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Oscar Wilde In America

a selected resource of oscar wilde's visits to america

—The Lecture Titles—

The generically distinct lecture titles for Oscar Wilde's American tour are:

  • The English Renaissance and The Decorative Arts* (continuum)
  • The House Beautiful
  • Irish Poets and Poetry of the Nineteenth Century (given once in San Francisco)
  • The Relation of Art to Other Studies (a specially prepared talk given once in Hamilton, ON)

* Confusion has arisen about this lecture title because it was essentially part of a continuum with the English Renaissance causing early accounts and chronologies to refer to it by various names (see below for development). The term 'Art Decoration' was often used in contemporary press reports and advertising, but not consistently nor sometimes correctly. Therefore, for ease of reference among scholars, all variants of this lecture are referred to as 'The Decorative Arts' which was the title Wilde himself gave to it in writing to his manager.

Lectures in America

Lectures in UK & Ireland


the english renaissance I

Wilde's first lecture probably written immediately prior to its debut in New York City.

Reprinted in

Miscellanies** (1908)

Ross's text is a collation of reports, manuscripts, and typescripts of the lecture in its early iterations.

the english renaissance II

Wilde amended the content with successive lectures so that by the time he delivered it for the last time in Buffalo it was 'quite different', and 'the final text is closer to The Decorative Arts'. [1]


the decorative arts i

'The English Renaissance' had been 'too lengthy and theoretical for many in Wilde's audience' [2] so he shortened and retitled it to give it wider appeal. The lecture was redrafted in early February as 'The Decorative Arts', and Wilde continued to adapt the content as the theme evolved. As such, the evolution of these two lectures can be seen as a continuum with the most conscious transition occurring in Chicago on February 13, 1882.

Text from this period is reprinted in

Miscellanies** (1908)

art and the handicraftsman

Not a title that Wilde ever used. It was a name given by Ross to part of this early version of the lecture.

the decorative arts iI

During the early weeks of the new lecture, Wilde was occasionally billed as still lecturing on 'The English Renaissance'. This caused Wilde to write to his manager to ensure that it was his new lecture being advertised.

See note at Dubuque, March 1, 1882

This may have ended the confusion for his audiences, but not for historians, as the new lectures in turn were variously titled and reported; also 'it is probable that Wilde adapted them slightly to suit different audiences'. [2]

See here for a generically corrected itinerary in progress.

A definitive version 'was complete' [1] by the time Wilde lectured in San Antonio on June 21, 1882.

New York Lecture in May, 1882

Wilde gave a version of the lecture on a return visit to New York on May 11, 1882. Even by this time the content had changed such that it was 'almost a different lecture' [1] from The Decorative Arts I.

What Wilde said that night was transcribed the next day in the New-York Tribune, ostensibly verbatim.

This text is important as it was later reprinted, most notably in the two books noted below, which are now in the public domain and thus it appears legion online.

Unsurprisingly by now, these reprintings were given different titles, despite, as you can see from the clippings, being the same text of this later, but still incomplete, version of 'The Decorative Arts'.

See below for the versions stemming from the New York lecture.

The NY lecture was reported in

The New York Tribune
May 12, 1882
in an article headed

art decoration



the house beautiful I
(US 1882)

Wilde created this alternative talk for when he lectured more than once in the same city. It was first delivered on his return visit to Chicago on March 11, 1882.

The lecture was a domesticated version of his general theme that focused on the beauty of handicrafts in the home such as in furniture, carving, and wallpaper.

The lecture became known as 'The House Beautiful' but it began life as 'Interior and Exterior House Decoration' or, confusingly, 'Art Decoration', [see Summary at top] occasionally with a longer more descriptive subtitle, such as in Philadelphia on May 10, 1882.


Irish Poets and Poetry of the Nineteenth Century 
(US 1882)

A separate lecture given on April 5, 1882 in San Francisco where Wilde lectured four times.

Not to be confused with the impromptu speech Wilde gave on St.Patrick's Day, 1882 in St.Paul, Minnesota.


The Relation of Art to Other Studies 
(US 1882)

A specially prepared talk given to a girls' college on May 31, 1882 in Hamilton, oN.


impressions of america

A standalone lecture not directly descended from other lectures.

learn more.



In essence this was a distinct lecture, although Wilde had tended towards the subject of dress when apropos in previous lectures (a thesis explored in Oscar Wilde On Dress).

Wilde later (1885) published a full version of this lecture for an American audience in an essay that has recently been discovered. See:
The Philosophy of Dress.


the house beautiful II
(UK 1883-85)

Outwardly this was a continuation of the US lecture as 'sections are repeated in very similar ways'; nevertheless, 'the majority of the lecture had been revised.' [3]

Other UK/Ireland Lectures (1883-89)





and various others.


For a definitive review of the UK/Ireland lectures see Geoff Dibb, Oscar Wilde, A Vagabond with a Mission, The Oscar Wilde Society, 2013


It was reprinted in

also reprinted in

Glaenzer* (1906)

decorative art in america


Miscellanies** (1908)

house decoration


Thus in Miscellanies, Ross unknowingly reprinted parts I and II of the same evolving lecture and gave them two new titles: 'Art and the Handicraftsman' and 'House Decoration'.

* Glaenzer: Decorative Art in America: A Lecture, Richard Butler Glaenzer, 1906.

** Miscellanies: Vol. XIV of The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, 1908, fourteen vols. edited by Robert Ross.

[1] O'Brien, Kevin. Oscar Wilde in Canada: An Apostle for the Arts, 1982.

[2] Holland, Merlin. The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde edited by and Rupert Hart-Davis, London: Fourth Estate; New York: Henry Holt, 2000.

[3] Dibb, Geoff. Oscar Wilde, A Vagabond with a Mission, The Oscar Wilde Society, 2013.

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