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Table of contents :
Half Title
Title Page
Copyright Page
List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations
List of Contributors
1 Wilde’s Other Worlds: An Introduction
PART I: Inherited Worlds
2 History as Seduction: Wilde and the Fascination of Heredity
3 Oscar Wilde’s American Forebears: A Genealogy of Form for Reading The Picture of Dorian Gray
4 Haunting “The Harlot’s House”
PART II: Aesthetic Worlds
5 Wilde’s Cosmos: Language, Citation, and Aesthetic Communities
6 Oscar Wilde’s Las Meninas: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl
PART III: Mythical Worlds
7 Salomé and Saint Sebastian: Modern Myths in Wilde and D’Annunzio
8 Eros/Threnos: Mournful Necrophilia in Wilde and Fernando Pessoa’s Antinous
9 Wagner without Music: The Textual Rendering of Parsifal’s Pity in Oscar Wilde’s “The Young King”
PART IV: Alternative Worlds
10 “I am not a Catholic, I am simply a violent Papist”: Oscar Wilde’s Protestant “Romishness”
11 Oscar Wilde, Rachilde, and the Mercure de France
PART V: Afterworlds
12 The Sexual Transfiguration of the Japanese Salomé, 1909–2009
13 The Other Love That Dared Not Speak Its Name: Wilde’s Jewish “Fans” in World War II-Era Cinema
14 Hospitality Divorced from the Home: The Cosmopolitan Idea(l) from Oscar Wilde to Satyajit Ray
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Wilde’s Other Worlds

Taking its cue from Baudelaire’s important essay “The Painter of Modern Life,” in which Baudelaire imagines the modern artist as a “man of the world,” this collection of essays presents Oscar Wilde as a “man of the world” who eschewed provincial concerns, cultural conventions, and narrow national interests in favor of the wider world and other worlds— simultaneously real and imaginary, geographical and historical, physical and intellectual—which provided alternative sites for exploration and experience, often including alternative gender expression or sexual alterity. Wilde had an unlimited curiosity and a cosmopolitan spirit of inquiry that traveled widely across borders, ranging freely over space and time. He entered easily and wholly into other countries, other cultures, other national literatures, other periods, other mythologies, other religions, other disciplines, and other modes of representation, and was able to fully inhabit and navigate them, quickly apprehending the conventions by which they operate. The fourteen essays in this volume offer fresh critical-theoretical and historical perspectives not just on key connections and aspects of W ­ ilde’s oeuvre itself, but also on the development of Wilde’s remarkable worldliness in dialogue with many other worlds. These encompassed contemporary developments in art, science, and culture, as well as other national literatures and cultures. Perhaps as a direct result of this cosmopolitan spirit, Wilde’s life and works have been taken up across the globe, as Wilde’s reception in India, Japan, and Hollywood illustrates. Many of the essays gathered in this volume are based on groundbreaking archival research, including some never-seen-­before illustrations. Together, they open up important new comparative, transnational, and historical perspectives on Wilde that can shape and sharpen our future understanding of his work and impact. Michael F. Davis is Associate Professor and Associate Chair of English at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York. He works in late-­nineteenthand early-twentieth-century literature and theory, with particular research interests in narratology, art and aesthetics, psychoanalysis, and sexuality. He has published essays on Walter Pater, Rainer Maria

Rilke, Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce, as well as an essay on Robert ­Mapplethorpe and late-twentieth-century American political discourse. He is currently completing a book on Walter Pater, Walter Pater’s Latent Intelligence and the Conception of Queer Theory, and a book on Virginia Woolf, Virginia Woolf’s Working Out: the Art of the Novel and the Law of the Father. Petra Dierkes-Thrun (PhD in English and Cultural and Critical Studies, University of Pittsburgh, 2003) is Lecturer in Comparative Literature and Assistant Vice Provost at Stanford University, where she teaches nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century British and Western European literature and culture, as well as feminist, gender, and sexuality studies. Publications include Salome’s Modernity: Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetics of Transgression (University of Michigan Press, 2011) as well as articles on Oscar Wilde, Henrik Ibsen, George Bernard Shaw, Arthur Symons, Stéphane Mallarmé, Richard Strauss, Victoria Cross, Rachilde, fin-de-siècle realism, and New Woman literature. She is an editorial board member of Volupté: Interdisciplinary Journal of Decadence and was one of the founding editors of The Latchkey: Journal of New Woman Studies.

Routledge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature

29 Questions of Authority Italian and Australian Travel Narratives of the Long Nineteenth Century Laura Olcelli 30 Branding Oscar Wilde Michael Gillespie 31 Hardy Deconstructing Hardy A Derridean Reading of Thomas Hardy’s Poetry Nilüfer Özgür 32 Jane Austen’s Geographies Robert Clark 33 Vision and Character Physiognomics and the English Realist Novel Eike Kronshage 34 Melville and the Question of Meaning David Faflik 35 Inventing the Popular Printing, Politics, and Poetics Bettina Lerner 36 Writing Place Mimesis, Subjectivity and Imagination in the Works of George Gissing Rebecca Hutcheon 37 Wilde’s Other Worlds Edited by Michael F. Davis and Petra Dierkes-Thrun For a full list of titles published in the series, please visit www.routledge.com

Wilde’s Other Worlds

Edited by Michael F. Davis and Petra Dierkes-Thrun

First published 2018 by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 and by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2018 Taylor & Francis The right of the editors to be identified as the authors of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data CIP data has been applied for. ISBN: 978-0-8153-6359-0 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-351-10891-1 (ebk) Typeset in Sabon by codeMantra


List of Illustrations Acknowledgments List of Abbreviations List of Contributors 1 Wilde’s Other Worlds: An Introduction

ix xi xiii xv 1

M ichael F. Davis and P etra D ier k es -T hrun

Part I

Inherited Worlds


2 History as Seduction: Wilde and the Fascination of Heredity


J ames E li A dams

3 Oscar Wilde’s American Forebears: A Genealogy of Form for Reading The Picture of Dorian Gray


S ean O ’ T oole

4 Haunting “The Harlot’s House”


J amil M ustafa

Part II

Aesthetic Worlds


5 Wilde’s Cosmos: Language, Citation, and Aesthetic Communities


M egan B ec k er- L ec k rone

6 Oscar Wilde’s Las Meninas: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl M ichael F. Davis


viii Contents Part III

Mythical Worlds


7 Salomé and Saint Sebastian: Modern Myths in Wilde and D’Annunzio


E lisa B i z z otto

8 Eros/Threnos: Mournful Necrophilia in Wilde and Fernando Pessoa’s Antinous


Kostas B oyiopoulos

9 Wagner without Music: The Textual Rendering of Parsifal’s Pity in Oscar Wilde’s “The Young King”


Y vonne I vory

Part IV

Alternative Worlds


10 “I am not a Catholic, I am simply a violent Papist”: Oscar Wilde’s Protestant “Romishness”


C laire M asurel - M urray

11 Oscar Wilde, Rachilde, and the Mercure de France


P etra D ier k es -T hrun

Part V



12 The Sexual Transfiguration of the Japanese Salomé, 1909–2009


M aho H ida k a

13 The Other Love That Dared Not Speak Its Name: Wilde’s Jewish “Fans” in World War II-Era Cinema


M argaret D. S tet z

14 Hospitality Divorced from the Home: The Cosmopolitan Idea(l) from Oscar Wilde to Satyajit Ray


J ulia P rewitt B rown



List of Illustrations

4.1 Praxinoscope Theatre. Science & Society Picture Library/Getty Images 74 4.2 Praxinoscope Projector. Chronicle/Alamy Stock Photo 75 4.3 Althea Gyles, “We Caught the Tread of Dancing Feet.” Reproduced courtesy of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library 76 4.4 Althea Gyles, “The Shadows Raced Across the Blind.” Reproduced courtesy of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library 77 4.5 Althea Gyles, “Then Took Each Other by the Hand.” Reproduced courtesy of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library 77 4.6 Althea Gyles, “Sometimes a Horrible Marionette.” Reproduced courtesy of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library 78 4.7 Althea Gyles, “The Dead Are Dancing with the Dead.” Reproduced courtesy of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library 78 7.1 Aubrey Beardsley, “The Platonic Lament” (1894). Reproduced courtesy of Mark Samuels Lasner 142 7.2 Aubrey Beardsley, “Oscar Wilde at Work” (c. 1893). Reproduced courtesy of Mark Samuels Lasner 151 12.1 Sumako Matsui as Salomé. Reproduced from Botanhake, Fuji-shuppan (1986), reprinted edition of Botanhake, Shincho-sha (1914) 248 12.2 Eisuke Sasai as Salomé. Reproduced from the program of Sarome (Salomé), directed by Katsuhide Suzuki, The Globe Tokyo, Tokyo. October 19–25, 2009 257 12.3 Eisuke Sasai as Salomé. Reproduced from the program of Sarome (Salomé), directed by Katsuhide Suzuki, The Globe Tokyo, Tokyo. October 19–25, 2009 257


We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Joe Bristow for his 2012 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) summer seminar entitled Oscar Wilde and His Circle. We are indebted to Joe for so generously sharing his deep and expansive knowledge of Wilde and his worlds with us, for his friendship and support, as well as his invaluable advice throughout the many stages of this project. We also thank all our fellow participants in that seminar, with whom we had many fascinating and insightful discussions that helped shape our own thinking on Wilde’s life and works. We would also like to acknowledge the wonderful staff at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, where the seminar was held, who made every effort to support and encourage our research, as well as that of several contributors to this volume. A big round of thanks is also due to David Charles Rose and The OScholars, for organizing the international conference “Wilde Days in Paris” at the Institut Irlandais in the summer of 2014, where the original idea of this volume was born and David and other participants in that conference encouraged us to pursue it. No scholarly book is ever complete without the engagement of our colleagues in the field, and so we would like to express our sincere gratitude to the anonymous expert readers for Routledge. Their constructive and helpful suggestions helped us improve and bring this project to fruition. Our work on this volume was partially supported through generous financial assistance from Le Moyne College and the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at ­Stanford University, for which we are also very grateful.

List of Abbreviations

We have used the following abbreviations for in-text citations to Oscar Wilde’s writings throughout: CW

 he Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Edited by Ian Small, T et al., Oxford UP, 2000–, 7 vols. CCW  The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Introduced by Merlin Holland, HarperCollins, 2003. CL The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde. Edited by Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart- Davis, Henry Holt, 2000.

List of Contributors

James Eli Adams  is Professor of English & Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He is the author of Dandies and Desert Saints: Styles of Victorian Masculinity (Cornell, 1995) and A History of Victorian Literature (Blackwell, 2009 and 2012), as well as the editor, with Andrew Miller, of Sexualities in Victorian Britain (­Indiana, 1996). He has also published numerous articles and chapters on ­Victorian literature and culture, most recently “The Trouble with Angels: Gender and Sexuality in Dickens” in The Oxford Handbook to Charles Dickens (2018). From 1993 to 2000, he coedited Victorian Studies. Megan Becker-Leckrone is Associate Professor of English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she specializes in teaching literary and critical theory and fin-de-siècle literature. She has been the general editor of The Pater Newsletter and book review editor of Victoriographies: A Journal of Nineteenth-Century Writing. She is the author of Julia Kristeva and Literary Theory (Palgrave) and has published essays on Worsdworth, Pater, Wilde, psychoanalysis, feminism, and the sublime. She is currently working on the private illustrations of Max Beerbohm; Walter Pater’s links to early continental phenomenology; and the connections among aestheticism, affect theory, and the literature of pain. Her current project, merging critical theory with narrative medicine, is entitled The Materiality of Migraine. Elisa Bizzotto is Associate Professor of English Literature at Iuav University of Venice. Her research focuses on Victorian, late-Victorian, and pre-Modernist literature and culture. She is the author of La mano e l’anima. Il ritratto immaginario fin-de-siècle (2001), of Walter Pater: Reception, Rewriting, Adaptation (2018), and the co-author of The Germ Origins and Progenies of Pre-Raphaelite Interart Aesthetics (2012). She has coedited books on Walter Pater and Vernon Lee and the recent Arthur Symons: Poet, Critic, Vagabond. Kostas Boyiopoulos is Teaching Associate in English Studies at Durham University. He is the author of The Decadent Image: The Poetry of Wilde, Symons, and Dowson (Edinburgh University Press, 2015),

xvi  List of Contributors partly funded by the Friends of Princeton University Library Research Grant. He is coeditor of the essay collection Decadent Romanticism: 1780–1914 (Ashgate, 2015) and The Decadent Short Story: An Annotated Anthology (Edinburgh University Press, 2014). He has published essays on Wilde, Machen, Cavafy, Decadence, and comparative poetics. He is currently co-editing essay collections on marginal voices of the Modern period and on the aphorism. Julia Prewitt Brown is Professor Emerita at Boston University. She is the author of The Bourgeois Interior: How the Middle Class Imagines Itself in Literature and Film (2008), Cosmopolitan Criticism: Oscar Wilde’s Philosophy of Art (1997), and Jane Austen’s Novels: Social Change and Literary Form (1979). She has been the recipient of a Mellon Foundation Grant and the North American Scholar Award, given by the Jane Austen Society of North America. Professor Brown is currently working on a book on the films of John Schlesinger. Michael F. Davis is Associate Professor and Associate Chair of ­English at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York. He works in late-­ nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century literature and theory with particular research interests in narratology, art and aesthetics, psychoanalysis, and sexuality. He has published essays on Walter Pater, Rainer Maria Rilke, Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce, as well as an essay on Robert Mapplethorpe and late-twentieth-century American political discourse. He is currently completing a book on Walter ­Pater, Walter Pater’s Latent Intelligence and the Conception of Queer Theory, and a book on Virginia Woolf, Virginia Woolf’s Working Out: the Art of the Novel and the Law of the Father. Petra Dierkes-Thrun (PhD in English and Cultural and Critical Studies, University of Pittsburgh, 2003) is Lecturer in Comparative Literature and Assistant Vice Provost at Stanford University, where she teaches nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century British and Western European literature and culture, as well as feminist, gender, and sexuality studies. Publications include Salome’s Modernity: Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetics of Transgression (University of Michigan Press, 2011) as well as articles on Oscar Wilde, Henrik Ibsen, George Bernard Shaw, Arthur Symons, Stéphane Mallarmé, Richard Strauss, Victoria Cross, Rachilde, fin-de-siècle realism, and New Woman literature. She is an editorial board member of Volupté: Interdisciplinary Journal of Decadence and was one of the founding editors of The Latchkey: Journal of New Woman Studies. Maho Hidaka (PhD, Kyoto University) is Professor of English and Irish Literature and Dramatic Arts at Kyoto Women’s University. She has directed many theater and musical productions in English, and is the director of the Theatre Production Seminar at the Department

List of Contributors  xvii of English Studies. Her two plays in English, Cul de Sac (1999) and Requiem (2000), were premiered at performing arts festivals in Australia. She is also the author of Oscar Wilde Reappraised: Fiction and Plays (2016, publication grant from Kyoto University), and two of her essays on the Japanese reception of Wilde appeared in The Wildean 44 (2014) and 46 (2015). Yvonne Ivory is Associate Professor of German and Comparative Literature at the University of South Carolina. Her work revolves around cultural interactions between Germany and Britain around 1900; she has published on Wilde’s Italian Renaissance, on German news reports of his 1895 scandal, and Wilde as a German gay icon. Her discussion of the competing Viennese productions of Dorian Gray in 1907—part of her current project on Wilde’s afterlives among ­German ­modernists— will appear in ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ in the Twenty-First Century (under review at Oxford UP). She is coeditor with Joseph Bristow and Rebecca Mitchell of Wilde’s unpublished writings for Oxford’s Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Claire Masurel-Murray is Assistant Professor of English and Irish Literature at Sorbonne Université. She is the author of a book on the aesthetics of Catholicism in English Decadent literature, Le Calice vide: L’imaginaire catholique dans la littérature décadente anglaise (Presses de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2011), and has coedited a special issue of Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens on Paganism in Late-­ Victorian Britain (2015). She has published several articles and book chapters on religion and literature in the Victorian fin-de-siècle, including recently “‘White Alb and Scarlet Camail’: The Colours of Catholicism in Fin-de-Siècle Literature,” The Colours of the Past in Victorian England (Peter Lang, 2016). Jamil Mustafa  is Professor of English Studies at Lewis University. His current and forthcoming publications include “‘A good horror has its place in art’: Hardy’s Gothic Strategy in Tess of the d’Urbervilles,” ­ arter’s Vampiric Sleep“‘The Lady of the House of Love’: Angela C ing Beauty,” “Rediscovering Pleasure in the English Classroom,” “Lifting the Veil: Ambivalence, Allegory, and the ­Scottish Gothic in Walter Scott’s Union Fiction,” “Representations of Masculinity in Neo-­Victorian Film and Television,” “The American Gothic and the Carnivalesque in Something Wicked This Way Comes,” the horror story “Vicious Circle,” and the Bethlehem Blog. Margaret D. Stetz is the Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women’s Studies and Professor of Humanities at the University of Delaware. Her books include British Women’s Comic Fiction, 1890–1990; Gender and the London Theatre; and Facing the Late Victorians. She has curated and cocurated numerous exhibitions related to Victorian

xviii  List of Contributors art, literature, and print culture, including one on Oscar Wilde and Philadelphia at the Rosenbach Museum and Library. Her essays on Wilde have appeared in journals such as Biography and Nineteenth-­ Century Literature and in edited volumes (Oscar Wilde in Context, Palgrave Advances in Oscar Wilde Studies, and Oscar Wilde and the Cultures of Childhood). Sean O’Toole is Associate Professor of English at the City University of New York, Baruch College. He is the author of Habit in the English Novel, 1850–1900 (Palgrave, 2013) and is currently at work on a new study of Wilde’s sources. His work has also appeared in Victorian Literature and Culture, The Henry James Review, The Journal of the History of Sexuality, and The Reader’s Guide to Lesbian and Gay Studies.

1 Wilde’s Other Worlds An Introduction Michael F. Davis and Petra Dierkes-Thrun

In his seminal essay “The Painter of Modern Life,” written in 1859–60 and first published in 1863, Baudelaire tries to imagine a new kind of artist: a modern artist for the modern world. ­A lthough he is inspired by a real-life French illustrator working in L ­ ondon named Monsieur Constantin Guys, he suppresses his name (ostensibly at the insistence of M. Guys) and calls him instead only by his initials “C.G.,” the effect of which is that Baudelaire often seems to be describing not a particular artist so much as a type of artist or a prototype. As he sets about describing “C.G.,” Baudelaire moves away from an older, received notion of the artist as a well-trained artisan with narrow, provincial interests toward an alternative notion of the artist as a “man of the world,” a seemingly new enough notion that Baudelaire is concerned to define it precisely: When at last I ran him to earth, I saw at once that it was not precisely an artist but rather a man of the world with whom I had to do. I ask you to understand the word artist in a very restricted sense and man of the world in a very broad one. By the second I mean a man of the whole world, a man who understands the world and the mysterious and lawful reasons for all its uses; by the first, a specialist, a man wedded to his palette like the serf to the soil. Monsieur G. does not like to be called an artist. Is he perhaps not a little right? His interest is the whole world; he wants to know and understand and appreciate everything that happens on the surface of our globe. (6–7, emphasis in original) For Baudelaire, while “the majority of artists are no more than highly skilled animals, pure artisans, village intellects, cottage brains,” this artist-­cum-“man of the world” is, rather, and in sharp contrast, a “spiritual citizen of the universe.” By “man of the world,” Baudelaire means not only a man who is “a great traveller and cosmopolitan,” but also and moreover one who approaches the world, including the immediate world around him and beyond, with a certain spirit of inquiry that Baudelaire specifies as “curiosity.” “The

2  Michael F. Davis and Petra Dierkes-Thrun mainstream of his genius,” Baudelaire writes, “is curiosity.” Like the convalescent sitting at a window in Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Man of the Crowd,” his mind “mingl[es] in the turmoil of thought that surrounds him”: lately returned from the valley of the shadow of death, he is rapturously breathing in all the odours and essences of life around him; as he has been on the brink of total oblivion he remembers, and fervently desires to remember everything…. Curiosity has become a fatal, irresistible passion. (7) The specificity of curiosity is that it blends intellectual inquiry with ­desire. It is an intense desire to know (with keen attention to ­particularity) and, more than this, an intense desire to know what is unfamiliar, or even strange. When Baudelaire first published this important essay in 1863, Oscar Wilde was just nine years old, and while Baudelaire was concerned to sketch a new ideal of a visual artist (a painter of modern life), we would like to suggest that it was actually Wilde, perhaps more than any other figure, who would go on to fully realize this ideal. Like Baudelaire’s ideal of the modern artist, Wilde was an artist with a voracious curiosity and “a fervent desire to remember everything about the world.” For ­Baudelaire, being a man of the world also meant, in addition to having an ardent curiosity about the world, having a keen understanding and firm grasp of the world. Only a man of the world in step with an ­increasingly changing world, and comfortable moving through it, might take full measure of it and master and command its increasing complexity. It is one of Wilde’s most distinctive characteristics and admirable ­virtues that he could not only keep pace with his own modernity, but also ­outpace it and even push well into its own futurity. He had the remarkable ability to calculate, estimate, and reckon the world he ­inhabited and moved through. As he said himself in De Profundis with complete confidence and absolute certainty, “I summed up all things in a phrase, all existence in an epigram.” Baudelaire half-identifies this modern man of the world with a firm knowledge of the world with the figure of the dandy, for, he writes, “the word ‘dandy’ implies a quintessence of character and a subtle ­understanding of the entire moral mechanism of this world” (9), stopping short, however, of fully identifying him with the dandy and thus implicating him in the dandy’s “insensitivity.” What the man of the world has in common with the dandy is his immersion in the world, his ­willingness to move at large in it, and his taking measure of it, as well as the worldliness that accrues from such an immersion. He is able to ­navigate a range of contexts and a multiplicity of experiences and thus earn the wisdom of worldly experience. Baudelaire also half-identifies

