The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003

Oscar Wilde Lectures in Texas,
1882
DOROTHY MCLEOD MACINERNEY, WILLIAM WARREN ROGERS,
AND ROBERT DAVID WARD*
OSCAR WILDE VISITED TEXAS, THE SOUTH'S WESTERN EXTREMITY, IN JUNE
1882. The native Irishman's presence was part of his American lec-
ture tour, and a more unlikely conjunction of geography and personality
is difficult to imagine. Here was a young man twenty-seven years old, wide-
ly known as a spokesman for the aesthetic movement, and notorious for
his bizarre dress, precious affectations, and use of exaggerated words
such as "utterly," "intense," "consummate," "ineffable," and "too-too."
Wilde's reputation for brilliant short stories, plays, poetry, and literary
criticism lay in the future. He did not come as the reigning king of aes-
theticism, although, in some ways, he already had a greater popular im-
age than his mentors. He was the most heralded passenger on the S.S. Ari-
zona when the ship docked at New York City on January 2, 1882, and had
already established his lasting reputation as a brilliant conversationalist.'
Wilde had come to America to lecture on the aesthetic movement and
to help publicize Patience, the latest comic opera triumph of William S.
Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. With a highly active but somewhat undeter-
mined itinerary, he would lecture in the East (New England and the At-
lantic Coast states), Canada, the Midwest, and the West (including Cali-
fornia). By April Wilde had done so, having made the tour entirely by rail.
* Dorothy McLeod MacInerney, Ph.D., is a visiting scholar at the University of Texas at Austin
William Warren Rogers, Ph.D., is professor of history emeritus at Florida State University. Robert
David Ward, Ph.D , is professor of history emeritus at Georgia Southern University.
' For an earlier article on Wilde's Texas tour see Norman W. Alford, "Oscar Wilde in Texas,"
Texas Quarterly, io (Summer, 1967), 193-198. See also Lloyd Lewis and HenryJustin Smith, Oscar
Wzlde Discovers America (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1936), a well-researched and entertaining so-
cial history; Kevin O'Brien, Oscar Wilde in Canada: An Apostle for the Arts (Toronto: Rexdale, Ont.,
distributed byJ. Wiley, 1982) Scholarly and meticulously researched, O'Brien's work should be
read with his "An Edition of Oscar Wilde's American Lectures" (Ph D. diss., University of Notre
Dame, 1973), easily the most thorough study of Wilde's speeches. See also Rupert Hart-Davis
(ed.), The Letters of Oscar Wilde (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962), and Rupert Hart-
Davis, More Letters of Oscar Wilde (New York: Vanguard Press, 1986). For Wilde in America see es-
pecially chapters VI and VII of Richard Ellman, Oscar Wilde (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988).
VOL. CVI, NO. 4 SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY APRIL 2003

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/. Accessed November 28, 2014.