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creed was never acted upon by anyone whose mind was not out of balance.
So strange and wondrous is his mind, when in an abnormal condition, that
it would not surprise me if he were deriving a keen enjoyment from a
position which most people, whether really innocent or guilty, would
prefer to die rather than occupy. He must have known in what a glass
house he lived when he challenged investigation in a court of justice.
After he had done this he went abroad. Why did he not stay abroad? The
possibilities of a prison may not be pleasing to him, but I believe that
the notoriety that has overtaken him has such a charm for him that it
outweighs everything else. I remember, in the early days of the cult of
æstheticism, hearing someone ask him how a man of his undoubted capacity
could make such a fool of himself. He gave this explanation. He had
written, he said, a book of poems, and he believed in their excellence.
In vain he went from publisher to publisher asking them to bring them
out: no one would even read them, for he was unknown. In order to find a
publisher he felt that he must do something to become a personality. So
he hit upon æstheticism. It succeeded. People talked about him; they
invited him to their houses as a sort of lion. He then took his poems to
a publisher, who - still without reading them - gladly accepted them."

This is thoroughly unsympathetic, but no doubt it represents a mood with
some faithfulness. In criticising the work of critics one _must be a
psychologist_. Religion, the Christian religion at anyrate, teaches
tolerance. Its teachings are seldom obeyed. The four Hags of the
litany - let us personify them! - Envy, Hatred, Malice, and
Uncharitableness unfortunately intrude into religious life too often and
too powerfully. But the real psychologist, not the scientist (_vide_
Nordau) _is_ able to understand better than anyone else the motives
which have animated criticism at any given date. The psychologist more
than any other type of man or woman has learnt the lesson Charles Reade
tried to inculcate in "Put Yourself In His Place."

With a little effort, we can realise what _Truth_ thought when these
lines were written. We cannot blame the writer, we can only record his
words as a part of the general statement dealing with Oscar Wilde's life
and attitude during the "Æsthetic Period."

At this point the reader may possibly ask himself if the title given to
the book - "Oscar Wilde: an Appreciation" - is entirely justified. "The
writer of it," he may say to himself, "is giving us examples of hostile
criticism of Wilde's first period, and though he endeavours to explain
them, yet, in an appreciation, it rather seems that such quotations are
out of place."

I do not think that if the point of view is considered for a moment, the
stricture will be persisted in.

Eulogy, indiscriminating eulogy, is simply an _ex parte_ statement which
can have no weight at all. I shall endeavour to show, before this first
part of the book is completed, not only how those who attacked Wilde
were mistaken, not only how those who bestowed indiscriminate praise
upon him made an over-statement, but finally and definitely what Wilde
was as seen through the temperament of the writer, corrected by the
statements of other writers both for and against him.

I am convinced that this is the only scientific method of arriving at a
just estimation of the character of this brilliant and extraordinary
man. No summing up of the æsthetic period could be complete without
copious references to the great chronicler of our modern life - the
pages of Mr Punch.

_Punch_ has never been bitter. It has often been severe, but Mr Punch
has always, from the very first moment of his arrival among us,
successfully held the balance between this or that faction, and,
moreover, has faithfully reflected the consensus of public opinion upon
any given matter.

The extraordinary skill with which some of the brightest and merriest
wits have made our national comic paper the true diary of events cannot
be controverted or disputed. Follies and fashions have been criticised
with satire, but never with spleen. Addison said that the "appearance of
a man of genius in the world may always be known by the virulence of
dunces." _Punch_ has proved for generations that its kindly appreciation
or depreciation has never been virulent, but nearly always an accurate
statement of the opinion and point of view of the ordinary more or less
cultured and well-bred person.

It has always been a sign of eminence in this or that department of life
to be mentioned in _Punch_ at all. The conductors of that journal during
its whole career have always exercised the wisest discrimination, and
have always kept shrewd fingers upon the pulses of English thought. When
a politician, for example, is caricatured in _Punch_ that politician
knows that he has arrived at a certain place and point in public
estimation. When a writer is caricatured, either in line or words, he
also knows that he has, at anyrate, obtained a hold of this or that sort
upon the country.

Now those who would try to minimise the place of Oscar Wilde in the
public eye during the æsthetic period have only to look at the pages of
_Punch_ to realise how greatly that movement influenced English life
during its continuance.