Wilde’s Other Worlds  3 the man of the world with the figure of the philosopher as he continues to emphasize and tries to further specify the serious quality of his thought, stopping short, however, of implicating him in the philosopher’s problematic tendency to metaphysics: I would bestow upon him the title of philosopher, to which he has more than one right, if his excessive love of visible, tangible things, condensed to their plastic state did not arouse in him a certain ­repugnance for the things that form the impalpable kingdom of the metaphysician. (9) Like Baudelaire’s modern artist/man of the world, Wilde was also, of course, and indisputably, half-dandy, with “a subtle understanding of the entire moral mechanism of this world,” without being insensitive; and half-philosopher, with a worldly knowledge and a love of visible, tangible things, without giving way to the abstractions of metaphysics. Wilde makes this point explicitly in The Importance of Being Earnest, and ­humorously, to be sure, though not without some underlying seriousness, when he has Gwendolen say “(glibly): Ah! that is clearly a metaphysical speculation, and like most metaphysical speculations has very little reference at all to the actual facts of real life, as we know them” (CCW 366). Like Baudelaire’s man of the world, Wilde was an artist with a strong inclination to immerse himself in public social life, traveling far from home and yet feeling everywhere at home, a singular self with a keen, passionate interest in “the other,” in otherness, in alterity. Baudelaire imagines the man of the world as being committed simultaneously to the exploration and representation of both multiplicity and alterity: Or we might liken him to a mirror as vast as the crowd itself; or to a kaleidoscope gifted with consciousness, responding to each one of its movements and reproducing the multiplicity of life and the ­flickering grace of all the elements of life. He is an “I” with an insatiable appetite for the “non-I,” at every instant rendering and ­explaining it in pictures more living than life itself…. (9) Here, Baudelaire pushes the idea of curiosity even further beyond ­intellectual desire, the desire for knowledge, to become a desire for the “other.” At the same time, the man of the world reflects, like a mirror or a kaleidoscope, the complex movement of life around him, similar to Wilde’s Dorian, who “wonder[s] at the shallow psychology of those who conceive the Ego in man as a thing simple, permanent, reliable, and of one essence” when “[t]o him, man was a being with myriad lives and myriad sensations, a complex multiform creature,” often driven

4  Michael F. Davis and Petra Dierkes-Thrun by “curiosity and a desire for new experiences.” Like the Baudelairean man of the world, Wilde’s Dorian is set up as a type, the “citizen of the world,” that “many … young men” would observe and admire, making Dorian Gray something of a role model of modernity, albeit a problematic one: Indeed, there were many, especially among the very young men, who saw, or fancied that they saw, in Dorian Gray the true realization of a type of which they had often dreamed in Eton or Oxford days, a type that was to combine something of the real culture of the scholar with all the grace and distinction and perfect manner of a citizen of the world. (CW 277) In suggesting that Wilde fulfilled or realized this Baudelairean ideal of the artist as man of the world, we are suggesting that that ideal, as Baudelaire articulates it in such detail and with such subtlety and complexity, provides an apt cultural-theoretical paradigm and a valuable critical template, a sort of interpretive framing device, through which to approach and understand Wilde and Wilde’s accomplishment. Wilde not only avidly explored his own world, but also constantly sought out others in search of new experiences and knowledge. He moved from Ireland to England while studying the Classics, was interested in philosophy as well as science, deepened his French to the point that he could live in Paris and write a play in French, traveled throughout Europe and the United States, was a Protestant and a Freemason with Roman Catholic leanings and an interest in palmistry and fortune-telling, and was a gay man married with children who was equally at home in the gay London underground and brothels of Algeria as in Victorian drawing rooms and the music halls of Paris. Like Baudelaire’s flaneur, Wilde made it his goal “[t]o be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world …” (9). Although Wilde was, of course, born and raised in Dublin, he left the provincial capital of Ireland—the provincialism of which Wilde’s compatriot James Joyce would later detail in Dubliners—at the age of twenty for the more worldly Oxford, the great intellectual center of ­Europe, where he began in earnest a career of scholarly study and intellectual inquiry dedicated to understanding the world and “the mysterious and lawful reasons for all its uses,” or, in an alternate translation of Baudelaire’s phrase, “the mysterious and legitimate reasons behind all ­ istory its customs.” There, he steeped himself in the study of the whole h ­ ristotle, of thought, from the ancient to the modern, from Plato, A Aeschylus, and Sophocles, up to and including some of the most avantgarde thought of the day, mastering whole systems of thought. Wilde’s

Wilde’s Other Worlds  5 intellectual curiosity was not parochial and limited, but rather broad and liberal, his habit of mind at once voracious and omnivorous. He had an expansive mind that could, in the words of his older contemporary and one-time acquaintance Walt Whitman, “contain multitudes.” He was able both to maintain several different worlds at once and even to move freely from world to world, exchanging one system of signification for another, while understanding deeply the governing terms and conventions of a given system of thought. While at Oxford, Wilde distinguished himself not only as a capacious mind that ranged freely and widely across various fields of inquiry, old and new, but also, of course, as a capacious personality. Much as he laid claim to, confidently moved through, and commanded the world of thought, so would he navigate and master the immediate, material world around him. Once again eschewing the local, the provincial, and the conventional, he boldly styled himself in the more worldly, urbane, and unconventional manner of Baudelaire’s modern, continental flaneur. He was, in Terry Eagleton’s phrase, “the great self-fashioner” of his age. ­I ndeed, it is precisely the point that Wilde either could not or would not be contained by the customs of his culture, whether it was his native Irish culture or his adopted English culture, or the conventions of his age, and claimed a space outside of them (while right in the midst of them) in which to “hew,” in Shakespeare’s phrase in sonnet 20—“all hews in his controlling”—an exceptional self. If Wilde styled himself in the general manner of the continental ­fl aneur, however, he also styled himself in the closely related but perhaps more particular manner of the so-called “aesthete,” in which he put to use some of the more specialized devices of art, the dramatic art of acting, above all, in not only the imaginative shaping of an innovative self and a set of possible actions for it, but also, as we can see clearly through the powerful lenses of our own criticism, the imaginative shaping, acting out, and performance of a new kind of sexual self (a subject of same-sex desire) and a set of possible actions for it. And so we might suggest that if Wilde would not or could not be contained by the customs of his culture and needed to claim a space outside of those customs, it was in no small part to escape the constraining conventions of normative heterosexuality and to find alternative cultural spaces in which to “cultivate” an alternative desire. While as such an “aesthete” Wilde might have used the devices of dramatic art to perform a new sexual subjectivity, as a more high-minded “aestheticist,” who took an early and keen interest in the philosophy/ theory of art, Wilde apprehended not only an alternate “imaginary” world, operating on an alternative set of rules, for the representation of the erotic male body and the preservation and the circulation of samesex desire, but also an alternative field of critical inquiry, for the analysis and the theorization of that body and its desire(s). It was also a mirror

6  Michael F. Davis and Petra Dierkes-Thrun to engage in a kind of self-reflection on the question of the self as other in the field of alterity. Indeed, it may well be the subject’s failure to see itself reflected in the immediate world around it or its refusal to accept the limits imposed upon it by the local social and cultural conventions of a dominant ideology, like, for instance, the ideology of patriarchy and compulsory heterosexuality, that instill early and lasting habits of both self-examination and sociocultural critique and to prompt it to seek and find itself elsewhere: to see itself as foreign or other and to seek, find, or “reframe” itself in the foreign or the other. While at Oxford, then, Wilde prepared to venture out into the wider world, to range across it freely and widely “with the perfect manner of a citizen of the world,” poised for a vast array of cross-cultural e­ ncounters. While still a student, he made a tour of Greece, where he immersed himself in the material remains of the classical world, which was not only the birthplace of the Western intellectual tradition, but also, of course, the primal site of same-sex desire, a sort of paradise lost and “home away from home” of Wilde’s own alternative desire. On the way back from Greece, he stopped in Italy where he flirted with Irish ­Protestantism’s chief antagonist and radical other, Roman Catholicism, and, shortly after Oxford, he set out on his two-year tour across ­A merica. On his arrival, he made the now famous quip that he had “nothing to declare but his genius.” If that quip is so famous, it is perhaps because, like all great wit, it concentrates so much meaning in so few words. First, it is a wonderful expression of Wilde’s fierce individualism and unbounded egotism, an individualism and egotism that refused to be contained by national borders, that was at least transatlantic, and, as his disappointment with the Atlantic Ocean suggests, perhaps even global. Second, it nicely suggests that Wilde’s genius was itself something that traveled widely and usually self-consciously and deliberately crossed cultural, imaginative, and disciplinary boundaries in order to survey and take full active measure of new terrains of experience, seldom in a colonialist or imperialist spirit but rather in a cosmopolitan spirit of free and liberal ­ ilde’s irony, which is both inquiry. Third, it is a delightful indicator of W the dominant, though surely not the only, tone of ­Wilde’s work, and the preferred posture and rhetorical stance of the subject who, failing or refusing to identify with the ideas and values of his given world, takes up a position outside of it and from this position of dislocation, evaluates, analyzes, and judges it. If sentiment is the attitude of the ­nationalist citizen of a country, then irony is the attitude of the internationalist ­citizen of the world, though, as Julia Prewitt Brown argues in her chapter here, that is not to say that the cosmopolitan subject cannot or does not also harbor deep sentimental commitments to the ­local. ­I ndeed, for her, and in a rich Wildean paradox, it is actually the cosmopolitan subject who keeps custody of family and cultural tradition, the stranger who extends hospitality to the host. Finally, Wilde’s quip turns on his

Wilde’s Other Worlds  7 razor-sharp understanding of the fundamental ambiguities of language and on his ability to instantly recognize and manipulate those ambiguities. ­Language is not a closed, fixed system, but rather an open, capricious one. Here, Wilde registers the lexical ambiguity of the word “declare” and lifts it out of its practical use within the materialist discourse of customs and border patrol (to declare things) and elevates it to its more lofty function within a more idealist discourse (to declare ideals or principles). But Wilde’s witty move gets its full force and value from the context in which it is uttered—the context of his arrival from a more “idealist” world to a more “materialist” one, as Wilde would frame the British-American dichotomy in his story “The Canterville Ghost: a ­Hypo-Idealistic Romance.” Wilde came to America as a self-described “apostle” of aestheticism on the itinerant, evangelical mission of enlightening Americans on aesthetic principles and what we might call the alternative world of art. While some of his lectures were, to be sure, about decoration, others were more philosophical and were early indicators that, for Wilde, art offered an alternative, imaginative world, organized upon imaginative principles in which to conceive of alternative ways of being in the world and potentially reshape, reform, and even transform the given, inhabited world. For Wilde, art was thus both ecumenical and radical. When Wilde recrossed the Atlantic and returned to the Britain, where he continued his apostolic work of bringing the good news of art and aesthetics now to the British, he settled in London, but also spent large stretches of time in Paris, making himself “at home” in the two most cosmopolitan cities in Europe. Wilde was not a citizen of the nation so much as a citizen of the world (to echo Wilde’s phrase in The Picture of Dorian Gray), and the cosmopolitan city was the privileged site for such citizenship, providing an alternative social and political form for organizing experience. Moreover, London and Paris each provided a constant alternative to the other—an alternative familiarity or familiar alterity, strange and familiar at the same time, the space of the uncanny. And each provided as well the spaces, beau monde and demimonde alike, in which to fashion, refashion, and perform a special kind of subjectivity, including a sexual subjectivity, perhaps also essentially uncanny: strange and familiar at the same time, the self encountering the self as other. Wilde had the exceptional sort of intelligence that was able to readily recognize and clearly identify the basic structuring principles and organizing apparatus of his own world (“the mysterious and legitimate reasons behind all its customs”), which he was able to see, therefore, as a constructed, artificial world, as well as those of the alternative worlds he sought out and entered into. We can see that same strong intelligence at work in Wilde’s early career as he moved from one literary genre to another, taking full measure of and mastering the fundamental conventions of each genre, each a different kind of world. Indeed, Wilde is one

8  Michael F. Davis and Petra Dierkes-Thrun of the rare writers in the history of English literature to have produced a major work in each of the four major genres: poetry, drama, fiction, and criticism. While it is surely the case that Wilde’s mind was simply too large to be contained by the limited conventions of a single genre, it is also the case that that mind was eager to explore and experiment with the alternative conventions of other genres. Indeed, Wilde’s whole life seems to have been dedicated to exploration and experimentation. Wilde is both at his best and most interesting when he manipulates the conventions of a genre so much as to disrupt and destabilize the very structure of the genre and, in turn, the fictional world that it supports, or, more radically, when he mixes the conventions of different genres so as to fabricate brave new worlds, as, for example, when he uses dramatic dialogue in “The Critic as Artist” or “The Decay of Lying,” in no mere Platonic way, to carry out an advanced critical theory; or when he blends the conventions of fiction, drama, and criticism in The Picture of Dorian Gray; or the conventions of drama, poetry, and religious prophecy in Salomé. But Wilde is even more radical when he crosses the boundaries of literature itself to enter into the world of visual art, which operates on an entirely different set of principles, or when he crosses the boundary between the imaginary world of art and the world of the real, troubling one of the most fundamental distinctions of human thought and experience. As Pater had written in the “Conclusion” to the Renaissance in a rejoinder to Aristotle, “failure is to form habits.” It would seem that Wilde, not content to inhabit a given system, explored other systems and forged new systems while continually pushing the limits of each of those systems, so as to never fully inhabit one, never settle into conventions or conventional habits. From Baudelaire’s foundational notion of the modern artist as man of ­ scar the world, then, we draw out a way to approach and understand O Wilde and the specificity of his authorial project for this collection. Wilde was a modern worldly man with an unmatched curiosity about the world  he inhabited—the material world he moved through, the historical and mythological worlds he entered into and explored, the intellectual and imaginary worlds he studied so carefully, the wide geographical world he ranged across, the alternative sexual underworld he immersed himself in—an unmatched ability to comprehend the complexity of each of those “other” worlds, and an extraordinary ability to move freely in and out of them, to continually renew his worldliness, and even to hold them all at once. As he moved through different phases in his life and explored or lived in different geographical locations and cultures, Wilde gathered worlds of experience within himself that overlapped and complemented one another on the one hand, but that also ­often contradicted one another or remained paradoxical, sometimes to the point of outright transgression, on the other hand. As this volume tries to show, Wilde’s complexity—both the complexity of his paradoxical, ironic style and of

Wilde’s Other Worlds  9 his personal life as the celebrity author and drawing-­room personality with a sexual double life—can be seen as a direct ­result of his worldliness and embrace of alterity. In an effort to take measure of Wilde’s worldliness, his easy movement through and inhabitation of various cultural, intellectual, and imaginative worlds, we have organized the chapters in this volume both thematically and roughly chronologically, dividing them into five clusters. We begin with a first cluster concerned with the mid-nineteenth-century world that Wilde inherited, including the nineteenth-century discourse of “heredity” itself, and ending with a final cluster that explores Wilde’s ­radical modernity, that leading edge of Wilde’s work that extends beyond his death and through the twentieth century, still reaching into our own present with a persistent avant-garde relevance. Our first cluster, “Inherited Worlds,” includes chapters by James Eli Adams, Sean O’Toole, and Jamil Mustafa, all of which consider various extant nineteenth-century contexts that Wilde entered into, explored, and navigated in his work. Adams’s chapter is concerned with Wilde’s exploration and navigation of the brave new world of evolutionary heredity, showing that Wilde figures heredity both as a set of inexorable, deterministic forces that thwart and otherwise constrain individual agency and, paradoxically, as potentially liberating. On the one hand, the idea of heredity as a constraint on human action might actually free the individual from the realm of moral responsibility (the responsibility to act); on the other hand, heredity might actually be a mechanism whereby “all the sins of the world,” in Pater’s famous phrase, are passed down to the current generation, giving it open access to them. Adams pays special attention to a scene in The Picture of Dorian Gray in which heredity and art intersect: Dorian examines the portraits of his ancestors and seems to experience, by way of heredity, what they experience, opening up whole vistas (whole worlds) for the exploration and experience of transgressive desire. Sean O’Toole’s chapter then takes us to the world of nineteenth-century American literature for an investigation into the “magic-picture” tradition in which Hawthorne and James worked, and brings to light some new international cultural source materials for The Picture of Dorian Gray. Perhaps, more importantly, these new sources provide propitious heuristic tools for the rereading and reinterpretation of Wilde’s most famous and perhaps most perplexing work. O’Toole’s analysis of the subgenre identifies both thematic and formal conventions that help us to properly “frame” or “reframe” Wilde’s work—both important tropes in the subgenre—and resolve some of its persistent interpretive problems. Here, the inquiry into foreign contexts and forms unexpectedly helps us to rethink the familiar. Jamil Mustafa’s chapter immerses us in three other of Wilde’s inherited worlds: the decadent world of the literature of Poe and Baudelaire, the extant underworld of nineteenth-century Paris, and the cultural-material world of Victorian

10  Michael F. Davis and Petra Dierkes-Thrun spectral technologies, all in a fresh analysis of Wilde’s often neglected poem “The Harlot’s House.” Mustafa shows that the poem takes place not only in the subaltern social space of female prostitution—the socalled demi-monde or half-world—but also, in the coextensive spectral space of ghosts, spirits, and apparitions—the so-called realm of the dead or otherworld. He also shows that the world of the poem is actually haunted by the apparitions of the dead, by the ghosts of American and French literary giants Poe and Baudelaire, by the specter of a repressed sexuality, which manifests as the queer uncanny, and by Wilde’s familiarity with contemporary technologies such as the projecting praxinoscope and the shadow-puppet theater. The second cluster, “Aesthetic Worlds,” includes chapters by Megan Becker and Michael Davis, both of which are concerned with aesthetic theory and more particularly with the role of representation in the construction of Wilde’s aesthetic world. Both Becker and Davis ground their respective discussions in 1880s aesthetic-theoretical discourses and tease out, through different methodologies, the relationship between the author and the world of art, as well as Wilde’s own extraordinary and prescient advancement of theories of art, which reverberate with some of the major critical theories of the mid- to late-twentieth century. Megan Becker’s chapter associates Wilde’s cosmopolitanism with one of W ­ ilde’s distinctive new modes of representation, which we see in both his creative and critical practice as he freely crosses the traditional borders of authorship, travels widely in other authors’ worlds, and liberally borrows from their discourses (as one might pick up the patois of another country). Rather than writing in the traditional mode of “mimesis,” the prevailing representational mode of the nineteenth century that tends to reinscribe cultural ideology, Wilde develops out of his discursive borrowings an innovative mode of what Becker calls “cosmesis,” a radical new representational mode that is inclusive and incorporative. Michael ­Davis’s chapter is similarly concerned to demonstrate that Wilde was a radical aesthetic theorist deeply occupied with the world of art as a world of representation, and particularly occupied with the complex r­ elations among art, representation, and sexuality. Davis traces Wilde’s development from his early years as an art critic to his mature years as an art theorist, observing that while early on Wilde is concerned with art as a site of representation of the male body, later he is concerned, more complexly, with art as a site of self-reflection on the status of the artist, on the nature of art, and on the nature of sexual subjectivity. Davis argues that Whistler’s “Ten O’Clock Lecture,” a barely veiled and often homophobic attack on Wilde, provoked Wilde to write in rejoinder “The Birthday of the Infanta,” in which Wilde took up the gauntlet of Whistler’s critique of Velasquez’s girls in “hoop skirts” and wrote his own version of Velasquez’s famous painting about painting, Las Meninas. In that story, which Wilde called his most well-made story, Wilde undertook to

Wilde’s Other Worlds  11 produce a self-conscious self-portrait that contemplates his own status as an artist, that interrogates the conventions of art, and that, simultaneously and inextricably, probes the origins of his own sexual subjectivity. Wilde’s rewriting of Velasquez’s painting is a sophisticated reinterpretation of the painting that anticipates not only Foucault, but also, and more significantly, Lacan, and that produces, avant la lettre, its own radical psychoanalytic knowledge. While both Wilde and Lacan render the infanta as a figure of castration, Wilde locates his own childhood origin as both an artist and a subject of desire in the symbolic act of female castration at the entrance into the realistic world of representation. The third cluster, “Alternative Worlds,” introduces new research on Wilde’s dissenting desire for the alternative worlds of Rome and Paris, two major conceptual and material networks that significantly influenced Wilde’s life and work. Claire Masurel-Murray argues that the Protestant virtues of private judgment and dissent from authority prompted Wilde, perhaps paradoxically, to dissent from Protestantism itself and to explore instead its most radical other as an alternative. Her chapter examines the main tenets of Wilde’s affinity for the Roman Catholic Church, whose cult of the Virgin Mary, Eucharistic devotion, and dogma of papal infallibility Wilde liberally adapted from within his own aestheticist, poetic, Protestant framework of reference. The chapter convincingly demonstrates that Wilde was particularly interested in the most polemical points of difference between the two religions, as those differences were being debated in the world of late-Victorian religious discourse. It was largely as a contrarian almost habitually attracted to alterity, or the site of otherness, that Wilde was attracted to the Roman Church. Petra Dierkes-Thrun’s chapter then takes us to Paris, the great cosmopolitan and bohemian capital of the nineteenth century, where Wilde found a network of alternative social, intellectual, and homoerotic relations through his engagement with the decadent French writer, Mercure de France editor and salon hostess Rachilde and her literary and social circle. Dierkes-Thrun’s chapter introduces new archival research on Rachilde’s and the Mercure’s importance to Wilde’s 1890s work as well as to his posthumous reputation, arguing that Rachilde and her network helped carry Wilde’s artistic reputation into the twentieth century. Exploring the personal and professional affinities between Oscar Wilde, Rachilde, and the Mercure sheds new light on Wilde and Paris, Dierkes-Thrun argues, and presents Wilde and Rachilde, two of the most fascinating writers of the period, as skilled social networkers with an eye on the future of queer art. The fourth cluster, “Mythological Worlds,” includes chapters by Kostas Boyiopoulos, Eliza Bizzotto, and Yvonne Ivory, which investigate Wilde’s entrance into and engagement with the worlds of three different mythologies—classical Greece, medieval Christianity, and Richard Wagner’s Teutonic Gesamtkunstwerk—through each of which

