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Oscar Wilde In America

oscar wilde's 1882 lecture tour of america

Chicago, IL

The Decorative Arts* | Central Music-Hall | Monday, February 13, 1882

* See clarification below.

Wilde lectured again in Chicago on March 11, 1882.



Letter (Oscar Wilde)

To the Hon. George Curzon
February 15th, 1882, US

In Chicago I lectured last Monday to 2500 people!

Letters,  pp.138-9


As to subject

Around this time Wilde changed the name and content of his lecture.

Merlin Holland (Complete Letters) describes how Wilde's original lecture was 'too lengthy and theoretical for many in his audience' and that Wilde shortened and retitled it to give it wider appeal.

The new lecture became variously billed as Art Decoration, Decorative Art in America, etc., and it is probable that Wilde adapted them slightly to suit different audiences' (Holland). For this reason all variants of this lectures are listed in this chronology as 'The Decorative Arts'.

But when and where did Wilde switch from The English Renaissance to The Decorative Arts? By the time of his lecture in Utica there are suggestions Wilde had already begun to include material suggestive a more domestic theme, and the transition does appear to have been an evolution. However, in accepting this, Kevin O'Brien in Oscar Wilde in Canada: An Apostle for the Arts (1982), posits that Wilde delivered The English Renaissance for the last time in Buffalo on February 8 and The Decorative Arts for the first time in this, his next lecture in Chicago. This appears to be a convenient demarcation.

See here for a review of all Wilde's Lecture Titles.

correction As to Beckson

An entry by Beckson indicated on the itinerary comparison mistakenly shows an additional lecture by Wilde in Chicago two days earlier on February 11th; this is a confusion with Wilde's return visit to Chicago on March 11th.

Contemporary newspapers clearly indicate that the lecture on February 13th was Wilde's first in Chicago and the lecture on March 11th his second.

The Chicago Tribune, Mar 12th, 1882.

historical note

Central Music-Hall
SE corner of State and Randolph Streets, Chicago, IL

Built: Dankmar Adler, 1879
Demolished: 1900

This was the first important building designed by Adler in which he made use of his knowledge of acoustics. It was replaced in 1900, around the time Adler died, in order to build the Marshall Field & Company store, now Macy's. Wilde met Marshall Field at a reception given for him in Chicago (see this page).

Source: Wikipedia

The Grand Pacific Hotel (1873–1895) on Clark, Quincy, LaSalle and Jackson Streets where Wilde stayed on his visits to Chicago.


The hotel was built after the Chicago fire (1871) and was itself replaced by a hotel of the same name in 1895-98.



The Encyclopedia of Chicago, The Newberry Library. [detailed view]


A group of marble-front row houses at 2301-2035 South Prairie Avenue (built 1869). Mrs H.O. Stone who lived at 2035 gave a reception for Wilde at which, among others, he met department store founder Marshall Field (see below).


The Chicago Tribune, Mar 15th, 1882.

Marshall Field.

Wilde hogs


The Inter Ocean, Chicago 1 March 1882, 8

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