Catskills

New York

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Wednesday, August 9, 1882

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Saturday August 19, 1882

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The Decorative Arts

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The Catskill Mountains, NY

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In the mid-to-late 20th century, the Catskill Mountains was popular as a resort destination primarily for the elite of the East’s largest cities. It became known for continuing a Romantic Movement in art and literature and gave rise to the regional ‘Hudson River School’ of art. 

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The area was once named on an 1656 map of New Netherland as Landt van Kats Kill (‘cat creek’ in Dutch), perhaps explaining some of the confusion over the years about the name which has given us variant spellings such as Kaatskill and Kaaterskill, both of which are still used, for example in the regional magazine Kaatskill Life, and as the names of a mountain peak and a waterfall; indeed, in 1882, Wilde lectured at the Kaaterskill Hotel.

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Wilde’s extended visit occurred at the heart of his tour of Summer resorts in the North-East, and he took in all the most exclusive and popular hotels. Oscar was accompanied by wealthy patrons from New York City including Sam Ward and Richard Doyly Carte, and was feted by local communities at the height of his celebrity. He was in The Catskills from August 9—19 with the exception of one day (August 16), when he traveled to Long Beach, RI to fulfill a previously arranged engagement, from which he returned immediately afterwards, and he visited again in early September when he had some free time.

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Featured image:

Catskills at Sunset, 1882, Frederic Edwin Church (via Wikimedia)

Oscar Wilde’s Catskills Tour

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—Verifications and Accommodation—

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Unlike all other tour stops which have their own pages, the Catskill lectures are listed here as a group. 

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This is not merely because they are geographically connected, but also because Wilde, as he traveled around the resorts and points of interest, was often in various places on the same day. Further, it is difficult to be definitive about  Wilde’s whereabouts during the Summer months when his movements were less well recorded, and sometimes inaccurately. Typically, however, he resided at the hotels in which he lectured. 

Ballston Spa

Gould Hall

Wednesday, August 9, 1882

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Newspaper report

Troy Daily Times, August 10, 1882, 2

See last sentence of clipping.

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Spoke to “a small but appreciative audience”

Ballston Journal (L&S)

Saratoga Springs

Congress Hall

Thursday, August 10, 1882

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Newspaper report

Burlington Weekly Free Press, August 18, 1882

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Congress Hall was a hotel located in Congress Park. Wilde lectured in the ballroom in a wing of the hotel across Spring Street (see details here). 

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Earlier in the day he was given a celebratory breakfast on Mount McGregor (orig. Palmertown Mtn) at the restaurant at Overlook Point.

The Cobleskill Index, August 10, 1882, 3

Sharon Springs

The Pavilion Hotel

Friday, August 11, 1882

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Local ephemera

The provenance for this lecture comes from several latter-day reports of it, but the primary source relies on the The Sharon Historical Society’s 2011 program celebrating the event at which were displayed original advertising for the lecture and Wilde’s signature in the hotel register.

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Original documentation has been sought.

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Cooperstown

Bowne Hall

Saturday, August 12, 1882

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Newspaper report

The Freeman's Journal, August 19, 1882, 3 

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Wilde lectured on the ‘opera house’ top floor of the building.

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The lecture was originally scheduled for Friday 18, but it was moved to Saturday via announcements in the local press, perhaps indicating that the Sharon Springs lecture (above) was arranged at short notice.

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Richfield Springs

Spring House

Monday, August 14, 1882

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Local historical account

Annals of Richfield, Pierstine Printing House (Utica, NY),  July, 1898

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On August 1, 1882, Wilde was reported as saying he would go to Richfield Springs and would probably lecture there. Consequently, his advance traveling agent was reported as being in Richfield Springs on August 9, 1882. No newspaper account has been found of the lecture, but the event was recorded in the contemporary volume Annals of Richfield.

Kaaterskill

Hotel Kaaterskill

Tuesday, August 15, 1882

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Newspaper article

The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 19, 1882, 7

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On August 10, 1882, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Wilde and his promoter, Richard Doyly Carte, had engaged rooms at the Hotel Kaaterskill for August 15. The lecture was advertised and the local press duly announced his arrival on the day.

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See images here.

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Impressions of America

The preview of Wilde’s lecture (opposite) suggest that he was understood to be preparing his “Impressions of America” and might allude to them in his lecture.

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This is the first known reference to Wilde’s future lecture of that name which was thought to have been given only in the UK and Ireland after he returned from America.

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See here for a review of all Wilde’s lecture titles.

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Kaaterskill Station

A Break From The Catskills

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—Wilde Interrupts his Visit to Lecture at Long Beach—

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On Wednesday August 16, Oscar Wilde left the Catskills to return to New York, and then took the Long Beach Railroad to lecture that evening at the Long Beach Hotel. He traveled there, and back that evening, in a party that included the actor Steel Mackaye and his wife.

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Given the unusual one-day interruption to his Catskills itinerary, it seems likely that the Long Beach lecture was one of those prearranged when he toured the resorts of New York, Rhode Island and New Jersey in July.

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See here for the Long Beach lecture on August 16, 1882.

Cornwall Heights [1]

Mountain House

Thursday, August 17, 1882

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Newspaper article (top)

The Middletown Daily Argus, August 19, 1882, 3

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It appears that, after his overnight trip to Long Beach, Wilde returned to the Catskills to take in three resorts to the South of the region.

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First, he lectured in the Grand ‘Dancing’ Pavilion of the Cornwall Mountain House [2]. The hotel was located at an elevation of 1200 feet on the Western slope of the famous Storm King Mountain [3]. 

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The hotel vanished overnight 1963 in a strange and secretive act of forest conservation.

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[1] At the time the hotel advertised its location as Cornwall Heights, and its P. O. Address as Cornwall-on-Hudson.

[2] Not to be confused with the Catskill Mountain House.

[3] Painting opposite: “Storm King at Cornwall,” by Hudson River artist Thomas Benjamin Pope.

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Phoenicia

Mount Tremper

Tremper House

Friday, August 18, 1882

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Highmount

Monka Hill

Grand Hotel

Saturday, August 19, 1882

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Newspaper notice (indication only)

The New York World, August 19, 1882, 3

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After lecturing at Cornwall (above) Wilde is reported to have lectured at the nearby Catskills resorts of Tremper House and the Grand Hotel

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While these lectures have been noted in various texts, the only contemporary reference currently available is shown opposite—and it is a schedule, not an actual report.

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The search for primary sources continues.

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Related:

Grand Hotel: A Slide Talk of the Middletown Historical Society

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Recommended reading:

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Oscar Wilde In America |  © John Cooper, 2018 

Oscar Wilde On Dress hardback cover by John Cooper