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Oscar Wilde In America

a selected resource of oscar wilde's visits to america

San Francisco, CA

Irish Poets and Poetry of the Nineteenth Century | Platt's hall | Wednesday, April 5, 1882

* As San Francisco was the only city in which Wilde lectured four times, this is the only time he gave this lecture.



Newspaper Report

San Francisco Chronicle, April 6, 1882, 3



Newspaper Advertisement

Daily Alta California, April 2, 1882



Newspaper Item

San Francisco Chronicle, April 5, 1882


Cj8G1qoWLUL1Robert D. Pepper

Wilde scholarship can be extremely grateful to Robert D. Pepper for his work in documenting this lecture.

Much of the information on this page is taken from his Oscar Wilde, Irish Poets and Poetry of the Nineteenth Century’. Edited from Wilde’s Manuscript and Reconstructed, in part, from Contemporary Newspaper Accounts, with an Introduction and Biographical Notes (Book Club of California, 1972).

historical note

Platt's Hall
216 Montgomery Street, east side, just north of Bush Street, San Francisco, CA

Opened: August 6, 1860 (Henry B. Platt, contractor and proprietor)
Demolished: 1890



Wilde's base while in California was The Palace Hotel in San Francisco. See special feature below.


The Palace Hotel

Background To tHe Lecture

San Francisco was the only city in America where Wilde lectured four times. Because of this he needed an additional lecture to add to the three he was already giving, which were: The English Renaissance, its successor The Decorative Arts, and The House Beautiful.

[See Lecture Titles for the development of Wilde's lecture topics].

Wilde chose as his subject Irish Poets and Poetry of the Nineteenth Century, an idea he had hinted at on St.Patrick's Day in St.Paul, where he made a rare expression of Irish nationalist sentiment. On that occasion Wilde was called upon to give only an impromptu speech, and he talked in general terms about Irish achievement and how the English occupation had arrested, but not dimmed, the development of Irish art.

In San Francisco, he created this full lecture, but focused on an aspect of the arts closer to his (and his mother's) heart and knowledge: nineteenth century Irish poetry.

Lecture Content

Wilde began his lecture by noting how the English conquest had destroyed the development of art in Ireland (cf. his speech in St. Paul), but he reassured his listeners that the Celtic spirit could not die. It was, he said, the stuff of legends and romance, and a basis for politics and liberty.

For his generalizations on style and rhyme, and occasionally for his selections, Wilde relied heavily on Matthew Arnold's six-part essay On the study of Celtic literature (1867). Indeed, he quotes Arnold directly on MacPherson's Ossian.

For the record, Wilde illustrated his talk by mentioning or reading from, the following Irish poets, many of whom were nationalists:

Joseph Michael Barry (1817—1889)

Thomas Osborne Davis (1814—1845)

Aubrey Thomas Hunt De Vere (1814—1902)

Sir Charles Gavan Duffy (1816—1903)

Sir Samuel Ferguson (1810—1886)

Oliver Goldsmith (1728?—1774)

Gerald Griffin (1803—1840)

Denis Florence MacCarthy (1817—1882)

James Clarence Mangan (1803—1849)

Thomas D'Arcy McGee (1825—1868)

John Mitchel (1815—1875)

Thomas Moore (1779—1852)

Daniel O'Connell (1849—1899)

John Boyle O'Reilly (1844—1890)

Fr. Abram Joseph Ryan (1838—1886)

John Savage (1828—1888)

Speranza, Jane Francesca Elgee, Wilde's mother (1821—1896)

John Francis Waller (1810—1894)

Richard D'Alton Williams (1822—1862)

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