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WILDE, Oscar (1854-1900). Autograph letter signed ('Oscar Wilde') to Leonard Smithers, Hotel d'Alsace, Paris, n.d. [?August 1899], four pages, 4to (short splits to folds and slight discolouration).

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WILDE, Oscar (1854-1900). Autograph letter signed ('Oscar Wilde') to Leonard Smithers, Hotel d'Alsace, Paris, n.d. [?August 1899], four pages, 4to (short splits to folds and slight discolouration).

'FACE TO FACE WITH DEATH AND STARVATION'. Wilde thanks Smithers for sending a newly published play [An Ideal Husband], which 'really looks quite splendid: I am greatly pleased with it'. Less positively, 'I suppose there have been absolutely no reviews? It really is too stupid & too bad. Nor have I seen the fascinating advertisements I shd have liked'. Wilde disclaims any knowledge of the correct spelling of the 'real name' of Mrs Brown-Potter [American actress Mrs James Brown-Potter, née Cora Urquhart], and proposes to sign a copy for her when Smithers is next in Paris. Wilde goes on to enquire as to the fate of 'my Irish property', having been 'in hopes' that his Trustees would withdraw their claims, and that he would be able to raise more than £2,000 from it: 'something surely c[oul]d be settled - I am face to face with death and starvation'. The letter concludes with a reference to Smithers' promise to advance some money.

Writing from the hotel in which he died in the following year, Wilde confronts the full desolation of his post-prison life, ignored by critics and public, in desperate financial straits and forced to rely on donations from friends. Smithers' generosity to Wilde and others was such that he himself was to be declared bankrupt a few years after Wilde's death. A transcript of the present letter, in an imitation of Wilde's hand, is at the Beinecke Library, Yale.
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