Let it be thoroughly understood - and very few people will attempt to
deny it - that _Punch_ has always been a perfectly adjusted barometer of
celebrity.

It is, therefore, not out of place, herein, to publish a bibliography of
the references to Oscar Wilde which, from first to last of that
cometlike career, appeared in the pages of Mr Punch. Such a list proves
immediately the one-sidedness of Dr Max Nordau's and Mr Labouchere's
views. From extracts I have given from the remarks of these two eminent
people the ordinary man might well be inclined to think that the
æsthetic movement and the doings of Oscar Wilde in his first period were
small and local things. This is not so, and the following carefully
compiled list will show that it is not so.

The list has been properly indexed and is now given below. Afterwards I
shall give a small selection from the witticisms of the famous journal
to support the bibliography.

Those students of the work of Oscar Wilde and his position in modern
life will find the references below of great interest. They date from
1881 to 1906, and those collectors of "Oscariana" and students of
Wilde's work will doubtless be able to obtain the numbers in which the
following articles, poems, and paragraphs have appeared.


1881

February 12, p. 62. Maudle on the Choice of a Profession.

" " p. 71. Beauty _Not_ at Home.

April 9, p. 161. A Maudle in Ballad. _To His Lily._

" 30, p. 201. The First of May. An Æsthetic
Rondeau. Substitution.

May 7, p. 213. A Padded Cell.

" " p. 215. Design for an Æsthetic Theatrical
Poster. "Let Us Live Up To It."

" 14, p. 218. The Grosvenor Gallery.

" " p. 220. Fashionable Nursery Rhyme.

" " p. 221. Philistia Defiant.

" 28, p. 242. More Impressions. _By Oscuro
Wildegoose._ La Fuite des Oies.

" " p. 245. Æsthetic Notes.

June 25, p. 297. Æsthetics at Ascot.

" " p. 298. _Punch's_ Fancy Portraits. No. 37,
"O. W."

July 23, p. 26. Swinburne and Water.

" " p. 29. Maunderings at Marlow. (_By Our
Own Æsthetic Bard._)

August 20, p. 84. "Croquis" by Dumb-Crambo
Junior.

" 20, p. 84. Too-Too Awful. _A Sonnet of
Sorrow._

September 17, p. 132. Impression De L'Automne.
(_Stanzas by our muchly-admired
Poet, Drawit Milde._)

October 1, p. 154. The Æsthete to the Rose. (_By
Wildegoose, after Waller._)

" 29, p. 204. Spectrum Analysis. (_After "The
Burden of Itys," by the Wild-Eyed
Poet._)

November 12, p. 228. A Sort of "Sortes."

" 19, p. 237. Poet's Corner; _Or, Nonsense
Rhymes on Well-known Names_.

" 26, p. 241. The Downfall of the Dado.

" " p. 242. Theoretikos. By Oscuro Wildegoose.

December 10, p. 274. "Impressions du Theatre."

" 17, p. 288. The Two Æsthetic Poets.

" 24, p. 289. Mr Punch's "Mother Hubbard"
Fairy Tale Grinaway Christmas
Cards. - (Second Series.)

" 31, p. 309. Mrs Langtry as "Lady Macbeth."

Almanack for 1882 (Dec. 6, 1881) (p. 5). More Impressions.
(_By Oscuro Wildegoose._) Des
Sornettes.


1882

January 7, p. 10. "A New Departure."

" " pp. 10, 11. Clowning and Classicism.

" " p. 12. In Earnest.

" 14, p. 14. Oscar Interviewed.

" " p. 16. Æsthetic Ladies' Hair.

" " p. 18. Murder Made Easy. _A Ballad à
la Mode. By "Brother Jonathan"
Wilde._ (With Cartoon.)

" " p. 18. To An Æsthetic Poet.

" " p. 22. Impression du Theatre.

February 4, p. 49. Sketches from "Boz." Oscar
Wilde as _Harold Skimpole_.

" 4, p. 58. A Poet's Day. Ariadne in Naxes;
Or, Very Like a Wail.

" " p. 49. Distinctly Precious Pantomime.

" 18, p. 81. Lines by Mrs Cimabue Brown.

March 11, p. 109. The Poet Wilde's _Unkissed Kisses_.

