilton. p108

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