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WILDE, Oscar (1854-1900). Autograph letter signed (‘O’ and ‘Sebastian Melmoth’) to Louis Wilkinson (‘Dear Mr Wilkinson’), Hôtel des Bains, La Napoule, n.p. [postmarked 3 February 1899].
WILDE, Oscar (1854-1900). Autograph letter signed (‘O’ and ‘Sebastian Melmoth’) to Louis Wilkinson (‘Dear Mr Wilkinson’), Hôtel des Bains, La Napoule, n.p. [postmarked 3 February 1899].

Details
WILDE, Oscar (1854-1900). Autograph letter signed (‘O’ and ‘Sebastian Melmoth’) to Louis Wilkinson (‘Dear Mr Wilkinson’), Hôtel des Bains, La Napoule, n.p. [postmarked 3 February 1899].

Four pages, 154 x 127mm, bifolium. Envelope. Provenance: by descent to the present owner.

On the curl of a young man’s hair and the sacred pain of poetry. The photographs sent by Wilkinson have arrived safely; Wilde finds his correspondent looks too old and learned in one, ‘but in the other you have the eyes of the poet, and your hair is charming. I am sure it is shot with wonderful lights – and I like the curve of its curl. William Morris, in his translation of the Odyssey, renders “hyacinth-like hair” as “curled like the rings of the daffodil” – I remember – so perhaps that describes your curl’. He compliments two of Wilkinson’s poems – for their ‘dainty’ metre and passion – continuing: ‘I hope you will devote yourself, with vows, to poetry. It is a sacramental thing, and there is no pain like it’. He asks if Wilkinson loves [Matthew] Arnold’s Thyrsis and Scholar Gipsy; ‘the former is an exquisite little classic. Sicilian flutes are not sweeter than either’. He promises to send a copy of his latest ‘fanciful, absurd comedy’ [An Ideal Husband] as soon as it comes out.

The author and academic Louis Wilkinson (1881-1966) entered into a correspondence with Oscar Wilde while still a schoolboy at Radley – the latter was by then living out the final few years of his life in self-imposed exile in France following his release from Reading Gaol in 1897. Ostensibly, Wilkinson wrote to ask Wilde’s permission to stage a dramatised version of Dorian Gray, but two quickly forged an epistolary relationship of some depth and sentiment: Wilde – who assumed the name ‘Sebastian Melmoth’ during this time – seems to have seen something of himself in the younger man.

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