" " p. 117. Ossian (with Variations).

April 1, p. 153. A Philistine to An Æsthete.

" " p. 156. The Poet Wilde.

" 8, p. 168. Impression De Gaiety Théâtre.
_By Ossian Wilderness._

" 22, p. 192. Likely.

November 4, p. 216. Not Generally Known.

" 25, p. 249. "What! No Soap!" Or, Pop
Goes The Langtry Bubble.


1883

March 31, p. 155. To Be Sold.

" " p. 156. Sage Green. (_By a Fading-out
Æsthete._)

May 12, pp. 220-1. Our Academy Guide. No. 163. - Private
Frith's View. - Members
of the Salvation Army, led by
General Oscar Wilde, joining in
a hymn.

September 1, p. 99. "The Play's (not) the Thing."

November 3, p. 209. Sartorial Sweetness and Light.

" 10, p. 218. Counter Criticism.

" 17, p. 231. Cheap Telegrams.

" " p. 238. Another Invitation to Amerikay.

" 24, p. 249. "And is this Fame?"


1884

June 14, p. 288. The Town. II. - Bond Street.

August 23, p. 96. The Town. No. XI. - "Form."
A Legend of Modern London.
Part I.

" 30, p. 105. A Legend of Modern London.
Part II.


1885

May 30, p. 253. Ben Trovato.

June 27, p. 310. Interiors and Exteriors. No. 13.
At Burlington House. The
"Swarry."

December 7, Almanack for 1886. The Walnut Season.
"Here Y' ar'. Ten a Penny.
All Cracked."


1887

December 10, p. 276. Our Booking-Office. _Woman's
World._


1889

January 5, p. 12. Our Booking-Office. Article in
_The Fortnightly_.

July 6, p. 12. Advertisement of _Blackwood's
Magazine_, containing "The
Portrait of Mr W. H." by Oscar
Wilde.

October 5, p. 160. Appropriate Subject.


1890

July 19, p. 26. Our Booking-Office. _Dorian Gray._

September 20, p. 135. Development.

Christmas Number. Punch Among the Planets.


1891

March 14, p. 123. Desdemona to the Author of
"Dorian Gray." (_Apropos of
his paragraphic Preface._)

" " p. 125. Wilde Flowers.

May 30, p. 257. Our Booking-Office. _Intentions._


1892


March 5, p. 113. A Wilde "Tag" to a Tame Play.
With Fancy Portrait. "Quite
Too-Too Puffickly Precious."

March 12, p. 123. Lord Wildermere's Mother-in-Law.

" " p. 124. Pathetic Description of the
Present State of Mr George
Alexander.

April 30, p. 215. Staircase Scenes. - No. 1, Private
View, Royal Academy.

June 25, p. 304. The Playful Sally.

July 2, p. 315. A Difficulty.

" 9, p. 1. A Wilde Idea; Or, More Injustice
to Ireland.

" 16, p. 16. On the Fly-leaf of an Old
Book.

" 16, p. 23. Racine, With the Chill Off.


1893

January 19, p. 29. "To Rome for Sixteen Guineas."

April 22, p. 189. The B. and S. Drama at the
Adelphi.

" 29, p. 193. Stray Thoughts on Play-Writing.

" " p. 195. The Premier at the Haymarket
last Wednesday.

May 6, p. 213. A Work - of Some Importance.

" 13, p. 221. Wilder Ideas; _Or, Conversation as
she is spoken at the Haymarket_.

" 27, p. 246. A Wylde Vade Mecum. (_By
Professor H-xl-y_)

June 3, p. 257. Second Title for the Play at the
Haymarket.

July 15, p. 13. An Afternoon Party.

" 15, p. 22. "The Play is Not the Thing."

" 29, p. 46. At The T. R. H.

August 26, p. 94. Still Wilder Ideas. (_Possibilities
for the next O. Wilde Play._)

December 30, pp. 304-5. New Year's Eve at Latterday Hall.
An Incident. Dorian Gray
taking Juliet in to Dinner.


1894

February 17, p. 73. "Blushing Honours."

March 10, p. 109. She-Notes. By Borgia Smudgiton.

July 21, p. 33. The Minx. - A Poem in Prose.

August 4, p. 60. Our Charity Fete.

October 13, p. 177. The O.B.C. (Limited).

