American Tour

After publishing his first poetry book, Oscar Wilde was asked to tour in America. The tour started on January 2nd, 1882 in New York City. Originally intended to be only four months long, the tour ended up being extended to almost an entire year due to its popularity. He lectured mostly on his views of poetry and aestheticism with titles such as ‘The English Renaissance’ and ‘The Decorative Arts’ I and II. Within his lectures, he tried to allude to certain parts of whatever city he was in. When he was in Chicago he gave the lecture ‘Decorative Arts’ which focused on civic beauty and architecture. In his lecture, he called the Chicago water tower “a castellated monstrosity with pepper boxes stuck all over it,” which naturally upset the citizens of Chicago yet he was welcomed back and lectured there another night a couple of months later. Throughout his tour, Wilde was one of the first to use the press in a way that would launch him to celebrity status and thus launch his career. He managed to get more press coverage in America than Queen Victoria.

W.S. Gilbert wrote ‘Patience,’ which featured a “grandiose boob” who was partially modeled after Oscar Wilde. On his US tour, Wilde’s publicist worked with W.S. Gilbert to get the play up in popularity with the Americans. In order to do this Wilde dressed similarly to the character and he illustrated aestheticism which was what ‘Patience’ was trying to satirize. While doing this, American’s became fascinated with Wilde and he was promptly invited to houses of some of the “celebrities” of the time, such as Walt Whitman.


Associated Place(s)

Event date:

2 Jan 1882 to The middle of the month Oct 1882

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