[PW] Request help accessing Ottawa Citizen in 1882 to check Oscar Wilde quotation

Brian Whatcott betwys1 at sbcglobal.net
Wed May 12 11:37:56 PDT 2021

 Oops! I included a pointer to a service with a  graphic which the list removed. But since this service probably does NOT offer historical copies, that was no loss.
    On Wednesday, May 12, 2021, 06:12:40 AM CDT, Donna Halper <dlh at donnahalper.com> wrote:  
 Garson O'Toole wrote--
> "Oscar Wilde on Decorative Art," Daily News (Kingston Ont.) May 23, 1882
> "Art Decoration," Toronto Daily Mail, May 26, 1882
> I haven't been able to access the second citation. The Google news
> archive has coverage of the Toronto Daily Mail in this time period,
> but unfortunately several days are missing including May 26, 1882.

I telephoned the Toronto Public Library (where I have friends in the 
reference dept). They don't have the Mail (the Globe and the Mail merged 
in the mid-1930s, but only the Globe is digitized). They found an 
article in the Globe from 26 May 1882 about an Oscar Wilde talk:  "Oscar 
Wilde Lectures in the Grand Opera House." It mentions a large audience, 
it mentions that he did discuss nature, beauty, etc. But the librarian 
could not find mention of anything close to what others described as a 
discourse on polluting the air and water. He did say children should be 
taught to appreciate the beauty of nature, according to the article.  
And due to Toronto Public Library policies, the librarians are not 
allowed to send copies of articles to the US, so what I found out 
probably wasn't very helpful, but at least I tried.  (A more thorough 
reading might reveal additional information. Perhaps Toronto-based 
wombats can find out more than I was able to.)

I did find an interesting reference to the Decorative Arts lecture-- it 
seems he gave various versions of it throughout his 1882 speaking tour, 
adding in various asides or additional commentaries, according to an 
article in the December 1935 issue of the /American Mercury/. Authors 
Lloyd Lewis and Henry Justin Smith, who wrote the 1936 book "Oscar Wilde 
Discovers America: 1882," from which this article seems to be excerpted, 
offer some quotes from Wilde's western US speaking tour-- for example, 
"Life without industry is barbarism; industry without art is barren." 
(p. 435 of the article). In his San Francisco version of the talk, Wilde 
said "There is no beauty in cast iron, no poetry in the steam engine.  
The value of the telephone is the value of what two people have to 
say... Give children beauty, not the record of bloody slaughters and 
barbarous brawls as they call history, or of the latitudes and 
longitudes of places nobody cares to visit, as they call geography" (p. 
438 of the article).

Lewis and Smith also note that some of the critics were quite unkind to 
Wilde, and I certainly found a few of those when I checked newspapers 
from each city where he spoke that year (one, in Decatur IL, called him 
an "aesthetic bundle of egotism" and a "polished fraud," for example.  
Another, in the Rock Island IL Argus called his talk "rambling" and said 
it couldn't even be dignified by calling it a lecture, since it really 
was nothing of the sort.  And various critics mocked the way he 
dressed.)  But most summaries of the talk referred to the decorative 
arts in the home, how the arts should be taught in the schools, what he 
saw as the problems with current trends in how people dressed, etc.  And 
mentions of nature were in the context of the appreciation for nature's 
many gifts, rather than any commentary about pollution or the environment.

Donna L. Halper, PhD
Associate Professor of Communication & Media Studies
Lesley University, Cambridge MA

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