WILDE, Oscar (1854-1900). Autograph manuscript notes for a lecture, 'Personal Impressions of America' (following his visit in 1882), n.p., n.d. , 18 pages, 4to, stitched (original covers removed), in a maroon half morocco slipcase. Provenance: Jerome Kern (bookplate) -- sale, Parke-Bernet, New York, 11 December 1940, lot 180, $260.
'[AMERICA] TAKES THE IGNORANT PEASANTRY OF EUROPE AND TEACHES THE MEANING OF THE WORD LIBERTY'
OSCAR WILDE'S FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF AMERICA: Speaking notes prepared for the lecture which he gave after his return, in London on 11 July 1883, on American cities, people, literature and the arts, and ending with three pages extolling the fine qualities of the Americans.
Under the heading, 'Enormous size', Wilde jots down his itinerary including New York, Boston and other cities, followed by succinct comments mingling praise with criticism, arranged under headings: 'Cities: no rags noises badly paved use of trees electric light...'. 'Literature: Cosmopolitan character of America due to intellectual nearness to Europe. Newspaper annihilates the Atlantic ocean ... Solaced myself in vile parts of Texas with debates in house of Commons a few hours after they were delivered'. 'Southern press very courteous. Perhaps due to duelling'. 'The children are supercilious, pale and precocious' while the girls are 'the prettiest despots in the world. Each girl an oasis of unreasonableness in a desert of common sense'. 'Licence: intrusions into private life: no private life.'
The final passage praises American democracy and progress, concluding: 'Much to be learned from a nation that does not regard poverty as a necessary condition of a great country ... takes the ignorant peasantry of Europe and teaches them the meaning of the word Liberty'.
Wilde had embarked on a lecture tour of America early in 1882, preceded by his reputation as an aesthete and wit. He offered three subjects, 'The English Renaissance', 'The Decorative Arts' and 'The House Beautiful'. In the first six months he received over $18,000, and a further programme was arranged to take in Canada and the Southern states. On his return to London, he was obliged to lecture again. His impressions of America were first delivered with great élan to an audience including James McNeill Whistler in the Prince's Hall, Piccadilly, before he embarked on a tour of the provinces.