12  Michael F. Davis and Petra Dierkes-Thrun Wilde explores the relation between desire, death, and the question of redemption. Boyiopoulos’s concern is with Wilde’s Greek-themed poetry, which revisits the classical topoi of eros and threnos in order to negotiate the border between desire and death, a border that is crossed in the striking motif of same-sex necrophilia. Boyiopoulos’s chapter then traces Wilde’s imaginative engagement with and treatment of the linked topoi of eros and threnos forward to Wilde’s influence on Portuguese modernist writer Fernando Pessoa’s work, demonstrating not only the influence of Wilde on European modernism, but also the persistent value of the classical for the modern inquiry into the subject of same-sex desire. Just as the classical world had provided Wilde with various scenes and sources for the representation of necrophilia, love, and death, so did the Biblical world provide him with the figure of Salomé, through whom to think through and act out closely related issues of gender and sexuality. Elisa Bizzotto’s chapter illustrates another instance of ­Wilde’s mythmaking influencing a different international context, in this case the Italian modernist Gabriele D’Annunzio’s representation of Saint ­Sebastian (a famously homoerotically charged fin-de-siècle theme, and a favorite of Wilde’s as well) in Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien (1911), for whom Wilde’s Salomé functioned as a crucial hypo-text. Through his peculiar concurrent interpretation of the decadent myths of Salomé and Saint Sebastian, Bizzotto argues, D’Annunzio helped further the spread of Wildean poetics not only in Italy and France (where he resided in the years 1910–15), but also across Europe. Finally, Yvonne Ivory’s chapter urges an interesting reexamination of another Wildean mythological world, Wilde’s affinity with and interest in Wagner’s work. Previous scholarship has tended to focus only on Wilde’s interest in the sexual and sensual aspects of Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk in its confluence with decadent themes and Symbolist poetics, for instance in The Picture of Dorian Gray and Salomé, but as Ivory shows, other central Wagnerian themes can be found in Wilde’s work and need to be taken into account. In particular, Ivory takes a close look at Wilde’s “The Young King” and zooms in on the centrality of the twin ideas of pity and redemption in this tale. Wilde’s development of these ideas in his earlier works must be put next to his later interest in Wagner’s sexual excess and shows a richer picture of Wilde’s Wagner reception than previously available: in some ways, Ivory argues, Wilde’s Wagner reception actually went against the grain of decadence by exploring the possibilities for self-development opened up by pity and redemption, years before they also entered The Ballad of Reading Gaol and De Profundis, Wilde’s (retroactively titled) letter to Lord Alfred Douglas from prison. The fifth and final cluster, “Afterworlds,” includes chapters by Maho Hidaka, Margaret Stetz, and Julia Prewitt Brown, all of which track Wilde’s widening range of motion both spatially across the globe and temporally across the twentieth century, showing how Wilde’s own

Wilde’s Other Worlds  13 imaginative worlds have continued to inform and shape the worlds of the future, including early-twentieth-century Japanese theater, 1940s Hollywood film, and late-twentieth-century Indian cinema. Hidaka’s research highlights the crucial influence of Wilde’s Salomé on early-­ twentieth-century Japanese theater and documents how the staging of Wilde’s Salomé intersected with traditional Japanese theatrical conventions and practices, particularly the convention of men playing women’s roles. Specifically, the chapter compares and contrasts the two earliest modern Japanese productions of Salomé (Geijutsuza’s 1913 production and Kawakami Sadayakko Ichiza’s 1914 one) with Katsuhide Suzuki’s important 2009 Japanese adaptation of the play featuring a female impersonator, Eisuke Sasai. While the first two Salomé productions helped propel forward the Shingeki Undo (the New Drama movement, which aimed at establishing modern theater in Japan through producing translated foreign plays) and facilitated the acceptance of female actresses, who had not been allowed to perform in Japanese Kabuki since 1629, the latter 2009 production incorporated many older traditions of the Japanese performing arts, consciously looking back rather than forward in time, while physically foregrounding the implied gender and sexual issues in Wilde’s play. The comparison takes us into the heart of ­Salomé’s importance to Japanese theater history, tracing Wilde’s legacy in Japan and the lasting imprint it left in an international context. All three performances analyzed in this chapter transfigure Wilde’s emphasis on Salomé’s sexuality, but in different and telling fashion, reflecting the unique, historical development of Japanese theater and its relation to gender. Second in our final cluster, Margaret Stetz’s chapter presents new research on Wilde’s legacy in the 1940s Hollywood filmmaking world, showing how Jewish directors took up Wilde’s plays and adapted them to the screen—at a time when Wilde was still in a state of relative disgrace—out of an identification with the alienated, marginalized, and displaced subject. Discussing films such as Albert Lewin’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), Jules Dassin’s The Canterville Ghost (1944), Otto Preminger’s The Fan (1949), and Alexander Korda’s An Ideal Husband (1947), Stetz considers how and why Jewish artists working in cinema acted, at a moment in history when Jewish identity represented peril and persecution, to reclaim and rehabilitate Oscar Wilde and to make him newly popular with mass audiences. Even as the film industries in ­Hollywood and Britain remained silent about the experiences and fates of contemporary European Jews, the promotion of the historical figure of Oscar Wilde as a great writer served as an oblique way to address the subject of stigmatized and persecuted identities and to argue for a new embrace of “difference.” In the ever-so-cosmopolitan personae, moreover, of both Wilde and of his literary characters, Jews—who had been accused of being “cosmopolitan” types themselves and thus of belonging to no nation—could find their cultural doubles, while bringing together

14  Michael F. Davis and Petra Dierkes-Thrun Wilde’s world and their world. Finally, Julia Pruitt Brown’s chapter concludes the volume with a worldwide sweep across space and time. The chapter opens with a discussion of the historic ambiguities behind the word “cosmopolitanism” and clarifies its difference from other concepts with which it has been confused, such as globalization. The strain of cosmopolitan thought that undergirds the chapter begins with the ­Stoics and Cynics and runs through many later philosophers and artists, such as Kant, Tagore, Wilde, Satyajit Ray, and Derrida. At the center of Brown’s discussion is a close analysis of two works: Wilde’s famous (and critically neglected) “The Canterville Ghost” and Ray’s last film, “The Stranger,” in which a cosmopolitan anthropologist figures. Brown finds in each of these works a theory of cosmopolitanism as a form of “hospitality divorced from home” or from private property, a theory that has much in common with recent discussions of cosmopolitanism by Derrida that are rooted in Kant’s theory of the “right of visitation.” The chapter ends with a discussion of the right of visitation, relating it to Wilde’s final sojourn in the most cosmopolitan city in Europe, Paris. For Brown, Wilde is an example of an artist who embraced the multiple perspective of the cosmopolitan in both his life and work, and who is therefore important to the history of cosmopolitanism. In its overall conception as an essay collection, Wilde’s Other Worlds aims at certain cosmopolitan spirit as well. It traces and tracks Oscar Wilde’s movements from one imaginative world to another while employing various critical approaches, dwelling in each of those Wildean worlds long enough to understand and take substantial measure of what Wilde is doing in and with those worlds. The collection follows, in a way, the structural model of Homer’s Odyssey, or to choose a more immediately relevant example, the structural model of Joyce’s Ulysses, though much more modestly to be sure. And like Joyce’s novel, which is set in 1904, less than four years after Wilde’s death, it contains a ­subsurface cross-lateral network of thematic correspondences, or, in Kostas ­B oyiopoulos’s phrase, “a subcutaneous network of symbols,” many of which concern the often subsurface questions of gender and sexuality. Indeed, gender and sexuality might well be the major secondary theme here, not the major but certainly the minor key of the book, with two-thirds of the chapters taking on the question of sexuality either directly or indirectly, suggesting perhaps that there is more than a casual connection between worldliness and sexuality. Interestingly, a number of the chapters here identify in Wilde’s worldliness, in his cosmopolitan spirit, a kind of ethics, many of them noting how Wilde and Wilde’s work encouraged the formation of “aesthetic communities,” or provided important models to the present, to the near future, and even to the far future for sympathetic identification and even for the formation of social unity. Some of the chapters even locate in

Wilde’s Other Worlds  15 Wilde’s open cosmopolitan spirit of inquiry the source of his pity, empathy, and magnanimity. All of the chapters are rich and complex. Each individual chapter’s focus on comparative, historical, and transnational lenses for their cutting-­ edge research on Oscar Wilde in this collection allows us to zoom in, investigate, and compare more closely the unique relationship between Wilde and the different imaginative and material worlds he inhabited, explored, and helped others inhabit and explore. Taken together, the chapters in this collection demonstrate Wilde’s extraordinary worldwide reach—his worldliness—the last few emphasizing his reach into the future and his global influence. Wilde’s ability to move freely from world to world and across worlds, his plurality, we believe, was a major reason his work and life have been so appealing and influential beyond his own world. Unlike Homer’s Odysseus or Joyce’s Bloom, Wilde does not wander circuitously back to his original home. Rather, his home seems to be abroad, his subjectivity perhaps always ever elsewhere, nowhere, and everywhere at once, widely dispersed over the world.

Works Cited Baudelaire, Charles. The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays. Translated and edited by Jonathan Mayne. Phaidon Press, 1964.

Part I

Inherited Worlds

2 History as Seduction Wilde and the Fascination of Heredity James Eli Adams

Mechanisms of legal inheritance, and the fantasies bound up with inheriting and bequeathing, are so prominent in Victorian fiction that avid readers tend to become dabblers in English property law. The ­appeal of the motif is not hard to explain. Most obviously, inheritance functions to secure or reinforce a sense of personal identity and social ­possibility; its power is most vivid when it falls on an heir unaware of those ­prospects—as in Oliver Twist or Jane Eyre. Less often noted, however, is the power of inheritance to regulate and constrain human agency. That power animates the most influential account of legal inheritance in England across the nineteenth century, Edmund Burke’s R ­ eflections on the Revolution in France (1790). When Burke insisted that British identity, both ­individual and collective, resided in a many-faceted inheritance, he aimed above all to rebuke an individualism he called “upstart insolence,” which he saw unfolding in terrifying fashion across the Channel. Challenging those energies of self-determination, the binding force of Burkean inheritance punctures any dream of a new beginning in human affairs. Across the long nineteenth century, this regulatory function of inheritance is often glimpsed in fantasies of resistance to it—perhaps most notably that of the self-made man. A dream of complete autonomy, of untrammeled self-determination, frequently is expressed through efforts to minimize or erase the influence of inheritance—as if to acknowledge even one’s own parentage would abridge the power of personal agency. Thus, the satire of Dickens’s Bounderby in Hard Times (1854), who concocts a fiction to stress “the last depth of the gutter I have lifted myself out of” (97), alerts us to more earnest celebrations of heroic self-­fashioning, ­ entleman (1856), whose such as Dinah Mulock Craik’s John Halifax, G protagonist, as the admiring narrator puts it, “was indebted to no forefathers for a family history … the chronicle commenced with himself, and was his own making” (11), or the praise of one ­Reverend Thomas ­Binney, quoted in Success in Life (1851), an anonymous self-help ­manual: “Unquestionably, the greatest thing that can be said of a man is, that he ­ othing, and made himself; that he had no father; that he sprang from n was born mud and died marble” (33).

20  James Eli Adams Ironically, the zenith of the self-made man as a cultural fantasy coincides with the emergence of a new understanding of inheritance deeply resistant to such self-fashioning. Under the impact of evolutionary thought, inheritance came to be understood primarily in biological terms, as heredity. This development took hold with remarkable speed in the latter half of the nineteenth century, in part because commentators quickly grasped the power of evolutionary thought as a new means of regulating social mobility—indeed, of shaping the very identities of subsequent generations. This impulse lies at the heart of eugenics, which emerged in the 1860s, principally though the writings of Francis ­Galton. In Hereditary Genius (1869), Galton aimed “to show that a vast but unused power is vested in each generation over the very natures of their successors—that is, over their inborn faculties and dispositions” (xix; Galton’s emphasis). To the social engineer, this was an exhilarating ­prospect; to others, it suggested a potentially catastrophic abridgment of human agency. This bleak prospect is famously evoked in “The Critic as Artist” (1890), where Oscar Wilde contends, Heredity […] has shown us that we are never less free than when we try to act. It has hemmed us round with the nets of the hunter, and written upon the wall the prophecy of our doom. We may not watch it, for it is within us. We may not see it, save in a mirror which mirrors the soul. It is Nemesis without her mask. It is the last of the Fates, and the most terrible. (CW, vol. 4, 177) This evocation marks the culmination of a preoccupation that dates from Wilde’s undergraduate days at Oxford. Yet the place of heredity in his writings has claimed relatively little attention from scholars, perhaps because it resists two central emphases in recent understandings of Wilde: the ideal of critical thought as a mode of radical freedom, untrammeled by “embodied life” (Anderson, Powers of Distance, 153), and the related understanding of Wilde as an avatar of a postmodern, anti-essentialist selfhood.1 At times, Wilde’s invocation seems almost an embarrassment: thus, Jeff Nunokawa, in his important study Tame ­Passions of Wilde: The Styles of Manageable Desire, actually quotes Wilde’s amplification of the passage above without mentioning the grammatical antecedent of the subject “It”; for “Heredity,” he substitutes “the subject of homosexual seduction” (37). (I’ll have occasion below to explore the logic of this substitution.) This elision reinforces a widely held understanding of Wilde’s resistance to “essentialism,” within which The Picture of Dorian Gray, in Nunokawa’s words, “describes a trajectory of de-essentialism, in which [Dorian’s] erotic passions appear less and less an expression of inherent attributes, and more and more a function of external influence”

History as Seduction  21 (90). But for all of the novel’s tributes to Lord Henry’s seductive power, this is not how Dorian understands himself or his trajectory, both of which he refers to innate, inherited attributes: he concludes that “man” in general is “a complex multiform creature that bore within itself strange legacies of thought and passion, whose very flesh was tainted with the monstrous maladies of the dead” (288). To be sure, this view allows Dorian (and Wilde) to challenge “the shallow psychology of those who conceive of the Ego in man as something simple, permanent, reliable and of one essence.” And yet Wilde derives this position from a depth model of human identity anchored in Victorian evolutionary thought. Dorian, like his creator, grounds his anti-essentialist stance in biology, even as he thereby seems to abridge the capacity for rational detachment and radical self-fashioning that figures so centrally in Wilde’s writings and his life. What should we make of this seemingly self-baffling insistence on the power of heredity? Of course, such tension is hardly surprising in an author so preoccupied with paradox and self-division, an author who avers that “a Truth in art is one whose contradiction is also true.” But Wilde’s appeal to heredity, I’ll argue, not only is central to his critical reflection, but also captures with almost unparalleled suggestiveness a radical ambivalence informing the broadly Burkean understanding of inheritance. Wildean heredity is likewise a mechanism that at once regulates human agency—even, it might seem, to the point of extinction—yet it also ostensibly offers grounds for a sense of freedom. This latter emphasis comes to the fore in “The Critic as Artist” and The Picture of Dorian Gray, where heredity figures as a twofold mechanism of resistance to conventional moral regimens. First, as it seems to entail a radically circumscribed agency, it undermines (so Wilde contends) the familiar elevation of action over thought. The second and subtler maneuver reconfigures heredity along Lamarckian lines, as a form of use-inheritance, in which personal identity is shaped by the experience of earlier generations, both biological and cultural. In effect, heredity becomes a form of memory that transcends the individual life. 2 Heredity thus understood conveys a psychic plenitude subversive of that “shallow psychology” that understands human identity in terms of a stable, integral ego. The Wildean self contains multitudes. That plenitude is called to consciousness, is “realized,” in a crucial Wildean term, through aesthetic experience—in life or in a book, in Pater’s insinuating phrase—which awakens passions that are understood as a hereditary endowment. Those passions affirm the variegated, “multiform” character of human identity, most notably when they arouse a sense of fear, even terror, for that fear testifies to an innate responsiveness even to anathematized desires, desires that moral interdiction has sought to erase. Wilde thus installs transgressive desire at the very heart of aesthetic experience and critical reflection. The appeal to heredity explains responsiveness to beauty as something akin to

22  James Eli Adams Platonic anamnesis, an “unforgetting” that brings to light unfamiliar and potentially unsettling facets of the self. Aesthetic experience thus understood transforms personal and collective history into an arena of seduction, a world of temptation that also enlarges one’s sense of self and self-understanding. The aesthetic encounter awakens dangerous or forbidden passions whose very energy affirms the responsiveness of the critic, and the plentitude of his psychic life. The Nemesis of Heredity might thus come to seem an exalting legacy, its punishment an unexpected gift. Wilde appeals to heredity in “The Critic as Artist” as a source of ­liberation; that he calls it at the same time “Nemesis without her mask” in itself suggests the pleasure of the double-edged, of imagining every bane a blessing, every pleasure an intimation of doom. 3 Heredity as Wilde understands it frees us from familiar moral pieties that celebrate action at the expense of thought. “By revealing to us the absolute mechanism of all action, and so freeing us from the self-imposed and trammeling burden of moral responsibility, the scientific principle of Heredity has become, as it were, the warrant for the contemplative life” (CW, vol. 4, 177). Yet this appeal underwrites a radical disjunction between the realms of action and thought, between “practical and external life” and “the subjective sphere,” and that division runs counter to the naturalist logic that makes heredity seem so unsettling to begin with, the logic that led Huxley and others to understand thought as a physical process, and to liken human beings to automata. If human action has been reduced to mere mechanism, and “Life is a question of nerves, and fibres, and slowly built-up cells in which thought hides itself and passion has its dreams” (CW, vol. 3, 351), why presume that the realm of thought somehow remains a space of freedom? Of course Wilde is hardly alone in this wistful hope; it is one version of what ­Jerome McGann has called the romantic ideology. But its prominence in late-Victorian thought is especially marked because it is provoked by varieties of determinism more thoroughgoing than any entertained by the age of Wordsworth. Indeed, the prominence of such anxieties may suggest that late-­Victorian aesthetic reflection is a discourse as much of agency as of ontology. As the vexed relations of art and life become associated with the tensions between thought and action, the realm of art becomes a focus of deliberation on the capacity to act, to create, to initiate, to choose, to shape oneself. Decadence in this light might be viewed as a sustained exploration of “fallenness,” in Amanda ­A nderson’s sense of the term (in Tainted Souls and Painted Faces), which designates not merely moral transgression but a state of compromised agency. Wilde’s protagonists, that is, might in this sense be thought of as fallen men. Wilde’s preoccupation with agency echoes another meditation on “the universality of natural law,” one which he recorded in his Oxford

History as Seduction  23 journal around 1876. This is from Pater’s chapter on “Winckelmann” in The Renaissance (1873): The chief factor in the thought of the modern mind concerning itself is the intricacy, the universality of natural law, even in the moral order. For us, necessity is not, as of old, a sort of mythological personage without us, with whom we can do warfare. It is rather a magic web woven through and through us, like a magnetic system of which modern science speaks, penetrating us with a network, subtler than our subtlest nerves, yet bearing in it the central forces of the world. Can art represent men and women in these bewildering coils so as to give the spirit at least an equivalent for the sense of freedom? […] Natural laws we shall never modify, embarrass us as they may; but there is still something in the nobler or less noble attitude with which we watch their fatal combinations… this entanglement, this network of law, becomes the tragic situation, in which certain groups of noble men and women work out for themselves a supreme denouement. (Renaissance 185; Oxford Notebooks 141) Pater is characteristically guarded and hesitant: “there is still something” which might proffer an ever so tentative consolation, not even “the sense of freedom” but “the equivalent for the sense of freedom.” That prospect, Pater suggests, is realized not in the art work but in the “attitude” of a spectator—a term that tellingly connects the observer’s mental perspective and his outward form, as if both might offer aesthetic consolations. Wilde in effect develops Pater’s preoccupation with the psychology of a vital illusion, by aligning aesthetic experience with a particular form of “natural law,” and urging that a consciousness of heredity might, paradoxically, at least come to feel like a form of freedom. The focal juncture in this psychology is the understanding of heredity as a mode of use-inheritance, within which human identity incorporates acquired characteristics not merely of one’s parents, but of a lineage or “legacy” that stretches back across generations. This notion of heredity figures centrally in Dorian Gray, notably in an episode that recasts a ­familiar motif of Victorian fiction, when Dorian strolls through his country house, its walls lined with “various portraits of those whose blood flowed in his veins.” Typically, such scenes stage the radical ambivalence toward aristocratic lineage that structured the reception of ­Byron: the charismatic aura of noble ancestry is shadowed by more than a hint of retaliatory nemesis, in the form of inheritance figured as a destructive determinism working through “bad blood.” So Dorian, in Chapter 11, ponders the enticing sins of his ancestors and imagines the insidious workings of their “blood” in his own. Yet, these reflections turn a very different moral from that informing most such vignettes. Dorian, we read,

24  James Eli Adams used to wonder at the shallow psychology of those who conceive the Ego in man as a thing simple, permanent, reliable, and of one ­essence. To him, man was a being with myriad lives and myriad sensations, a complex-multi-form creature that bore within itself strange legacies of thought and passion, and whose very flesh was tainted with the monstrous maladies of the dead. (CW, vol. 3, 288) Here is the concerted attack on the sovereign, essential self that makes Wilde seem a forerunner of so many things postmodern. But Wilde grounds this conception of identity in a discourse of heredity, understood as a legacy at once cultural and biological. Indeed, the very indeterminacy of this ego represents an exalting plenitude of being that reconfigures the traditional aristocratic inheritance: it is a wealth less economic than psychological. Thus, as Dorian meditates on these ­spectacles of corruption, his own ancestors, he experiences a strangely exhilarating fascination, which culminates in this remarkable fantasy: There were times when it seemed to Dorian Gray that the whole of history was merely the record of his own life, not as he had lived it in act and circumstance, but as his imagination had created it for him, as it had been in his brain and in his passions. He felt that he had known them all, those strange terrible figures that had passed across the stage of the world and made sin so marvelous and evil so full of wonder. It seemed to him that in some mysterious way their lives had been his own. (289) I’ll return to the important trope of “the stage of the world” (and the echo of this passage in another writer much concerned with the burdens of history, T.S. Eliot). This fantasy is a recurrent presence in Wilde’s writings. Dorian is entertaining an ancient notion, akin to Platonic anamnesis, under which knowledge is an unforgetting, the (re)discovery of something—in this case figured as modes of being or experience—that had been in one’s mind all along but somehow had been forgotten or repressed. The most famous Victorian incarnation of such self-­discovery is a piece of writing that powerfully shaped Wilde’s imagination—­Pater’s reverie on Leonardo’s Gioconda. As Pater’s image attributes to the a­ rtist’s dream life the universal history summed up in an enigmatic femininity (“the idea of humanity as wrought upon by, and summing up in itself, all modes of thought and life” [Renaissance 99]), it also urges that every responsive viewer of the portrait, as well as every reader moved by Pater’s own insinuating prose, will in effect be registering in that response the cumulative force of the same long history.