" 20, p. 185. The Blue Gardenia. (_A Colourable
Imitation._)

" 27, p. 204. Morbidezza.

November 10, p. 225. The Decadent Guys. (_A Colour-Study
in Green Carnations._)

December 15, p. 287. The Truisms of Life. (Note 12.)


1895

January 12, p. 24. Overheard Fragment of a Dialogue.

" 19, p. 29. "To Rome for Sixteen Guineas."

" " p. 36. "A penny Plain - But Oscar
Coloured."

February 2, p. 54. A Wilde "Ideal Husband."

" " p. 60. A God in the Os-Car.

" 23, p. 85. The O. W. Vade Mecum.

March 2, p. 106. "The Rivals" at the A.D.C.

" " p. 107. The Advisability of Not Being
Born in a Handbag.

" 16, p. 121. The Advantage of Being Consistent.

April 6, p. 157. April Foolosophy. (_By One of
Them._)

" 13, p. 171. The Long and Short of It.

" " p. 177. Concerning a Misused Term; _viz._
_Art_, as recently applied to a
certain form of Literature.


1906

January 3, p. 18. Our Booking-Office. (R. H.
Sherard's "_Twenty Years in
Paris_.")

This list at least spells, and spelt, celebrity and a recognition of the
importance of the Æsthetic movement.

Especially did the American lecturing tour of Oscar Wilde excite the
comment and ridicule of _Punch_.

I quote some paragraphs from a pretended despatch from an "American
correspondent."

A POET'S DAY

(_From an American Correspondent_)

OSCAR AT BREAKFAST! OSCAR AT LUNCHEON!!
OSCAR AT DINNER!!! OSCAR AT SUPPER!!!!

"You see I am, after all, but mortal," remarked the Poet, with an
ineffable affable smile, as he looked up from an elegant but
substantial dish of ham and eggs. Passing a long, willowy hand
through his waving hair, he swept away a stray curl-paper with the
_nonchalance_ of a D'ORSAY.

After this effort, Mr WILDE expressed himself as feeling somewhat
faint; and, with a half-apologetic smile, ordered another portion
of

HAM AND EGGS

in the evident enjoyment of which, after a brief interchange of
international courtesies, I left the Poet.

The irresponsible but not ungenial and quite legitimate fun of this is
a fairly representative indication of the way in which the young
"Apostle of Beauty" was thought of in England during his American visit.

The writer goes on to tell how, later in the day, he once more
encountered the "young patron of Culture." It is astonishing to us now
to realise how even the word "culture" was distorted from its real
meaning and made into the badge of a certain set. At anyrate, Mr Punch's
contributor goes on to say that "Oscar" was found at the business
premises of the

CO-OPERATIVE DRESS ASSOCIATION.

On this occasion the Poet, by special request, appeared in the
uniform of an English Officer of the Dragoon Guards, the dress, I
understand, being supplied for the occasion from the elegant
wardrobe of Mr D'OYLEY CARTE'S "Patience" Company.

Several ladies expressed their disappointment at the "insufficient
leanness" of the Poet's figure, whereupon his Business Manager
explained that he belonged to the fleshy school.

To accommodate Mr WILDE, the ordinary lay-figures were removed from
the showroom, and, after a sumptuous luncheon, to which the _élite_
of Miss - - 's customers were invited, the distinguished guest
posed with his fair hostess in an allegorical tableau, representing
_English Poetry extending the right hand to American Commerce_.

"This is indeed Fair Trade," remarked Mr Wilde lightly, and
immediately improvised a testimonial advertisement (in verse) in
praise of Miss - - 's patent dress-improver.

At a dinner given by "JEMMY" CROWDER (as we familiarly call him),
the Apologist of Art had discarded his military garb for the
ordinary dress of an

ENGLISH GENTLEMAN

in which his now world-famed knee-breeches form a conspicuous item,
suggesting indeed the Admiral's uniform in Mr D'OYLEY CARTE'S
"Pinafore" combination.

"I think," said the Poet, in a pause between courses, "one cannot
dine too well" - placing everyone at his ease by his admirable tact
in partaking of the thirty-six items of the _menu_.

The skit continues wittily enough, but it is not necessary to quote more
of it. The paragraphs sufficiently explain the attitude of Mr Punch,
which was the general attitude at the time.

