Saturday, April 18, 2015

Wilde Weekend

I was in Philadelphia for a good 36 hours, speaking at a colloquium at the University of Pennsylvania, and then meeting a great friend for brunch the next morning—whereafter I went to the Rosenbach Museum to see an exhibition on Oscar Wilde which features documents that have been out of the pubic eye for many years. 

Of particular note is a painting of Walt Whitman which was created during the great poet's lifetime. Oscar and Walt (he wrote to him as Walt) met twice—their meeting having a lasting influence on the younger man. 

Philadelphians may not know what is tucked away on a side street near Rittenhouse Square, this being a house with an incredible collection of rare books which is accessible to the public. I saw original copies of "Alice in Wonderful," as well as Herman Melville's original draft of "The Whale," which was later retitled "Moby Dick," as well as original manuscripts by Cervantes. Extraordinary  when you think about it. 

The photo above is of a playing card which was produced after Wilde had given his lectures in Philadelphia—which were much anticipated, the first one rather dull if only because Wilde took an academic turn around the block which rather flummoxed his listeners who were expecting theatrics. Fortunately, Wilde realized his mistake and changed his presentation by unleashing the witty man we remember him to be.

Information about the museum, where two brothers lived together all their lives.

The famous photo of Wilde which was taken in New York. An original copy.

A house along the way which said "Take my Picture."

A side street which was glorious in the Spring light. And it was Spring too—the first really warm day, with everyone out in shorts and sunglasses, riding bikes and walking about town. Having walked quite a bit about town, I stopped a stones-throw away from this picture and had a very good cappuccino, before making my way back to the train station and Manhattan. A wonderful 36 hours. 


  1. Very interesting place, Philadelphia, but very wet last Autumn when we were there so had little interest in walking anywhere. A pity really, after what I read here.

    It's too easy to forget that Wilde was a real man so strong an icon of wit has he become. He was treated abominably by all except a few friends and his ex-wife.

    1. Thank you of your comment, Blue. You make a good point: Wilde was indeed a "real man," and a young one when in Philadelphia.

      So very interesting to see relics from his past. His handwriting was of particular interest to me—wide spaced and visual, with many drawings— thus revealing his process which was quite fascinating.


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