History as Seduction  25 This fantasy takes on a surprising prominence in Victorian thought. It derives, in part, from the idea of Universalgeschichte in Lessing and Hegel, whereby the history of the world is modeled on the development of a single consciousness. Yet, this model owes much of its currency in late-Victorian Britain to its ready compatibility with evolutionary thought. Indeed, the two explanatory systems might seem to converge in Ernst Haeckel’s famous dictum that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny (which Wilde also recorded in his Oxford notebooks). Lamarckian constructions of cultural inheritance were given especially influential form in the psychology of Herbert Spencer. Wilde’s college notebooks record his fascination with Spencer’s schemes, which appealed to a form of use-inheritance to argue that culture is transmitted biologically. By the 1870s, this idea was widely entrenched in the emergent social sciences; even so sober a critic as Walter Bagehot exemplifies the wide currency of the notion, in the opening chapter of his Physics and Politics (1872): If we wanted to describe one of the most marked results, perhaps the most marked results of late thought, we should say that by it everything is made “an antiquity” […] [Science] tries to read, is beginning to read, knows she ought to read, in the frame of each man the result of a whole history of all his life--of what he is and what makes him so--of all his forefathers, of what they were and what made them so. Each nerve has a memory of its past life […] We have here the continuous force which binds age to age… unless you appreciate that cause in its subtle materialism, unless you see it, as it were, playing upon the nerves of men, and age after age, making nicer music from finer chords, you cannot comprehend the principle of inheritance either in its mystery or its power. (2, 8–9) As this suggests, commentators were reconciled to the power of heredity by moralizing its effects—“making nicer music from finer chords.” As Henry Maudsley put it in Body and Mind (1876), “the progressive evolution of the human brain is a proof that we do inherit as a natural endowment the laboured acquisitions of our ancestors; the added structure represents, as it were, the embodied experience and memories of the race” (59). But this same process, Maudsley explains, also develops “the moral sense”: Are not indeed our moral intuitions results of the operation of the fundamental law of nervous organization by which that which is consciously acquired becomes an unconscious endowment? […] In the matter of our moral feeling we are most truly the heirs of the ages. (57)

26  James Eli Adams On such a view, as George Stocking points out, morality became “a species of transcendental physiology” (133). Wilde, on the other hand, takes up this scheme of use-inheritance while contesting most efforts to moralize it. Because inheritance does not orchestrate some Tennysonian progression toward a “nicer music” in human beings,4 its cumulative weight may be a burden to the artist, but it is a boon to the critic. Wilde works out this logic most fully in “The Critic as Artist.” Having invoked Heredity as “Nemesis without her mask,” Gilbert abruptly redescribes that haunting agent: And yet, while in the sphere of practical and external life it has robbed energy of its freedom and activity of its choice, in the subjective sphere, where the soul is at work, it comes to us, this terrible shadow, with many gifts in its hands, gifts of strange temperaments and subtle susceptibilities, gifts of wild ardours and chill moods of indifference, complex multiform gifts of thoughts that are at variance with each other, and passions that war with themselves. And so, it is not our own life we live, but the lives of the dead, and the soul that dwells within us is no single spiritual entity, making us personal and individual, created for our service, and entering into us for joy. It is something that has dwelt in fearful places, and in ancient sepulchres has made its abode. It is sick with many maladies, and has memories of curious sins. It is wiser than we are, and its wisdom is bitter…. (CW, vol. 4, 177) “She is older than the rocks among which she sits,” one is tempted to continue, “like the vampire, she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave…” (Renaissance 99). Again recalling Pater’s account of the Gioconda (from which Gilbert elsewhere quotes at length [156]), Wilde’s personification is itself complex, multiform. Heredity, initially figured as an external agent bearing “gifts,” is at the same time a legacy we cannot refuse. “The complex multiform gifts” are already within us, as “the lives of the dead.” This figurative dissonance, under which Heredity is both within and without, a single agent and a gathering of alien selves, reinforces the decentering of the sovereign ego that Dorian likewise declares. One can frame this dissonance within a m ­ omentous literary genealogy: as a rationale for his Confessions, ­Rousseau declares, Au moins, je suis autre; Rimbaud turns singularity into a radical self-­ estrangement, Je est un autre; Wilde amplifies this gesture by evoking a plurality of alien selves (which can be registered, appropriately enough, only in writing): he declares, in effect, Je est autres. The consolation of psychic abundance that Wilde discovers in heredity marks another important affinity with Pater, who also discovers in heredity both an abridgment of agency and an enlargement of experience.

History as Seduction  27 Indeed, in Plato and Platonism (1893), Pater may well be responding to Wilde when he makes his case for the contemporary relevance of ­P ythagoras, and thus Plato, by discovering in heredity an uncanny modern counterpart of the transmigration of the soul: For in truth we come into the world, each one of us, “not in nakedness,” but by the natural course of organic development clothed far more completely than even Pythagoras supposed in a vesture of the past, nay, fatally shrouded, it might seem, in those laws or tricks of heredity which we mistake for our volitions; in the language which is more than one half of our thoughts; in the moral and mental habits, which we did not make for ourselves; in the vesture of a past which is (as science would assure us) not ours, but of the race, the species: that Zeit-geist, or abstract secular process, in which, as we could have no direct consciousness of it, so we can pretend to no future personal interest. It is humanity itself now… that figures as the transmigrating soul…. (72–73) In “The Critic as Artist,” Wilde offers a more hopeful, at moments ­exhilarated, elaboration of this over-determination as a source of new material and energy for criticism. “It seems to me,” Gilbert proposes that with the development of the critical spirit we shall be able to realize, not merely our own lives, but the collective life of the race, and so to make ourselves absolutely modern, in the true meaning of the word modernity. (176) Outwardly this is a familiar historicist injunction: “To realize the nineteenth century, one must realize every century that has preceded it and that has contributed to its making.” In effect, Wilde thus recasts the familiar humanist maxim, Nihil humani, “nothing human is alien to me,” that likewise informs The Renaissance. “There must be no mood with which we cannot sympathize,” Gilbert continues, “no dead mode of life that one cannot make alive” (176–7). In the nineteenth century, this humanist imperative merges with a historicist perspective—deriving from varied amalgams of Hegel and Comte—under which history is a cumulative psychological legacy, and modernity, in large part, the burden of that inheritance. But the inheritance, as Wilde figures it, is not merely cultural: it is biological. We “realize” this legacy not only in the sense of understanding it, but in the sense of making it real, enacting it, as not merely our own selves but also the collective life of humankind— or, more often, “the race.” It is this logic that leads Gilbert to perhaps his most startling declaration: “Do you think it is imagination that enables

28  James Eli Adams us to live these countless lives? Yes: it is the imagination; and imagination is the result of heredity. It is simply concentrated race-experience” (178). This is a remarkable claim, for by naturalizing imagination, understanding it as an emphatically collective and somatic legacy, Wilde once again challenges its power as a vehicle of either individualism or self-transcendence (aspirations that, in Wilde’s writing, paradoxically tend to converge). The claim also consorts uneasily with his own subsequent appeal to “cosmopolitanism” in the same essay, where he affirms that imagination is fundamentally at odds with “race prejudice” (203). Although “race” here seems to designate a narrower category of ethnicity or nation, those categories are also naturalized, which implies that imagination would reinforce rather than transcend inherited identity (as, for example, in contemporary understandings of “the Celt”). Still further, the historicist argument Gilbert is making, and the power of imaginative sympathy on which it depends, doesn’t require this maneuver. Why, then, does he indulge it and press his dialogue into ever more insistent and potentially self-baffling paradox? One reason, I think, is that in Wilde’s reflection, such radical determinism truly is, at some level, an alluring prospect. Heredity might seem a feature of modern thought that must be acknowledged in order to be disarmed; thus, Amanda Anderson in The Powers of Distance argues that Wilde “defeats the logic of racial determinism in a more complex manner [than Arnold] by attributing to the power of the imagination a productively receptive capacity, a capacity to realize modernity by reliving the multiple experiences of the race” (157). But Wilde’s insistent appeals encourage us to view heredity as something that may be indulged as well as defeated. Wilde was eager to embrace a biological grounding of cultural inheritance because it provided a rationale for ­locating transgressive desire at the very heart of his critical enterprise, in which aesthetic experience typically takes the form of a dangerous seduction. In one light, this association marks a straightforward extension of ­romantic antinomianism: art is always discovering new subjects, and new forms of experience, which resist or repudiate conventional morality. (Wilde’s interest in the murderer Thomas Wainewright, the central figure of “Pen, Pencil, and Poison,” clearly reflects this genealogy.) But on Wilde’s understanding of heredity, personal and cultural identity are “realised” through shocks of self-recognition that are also reenactments, whether actual or vicarious, of a past life felt as a present susceptibility to enticement. (An admittedly speculative biographical reading might thus argue that Wilde’s Oxford notebooks show him already struggling to come to terms with unsettling forms of desire.) Seemingly casual or wayward moments of “fascination,” even mere passing glances on the street, summon up an epochal encounter with an inheritance of which one was unaware.

History as Seduction  29 This convergence of dangerous histories, private and public, individual and collective, is brought home throughout Wilde’s writings by the distinctive trope I’ve noted earlier, which represents experience as a passing procession. Here, for example, is Dorian recalling his first venture into the streets of London after his epochal meeting with Lord Henry: As I lounged in the park, or strolled down Piccadilly, I used to look at every one who passed me, and wonder, with a mad curiosity, what sort of lives they led. Some of them fascinated me. Others filled me with terror. There was an exquisite poison in the air. I had a passion for sensations…. (CW, vol. 3, 211) The “poison” is subsequently distilled in the yellow book Lord Henry famously offers Dorian—a work whose effect is evoked in precisely analogous terms: “It seemed to him that in exquisite raiment, and to the delicate sound of flutes, the sins of the world were passing in dumb show before him. Things that he had dreamed of were suddenly made real to him…” (240). The procession of figures in the park is thus aligned with a recurrent series of images in Dorian’s dream life, which is at the same time a procession of “the sins of the world,” which in turn recalls that sequence of images in Dorian’s picture gallery. “Those strange terrible figures that had passed across the stage of the world and made sin so marvellous and evil so full of subtlety” (289): here is yet another version of the sins of the world passing in dumb show, as if they had stepped out of Jacobean drama. The yellow book thus incorporates (as yet another faint echo of Pater’s Gioconda—“the delicate sound of flutes”— suggests) a history transcending the individual life, a history not merely in but of the world. This juxtaposition connects Dorian with the hero of his poisonous book, a certain young Parisian, who had spent his life trying to realize in the nineteenth century all the passions and modes of thought that belonged to every century except his own, and to sum up, as it were, in himself the various moods through which the world-spirit had ever passed…. (274) Three processions, three passages, are superimposed upon one another in a psychic palimpsest: people passing Dorian on the street, Dorian’s own embodied desires passing before him in dreams, and the procession of “moods” or “sins” enacted by that elusive dramaturge, “the world spirit.” We glimpse here something of Wilde’s appeal to T. S. Eliot, whose memory of “The Critic as Artist” in “The Love Song of J. Alfred

30  James Eli Adams Prufrock”—“I have known them all already, known them all”—­likewise would transfigure everyday apprehension by affiliating banal “moods” ­ liot with some larger, archetypal moment of anxious self-recognition. E even reproduces a hint of Wilde’s imaginative topography: the aristocratic library always opens onto the theater alleyway, another realm of exhilarating but fearful enticement. I’m thinking in particular of an anecdote that Ellmann recounts, in which Wilde, while shopping with his wife at Swan and Elgar’s, reacted to the sight of “painted boys” on the sidewalk: “Something clutched at my heart like ice” (275). The phrase echoes a line that Wilde gives to Sir Robert Chiltern in An Ideal ­Husband, as he is on the verge of scandalous exposure: “I never knew what terror was before. I know it now. It is as if a hand of ice were laid upon one’s heart.” The bridge between these two episodes is the uncanny ability of beauty—“in life or in a book,” to use Pater’s coy phrasing in the “Conclusion” of The Renaissance—to elicit compromising desire, and thus the fear of self-exposure. Even the closing lines of Pater’s famous “Conclusion” might suggest a more demotic and more dangerous encounter: “Art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass—and simply for those moments’ sake” (Renaissance 190). Though it may seem uncharacteristically bold of Pater, this is a proposal curiously akin to a proposition, as if art itself were (in the old police-court idiom) loitering with intent. Here, then, is the dynamic condensed in Nunokawa’s elision of ­“Heredity” and “the homosexual subject.”5 Wilde refers transgressive desire to the psychic plenitude gathered up and transmitted through ­Heredity, which in turn makes itself felt as a responsiveness to dangerous, because proscribed, forms of passion. The most potent beauty is always the most fearful—indeed, Wilde’s spokesmen typically suggest that truly great art necessarily arouses fear. Reading Les Fleurs du Mal, Gilbert remarks in “The Critic as Artist,” “your soul will grow eager to know more, and will feed upon poisonous honey, and seek to repent of strange sins of which it is guiltless, and to make atonement for terrible pleasures it has never known” (172). This stance, of course, reworks long-standing critical reflection on the psychology of sympathetic identification, most influentially developed in analysis of dramatic performance, which is one reason Wilde so often represents experience in dramaturgic procession. “It is a strange thing, this transference of emotion,” Gilbert remarks: “After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own” (127, 172). What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba, that he should weep for her? Wilde’s innovation—in a gesture authorized by his understanding of inheritance—is to respond, in effect, “Hecuba, c’est moi.” It is telling, then, that Wilde should figure the working of ­Heredity through the machinery of Greek tragedy. Not only does that art

History as Seduction  31 consistently pivot on forms of nemesis and inexorable doom, but tragedy also foregrounds the “strange thing” that is dramatic sympathy, the “transference of emotion” that allows us to participate in the agony of Oedipus. One might, of course, argue that the appeal to heredity diminishes the complexity of that experience: it, in effect, appropriates ­A ristotle’s understanding of catharsis while short-circuiting a true sympathy for suffering not one’s own.6 If imagination is “concentrated race-experience,” then what one fears in one’s responsiveness, as Wilde understands it, is quite literally some part of oneself, a desire whose recovery unsettles one’s existing self-conception. Our responsiveness to great art thus further arouses a threat of ­compromising self-disclosure; the loss of the sovereign self brings with it the loss of self-possession. The rhetoric of “fascination” so ­prominent throughout aestheticism calls attention to this erosion of the secure boundaries of selfhood (though the term also resonates in earlier ­literature, such as David Copperfield, where Steerforth so effortlessly ­fascinates young David). Fascination is something akin to a spell, which rivets attention to objects that are unsettling, repugnant, even terrifying. This sense of vulnerability, it bears noting, distinguishes a spectatorship rather different from that of the flâneur, to whom Wilde is so often likened. If aesthetic experience feels like genuine seduction, there must be resistance to be overcome: that is the impetus of Lord Henry’s urging that Dorian yield to “passions that have made you afraid.” The outwardly indiscriminate pursuit of experience may recall the flâneur’s activity, but Wilde’s insistence on agitated fearfulness is very different from the unruffled detachment, the insouciance, of the flâneur. Once again, Dorian’s predicament is exemplary. Still at his first ­encounter with Lord Henry, he reflects, Yes, there had been things in his boyhood that he had not understood. He understood them now. Life suddenly became fiery-colored to him. It seemed to him that he had been walking in fire. Why had he not known it? (186) But as Dorian meditates on Lord Henry’s “fascination,” “he felt afraid of him, and ashamed of being afraid. Why had it been left for a stranger to reveal him to himself?” (187). There is good reason to read such passages as reflections of Wilde’s own initiation into socially dangerous forms of sexuality. But the very indeterminacy has a polemical force, for it attributes to transgressive experience generally—whether in life or in a book, in Pater’s suggestive conjunction—the more inclusive logic of Derrida’s reworking of the Platonic pharmakon (Derrida 95–117). Any “poisonous” book—any book that truly affects one—releases a toxin that is already within one, a poison, Wilde contends, that is nonetheless

32  James Eli Adams the very life force of “the critical spirit.” What is most to be feared is not fear itself, but—on the contrary—the loss of fearfulness. Those in whom art arouses no fear are insensible to its fullest power. Of course, this responsiveness is answered elsewhere in Wilde’s writings by a strenuous, countervailing distancing of beauty, an insistence that art is “sterile,” and instills in the audience the detachment of a spectator. This emphasis enforces a distance at once critical and emotional, which would enable rational analysis while attenuating more intimate, potentially violent sympathies. But even this distancing impulse is founded in an elemental responsiveness to desire: that “Art does not hurt us” (in Gilbert’s plangent phrasing) will matter most to those who already have been wounded. To “realize” the critical spirit, then, requires a concerted effort to “realize” (again, both to grasp and to enact) the various identities one inherits as susceptibilities to forms of experience. Thus, the Wildean program has a perhaps surprising affinity to the liberal individualism of John Stuart Mill. For all of his avowed lack of sympathy with Mill, Wildean “self-development” (183) represents a concerted naturalizing and eroticizing of Mill’s more austere individualism, likewise at war with Victorian morality and social decorum. “Sin is an essential element in progress,” Gilbert argues. “Without it the world would stagnate, or grow old, or become colourless. By its curiosity, Sin increases the experience of the race” (148). This view in effect reframes Mill’s argument in On Liberty (1859) for an “originality in thought and action” set against public opinion (72). Even the claim that “self-sacrifice” marks “a survival of the mutilation of the savage”—a maxim so dear to Wilde that he assigned it to both Lord Henry (183) and Gilbert (147)—echoes Mill on the moral violence of Calvinism, which aims “to maim by compression, like a Chinese lady’s foot” and leaves human beings “cramped and dwarfed” (69, 77). The congruence between the individualisms of Mill and Wilde, however, also underscores their dramatically different relations to temporality. Millian reflection is strenuously oriented toward the future. Wildean “progress” is more Janus-faced; indeed, even that figure simplifies the vexed relations between the Wildean present and past. The derangement of temporality is glaring enough in a narrative structured around the conjunction of a painting that ages while its subject seems immune to time. But even within the “New Hedonism” of Dorian, the notion that aesthetic experience awakens inherited susceptibilities ties both its pleasures and its fears to an insistent retrospection. “What lies before me is my past,” Wilde remarks in De Profundis (239); much the same might be said of Dorian. If sin is an essential element in progress, it also prompts a manifold retrospection, not only as it enforces an immediate sense of disjunction between before and after (surely one of the main rationales for labeling something a sin) but also, on a broader arc, in

