Found! Oscar Wilde in Newport

February 25, 2010


Oscar Wilde p 1

In 1882, Oscar Wilde embarked on an American tour, in part brokered by Sam Ward. Wilde came to Newport to perform at the Casino Theater and Ward introduced him to his sister Julia Ward Howe. Henry Marion Hall, Howe’s grandson, recalls Wilde’s visit to Howe’s farm in Portsmouth in his memoir Grandmother’s Blue Coach:

Being a small boy at the time my presence at the tea was not requested, but later I was allowed to accompany the guests down into the vallley. The party included Tom Appleton, the famous Boston wit, Adamowski, leader of the Boston Symphony orchestra, Mrs. Paran Stevens, Lilla Eliott, Grandmother’s nephew F. Marion Crawford, and Oscar Wilde, then at the peak of his popularity.

Knowing nothing about a fad then known as “dress reform” I was bewildered at Wilde’s costume when I walked into the vale beside him. He wore a black velvet jacket, knickerbockers to match, dark silk stockings, and low shoes with glittering buckles. A salmon-colored scarf and slouch hat completed his get-up. It struck me as rather queer, but not half so startling as his hair – long, black, and curling to his shoulders… He held a red rose in one hand and sniffed it as he chatted.
Oscar Wilde p 2A small program or invitation to Wilde’s lecture, entitled “The Decorative Arts,” was printed in New York, and is part of the collection of materials which Howe’s descendants have donated to the NHS.  In September of 2010, the NHS will host a lecture by Kathryn Allamong Jacob, author of King of the Lobby: The Life and Times of Sam Ward.150px-Wilde_aesthetic