America Gone Wilde

Jan 12 2013 @ 1:49pm

Oscar_Wilde_(1854-1900)_in_New_York,_1882._Picture_by_Napoleon_Sarony_(1821-1896)_8a

Upon arrival in the States, Oscar Wilde reportedly quipped, "I have nothing to declare except my genius." The US tour proved excellent fodder for Wilde's wit:

Wilde ranged all about the country subsequently—west along the Great Lakes and on to California, back through the prairies and into Atlantic Canada, and then to the American South. He scattered mordant criticism but also genuine praise, often about the same things. Wilde declared, of Niagra Falls, "Every American Bride is taken there, and the sight of that tremendous waterfall must be one of the earliest, if not the keenest, disappointments in American married life" but also that the "majestic splendour and strength of the physical forces of nature” were "far beyond what I had seen in Europe." On Cincinnati: "I wonder that no criminal has ever pleaded the ugliness of your city as an excuse for his crimes." He found California "a very Italy without its art," though later he admired that "nature had exhausted her resources on the West and left nothing for the prairies."

(Portrait of Oscar Wilde in New York, 1882 by Napoleon Sarony via Wikimedia)