History as Seduction  33 the consciousness that one’s present is so profoundly shaped by the past, that one’s desires are a legacy of one’s ancestors. This dynamic enhances the peculiar gravitas that Wilde attaches to Sin. Those elements of “concentrated race experience” most difficult to “realize” will be precisely those that have been stigmatized, labeled sinful, and thus have been most ardently repressed or evaded. Hence, under Wilde’s understanding of inheritance, sin is not merely tolerated but positively enjoined, as the only means by which one can realize a true plenitude of personal and cultural identity. Conversely, as art itself affronts conventional morality, it elicits desires and susceptibilities that have been disavowed or buried by something like repression; those desires thereby come to seem more elemental, more momentous, than those that have been freely indulged. Wilde’s attention to heredity thus points to something like a Freudian depth model of psychology—which is hardly surprising, given the force of evolutionary psychology in so much European reflection across the late-nineteenth century. In his meditation on inheritance—biological, cultural, and psychic—Wilde insistently gestures toward Freud’s conception of the unconscious, where (as The Interpretation of Dreams has it) “nothing can be brought to an end, nothing is past or forgotten.” Indeed, Wilde’s insistent preoccupation with heredity constantly verges on Freud’s famous psychic topography, which takes the many-layered “human habitation” of Rome as the counterpart of “a psychical entity with a similarly long and copious past, in which nothing that has once come into existence will have passed away and all the earlier phases of development continue to exist alongside the latest one” (Freud 726). This affinity is a further complication to postmodern appropriations of Wilde, notably that of Jonathan Dollimore, who strenuously aligns Wilde’s “anti-essentialism” with a critique of “the depth model of identity and culture” (25). Wilde, I’ve suggested, articulates a resistance to stable, unitary selfhood precisely by way of a depth model of identity anchored in late-Victorian evolutionary thought. At the same time, however, that decentering in turn foregrounds a fundamental tension in Wildean agency (which also informs Pater’s “Conclusion”). Wilde and his characters enjoin their audience to actively “realize” such multiplicity by indulging their inherited susceptibilities to experience, and yet Wilde also proclaims that heredity both robs us of genuine freedom and undermines all appeal to a unitary, stable self. But if the appropriately receptive self is structured solely by sheer accumulation of disparate susceptibilities and moments of experience, how does that proliferation not culminate in something like a catatonic disjunctiveness, the self so radically discontinuous that it cannot know itself as a self? Amanda Anderson nicely sums up Wildean detachment as a project of “seizing the moment which the drama of life only occasionally or intermittently presents to us. To seize the moment requires simultaneously an ethical finesse and an artful capacity” (148–9). But wherein lies the executive

34  James Eli Adams power that “seizes” the moment, and gives shape to experience over time, save in some form of persistent selfhood, which Wilde at the same time decries as a prison? This tension is played out in the narrative structure of Dorian Gray, which offers a Bildung without any governing telos, a negation that is formalized in the otherwise arbitrary conclusion of the novel. (This was the gist of Pater’s review of the novel, where he complained that it failed to represent “a true Epicureanism,” which “aims at a complete though harmonious development of a man’s antagonism,” and hence its hero became less rather than more “complex,” passing “from a higher to a lower degree of development” [59].) Wilde himself came to echo this in De Profundis: “people whose desire is for self-realization never know where they are going. They can’t know” (216). Although Wilde offers this as a measure of his renewed conviction “that the soul of man is unknowable,” it perhaps unwittingly poses the question of whether Wildean “self-realization” affords any sense of direction, any sense of development, as distinct from mere sequence. Put differently, can the individual life be shaped into anything more structured than the processions of disjunctive selves that Dorian repeatedly confronts, whether in dreams or in the external world? When Gilbert praises Browning’s poetry, “Even now, as I am speaking, there glides through the room the pageant of his persons” (130), “pageant” endows those recurrent processions with a solemn theatricality; what it does not provide is a structure beyond sheer succession, just one character, one experience, after another. If “experience” is to be envisioned as a persistent decentering of selfhood, rather than the expansion of a continuous, stable self, how is the subversion of the sovereign Ego to be realized as something other than a severance of disjunctive selves into discrete, passing moments? The pursuit of “self-realization” thus also entails a pursuit of self-­ mastery and the sense of freedom bound up with it. This ambition is most vividly played out in struggles over what Dorian Gray calls ­“influence,” a many-faceted energy that intimately connects aesthetic pleasure, erotic enticement, cultural authority, social mobility, and brute extortion. As he remarks on the death of Sybil Vane, Dorian tells Basil, [a] man who is master of himself can end a sorrow as easily as he can invent a pleasure. I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them. (259–60) Here is the cornerstone of a self-fashioning that depends on that eminently Victorian virtue, the power of will, and affirms that seemingly timeless marker of masculinity, dominance. The same desire to dominate is played out in the homosocial rivalries of the novel, which are epitomized in Lord Henry’s influence over Dorian, initially so potent

History as Seduction  35 that it leads the older man to think, “There was nothing that one could not do with him” (199). Of course from the vantage of the dominant male, “All influence is immoral,” as Lord Henry informs the mesmerized young Dorian (183): it not only places the one under its sway in a subordinate, feminized position but also robs him of his own identity. (Here Wilde tacitly conjoins the dynamics of pederastic education with Plato’s suspicion of poetry.) Again recalling Mill’s On Liberty, Henry urges that people have lost the courage to defy “the terror of society,” to the point that their very souls are no longer their own. “The aim of life is self-development,” he exhorts. Yet, as Lord Henry unfolds this program for a newly “brave” and defiant manhood, it paradoxically turns upon the courage to surrender to influence, to allow oneself to be seduced by the forbidden: The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your heart grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desires for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. (183) This is one of Wilde’s most famous epigrams (he also assigns it to ­ ilbert), but, in context, it is something more than a subversion of G Victorian piety. It captures the peculiar psychic torsion that structures ­Wildean self-fashioning, within which he recuperates a sense of will, and with it a sense of freedom. On the one hand, Lord Henry insists, “Life is not governed by will or intention. Life is a question of nerves, and fibres, and slowly built-up cells” (CW, vol. 3, 351). The proclamation bows to the authority of heredity and its seeming abridgement of human agency. But Wilde’s rhetoric of temptation and sin, however ironically one reads it, entails sustained preoccupation with the force of will and intention in moral and erotic life. The “fascination” aroused by both personal charisma and the work of art—a distinction that reaches its vanishing point in the figure of Dorian—crucially depends upon a will to resist. The troubling allure of personal “influence” thus mirrors the influence of art: both depend on and evoke a sense of danger that is at once fearful and exhilarating. In this context, “surrender” to domination, far from being an expression of weakness, becomes not only a path to knowledge, but also an expression of courage. Lord Henry may insist that “art has no influence upon action,” but he is enacting his own defense against the very power of “influence” with which he himself has enticed Dorian, one of those rare beings in whom (as Henry wishes to believe of himself as well) “a complex personality took the place and assumed the office of art, was indeed, in its way, a real work of art” (219). Lord Henry feels that he has himself created Dorian, and as he undertakes the project he thinks,

36  James Eli Adams “There was something terribly enthralling in the exercise of influence” (199). But the modifier cuts both ways. Henry and Dorian both are enthralled by influence, even as they struggle against its seductions. Indeed, as Nunokawa suggests, the peculiar misogyny that prompts Lord Henry to suggest “women remain slaves looking for their masters […] They love being dominated” (255) seems a disavowal of a pleasure familiar to all the men of the novel, and epitomized in aesthetic experience. As Gilbert puts it in “The Critic as Artist,” Each form of art with which we come in contact dominates us for the moment to the exclusion of every other form. We must surrender ourselves absolutely to the work in question, whatever it may be, if we wish to gain its secret. (188) Of course “for the moment” enforces an ongoing alternation of surrender and critical detachment, which tacitly reinforces the Paterian dictum that no aesthetic form will be adequate to the needs of the critical spirit. But even if the direction of this process remains elusive, it affirms a strength of internal resistance and self-division that seems to reinstate the power of will and sense of freedom, which had been threatened by the reign of Heredity. Wilde’s discourse of heredity thus points us to an unexpected ascetic strain in his representations of desire.7 His life and writing may seem to have repudiated the moral discourse under which “character” is a self-mastery defined and maintained through a resolute deferral of pleasure, a concerted resistance to temptation; after all, the Wildean self is affirmed through a continual submission to the importunities of pleasure, which multiplies and disperses rather than bounding and concentrating the self. And yet Wilde presents the yielding to temptation, which responds to being dominated by a powerful “influence,” as—­ paradoxically—a gesture of startling resolve, an affirmation of vaguely Nietzschean defiance. Here we see Wilde transfiguring the asceticism that undergirds the Victorian discourse of moral character, incorporating it within a Decadent self-fashioning that seems to renounce that ethos. No influence is more despotic than heredity, Wilde insists, and yet declaring its power, and pronouncing oneself abjectly determined and mastered by it, nonetheless offers an arena in which one can experience at least a sense of freedom, a feeling of having chosen one’s experience, embraced one’s own desires. At its most acute, this dynamic seems akin to moral masochism, which affirms a sense of autonomy through the effort to take possession of one’s own suffering. But it also suggestively chimes with Geoffrey Galt Harpham’s argument that asceticism, the dynamics of self-discipline and renunciation, forms “the cultural element in culture.” More narrowly, reflection on the force of heredity offers Wilde

History as Seduction  37 a particularly suggestive engagement with what he calls in De Profundis “the eternal paradox of human life”: “to be entirely ­dominated by law,” and yet, at the same time, “to be entirely free” (172).

Notes 1 Important exceptions include Bashford, Danson, Ferguson, and ­Wainwright (the last of which details Wilde’s knowledge of the German scientists Ernst Haeckel and August Weissman). I hope this essay confirms Ferguson’s claim, in a brief “forum” piece, that “The Critic as Artist” offers “an excellent starting point for a revaluation of Wilde’s aesthetic Darwinism and the intellectual, political, and artistic uses of determinism at the fin de siècle” (65). 2 Laura Otis notes the importance of this association to understandings of “organic memory,” and the wide currency of that concept in nineteenth-­ century reflection. 3 Richard Ellmann’s biography notes Wilde’s ongoing preoccupation with “doom,” although I’ll argue that the motivation is broader and more inchoate than Ellmann suggests. The preoccupation animated widely varied works, including “Lord Arthur’s Savile’s Crime,” a comic reworking of the Oedipus myth. 4 Maudsley actually quotes from “Locksley Hall,” claiming that “the thoughts of man are widened with the process of the suns” because of “the progressive development of the cerebral hemispheres” (Body and Mind 53). Wilde recorded the passage in his notebook, which shows that he read Maudsley’s work upon its publication; unfortunately, this debt has been overlooked, because the source eluded the editors of the notebooks. 5 Nunokawa elsewhere addresses Gilbert’s appeal to Heredity at greater length, but here, too, he treats the term primarily as a ruse, an avoidance of the question of how one is to satisfy desire: In place of the want whose satisfaction appears indispensable for survival, the want that is mantled in the naturalized urgency that Jean ­B audrillard calls “the grace of need,” the “terrible shadow” that Wilde here designates the “Scientific principle of Heredity” and “the soul that dwells within us,” and whose other names we will expose in a moment, offers “impossible desires” and the inclination to “follow what we know we cannot gain,” a species of yearning insatiable but entirely bearable. (116) The view of Heredity as a mere “name” to be “expose[d]” empties out the substance of the concept and its broad authority in late-Victorian culture, as well as the paradox in Wilde’s figuration of its operation. Wilde argues that the manifold selves and their desires are at once personal and alien, internal and external, but Nunokawa’s “de-essentializing” insists on their ­alterity: “being the desires of another, they never cease to be implausible as our desires” (117). My quarrel with Nunokawa’s reading is a measure of his achievement in Tame Passions of Wilde, which is one of the most stimulating books ever written on Wilde. 6 Christopher Craft notes an “autoerotic rivalry” (116) between the two mirror images of Dorian, that of the conventional mirror and of the painting. The ancestral portrait gallery amplifies this dynamic; it becomes a veritable hall of mirrors.

38  James Eli Adams 7 Nunokawa’s phrase, “manageable desire,” also points to a neglected asceticism in Wilde’s writing, although his suggestive analysis focuses more on the “taming” of desire than on its organization.

Works Cited Anderson, Amanda. The Powers of Distance: Cosmopolitanism and the ­Cultivation of Detachment. Princeton UP, 2001. ———. Tainted Souls and Painted Faces: The Rhetoric of Fallenness in Victorian Culture. Cornell UP, 1993. Bagehot, Walter. Physics and Politics: Or Thoughts on the Application of the Principles of ‘Natural Selection’ and ‘Inheritance’ to Political Society. 6th ed., London, 1881. Bashford, Bruce. Oscar Wilde: The Critic as Humanist. Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 1999. Burke, Edmund. Reflections on the Revolution in France. Edited by Conor Cruise O’Brien, Penguin, 1968. Craft, Christopher. “Come See about Me: Enchantment of the Double in The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Representations, vol. 91, no. 1, 2005, pp. 109–36. Craik, Diana Mulock. John Halifax, Gentleman. 1856. J. M. Dent, 1961. Danson, Lawrence. Wilde’s Intentions: The Artist in His Criticism. Clarendon Press, 1997. Derrida, Jacques. Dissemination. Translated by Barbara Johnson, Athlone Press, 1981. Dickens, Charles. Hard Times. Edited by George Ford and Sylvere Monod, W.W. Norton, 1966. Dollimore, Jonathan. Sexual Dissidence: Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault. Clarendon, 1991. Ellmann, Richard. Oscar Wilde. Alfred A. Knopf, 1988. Ferguson, Christine. “Oscar Wilde, ‘The Critic as Artist’ (1891).” Victorian Review, vol. 35, 2009, pp. 64–68. Freud, Sigmund. The Freud Reader. Edited by Peter Gay, W.W. Norton, 1989. Galton, Francis. Hereditary Genius: An Inquiry into Its Laws and Consequences. 2nd ed., Macmillan, 1925. Harpham, Geoffrey. The Ascetic Imperative in Culture and Criticism. U of Chicago P, 1989. Maudsley, Henry. Body and Mind: An Inquiry into their Connections and ­M utual Influences. New York, 1876. Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty and Other Essays. Edited by John Gray, Oxford UP, 1991. Nunokawa, Jeff. Tame Passions of Wilde: Styles of Manageable Desire. Princeton UP, 2003. Otis, Laura. Organic Memory: History and the Body in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries. U of Nebraska P, 1994. Pater, Walter. Plato and Platonism. London, 1895. ———. The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry. The 1893 Text. Edited by Donald L. Hill, U of California P, 1980. ———. Review of The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde. The Bookman, November 1891, pp. 59–60.

History as Seduction  39 Stocking, George. Victorian Anthropology. Free Press, 1987. Success in Life: A Book for Young Men. Londo Forgotten Books, 1851. Wainwright, Michael. “Oscar Wilde, the Science of Heredity, and The Picture of Dorian Gray.” English Literature in Transition, 1880–1920, vol. 54, 2011, pp. 494–522. Wilde, Oscar. The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Edited by Ian Small, et al., Oxford UP, 2000–, 7 vols. ———. “De Profundis.” Selected Letters of Oscar Wilde. Edited by Rupert Hart-Davis, Oxford UP, 1979, pp. 152–240. ———. Oscar Wilde’s Oxford Notebooks. Edited by Philip E. Smith II and Michael S. Helfand, Oxford UP, 1989.

3 Oscar Wilde’s American Forebears A Genealogy of Form for Reading The Picture of Dorian Gray Sean O’Toole One feels about [The Picture of Dorian Gray] as one feels about the most profoundly haunting works of art—that it has not been fully understood. —Joyce Carol Oates

Excellent work has been done on Oscar Wilde’s only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) since Joyce Carol Oates noted the air of lingering enigma about it: Joseph Bristow’s comprehensive variorum edition (2005) and Nicholas Frankel’s annotated and “uncensored” edition (2011) have revealed the extent of the revisions made to the original, even more scandalous, 1890 magazine story, and several generations of critics have now offered forceful queer revaluations of the novel.1 ­Nonetheless, it seems to be part of the book’s lasting power that “[o]ne feels […] that it has not been fully understood.” In this chapter, I hope to offer an additional perspective on Wilde’s celebrated novel through an exploration of several less famous nineteenth-century texts that also make use of the motif of the magical or uncanny portrait. The critical tendency to emphasize the contexts of British Aestheticism and French Decadence— and the influence of the work of Walter Pater and Joris-Karl Huysmans, in particular—has yielded a keen appreciation of The Picture of Dorian Gray’s relation to the history of sexuality; indeed, its pivotal role in that history is a now-familiar comprehension of the novel. But there were other sources—texts that, I want to suggest, point to the formal complexities of Wilde’s work, as well as to thematic concerns, and, in some cases, to the formal complexities of those thematic concerns. The question of sources, of course, would seem to be something of a settled, or at least an old-fashioned, subject; in years past, it would seem to have been a favorite academic pastime, if not a veritable cottage industry, to detect possible sources of Wilde’s novel, so rich is its corpus of apparent literary allusions, quotations, and influences. For, in addition to its evident inventiveness and imagination, The Picture of Dorian

Oscar Wilde’s American Forebears  41 Gray draws on a plethora of long-established literary traditions, a seemingly endless archive of antecedents—sometimes reproduced verbatim, or nearly so—as well as some of Wilde’s own previously published writing. Indeed, among the novel’s numerous paradoxes must be counted the tension between the novel’s many textual echoes and its reputation as one of the most strikingly original works ever written. Contemporary critics were, of course, quick to note the i­nfluence of ­Pater’s aestheticism and the “Yellow-Bookism” of the French ­Decadents. 2 Over the years, Wilde’s many biographers have produced an extensive list of possible sources. 3 More recent decades have seen a proliferation of scholarly articles on Wilde’s literary antecedents and citational practices. Isobel Murray, Donald Lawler, and Charles Knott were among the first to note the need to widen the scope of possible influences. Kerry Powell placed the novel at the high tide of a nineteenth-­ century “mania,” especially acute in the 1880s and 1890s, but now largely forgotten, for popular fiction about magic portraits. And Joseph Bristow has usefully reframed the question of sources—or, more properly, of “sourcing”—as a central interpretive challenge of the novel, finding in its slippery method of acknowledging and at times seeming merely to copy those who came before him a message about the perils of citation—that is, of distorting the original by merely imitating or uncritically reiterating it, as Dorian Gray and Lord Henry misappropriate Pater’s call for corporeal sensation by evacuating it of any critical thought, for instance. Despite the popularity of this line of inquiry, however, surprisingly little has been made of the prominence of Wilde’s American sources and the seminal importance of transatlantic networks of exchange and influence to the creation of the novel—that is, forming it—first, in 1890, as a fledgling story commissioned by the Philadelphia editor J.M. Stoddart for Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, published in England and America, and then, after the outcry with which that earlier, more purely stark production was met, especially in England, as a fully developed, reincarnated novel the next year.4 In this chapter, I take another look at both the forms that Wilde found circulating from the other side of the Atlantic in the mid- to late 1800s and the practices that they offer for challenging the literary, social, and moral status quo while remaining publishable—and, importantly, exportable—in the contemporary ­A nglo-American literary marketplace. Why did Wilde choose this particular tradition—the magic picture story—for his only novel, a work that went further than any mainstream text in English up to that point to raise the specter of homosexuality? In addressing this question, I suggest that an emphasis on the formal aspects of Wilde’s American sources, rather than purely on the national or contemporaneous qualities of these texts, throws light on The Picture of Dorian Gray’s challenge to the moralizing logic by which it would also seem to operate. The magic portrait tradition was

42  Sean O’Toole interesting to Wilde precisely for this reason: by choosing it to give shape to his ingenious story, speaking the love that dare not speak its name, he was ensuring a proliferation of possible meanings and interpretive challenges. As a result, for more than a century, those looking for a simple one-dimensional parable, as well as those sensitive to the complexities and deep ambivalences of the story, have been able to find their readings in this novel. Part source study, this chapter requires a fair amount of background to establish the connections across narratives, authors, and decades before expanding on the implications for reading The P ­ icture of Dorian Gray, the text that remains this tradition’s high watermark. First, I will briefly trace the motif of the magically revealing portrait through a series of earlier narratives: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Prophetic ­Pictures” (1837) and “Edward Randolph’s Portrait” (1838), Edgar ­A llan Poe’s “William Wilson” (1839) and “The Oval Portrait” (1842), and Henry James’s artist tales, “The Story of a Masterpiece” (1868) and “The Liar” (1888). The biographical and ­ ilde’s use of these texts as sources remains archival evidence for W somewhat ­circumstantial—we know, for example, that Wilde devoured the popular fiction of his day, greatly admired Poe, and owned multiple copies of his works (Wright 139–40); also, he chided James for writing fiction “as if it were a painful duty,” regarding him as one of those authors “one ought to read” but was not “bound to like” (CW, vol. 4, 77). Still, he was impressed by the ghost story The Turn of the Screw (1898), describing it in a letter to Robert Ross as a “most wonderful, lurid, poisonous little tale,” and adding: “James is developing, but he will never arrive at passion, I fear” (CL 1118). As critics have long held, James was himself influenced by Hawthorne’s use of the magic portrait motif, and Poe was an early reviewer and critic of Hawthorne’s tales. 5 Despite a lack of explicit confirmation that Wilde read and had these specific stories in mind (and not just the larger magic picture tradition) when he began to think about and write his own story of a transmogrifying portrait, several formal resonances and homologies between these works accrue to something like evidence and have important implications for how we read the novel. In particular, I propose that the narrative complexity of each tale belies a seeming moral clarity and points to an additional need to read against the grain of The Picture of Dorian Gray’s ostensibly inevitable, strongly moralizing ending—namely, the scene in which, by stabbing his disfigured portrait, that “most magical of mirrors,” Dorian kills himself and thus is properly punished, according to convention, for his transgressions. Rather, close attention to the novel’s formal ­features—inherited, in part, from its American precursors—reveals it to be not only a cautionary tale, but also—crucially—a cautionary tale about reading for cautionary tales.

