Tour of America

In the early 1880’s, when Aestheticism was the rage and despair of literary London, Wilde established himself in social and artistic circles by his wit and flamboyance. Soon the periodical Punch made him the satiric object of its antagonism to the Aesthetes for what was considered their unmaculine devotion to art and in their comic opera Patience. Wilde agreed to lecture in the United States and Canada. Wilde was given the paradoxical opportunity to characterize and popularize the intensely reflective and individualistic aesthetic movement.

In 1881 Oscar Wilde saw himself in a position of man that required company and indulgence of leisure, and to sustain this he needed money in a time where money was scarcer than ever. He mortgaged his hunting lounge and sold a bit of his Dublin property to obtain some wealth. Oscar Wild had just finished two plays and was waiting to the rehearsals to start of Mr. Beere’s Verato begin. During this time producer Richard Carte in New York approached Wild. Carte was running a not so successful play of New York at the time, but another part of his enterprise was to manage lecture tours. Carte wanted to give Americans a chance to see and hear the leading advocate of aestheticisms. It did not take Wilde long to consider. The next day on October 1 he cabled back "Yes, if offer good." Carte would cover Wilde’s expenses and would share equally with him the net profits. After communicating back and forth by letter Wilde’s repertoire was narrowed quickly. American’s did not want poems recited to them what Americans wanted were "The Beautiful." (Ellmann 150)

Wilde accepted this proposal in December, but he asks that the tour should start at the begging of 1882. He wanted to in London for the opening of Vera. The play he was waiting to open never does. This gave him time to prepared carefully for his tour. What to wear came first. Wilde thought of a costume for his tailor to make. A heavy coat made sense in the American if not the English climate (Ellmann 154). As to lecturing Wilde knew he had no talent for oratory. His friend Hermann Vezin gave him elocution lessons, " I want a natural style, with a touch of affectation." "Well, said Vezi, "and haven’t you got that, Oscar?"(Ellmann 155) Wilde had yet prepared a lecture and was planning to write his lecture on his departure on the Arizona, which was to embark on December 24, 1881. But by the time the ship docked on January 2 he did not have it ready (Ellmann 158)

When the Arizona docked in New York, the reporters where they are to catch his first words. On his way through customs Wild pronounced, "I have nothing to declare, except my genius." (Cevasco 15) Wilde was asked many questions by the press. He was unprepared for his lecture as well as for answering the press’s question so he didn’t say much and what he did say often was taken out of context. When he was asked about his voyage he responded, "I am not exactly please with the Atlantic. It is not as majestic as I expected. The sea seems tame to me. The roaring ocean does not roar."(Ellman 158) Report launch had outstayed its time, but the reporters hung on to ask Wilde about his cultural mission. When asked what was this aestheticism he had crossed the sea to promulgate, he only laughed. But when asked on what is his politics? Mr. Wild responding, "Those matters are of no interest to me, I know only two terms—civilization and barbarism, and I am on the side of civilization"(Cevasco 15). Later on when he was asked to comment on civilization in American, he said, "I believe the most serious problem for the American people to consider is the cultivation of better manners. It is the most noticeable, the most painful defect in American civilization"(Cevasco 16).

On January 5th, soon after Wilde arrived in New York, he attended a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience, an operetta that satirized the aesthetic movement. The main character in the play is a ridiculous young aesthete probably modeled on Wilde, and apparently the first entrance of Bunthorne on this particular night caused a