13 July 2016
WILDE, Oscar (1854-1900). Autograph letter signed (‘Oscar Wilde’) to Gerald Maxwell, Babbacombe Cliff, n.d. [4 January 1893].
‘I am greatly distressed to hear you are no longer Lord Darlington – what has really happened? I fear the tour was horribly mismanaged – I wish I had seen you in the part, I feel sure you were admirable. The amateur performance here I have not yet seen, as an East-Wind, not knowing, I suppose, who I was, has given me a cold’ and continuing to enquire what Maxwell intends to do next in acting. 4 pages, 8vo (177 x 113mm), envelope. Laid into a copy of Lady Windermere's Fan. London: Elkin Mathews and John Lane, 1893.
Whether the actor Gerald Maxwell (?1862-1933) had the part of Lord Darlington when Wilde’s play, Lady Windermere’s Fan, premiered at The St James’s Theatre in February 1892 is unclear, but his disappointment at having lost the part (and the opportunity to utter Darlington’s immortal line: ‘We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars’) for the play’s tour can be imagined from this letter. Wilde writes from Babbacombe Cliff, where he had retreated in 1892 after the banning of his play, Salome, from the London stage.
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