Oscar Wilde’s American Forebears  43

I. In each of the two volumes of Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales (1837, 1842) there is a story about portraiture’s supernatural, almost monstrous power to reveal character and the otherwise-hidden truths that determine future lives. “The Prophetic Pictures” recounts the tale of Walter Ludlow and his fiancée Elinor, who, on the eve of their marriage, have their portraits made by an artist said to paint “not merely a man’s features but his mind and heart,” catching “the secret sentiments and passions” and throwing them upon the canvas “like sunshine—or perhaps, in the portraits of dark-souled men, like a gleam of internal fire” (Tales 456). Elinor’s trepidation upon hearing of this artist’s power, a fear captured by a sad and anxious look glimpsed by her lover, intimates her knowledge of something wrong with her future husband, or at least something she despairs of having seen by someone else and captured for posterity. When Walter looks at a pale but unfaded Madonna in the artist’s studio, he says: “Oh, if all beauty would endure so well!” (459). Elinor recoils, in language evocative of Dorian Gray’s predicament, declaring, “where all things fade, how miserable to be the one that could not fade!” (459). After two half-length portraits are fixed upon, Walter marvels, “what an influence over their fates the painter was about to acquire,” for “after he has once got possession of a person’s face and figure, he may paint him in any act or situation whatever—and the picture will be prophetic” (460). Unconvinced, Elinor humors him, but when they return to view the artist’s progress, they both witness a change in their portraits as they are viewing them: in hers, a glint of grief and terror, and in his, a look of wild passion. The artist, who is at that moment sketching a scene in crayon (purportedly the cause of the change in the portraits), declares: “The artist—the true artist—must look beneath the exterior. It is his gift—his proudest, but often a melancholy one—to see the inmost soul” (463). He then shows Elinor the crayon sketch of two figures in some kind of horrific action, suggesting that he could always change the expression in the portraits or the action in the sketch, but “would it influence the event?” (464). Elinor demurs. The couple is married, the portraits are hung. Elinor eventually drapes a curtain of purple silk over them under the pretense of protecting the portraits from dust, and time wears on. The artist remains cold-hearted: “He had caught from the duskiness of the future—at least, so he fancied—a fearful secret, and had obscurely revealed it on the portraits” (466). “Oh, glorious Art!” he muses, monomaniacally: “Am I not thy Prophet?” (467). When the artist visits their home at the appointed hour, he finds the couple before their portraits and witnesses the “coming evil” that had been foreshadowed in the crayon sketch: Elinor sees an increasing wildness in Walter’s expression as her own face assumes a look of terror, as

44  Sean O’Toole in the portraits. Walter then tries to stab Elinor to death. The sketch, “with all its tremendous coloring, was finished” (469). The artist intercedes in his own vision and stops the scene, asking Elinor, “did I not warn you?” She replies, “You did. […] But—I loved him” (469). The story concludes with a question: Is there not a deep moral in the tale? Could the result of one, or all our deeds, be shadowed forth and set before us, some would call it Fate, and hurry onward, others be swept along by their passionate desires, and none be turned aside by the PROPHETIC PICTURES. (469) Thus, the idea of the portrait as both revealer and repository of the true self, which can only be caught up to in real life in a moment threatening death—by stabbing—can be traced back at least as far as Hawthorne’s strange tale. The story’s “deep moral”—not to be swept along by “fate” or “passionate desires” but to heed all warnings—would seem to anticipate, structurally, at least, the cautionary tale of Dorian’s final demise, an excess prolonged, captured in a work of art, and ultimately held to account. Similarly, “Edward Randolph’s Portrait,” the second of four “Legends of the Province-House” in Twice-Told Tales, features an otherworldly portrait that warns of a coming evil. This time, instead of gleaming, brand-new images concealed by a silk curtain until a moment of horrific revelation in which life catches up to the artist’s preordained vision, the mysterious picture in this later story is ancient and obscure, blackened by years of hanging in the colonial Boston province-house. The narration is now first-person and framed by the outer narrator’s retelling of the legend recounted by an old denizen of the province-house, Mr. Bela Tiffany, the story of a canvas dark with age, damp, and smoke. “Time had thrown an impenetrable veil over it,” he begins, “and left to tradition, and fable, and ­ lice conjecture, to say what had once been there portrayed” (641–2). A Vane, a young niece of a provincial captain, had spent time studying art in Italy and one day asks her uncle after the mysterious black picture in the hopes of restoring it.6 Lieutenant-Governor Hutchinson informs her that it was once a portrait of Edward Randolph, the much-despised ­British colonial administrator jailed during the 1689 Boston Revolt. “And yet,” Alice wonders, “may not such fables have a moral?” (645). If the visage is so dreadful, it would do well to be visible to rulers, as a reminder of “the awful weight of a People’s curse” (645). “Come forth, dark and evil Shape,” she beckons. “It is thine hour!” (646). During a debate among selectmen about the presence of British troops in the town, the lieutenant-governor’s eye is directed to the ancient portrait, now concealed by a black silk curtain. Alice is called into the room and snatches away the curtain to reveal a restored portrait showing the

Oscar Wilde’s American Forebears  45 “terrors of hell” upon Randolph’s face, intensified by the passing of time, a “dreadful effigy” (649). “Be warned then!” Alice says. “He trampled on a people’s rights. Behold his punishment—and avoid a crime like his!” (649). But defying the warning and the picture, “which seemed, at that moment, to intensify the horror of its miserable and wicked look,” Hutchinson signs the colonial decree (650). In the morning, the picture goes dark again; as for Hutchinson, on his deathbed, he “complained he was choking with the blood of the Boston Massacre” and there was “a likeness in his frenzied look to that of Edward Randolph” (650–1). “Did his broken spirit feel, at that dread hour,” the old man’s story concludes, “the tremendous burthen of a People’s curse?” (651). As in “The ­Prophetic Pictures,” “Edward Randolph’s Portrait” thematizes art’s affinity with revelation, truth, and prophecy and ends with the suggestion of a conventional “moral” that reverses the forces put in motion by the denial of art’s powerful warnings within the narrative just told—­Elinor’s demurring, Hutchinson’s willful defiance. It is a narrative arc that will be elaborated much more complexly (and artistically) by Wilde in The Picture of Dorian Gray, but it will serve as a germ and a scaffold for a tradition of nineteenth-century writing about magical portraits that follows, the bulk of which these tales predate by several decades. In his 1842 review of Hawthorne’s tales, Poe commends their beauty and originality but laments their “mysticism” and overt didacticism, by which, he fears, “[t]he obvious meaning […] will be found to smother the insinuated one” and the “moral […] will be supposed to convey the true import of the narrative” (Essays 574–5). This review will be especially useful for thinking about the supposed “moral” of the ending of Wilde’s novel vis-à-vis this tradition, but, for his part, Poe wrote several magic picture stories to his own liking. His tales “William Wilson” and “The Oval Portrait” take up Hawthorne’s subject while moving away from the didacticism and allegory with which he found fault. In “William Wilson,” portraiture makes an appearance as a metaphor rather than as a prop. The titular first-person narrator, an heir to the “imaginative and easily excitable temperament” that, he confesses, makes for something of a “family character,” is stalked and tormented from early childhood by a tireless doppelgänger (626). The “second William Wilson,” who somehow goes undetected as his supernatural double by everyone else, has the same name, the same birthdate, is of the same height, has the same stature and appearance, copies his dress, appropriates his gait and general manner, and arrives at boarding school on the same day as the narrator. The only difference is that he speaks only in a whisper, offering advice that the narrator disregards because he increasingly resents “his intolerable arrogance” (632). He is a “perfect imitation,” copying not just the letter “which in a painting is all the obtuse can see” but “the full spirit of the original” (632). “How greatly this most exquisite portraiture harassed me,” we are told (632).

46  Sean O’Toole The rest of the tale recounts the lengths to which the “portrait” hounds the “original,” driving him, we are led to believe, into a “vortex of thoughtless folly,” a “miserable profligacy,” and “rooted habits of vice” (634). Repeated confrontations in which his “rival” (631) thwarts his plans to do mischief by exposing the narrator’s “true character” (including his penchant for intoxication, cheating at cards, and seducing married women, apparently), followed by flights to new cities away from his “evil destiny,” and inevitable rediscoveries by his “tormentor,” culminate in a final episode in which the two spar to the death (631, 638, 639). After stabbing his double fatally, a large mirror suddenly appears and reflects his own image, but as his double now, “with features all pale and dabbled in blood” (641). “It was my antagonist,” he declares (641). But the double no longer speaks in a whisper, and it is the narrator himself who feels that he is speaking: “In me didst thou exist—and, in my death, see by this image, which is thine own, how utterly thou hast murdered thyself” (641). Competing guises, an overweening egotism, an extravagant decadence, and the stabbing of one’s image-conscience, which ironically turns out to be the means of one’s own destruction—the date is 1839, yet the shape of Dorian Gray’s story is already apparent here. Returning from the idea of living “portraiture” to the ostensibly inanimate physical object, “The Oval Portrait” tells the story of an actual painting that purportedly came to life at the expense of its sitting subject. A wounded first-person narrator and his valet break into an abandoned chateau to take shelter for the night. In a room in a “remote turret of the building” they discover a great number of paintings “in frames of rich golden arabesque,” with which the narrator, in his “incipient delirium,” takes “deep interest” (290). These paintings hang from not only the walls but “in very many nooks which the bizarre architecture of the chateau rendered necessary” (290). In one such niche, a chance repositioning of the candelabrum throws light on a picture “all unnoticed before,” the portrait of “a young girl just ripening into womanhood,” which seems to “dissipate the dreamy stupor” and “startle [him] at once into waking life” (290–1). What he sees is the “true secret” of the painting’s effect: despite the “peculiarities” of the design and of the frame, reminding him it is “a thing of art” and not “a living person,” he finds the “spell” of the picture in “an absolute life-likeliness of expression” (291). On the bed pillow he discovers a small volume that “purported to criticise and describe [the paintings],” which both relates the history of the oval portrait and comprises the final words of the narrator’s tale (290). A painter marries a young woman, and, in bringing her portrait to life, slowly, unwittingly, kills her. The story concludes without ever returning to the outer frame narrative: [F]or one moment, the painter stood entranced before the work which he had wrought; but in the next, while yet he gazed, he grew

Oscar Wilde’s American Forebears  47 tremulous and very pallid, and aghast, and crying with a loud voice, “This is indeed Life itself!” turned suddenly to regard his beloved:— She was dead! (292) Poe’s “The Oval Portrait” thus fantasizes a dangerous zero-sum game of the artist’s power to transfer “life-likeliness” from the sitting subject to the work of art in a way that betrays the living human for an aesthetic ideal, the model for the copy. Unbeknownst to the painter lost in his work, “the tints which he spread upon the canvas were drawn from the cheeks of her who sat beside him” (292). This game works somewhat differently in The Picture of Dorian Gray, with the picture taking on the physical signs of the experiences Dorian hungrily pursues with impunity, but both seem to literalize the idea of art as the transfer of life to canvas. Dorian’s final attempt to save himself from the moral calculus exacted by the portrait (or, more precisely, by his own investment of morality in the portrait), his stabbing of the canvas, results in a violent reversal. The painting reverts back to its original pristine state, and Dorian’s dead body lies on the floor, “withered, wrinkled, and loathsome of visage” (CW, vol. 3, 357). In Poe’s tale, life is taken from the model by an artistic monomania and perhaps by the artistic process itself; in Wilde’s version, the model’s life is taken when he tries to go back on his own fateful wish to have the painting take on secret, moralizing meanings of its own. James’s artist tales “The Story of a Masterpiece” and “The Liar” also make use of the motif of the uncanny portrait in ways reminiscent of Wilde’s later and more famous example. Both stories concern an artist involved in a love triangle and the stabbing of a picture that betrays a secret truth about its subject. In “The Story of a Masterpiece,” the wealthy John Lennox is engaged to the “penniless” Marian Everett, who used to be engaged to a young artist named Stephen Baxter until she jilted him, and, as it turns out, several other suitors. Lennox meets Baxter by chance in a studio he shares with a mutual artist friend and is struck first by the artist’s face—an interest quickly displaced onto his artwork: “‘A man with that face,’ he said to himself, ‘does work at least worth looking at’” (212). Then, he quickly notices the likeness to his fiancée of the subject of one of his paintings, “a portrait in character” called “My Last Duchess,” after Browning’s poem (213). Lennox learns of their past connection, but not of their engagement, and invites Baxter to paint Marian’s portrait. “[W]ithout malice,” we are told by the omniscient narrator, Baxter infuses into the commissioned picture something of his bitter disappointment and the “force of characterization” and “depth of reality” that his knowledge of Marian’s past indiscretions (and her lie of omission in hiding their own past engagement from Lennox) yields: “[H]is genius had held communion with his heart and had transferred to canvas the burden of its disenchantment and its resignation” (233–4).

48  Sean O’Toole The result is a “masterpiece” but betrays a “heartlessness” and lack of moral seriousness that Lennox had always suspected in Marian, and which he now cannot seem to escape: It seemed to Lennox that some strangely potent agency had won from his mistress the confession of her inmost soul, and had written it there upon the canvas in firm yet passionate lines. Marian’s person was lightness—her charm was lightness; could it be that her soul was levity too? Was she a creature without faith, and without conscience? (232) Lennox falls out of love but plans to go ahead with the wedding anyway. When the portrait arrives from the framer’s, he sees no other choice but to destroy the evidence of Marian’s deceit: Lennox went into the library. The picture was standing on the floor, back to back with a high arm-chair, and catching, through the window, the last horizontal rays of the sun. He stood before it a ­moment, gazing at it with a haggard face. “Come!” said he, at last, “Marian may be what God has made her; but this detestable creature I can neither love nor respect!” He looked about him with an angry despair, and his eye fell on a long, keen poignard, given to him by a friend who had bought it in the East, and which lay as an ornament on his mantel-shelf. He seized it and thrust it, with barbarous glee, straight into the lovely face of the image. He dragged it downward, and made a long fissure in the living canvas. Then, with half a dozen strokes, he wantonly hacked it across. The act afforded him an immense relief. (241) ­ arriage: A short postscript to this climactic scene confirms their ensuing m “I need hardly add that on the following day Lennox was married,” but not before locking the library door and keeping the fate of the picture a secret until after the honeymoon: “he had the key in his waistcoat pocket as he stood at the altar” (241). The homologies between this early James story’s use of a powerfully revealing portrait and Wilde’s version—the “strangely potent agency” that forces a “confession” of the “inmost soul,” a “living canvas” secreted away in a locked room to silence the shocking story it tells and ultimately stabbed in a desperate attempt to escape it—can also be found in the later story “The Liar,” in which James reuses the motif with several important variations—namely, the artist’s model here is male and he slashes his own portrait. As in the earlier story, an artist, Oliver Lyon, sees an old flame, Everina Brant, at a dinner party at an estate where he

Oscar Wilde’s American Forebears  49 has been invited to draw the owner’s portrait. Everina is now married to Colonel Capadose, who, in the presence of everyone, tells outlandish untruths that implicate his wife in his dishonesty, since she is forced to go along with her husband’s “queer habit” of storytelling (344). Soon, Lyon agrees to paint Capadose’s portrait and, full of the anger and resentment of a rejected suitor, plans to unmask him in the process and to force Mrs. Capadose to confess her dissatisfaction with her choice of husband. When the portrait is completed, the Capadoses visit the artist’s studio when he is supposed to be out of town; however, when Lyon returns unexpectedly, he overhears the couple through a curtain. Startled by their cries and his own painting’s “look of life,” Lyon struggles to take in the incredible scene: The Colonel turned away and moved rapidly about the room, as if he were looking for something; Lyon was unable for the instant to guess his intention. Then the artist said to himself, below his breath, “He’s going to do it a harm!” His first impulse was to rush down and stop him; but he paused, with the sound of Everina Brant’s sobs still in his ears. The Colonel found what he was looking for—found it among some odds and ends on a small table and rushed back with it to the easel. At one and the same moment Lyon perceived that the object he had seized was a small Eastern dagger and that he had plunged it into the canvas. He seemed animated by a sudden fury, for with extreme vigour of hand he dragged the instrument down (Lyon knew it to have no very fine edge) making a long, abominable gash. Then he plucked it out and dashed it again several times into the face of the likeness, exactly as if he were stabbing a human victim: it had the oddest effect—that of a sort of figurative suicide. In a few seconds more the Colonel had tossed the dagger away—he looked at it as he did so, as if he expected it to reek with blood […]. (362–3) The Capadoses cover their crime together, by blaming a drunken artist’s model whom they had declined to give money, a performance that made Lyon’s “whole vision crumble—his theory that [Everina] had secretly kept true to herself” (369). Mrs. Capadose, whose husband, we are told, “had trained her too well,” has the parting shot, telling Lyon: “For you, I am very sorry. But you must remember that I possess the original!” (371). With their theme of portrait painting as a form of exposure, their ­anxious fantasies about a strangely imbued “living canvas,” and the not-so-thinly veiled romantic triangles and erotic rivalries, these stories clearly form part of a tradition of using uncanny portraits that predates Wilde and suggests a different genealogy through which to read The ­Picture of Dorian Gray, one in which formal resonances are also intimately connected to thematic concerns. For these stories’ use of the motif

50  Sean O’Toole of the magical portrait is not the only thing they share. Through various narrative techniques, they all also undercut their own authority, highlighting the lack of reliability of the text itself and, thus, dramatizing the need to read the subject of the fiction as a formal problem, as well.

II. Poe’s criticism that the “moral” of Hawthorne’s fiction threatens to be too easily confused with the “true import of the narrative” signals an important difference between what the tales purport to be saying and what else they might also “insinuate” or come to mean (Essays 575). Indeed, it is characteristic of the magic picture tradition that Wilde takes hold of in 1890 for the narrative to turn in on itself, and against its own apparent didacticism. I will argue in the concluding section that the playful equivocations of these formal somersaults—to transgress and yet to be seen to be moralizing—are precisely what attracted Wilde to this tradition and what he exploits so effectively. First, it will be helpful to show how consistently earlier nineteenth-century magic picture fiction relies on formal tricks such as framing and unreliable first-person narration, to undercut the seemingly obvious “deep morals” of their endings. Even the earliest of the stories discussed earlier, the tales by Hawthorne, which are the most open to the charge of didacticism, dramatize the need to read closely for form. For instance, “The Prophetic Pictures,” an otherwise straightforward third-person omniscient narrative, couches its moral about passion’s tendency to blind in a negative question—“Is there not a deep moral in the tale?” (Tales 469). The ambivalence of this question can also be found in what comes of another crucial question in the story, when the artist offers to change the frightened look in Elinor’s portrait or the hideous action in his prophetic sketch: “But would it influence the event?” he asks (464). In fact, the foreseen stabbing of Elinor by her husband Walter turns out not to have been preordained, since it does not happen, and it is the artist himself who stops Walter’s hand; he turns out to be at least as deluded as Walter in his belief in art’s power to affect the destinies of its subjects. The reader realizes this only after the power of the artist to reveal “true character” and acquire “influence over their fates” is already established, then reinforced by the artist’s monologue about his godlike powers: “Oh, glorious Art! […] thou art the image of the Creator’s own!” (467). But the ambiguity resonates long after the story’s ending, further complicating the otherwise obvious message. The question “Is there not a deep moral in the tale?” also asks, of course, “Is there?” The warning of “Edward Randolph’s Portrait” not to trample on a people’s right—“to avoid a crime like his!” (649)—is also complicated by the form of a question. Lieutenant-Governor Hutchinson, who ignored the portrait’s warning, in his dying hour exhibits “a likeness in his frenzied look” to that of Edward Randolph: “Did his broken spirit

Oscar Wilde’s American Forebears  51 feel, at that dread hour, the tremendous burthen of a People’s curse?” (650–1). Because this tale is a frame narrative, the ambivalence of the inner narrator Bela Tiffany’s question about Hutchinson is compounded by the outer first-person narrator’s story of hearing the story “babbled” to him, as he says (651). When he first comes across Tiffany in the province-­house, he notes that the whiskey punch he is drinking acts as a “solvent upon his memory” so that it “overflowed” with stories (641). Introducing the narrative that he then hears from Tiffany about the mysterious black portrait, the first-person narrator admits that while it is “as correct a version of the fact as the reader would be likely to obtain from any other source,” it has a “tinge of romance approaching to the marvelous” (641). Likewise, at the conclusion of “this miraculous legend,” his final paragraph details the lack of any proof that there was ever any such portrait and drifts off into the anti-climax of a blinding snowstorm on his return home instead, further obfuscating the status of Tiffany’s story and undercutting its power as a cautionary tale or anything more than a “marvelous” fiction (651). As we have seen, Poe eschewed the didacticism of a stated “moral” in creating his tales, preferring an ironic, if no less fantastical, reversal at the conclusion of “William Wilson.” The message spoken by his double as Wilson looks into the mirror at his bloodied figure, feeling as if it were himself speaking, is that the copy and the original were one; in killing his double, Wilson has killed himself. As a first-person narrator, Wilson is anything but reliable, however. He is, by his own admission, the heir of a “family character” prone to an “imaginative” and “easily excitable temperament,” which has intensified with age, becoming “a cause for serious disquietude” to his friends (626). He is so ashamed of the “detestation of [his] race” as to withhold his real name; “William Wilson” is a mere approximation, we are told, and hence a double fiction (626). Having developed a clear picture of an encroaching insanity in his adolescence, the story of his double then becomes increasing suspect. His monomania is such that he is not disabused of his fantasy by the fact that those around him do not see the other Wilson as an extraordinary double, only as a possible relation. His language for Wilson—his “namesake” (629), “rival” (631), “tormentor” (639), “arch-enemy and evil genius” (639)—mirrors his increasing hysteria. At the same time, it becomes increasingly clear that the story of the double actually enables the narrator to displace blame and not take responsibility for his own extravagance; he is the victim, persecuted by another. The psychologically unstable narrator thus casts the entire story of a “second ­William Wilson,” as well as his sanity, into question. The story’s ostensible ­message—that our conscience, or that which thwarts our more base impulses, is essential to our very existence—remains clear, but it becomes subordinated to the expression of an all-consuming paranoid monomania. The telling of the story upstages the story told.

