WILDE, Oscar (1854-1900). Autograph letter signed ('Oscar Wilde') to Mrs [Julia Ward] Howe, Augusta, Georgia, 6 July n.y. , 4 pages, 4to, and: LELAND, Charles Godfrey (1824-1903). Autograph letter signed to Oscar Wilde, Philadelphia, 11 May 1882, 2½ pages, 8vo.
An effusively enthusiastic letter to his hostess at Newport: 'I write to you from the beautiful, passionate, ruined South, the land of magnolias and music, of roses and romance, picturesque too in her failure to keep pace with your keen northern pushing intellect; living chiefly on credit, and on the memory of some crushing defeats, and I have been to Texas, right to the heart of it, and stared with Jeff[erson] Davis at his plantation ... and seen Savannah, and the Georgia forests, and bathed in the Gulf of Mexico, and engaged in Voodoo rites with the negroes, and am dreadfully tired and longing for an idle day which we will have at Newport'. The first part of the letter gives a humorous warning of the extent of his luggage: '[I]t is not in the right harmony of things that I should have a hat-box, a secretary, a dressing case, a trunk, a portmanteau, and a valet ...'.
Wilde writes during his first American lecture tour, which had been extended to include the South. He arrived in Newport the next week, and stayed with Julia Ward Howe (author of 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic'), who had earned his gratitude when she defended him in the press against an attack by Colonel T.W. Higginson who denounced his poems as 'immoral' during his visit to Boston. At dinner in Newport he succeeded in out-talking the two great Boston conversationalists, Thomas Appleton and Oliver Wendell Holmes, and it was even briefly rumoured that he would marry Mrs Howe's daughter.
Charles Leland sends an encomium of praise for 'the good you have done the Great Cause of Art Education'. Leland spent ten years in England, and met Wilde in 1879, before founding the Industrial Art School in Philadelphia, where Wilde lectured on 10 May. He replied warmly to Leland's letter a few days later. (2)