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Declaring His Genius: Oscar Wilde in North America

Roy Morris Jr.

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ISBN 10: 0674066960 / ISBN 13: 9780674066960
Published by Belknap Press, 2013
Used Condition: Good Hardcover
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Title: Declaring His Genius: Oscar Wilde in North ...

Publisher: Belknap Press

Publication Date: 2013

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition: Good

Edition: 1st - may be Reissue.

About this title


Arriving at the port of New York in 1882, a 27-year-old Oscar Wilde quipped he had "nothing to declare but my genius." But as Roy Morris, Jr., reveals in this sparkling narrative, Wilde was, for the first time in his life, underselling himself. A chronicle of the sensation that was Wilde's eleven-month speaking tour of America, Declaring His Genius offers an indelible portrait of both Oscar Wilde and the Gilded Age. Wilde covered 15,000 miles, delivered 140 lectures, and met everyone who was anyone. Dressed in satin knee britches and black silk stockings, the long-haired apostle of the British Aesthetic Movement alternately shocked, entertained, and enlightened a spellbound nation. Harvard students attending one of his lectures sported Wildean costume, clutching sunflowers and affecting world-weary poses. Denver prostitutes enticed customers by crying: "We know what makes a cat wild, but what makes Oscar Wilde?" Whitman hoisted a glass to his health, while Ambrose Bierce denounced him as a fraud. Wilde helped alter the way post--Civil War Americans--still reeling from the most destructive conflict in their history--understood themselves. In an era that saw rapid technological changes, social upheaval, and an ever-widening gap between rich and poor, he delivered a powerful anti-materialistic message about art and the need for beauty. Yet Wilde too was changed by his tour. Having conquered America, a savvier, more mature writer was ready to take on the rest of the world. Neither Wilde nor America would ever be the same.


"The battery-fire of Wilde's utterances to reporters, ticketed audiences, college boys, art-collectors, autograph-hunters, Gilded Age millionaires, cowboys, Indians, and toughs in mining camps turned him into someone who was famous for being famous. Morris recounts Wilde's zigzagging across America accompanied by a cohort of publicists. The brouhaha surrounding him was intensified by shopkeepers who capitalised on his visits to their cities with brazen advertising campaigns: Oscar Wilde says the Opera Puffs cigarettes are a luxurious luxury, and just too-too! , for example, or Oscar Wilde loves Nebraskan canned corn. " --Richard Davenport-Hines, The Spectator, 26 January 2013

"Roy Morris, Jr. dedicates a whole book to those eleven months, taking his title from the phrase Wilde allegedly uttered to a customs officer on arrival at Staten Island about having nothing to declare but his genius. [...] America's response to Wilde was a patchy as one might expect, and by attending close;y to local newspaper reports, Norris is able to piece together a detailed reading of his reception and how it varied from place to place. --Kathryn Hughes, Times Literary Supplement, 10/05/2013

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