52  Sean O’Toole In “The Oval Portrait,” Poe’s first-person narrator is physically wounded, mysteriously, a fact that from the story’s opening line casts some doubt on his mental state and his observations of the chateau and its treasure trove of art. In addition, Poe’s disturbing fantasy of a murderous artistic monomania here relies on a story-within-a-story framing device. The history of the oval portrait is related by another text, the small volume on the bed pillow that only “purport[s]” to tell the truth; it is a story within a story whose climactic moment also concludes the outer frame narrative itself: “She was dead!” the narrator and the reader discover at the same moment (290, 292). Thus, the “spell” of the picture and its ability to expose the “truth” of its creation depend upon a questionable first-person narrator and a text within the text that comes to the narrator secondhand. Like Poe’s tales, “The Liar” shifts the reader’s interest—and suspicion—­ elsewhere through narration, to the story of the story’s telling. In this narrative of 1888, James revises the more conventional third-person omniscient treatment of his earlier 1868 tale “The Story of a Masterpiece,” now using his famed center of consciousness method of narration to place the story firmly within the limited point of view of the character of the portraitist himself.7 Offering an anatomy of the obsessively jealous spurned lover, “The Liar” makes the story told from Lyon’s perspective increasingly suspect, raising the question of who exactly is the liar (the analogy to fiction and to James himself is never far away here). The artist Lyon’s bitter resentment, his own deviousness and questionable motivations for trying to expose his old lover’s complicity in her husband’s pathological lying to make her regret spurning him, and his spying and cynical lie of omission in allowing the guilty couple to give an excuse he knows not to be true gradually become even more interesting, and more disturbing to the reader, than the actual subject of the story being narrated. The other interesting revision that James makes between 1868 and 1888 is in who stabs the exposing portrait: in “The Story of a ­Masterpiece,” Marian’s fiancé Lennox does the honors, whereas in “The Liar,” the subject of the portrait, Colonel Capadose himself, destroys his own image—“a sort of figurative suicide,” in the words of the story, and an important precursor to Wilde’s treatment of the subject two years later.

III. Wilde’s sourcing of his novel in such a rich tradition of popular storytelling suggests, as Kerry Powell has convincingly argued, not so much a case of derivativeness or plagiarism as a canny piecing together, reimagining, and putting to new use an entire tradition that has since been ignored or oversimplified by critics. For Powell, the key insight is that Wilde made ingenious use of an entire lexicon of motifs associated with

Oscar Wilde’s American Forebears  53 the magic picture tradition, rather than any one or more precedents—so much so that we tend to remember The Picture of Dorian Gray today only in unique terms, but essentially out of context. Powell writes: Gathering his materials from the tradition at large rather than from any one or even a few sources, Wilde constructs a work of tighter structure, greater power, and more teasing subtlety than any other work of its kind. His novel can thus be viewed as both a compendious and consummate expression of a literary tradition whose outlines have been largely forgotten by us, but which flourished in the popular literature of the last [nineteenth] century especially. (164) My contention, building on Powell, is that Wilde annexed this broader tradition for strategic reasons and put it to particular uses, not the least of which was to furnish a model for how to transgress and yet persist in publishing a novel that dared to speak of illicit homosexual desire. The focus on identifying ever more “overlooked” sources of Wilde’s novel has revealed many interesting points of connection but has risked missing the larger import of Wilde’s strategic use of the magic picture tradition. At least part of why Powell is correct when he notes that “in Dorian Gray there is much of importance which cannot be accounted for by reference to any single source” (150) is that Wilde’s novel makes use of the magic picture story—its formal logic of epistemological uncertainty and ironic reversal—as well as, or even more than, its individual component parts. The texts by Hawthorne, Poe, and James discussed earlier are important “source” materials for Wilde, then, not because any one text is a lynchpin to understanding the genesis or meaning of The Picture of Dorian Gray (or because there is some newly discovered archival evidence, as interesting as that might be) but because, taken together, they point to a certain feeling for form—a consistency not only of motifs, themes, situations, and character types, but of narrative structures and techniques that cut against the conventional morality that the stories would seem to purport to uphold, as well. Seeing the narrative as well as thematic affinities between the earlier nineteenth-­century magic picture tradition and Wilde’s novel, as well as Wilde’s innovations to this tradition, has significant implications for how we read The Picture of Dorian Gray, and especially what we make of the famous ending. Rather than accumulate ever more definitive sources for the novel, then, the goal here is to trace the implications of sourcing this novel that we thought we knew within a tradition that has largely been forgotten. At the level of narrative structure, Wilde transcends the earlier ­tradition’s use of stark narrative framing and first-person monologue; indeed, part of what makes the novel so remarkable is its refusal of the

54  Sean O’Toole tradition’s more obvious devices in preference of even more sophisticated and stealth inventions. Rather than merely imitate the tradition, Wilde again transforms it. Like its precedents, it is precisely by formal means that The Picture of Dorian Gray troubles any simplistic understanding of what Poe called the “moral” as opposed to the “true import of the narrative.” To signal that something more complicated than a mere cautionary tale is at stake in the novel, Wilde uses a clever hybrid of genres that heightens the sense of artifice and the critical distance between what is being said and what is meant throughout. The novel’s inventive design hinges on the key moment of the supernatural transformation of the portrait relatively early on, in Chapter 7 (of 20). The picture’s taking on of magical properties in fact sharply divides the book into two generic parts: a homoerotic-Bildungsroman first part before the transformation, in which Dorian seems to be on a path of self-discovery and self-­development, and a Gothic-horror second part that forecloses that possibility and safely reinscribes the novel within conventional Victorian morality. The urban Eden of the novel’s opening scene, in which Dorian’s youthful beauty appears in the luminous, fragrant, all-male space of the artist’s garden studio gives way to the hiding of the portrait behind an ornate Spanish screen and satin pall and then removing it entirely to an old, disused schoolroom/closet upstairs, where it remains locked away until Dorian’s fateful confrontation with it in the novel’s final scene. The novel’s ending would seem to ask us to reconfirm Dorian’s death as his just desserts. But the dramatic shift out of the Bildungsroman narrative and into one of Gothic horror raises more questions than it answers and is never quite forgotten. For one, it invites an awareness of the impossibility of the homoeroticism that saturates the opening chapters and the subsequent effects of its repression on Dorian’s character. The genre shifting that occurs at the moment of the portrait’s magical transformation interrupts the self-development narrative and yet is the very means of its persistence. Throughout the rest of the novel, the self-­development narrative initiated in the novel’s opening scenes acts as an ever-present reminder of a counterfactual otherwise: what if things happened or could happen differently, or perhaps, at least, what if Dorian had acted differently? The recursive reading process that results is not unlike that triggered by the more overt narrative techniques used by Hawthorne, Poe, and James to create ambiguity in their fiction or to suggest ambivalence in their own stance, causing the reader to go back to reconsider. Part of the mysterious power of Wilde’s contribution to this lineage is the forcefulness of the novel’s ending—the obvious moral that hedonism must be paid for and there is no separating one from one’s conscience—and yet the lasting sense that there is much more to it than that. Indeed, the novel’s hybrid form provides important clues as to how to read it, and how not to. For one, the strategic blending of diametrically opposed genres makes it nearly impossible to read the “moral” of Dorian’s fate as a simple

Oscar Wilde’s American Forebears  55 cautionary tale. The moralizing story of the picture’s transformation and Dorian’s ultimate destruction at the end necessarily co-opts and screens the incipient homoeroticism of the beginning, as was required at the time; yet, the homoeroticism is registered nonetheless and never really disappears, a canny use of uncanny generic conventions on Wilde’s part.8 At the level of narration, Wilde eschews Poe’s troubled first-person narrator and the James’s center of consciousness method in favor of a clever use of point of view. Wilde’s use of focalization, or shifting into the subjective point of view from the narrator to a character or characters, is less robust than James’s. (Interestingly, Wilde’s novel is more conventional in terms of narrative point of view; its innovation comes from its savvy manipulation of genres, as I have suggested.) But Dorian is portrayed vividly by the third-person omniscient narrator, in part, so he can be better held up to scrutiny. The interest in Dorian’s narrow consciousness that especially marks the novel’s Gothic descent invites us to question his behavior on slightly different grounds from the moral—namely, that it is Dorian’s belief that art holds a message of any kind that the novel criticizes. “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book,” Wilde writes in his Preface, “Books are well written, or badly written. That is all” (CW, vol. 3, 167). Yet, it is precisely this maxim that Dorian ignores in turning to Basil’s portrait for reasons other than aesthetic, and in falling under the influence of Lord Henry’s yellow book and beautiful phrases, which are flung out artistically to dazzle and perhaps to inspire similar acts of creativity but not to be acted upon, necessarily. (Lord Henry doesn’t even act on them; “[t]he aim of life is self-development,” he says, after all [183].) Bound by conventions, Dorian looks for moral messages in art instead of for the beauty and pleasure that is so clearly written there, and this too is what the story of his demise seems to caution against. The external third-person narrative point of view, which never relents to offer an unmediated sense of Dorian’s consciousness using free indirect discourse, checks any potential identification and helps reinforce the reader’s growing skepticism of the reading practices exemplified by Dorian. Interestingly, the rare moments of free indirect discourse in the novel occur when the narrative shifts briefly into Lord Henry’s perspective, not Dorian’s. This happens twice, at the very moment when Lord Henry first meets Dorian in person, in Chapter 2: Lord Henry looked at him. Yes, he was certainly wonderfully handsome, with his finely curved scarlet lips, his frank blue eyes, his crisp gold hair. There was something in his face that made one trust him at once. All the candour of youth was there, as well as all youth’s passionate purity. One felt that he had kept himself unspotted from the world. No wonder Basil Hallward worshipped him. (181; emphasis added)

56  Sean O’Toole Of course, it is also the reader who meets Dorian through this description, so perhaps it makes sense to have the narration shift into a more subjective style. But it hardly ever happens in the novel, so it is conspicuous. Compare the description of Dorian’s dawning recognition a few pages later of a “secret cord that had never been touched before, but that he felt was now vibrating and throbbing to curious pulses” (184; emphasis added). After Lord Henry speaks to him of “passions that have made you afraid, thoughts that have filled you with terror, day-dreams and sleeping dreams whose mere memory might stain your cheek with shame—” the narrator remains stubbornly present in the description of Dorian’s response: Yes; there had been things in his boyhood that he had not u ­ nderstood. He understood them now. Life suddenly became fiery-­coloured to him. It seemed to him that he had been walking in fire. Why had he not known it? (184; emphasis added) And again when Lord Henry muses on the chance effect of his words on the younger man, the narration slips momentarily into free indirect discourse to give us a glimpse of his thoughts seemingly unmediated by the narrator: “He had merely shot an arrow into the air. Had it hit the mark? How fascinating the lad was!” (184; emphasis added). That the novel’s few instances of free indirect discourse happen on the occasion of Lord Henry’s meeting Dorian thus conditions both our view of him and how we view him. Rather than an intimately focalized view from his subjective consciousness, we get an external picture—­another portrait of sorts—from the narrator or, briefly, from Lord ­Henry’s point of view, the very party whose views Dorian so unthinkingly accepts as his own, and to such calamitous effect. This subtle difference of narrative perspective makes a profound difference in how we read the novel, and Dorian’s character in particular. Whereas Lord Henry’s (and the reader’s) introduction to Dorian is privileged with the closer, more subjective narrative style of free indirect discourse, not even Dorian’s expanding consciousness in the opening self-development narrative is afforded the same benefit, nor is it ever, once his consciousness narrows in the Gothic degeneration portion that concludes the novel. Thus, we are prevented from identifying with Dorian from the start; critical distance is maintained. He is then scrutinized for sacrificing his own self-­development—Lord Henry’s stated ideal—to his devotion to Lord Henry. As readers, we are invited to see him critically, as someone who doesn’t think for himself more than anything “immoral,” at least at first. The novel’s narrative perspective reinforces this in keeping him an objectively described character firmly within the gaze of others, including readers, throughout.

Oscar Wilde’s American Forebears  57 I suggested at the start that the American precursors to Wilde’s now more famous work shed new light on The Picture of Dorian Gray as a formal achievement and offer another means of resisting the seduction of the parable-like simplicity of the novel’s powerful conclusion, with Dorian paying the ultimate price for his “sins” despite his attempts to “kill the past” by stabbing the picture, “this monstrous soul-life” (CW, vol. 3, 357). The narrative complexities of these thematically linked works have highlighted several ways that Wilde’s novel also uses formal devices to problematize the moralizing logic by which it seems to work. Although these formal interventions are subtler than his American predecessors’ reliance on more conspicuous narrative framing and unreliable first-person narration, they can and should be understood as part of a transformation of the well-worn earlier tradition, an annexation by which Wilde can be seen both to borrow from and yet transcend his sources, to make something strikingly original and ever more complex, artistically and philosophically. However we read the novel, the magic picture tradition out of which Wilde is writing makes it clear that questions of form are as important to its interpretation as themes and characters are—indeed, that form is often central to the interpretation of its themes and characters. The novel invites us to question the beliefs and actions of its main character, as well as the larger structuring devices of the multiple genres that come to bear on the story told—indeed, of what a story could tell in 1890s Britain and America—and this becomes an important part of its meaning. This kind of formal reading of the novel does not depend on a close comparison of the narratives by Poe, Hawthorne, and James that I have been discussing. But seeing The Picture of Dorian Gray as part of this other genealogy makes such a reading all the more possible, historically specific, and perhaps more necessary than ever.

Notes 1 Sedgwick’s influential reading in Epistemology of the Closet (1990) situated the novel within the late-nineteenth-century definitional crisis of homo/ heterosexuality, finding in its apparent tensions and contradictions (Greek/ Christian, art/kitsch, homo/hetero) a foundational articulation of the very terms for a modern homosexual identity. A profusion of queer readings followed. See especially Sedgwick 48–49 and 131–81; Dellamora; Cohen; Craft; and Nunokawa’s several readings. 2 See Beckson 67–86. 3 See, for instance, Ellmann 20, 229–30, 252, 311, 315–17; and Wright 181–15. 4 Notable exceptions to the critical reticence on this subject include influential essay by Lane, on homosexuality and painting in James, Wilde, and ­B eerbohm; and Murray (1994), on Alcott’s A Modern Mephistopheles (1877) as a possible source of the novel. In a fascinating reading suggesting that Wilde echoes, rather than imitates or follows, Pater, “as a way to evoke, refuse, and transform what he finds in the earlier writer,” Riquelme draws

58  Sean O’Toole a connection to the influence of Poe, “the most echoic stylist among earlier prominent figures in the Gothic tradition” (617, 619). 5 See especially Matthiessen, who, in arguing that one of the many devices Hawthorne taught James was “the use of a portrait to bring out character,” memorably concluded: “The more closely we look at James, the more signs we find of Hawthorne everywhere” (535, 537). 6 The surname Vane, shared by Sibyl and her family in The Picture of Dorian Gray, might also resound here for readers of Wilde’s novel. 7 For more on matters of technique and revision in these two stories, see O’Hara. 8 This is the subject of my forthcoming essay “‘Fantastic Shadows’: Dorian Gray’s Generic Hybridity and the Aesthetics of Queer Form” in ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Richard A. Kaye.

Works Cited Beckson, Karl, ed. Oscar Wilde: The Critical Heritage. Barnes and Noble, 1970. Bristow, Joseph. “Sourcing The Picture of Dorian Gray: Literary ­A ntecedents, Citational Practices.” The Picture of Dorian Gray in the Twenty-First ­C entury, edited by Richard A. Kaye. Forthcoming. Cohen, Ed. “Writing Gone Wilde: Homoerotic Desire in the Closet of Representation.” PMLA, vol. 102, no. 5, 1987, pp. 801–13. Craft, Christopher. “Come See about Me: Enchantment of the Double in The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Representations, vol. 91, pp. 109–36. Dellamora, Richard. “Representation and Homophobia in The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Victorian Newsletter, vol. 73, pp. 28–31. Ellmann, Richard. Oscar Wilde. Vintage, 1987. Frankel, Nicholas, ed. The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated, Uncensored Edition. Harvard UP, 2011. Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Tales and Sketches. The Library of America, 1982. James, Henry. “The Liar.” The Complete Stories of Henry James, Volume III: 1884–1891. The Library of America, 1999, pp. 321–71. ———. “The Story of a Masterpiece.” The Complete Stories of Henry James, Volume I: 1864–1874. The Library of America, 1999, pp. 209–42. Lane, Cristopher. “Framing Fears, Reading Designs: The Homosexual Art of Painting in James, Wilde, and Beerbohm.” ELH, vol. 61, no 4, 1994, pp. 923–54. Lawler, Donald L. and Charles E. Knott. “The Context of Invention: ­Suggested Origins of ‘Dorian Gray.’” Modern Philology, vol. 43, no. 4, 1976, pp. 389–98. Matthiessen, F.O. “James and the Plastic Arts.” The Kenyon Review, vol. 5, no. 4, 1943, pp. 533–50. Murray, Isobel. “Introduction.” The Picture of Dorian Gray, edited by Isobel Murray, Oxford UP, 1982, pp. xiii–xxxiii. ———. “Oscar Wilde in His Literary Element: Yet Another Source for Dorian Gray?” Rediscovering Oscar Wilde, edited by C. George Sandulescu and C. Smythe, 1994, pp. 283–96. ———. “Some Elements in the Composition of The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Durham University Journal, vol. 64, no. 3, 1972, pp. 220–31. Nunokawa, Jeff. “The Disappearance of the Homosexual in The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Professions of Desire: Lesbian and Gay Studies in Literature,

Oscar Wilde’s American Forebears  59 edited by George E. Haggerty and Bonnie Zimmerman, Modern Language Association of America, 1995, pp. 183–90. ———. Tame Passions of Wilde: The Styles of Manageable Desire. Princeton UP, 2003. Oates, Joyce Carol. “‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’: Wilde’s Parable of the Fall.” Critical Inquiry, vol. 7, 1980, pp. 419–28. O’Toole, Sean. “‘Fantastic Shadows’: Dorian Gray’s Generic Hybridity and the Aesthetics of Queer Form.” The Picture of Dorian Gray in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Richard A. Kaye. Forthcoming. Poe, Edgar Allan. Essays and Reviews. The Library of America, 1984. ———. The Collected Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. The Modern ­Library, 1992. Powell, Kerry. “Tom, Dick, and Dorian Gray: Magic Picture Mania in Late Victorian Fiction.” Philological Quarterly, vol. 62 no. 2, 1983, pp. 147–70. Riquelme, John Paul. “Oscar Wilde’s Aesthetic Gothic: Walter Pater, Dark ­Enlightenment, and The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Modern Fiction Studies, vol. 46, no 3, 2000, pp. 609–31. Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Epistemology of the Closet. U of California P, 1990. Wilde, Oscar. The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Edited by Ian Small, et al., Oxford UP, 2000–, 7 vols. ———. The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde. Edited by Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart-Davis, Henry Holt, 2000. Wright, Thomas. Built of Books: How Reading Defined the Life of Oscar Wilde. Henry Holt, 2008.

4 Haunting “The Harlot’s House” Jamil Mustafa

In the spring of 1883, Oscar Wilde moved into a haunted house—or, more precisely, a haunted hotel: the Hôtel Voltaire on the Left Bank of Paris, where Charles Baudelaire had composed Les Fleurs du Mal (1857) and where Wilde, summoning the shades of Baudelaire and Edgar Allan Poe, wrote “The Harlot’s House” (Ellmann 213; Sherard 220; Thomas 485). The poem opens with two people who, walking the city streets at night, stop beneath the windows of “the Harlot’s house” (CW, vol. 1, 160–2) and watch the shadows of “ghostly dancers” (line 10) projected against the blinds. As the dancers move from quadrille to saraband to waltz, the speaker envisions them as both alive and dead, organic and inorganic: as “silhouetted skeletons,” “black leaves,” and “phantom ­lover[s]” (lines 14, 12, 20), and as “mechanical grotesques,” “wire-pulled automatons,” “clock-work puppet[s],” and “horrible Marionette[s]” (lines 7, 13, 19, 22). He describes the scene as a danse macabre in which “the dead are dancing with the dead, / [t]he dust is whirling with the dust” (lines 26–27)— but his companion is drawn by the music into the house. As “Love passe[s] into the house of Lust” (line 30), the dance concludes, dawn approaches “like a frightened girl” (line 36), and the poem ends. “The Harlot’s House” was first published in the Dramatic Review of April 11, 1885 (Thomas 485), and reprinted in November 1904 with drawings by Althea Gyles, the Irish artist who became known for illustrating the works of W.B. Yeats. It has since been widely anthologized. Given its provocative subject matter, illustrious author, and remarkable virtuosity, “The Harlot’s House” has garnered surprisingly little critical attention. Those few studies that do exist are brief and dated, and consider the work in largely formalist terms.1 I take an innovative and ambitious approach to Wilde’s poem, joining the “spectral turn” taken by scholars after Derrida’s 1993 Spectres of Marx, a move in which critics “embraced a language of ghosts and the uncanny” ­(Luckhurst 527) and began the field of spectrality studies. 2 To argue that “The Harlot’s House” is a haunted house, in the following three sections I draw upon deconstruction, queer theory, psychoanalysis, and New Historicism. I also establish the significance of a startling discovery I made while studying a manuscript of the poem in 2012.

