WILDE, OSCAR. Autograph manuscript signed (at end) of his short story "The Model Millionaire," collected in Lord Arthur Savile's Crime and Other Stories (1891), with deletions and corrections by the author, pencilled note on p.22: "Insert here. 3rd page," referring to a sentence added in the 1891 version (not present here), [London], dated at end 11 December 1886. 28 pages, folio, written in dark grey ink on rectos only, each leaf on a guard, a few small marginal tears, slight soiling and stains to first leaf, gray-green levant morocco, gilt-lettered spine, light grey morocco doublures, dark grey watered silk endpages, by Canape.
"The Model Millionaire" commences with a string of typically Wildean aphorisms: "Unless one is wealthy, there is no use being a charming fellow. Romance is the privilege of the rich, not the profession of the unemployed. The poor should be practical & prosaic. It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating. These are the great truths of modern life that Hughie Erskine never realized...." Hughie's great misfortune is his lack of a fortune. He had gone on the stock exchange, "but what was a butterfly to do amÿong bulls & bears?",then attempted other trades but "ultimately he became nothing, a delightful intellectual young man with a perfect profile & no profession. To make matters worse, he is in love with an equally insolvent young lady, Laura Merton, whose father forbids them to marry until Hughie possesses a fortune of at least #10,000. Erskine visits the studio of his friend, the painter Alan Trevor, "a strange, rough fellow," who may be partly modelled on Wilde's own friend and adversary James McNeil Whistler. Trevor is painting, from a model, a decrepit old beggar, and when Erskine contrasts the pittance the model will earn, compared to the 2,000 guineas Trevor will get for the canvas, Trevor protests that painting is indeed work, and that "there are moments when Art almost attains to the dignity of manual labour." Erskine pities the miserable beggar and slips him a sovereign. He later learns that the model is, in actuality, Baron Hausberg, one of the richest men in Europe. Hausberg, in turn, when he has learned of Hughie and Laura's dilemma, sends him a check for the needed #10,000. "Millionaire models," remarks Alan, "are rare enough, but by Jove, model millionaires are rarer still!"
"The Model Millionaire," was first published in The World: A Journal for Men and Women, vol.26, no.677 (June 22, 1887) and then collected with three other stories in Lord Arthur Savile's Crime and Other Stories (London, 1891), with the curious explanatory parenthetical subtitle "A note of admiration," which Wilde has added in pencil in the present manuscript. (The other stories in the volume include "The Sphinx Without a Secret" and "The Canterville Ghost.")