It was hammered in persistently. "Oscar Interviewed" appeared under the
date of January 1882, and again, in the following extracts the reader
will recognise the same note.

"DETERMINED to anticipate the rabble of penny-a-liners ready to
pounce upon any distinguished foreigner who approaches our shores,
and eager to assist a sensitive Poet in avoiding the impertinent
curiosity and ill-bred insolence of the Professional Reporter, I
took the fastest pilot-boat on the station, and boarded the
splendid Cunard steamer, the _Boshnia_, in the shucking of a
peanut."

HIS ÆSTHETIC APPEARANCE

He stood, with his large hand passed through his long hair, against
a high chimney-piece - which had been painted pea-green, with panels
of peacock-blue pottery let in at uneven intervals - one elbow on
the high ledge, the other hand on his hip. He was dressed in a
long, snuff-coloured, single-breasted coat, which reached to his
heels, and was relieved with a sealskin collar and cuffs rather the
worse for wear. Frayed linen, and an orange silk handkerchief, gave
a note to the generally artistic colouring of the _ensemble_, while
one small daisy drooped despondently in his buttonhole.... We may
state that the chimney-piece, as well as the sealskin collar, is
the property of OSCAR, and will appear in his Lectures "on the
Growth of Artistic Taste in England."

HE SPEAKS FOR HIMSELF

"Yes; I should have been astonished had I not been interviewed!
Indeed, I have not been well on board this Cunard _Argosy_. I have
wrestled with the glaukous-haired Poseidon, and feared his
ravishment. Quite: I have been too ill, too utterly ill.
Exactly - seasick in fact, if I must descend to so trivial an
expression. I fear the clean beauty of my strong limbs is somewhat
waned. I am scarcely myself - my nerves are thrilling like throbbing
violins - in exquisite pulsation.

"You are right. I believe I was the first to devote my subtle
brain-chords to the worship of the Sunflower, and the apotheosis of
the delicate Tea-pot. I have ever been jasmine-cradled from my
youth. Eons ago, I might say centuries, in '78, when a student at
Oxford, I had trampled the vintage of my babyhood, and trod the
thorn-spread heights of Poesy. I had stood in the Arena and torn
the bays from the expiring athletes, my competitors."

* * * * *

LECTURE PROSPECTS

"Yes; I expect my Lecture will be a success. So does DOLLAR
CARTE - I mean D'OYLEY CARTE. Too-Toothless Senility may jeer, and
poor, positive Propriety may shake her rusty curls; but I am here
in my creamy lustihood, to pipe of Passion's venturous Poesy, and
reap the scorching harvest of Self-Love! I am not quite sure what
I mean. The true Poet never is. In fact, true Poetry is nothing if
it is intelligible. She is only to be compared to SALMACIS, who is
not a boy or girl, but yet is both."

And so forth, and so forth.

About the conversation and superficial manner of Oscar Wilde there must
have been something strangely according to formula. Among intimate
friends, friends who were sympathetic to his real ideals, his talk was
wonderful. That fact is vouched for in a hundred quarters, it is not to
be denied.

As I write I have dozens of undeniable testimonies to the fact, I myself
can bear witness to it on at least one occasion. But when Wilde was not
with people for whose opinion of him he cared much - really cared - his
odd perversity of phrase, his persistent wish to astonish the fools, his
extraordinary carelessness of average opinion often compelled him to
talk the most frantic nonsense which was only redeemed from mere
childish inversion of phrase by the air and manner with which it was
said, and the merest tinsel pretence of wit. The wittiest talker of his
generation, certainly the wittiest writer, gave the very worst of his
wit to the pressmen who pestered him but who, and this was the thing he
was unable to appreciate at its true value, represented him to the world
during this "first period."

The mock interviews in _Punch_ which have been quoted from are really no
very wide departures from the real thing. A year or two after the
Æsthetic movement was not so prominent in the public eye as was the
success of Wilde as a writer of plays, an actual interview with him
appeared in a well-known weekly paper in which he talked not much less
extravagantly than he was caricatured as talking in _Punch_. A play of
his had been produced and, while it was a complete and satisfying
success, it had been assailed in that unfortunately hostile way by the


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Online LibraryLeonard Cresswell InglebyOscar Wilde → online text (page 2 of 22)