Haunting “The Harlot’s House”  61 The first section, “Apparitional Allegories,” shows how “The Harlot’s House” is haunted by the ghosts of Poe and Baudelaire, and how its spectrality is bound up with allegory, (un)masking, and projection. The second, “Uncanny Sexualities,” demonstrates how the poem allegorizes male prostitution, and how its speaker represses his own ­queerness. The third, “Spectral Technologies,” explores how his repression engages the technologies depicted and suggested by the poem, and how the Gyles illustrations capture the technological, allegorical, and spectral qualities of the text. These three sections prove that “The Harlot’s House” is informed and animated by spectrality, and they demonstrate how ­haunting enables the poem to draw together phantasmal phenomena ranging from Poe’s tales of terror to male brothels, from drag balls to the Praxinoscope.

Apparitional Allegories While useful in analyzing the network of relations among “The Harlot’s House” and other texts, the term “apparitional allegories” is somewhat tautological: by definition, allegories are ghostly—as is intertextuality itself. In Mémoires: For Paul de Man, to explain the spectral quality of de Man’s conception of allegory, Derrida calls up the ghost of de Man, who in his turn conjures the shades of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Baudelaire. The French poet likewise summons the spirit of Poe. Referencing de Man’s Blindness and Insight (1971), Baudelaire’s The Painter of Modern Life (1863), and Coleridge’s Statesman’s Manual (1816), Derrida terms allegory and similar rhetorical figures studied by de Man “ghostly figures,” which, “[a]s we read in Baudelaire […] speak like phantoms in the text, certainly, but above all […] phantomize the text itself” (Mémoires 80). Allegorical texts are “phantom-texts” because, as Derrida notes, “Allegory speaks (through) the voice of the other, whence the ghost-effect” (80). At once exploring and exemplifying this “ghost-effect,” Derrida quotes de Man on the distinction between “the symbolical imagination” and “the allegorical form,” including in his quotation de Man’s own quotation of Coleridge’s description of allegory as a “phantom proxy,” and stressing that de Man “convoke[s] the ghost of Coleridge, and the phantom of which Coleridge speaks, precisely in relation to allegory” (80). Following Derrida’s example with this spectral chain and listening to the voices of the dead in conversation with one another, we recognize “The Harlot’s House” as a haunted house full of apparitional allegories: the danse macabre and the masque; Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” (1845), “The Conqueror Worm” (1843), “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839), “The Haunted Palace” (1839), and “The Man of the Crowd” (1840); Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal and “The Painter of Modern Life”—to identify only the most prominent specters. Furthermore, these apparitions haunt both “The Harlot’s

62  Jamil Mustafa House” and one another. “The Masque of the Red Death” and “The Conqueror Worm” allegorize the danse macabre and the masque, which ­ ikewise, themselves allegorize the human condition and class relations. L Roderick Usher’s poem “The Haunted Palace” allegorizes “The Fall of the House of Usher,” itself an allegory; and Poe’s “The Man in the Crowd” materializes in Baudelaire’s “The Painter of Modern Life,” whose apparition emerges in his Les Fleurs du Mal. Hauntings occur both within and between texts, and both forward and backward in time. Interpreting “The Harlot’s House” means navigating a crowded haunted house, and decrypting the steps of a complex danse macabre involving a number of ghostly writings. Chasing these ghosts enables us not only to appreciate the work’s rich intertextuality, but also to understand why Wilde made a crucial and dramatic change to the poem. In the Clark Library’s manuscript of “The Harlot’s House,” Wilde concludes the first stanza with “the Prince’s house” before crossing out “Prince” and substituting “Harlot.”3 I will investigate the significance of this substitution, which has thus far received no critical attention, in each of the chapter’s three sections. Here, I will observe that W ­ ilde’s original word, “Prince,” invokes Poe’s Prince Prospero and “The Masque of the Red Death.” Poe figured prominently in the conversations that Wilde held with Robert Sherard during the spring of 1883 in which he worked on “The Harlot’s House” (Ellmann 218), and Wilde highlights Poe’s influence on his poem in its third stanza, wherein the dancers move “[l]ike strange mechanical grotesques, / [m]aking fantastic arabesques” (lines 7–8). This allusion to Poe’s Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840), which included republished versions of “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “King Pest: A Tale Containing an Allegory” (a model for “The Masque of the Red Death”), encourages us to read Wilde’s poem through Poe in general and his allegories in particular.4 In so doing, we recognize that “The Harlot’s House” shares with “The Masque of the Red Death” a focus on the relations among the danse macabre, the masque, and the masquerade that is essential to understanding how the poem employs allegory and spectrality. We also discover how Wilde draws upon both “The Masque of the Red Death” and “The Fall of the House of Usher” to link (un)masking, unreliability, and projection through allegorical representation. In “The Masque of the Red Death,” Poe aligns the danse macabre and the masque, two allegorical modes concerned with masks and death. 5 The Red Death’s “corpse-like mask” both conceals and reveals his phantasmal nature, for it is “untenanted by any tangible form” and, with his “grave-cerements” (Tales 676), represents the whole of his substance. After assuming their own masks and costumes, the courtiers allegorize the Prince’s “conceptions” and “fancies,” for “it [is] his own guiding taste which [has] given character to the masqueraders” (673). Masks, then, both reify and disembody those involved in the masque, while

Haunting “The Harlot’s House”  63 proving necessary to allegorical representation. By changing the story’s title from “Mask” to “Masque” in 1845 (Sova 149), Poe augmented its allegorical power while underscoring not only the relations among the mask, masque, and masquerade, but also the spectrality of allegory—all of which features Wilde reproduces in “The Harlot’s House.” Looming behind “The Harlot’s House” is also “The Fall of the House of Usher,” whose unreliable narrator projects his depression and anxiety onto the House of Usher, which represents the mental disease afflicting both himself and his host, Roderick Usher. Wilde’s own unreliable speaker likewise projects his fears and fantasies onto the Harlot’s house. Roderick Usher’s allegorical ballad, “The Haunted Palace,” is alluded to in the Clark manuscript version of “The Harlot’s House,” wherein Wilde writes, “This palace is a thing of dust” instead of “[t]he dust is whirling with the dust,” which line appears in the published version (line 27).6 “The Haunted Palace” reveals “the tottering of [Usher’s] lofty reason upon her throne” (Tales 406) by describing a personified palace “[i]n the monarch Thought’s dominion,” where travelers watch “[v]ast forms that move fantastically / [t]o a discordant melody […]” (407). This weird dance viewed from outside recurs in “The Harlot’s House,” whose unreliable speaker projects himself onto the dancing shadows on the blinds. ­Central to his experience, and to that of his companion, is the dance (of death)—which shapes both the content and the form of the poem. The two people are drawn to the house by “the tread of dancing feet” (line 1), which is echoed in the poem’s own feet. These regular iambic tetrameter lines suggest dancing (and sex) at once energetic and monotonous, persistent and pointless. The rhythm and meter’s inevitable, recurring sound is reinforced by images of circles: the dancers are “spin[ning]” (line 10) and “whirling” (line 27), going nowhere. Alliteration at once propels and encumbers the lines: “Slim silhouetted skeletons” (line 14) go “sidling” (line 15) and perform “a stately saraband” (line 17) as the “dead are dancing with the dead” (line 26). Anaphora combined with alliteration serves the same purpose: “Sometimes a clock-work puppet pressed / A phantom lover to her breast, / Sometimes they seemed to try to sing. / Sometimes a horrible Marionette / Came out, and smoked its cigarette […]” (lines 19–23). The rhyme scheme too suggests a dance marked by repetition, one whose forward motion inevitably turns back upon itself, for the poem is organized into twelve three-line stanzas, each comprising a couplet and a third line that rhymes with its counterpart in the next stanza. Thus, “The Harlot’s House” both depicts and exemplifies a danse macabre in a haunted house. We discover the rationale for this spectacle in the speaker’s unreliability, which reveals itself suddenly and startlingly. For the first eight ­stanzas, his story is told mostly in the third-person plural: “We caught […] We loitered […] [We] stopped […] We heard […] We watched” (lines 1, 2, 3, 5, 10). In the ninth and tenth stanzas, however, the two people are

64  Jamil Mustafa differentiated in significant ways when we realize in quick succession that they are lovers, that the speaker’s companion appears to be female, and that they see the Harlot’s house quite differently: “Then, turning to my love, I said, / ‘The dead are dancing with the dead, / The dust is whirling with the dust.’ / But she, she heard the violin, / And left my side, and entered in […]” (lines 25–29). This break surprises us, for it abruptly discloses a profound difference in perspective between the two spectators and causes us to question our acceptance of the scene as a danse macabre. The speaker’s repeating “she” also strikes us, even as it reflects his own shock at her separating herself from him. This repetition not only appropriately disrupts the very regular and (until now) predictable iambic tetrameter, but also creates a spondee (“she heard”) that stresses her independent experience of the scene. Now presented with two contrasting points of view, one of which is subjective and fantastic, we realize that Wilde’s speaker haunts the Harlot’s house with a projection of his own sexual morbidity and terror. His projection is a form of masking that reveals important similarities between Poe’s Prospero and Wilde’s speaker, while leading us to consider the significance of masks in Wilde’s own life and work. Just as Prospero masks his dancing courtiers in order to give form to his fantasies, so too does the speaker mask the dancers in the Harlot’s house through simile and metaphor. While masking and manipulating others, these men themselves appear authentic by remaining unmasked. Wilde well understood strategic (un)masking, and he enjoyed wearing, removing, and contemplating the meanings of masks. While writing “The ­Harlot’s House,” he attended a masquerade ball at the home of the British painter Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema—where, with typical inconsistency, he refused to wear a mask (Ellmann 221). He did, however, assume and discard various literal and figurative costumes and masks during his time in Paris, using them to (re)invent and promote himself, and to link himself to famous authors both living and dead.7 He insisted “not only on wearing his masks, but on removing them as well,” for “[i]n both his life and his art Wilde stripped away in a repeated action of pretense and exposure the masks he had so cleverly contrived” (Fussell 125). For example, in “The Truth of Masks: A Note on Illusion,” he argues for archaeologically accurate productions of Shakespeare and for the importance of costume, only to conclude by unmasking himself and revealing his argument’s hollowness: “Not that I agree with everything that I have said in this essay. There is much with which I entirely disagree,” for “[a] Truth in art is that whose contradictory is also true,” and the “truths of metaphysics are the truths of masks” (CW, vol. 4, 228). This move not only recalls the Red Death’s (anti)climactic unmasking and unmaking, but also speaks to Derrida’s ghosts of allegory and Deconstruction more generally, leaving us at a loss with respect to the allegorical significance of “The Harlot’s House.” If we construe the speaker as the poet’s mask

Haunting “The Harlot’s House”  65 and look for Wilde beneath it, are we, like Prospero’s courtiers, attempting to grapple with a phantom? Wilde himself suggests as much. In “Pen, Pencil and Poison: A Study in Green,” he declares that “[a] mask tells us more than a face” (CW, vol. 4, 107). Likewise, in “The Critic as Artist,” Gilbert avers, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth” (CW, vol. 4, 185). In “The Harlot’s House,” the speaker’s figurative masks enable him to express his horror of unrestrained, spectacular sexuality. Enabled by masking, truth exists both on the surface and beneath it. Wilde’s remarks about masks indicate his recognition that allegorical art presents complex problems of authenticity, of surface and depth. “All art is at once surface and symbol,” Wilde declares in the Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891). The surface-depth dynamic in allegory—and especially in Wilde’s allegorical poem—is at once paradoxical and phantasmal, for the spectrality of “The Harlot’s House” is a function not only of its intertextual ghosts, but also of the mutual haunting between surface and depth that is fundamental to allegorical representation.8 On its surface, the poem allegorizes prostitution, as Richard Ellmann contends. He traces the link between sex and death that animates the text to an evening in Paris in 1883, when it seems Wilde “went to the Eden Music Hall and picked up a well-known prostitute, later to be murdered, called Marie Aguétant” (218). Recalling this encounter, Robert Sherard writes: I left him talking to her, and I can’t say whether he succumbed to her allurements or not, but next day when I called on him at the Hôtel Voltaire, the first thing he said to me was: “Robert, what animals we are.” (155) Ellmann construes Wilde’s poem as “a literary regurgitation” of his “disgust” at such animality in general, and at prostitution in particular, a practice “in which the dance of marketed love is also the dance of death” (218). His interpretation describes the poem’s surface, but not its depth. Beneath the straight surface of “The Harlot’s House,” we encounter a queer Victorian demimonde of cross-dressers, male brothels, and drag balls. Neither the poet’s nor the speaker’s revulsion at female prostitution is at issue, for the poem’s uncanny sexualities emerge from a conflict between repressing and embracing queer desire.

Uncanny Sexualities Uncanny sexualities haunt “The Harlot’s House,” which masks its representation of contemporary queer experience with an allegory of female prostitution wherein gender identity and sexual orientation are

66  Jamil Mustafa much less fixed than they appear. Allegory is closely associated with “the love that dare not speak its name” (Douglas 361), for it provides a covert means of expressing that which cannot be communicated openly. ­Drawing links among allegory, queerness, oppression, and repression, Alice A. Kuzniar notes that “because homosexuality has been censored both implicitly and explicitly, internally and externally, it has had recourse to indirect representation, and hence the enigmatic, oblique signification of allegory” (9). Allegorical representations of queer sexuality are inherently uncanny, for the “world as allegory is the world doubled, with overt surface and hidden depth of meaning,” and “the ‘doubling’ of allegory reinforces the uncanny, as a sense of an absent presence” ­( Jervis 36)—that is, a ghost. The specter of queerness haunts the speaker, an urban explorer who “[loiters] down the street” (line 2), and calls to mind not only Wilde’s own nocturnal strolls through Paris but also the artist-as-flâneur in Baudelaire’s “The Painter of Modern Life” and this figure’s inspiration, Poe’s “The Man of the Crowd” (1840). His being accompanied is unusual, for the flâneur typically roams alone, but we may logically conclude that his fellow walker is another man about town—particularly since the two “[stop] beneath the Harlot’s house” (line 3). When the speaker unexpectedly addresses his companion as his “love” (line 25), the possibility that Wilde is depicting a gay male couple opens to both the modern reader and the contemporary one attuned to queer subtexts—only, it seems, to be quickly foreclosed when “she, she [hears] the violin” (line 28), and the lover’s female identity is not only established but, through repetition of the feminine pronoun, emphasized. ­Under these circumstances, a straight pair is only somewhat less illicit than a queer one, for in the 1880s what woman would accompany a man to a brothel, except a prostitute such as Wilde’s companion Marie Aguétant? Yet, if she is a prostitute, why do the two stand outside until nearly dawn, rather than join the dance within? And why does the woman at last leave her companion in the street and enter the house without him? Even in the highly unlikely event that the two are slumming and the woman is moved by philanthropic “Love” to “[pass] into the house of Lust” (line 30) and rescue her fallen sisters within, why does the man not accompany and protect her? One answer to these questions is that “she, she” (line 28) may well be a he, and that the speaker’s rhythmically awkward repetition signals repression, thereby undercutting rather than underscoring his companion’s femininity. Her/his uncertain gender and sexuality are mirrored by the genderless “ghostly dancers” (line 10), and by the “horrible Marionette” that smokes “its”—not his or her—“cigarette” (lines 22–23). The only gendered dancer is the “clock-work puppet” who takes a lover “to her breast” (lines 19–20). Yet, as with “she, she,” the feminine pronoun may be less determinative than it seems, for gay men in England have referred to one another with feminine names and pronouns since at

Haunting “The Harlot’s House”  67 least the 1700s (Kaplan 20). Furthermore, and most suggestively, Wilde first envisioned a man’s house, “the Prince’s house,” before settling on “the Harlot’s house.” This change in venue does not necessarily signify a change in gender, however, as harlot is defined by the Oxford ­English Dictionary as a thirteenth-century “word of masculine gender” for a “vagabond, beggar, rogue, rascal, villain, low fellow, [or] knave,” which, in the seventeenth century, came to mean “a man of loose life, a fornicator.” By the 1400s, the term had also been applied to an “unchaste woman; a prostitute; a strumpet,” and by the 1500s, it referred to “unchaste persons of both sexes.” A queer, uncanny word, harlot captures the Victorian associations among female prostitutes, (cross-­dressing) gay men, and male prostitutes that inform the uncanny sexualities of “The Harlot’s House.” The most well-known Victorian case linking homosexuality, cross-dressing, and prostitution is that of Frederick Park (“Fanny”) and Thomas Boulton (“Stella”), who were arrested on April 28, 1870 at ­London’s Strand Theatre and charged with “conspiracy to commit the felony” of sodomy and “offense against public decency” (Kaplan 23). Both in courtroom testimony and in the press, the two were repeatedly compared with female prostitutes.9 Most pointedly, the Lord Chief ­Justice castigated them for assuming not only the appearance of women to whose sex they do not belong, but of fallen women of the lowest description, what in euphemistic language are called gay women but what you and I should call prostitutes of the street. (Kaplan 95) At issue was not whether Fanny and Stella posed as female prostitutes, but whether their impersonation was in earnest—that is, whether they had committed sodomy with the men they approached. The prosecuting attorney general claimed that the “persistency” of their cross-dressing “showed that it was not a matter of occasional masquerade” but “a pursuit” that “would admit of no such excuse or explanation, and appeared to require the institution of this prosecution,” while the defense lawyer characterized their dress and makeup as “theatrical” rather than “sodomitical” (Kaplan 91). Ultimately, the jury accepted this second line of reasoning, and Fanny and Stella were acquitted because the authorities failed to expose the reality behind their performance. Fanny and Stella’s trial was in the fairly recent past when Wilde composed “The Harlot’s House,” while the case of the Cleveland Street male brothel would begin in the near future. Unfolding at the time was the Dublin Castle Scandal, which began in the summer of 1883 with accusations in the press, continued with trials for libel, and culminated in August of 1884 with The Queen v. Cornwall and Others, in which both

68  Jamil Mustafa government officials and private citizens were tried for sodomy and conspiracy to commit sodomy.10 In the Dublin Castle Scandal, as in the case of Fanny and Stella, masquerade in general, and the drag ball in particular, played leading roles. Robert Fowler, known as “Mother Fowler,” and the cross-dressing Daniel Considine were “charged with keeping an ‘improper house’” (Cocks 141) for homosexual assignations. There, not far from the Castle, men would “call each other by women’s names” and sit with “soldiers in their laps, just as a boy would have a girl in his lap.”11 Another defendant, Malcolm Johnston, “The Maid of Athens,” described a remarkable form of masquerade. “I have heard of ‘a bitches’ ball,’” he told authorities. “It might be a ball for prostitutes, and it might be a ball for men prostitutes. I have taken part in a ball for male prostitutes at my father’s house about two years ago” (McKenna 223). The bitches’ ball conflates male and female prostitutes, as the prosecution in Fanny and Stella’s trial did when describing Stella as “[s]ometimes a male prostitute, sometimes a female” (Kaplan 94). Moreover, in connecting prostitution, homosexuality, and dance, the bitches’ ball harks back to the drag ball that Fanny and Stella attended on April 7, 1870 at the Royal Exeter Hotel. The host(ess), Amos Westrop Gibbings, “Carlotta,” testified at Fanny and Stella’s trial that the forty-five in attendance included six “gentlemen who were dressed as ladies” and “danced with men” (Kaplan 38). “I never went out in women’s clothes with the intention of walking the streets,” Gibbings explained, and averred, “I never had any other than an acting notion in putting on women’s clothes” (qtd. in Kaplan 38–39, 43). The editorialist for the Times remained suspicious. “If anything can add to the scandal of the case,” he wrote, “it is that at a ball given at a London hotel […] not less than six men in women’s clothes should have appeared, the giver of the ball himself being one.” Even if the “acts” of those at the ball “began and ended in mere folly,” it is “folly which verges so nearly on criminality that it ought not to escape the severest reprobation.”12 The fine line between masquerade and misdeed was again at issue, as it had been throughout Fanny and Stella’s trial, and as it remained when authorities attempted to prosecute those attending drag balls. In addition to the bitches’ ball and the dance at Haxell’s, gay men held drag balls at venues such as the Druids’ Hall in the City of London and the Temperance Hall in Manchester. Although the police raided the Druids’ Hall dance in August of 1854 and the Temperance Hall dance in September of 1880, neither raid resulted in convictions (Cocks 69–73). Drag is a form of masquerade, however problematic it was to the ­Victorian establishment; thus, by emulating conventional costume balls, drag balls “provided justification and cover for all kinds of indecency from cross-dressing and prostitution to homosexual desire, while preserving at the same time the image of semi-legitimate entertainment”

Haunting “The Harlot’s House”  69 (69). They thereby functioned as uncanny doppelgängers, as masquerades in a double sense. Similarly uncanny are the prostitutes’ dances in “The Harlot’s House,” which closely associate (male) prostitution, orgiastic (homo)sexuality, and dance. The quadrille, in which dancers frequently change partners, is a fitting metaphor for an orgy. When the speaker of “The Harlot’s House” describes “[s]lim silhouetted skeletons […] sidling through the slow quadrille” (lines 14–15), the alliterative sibilance and the liquid l sounds use fusion to reinforce the interchangeability of the dancers and the orgiastic nature of their dance. Those in the Harlot’s house also dance both a “saraband” (line 17) and a “waltz” (line 32). The saraband was “passionate and erotic in nature” (Brainard 194), “originally a lively Spanish dance used by prostitutes to attract customers” (Cardew 3). The waltz was at first considered licentious, since it allowed a “kind of sexual contact which had heretofore been unthinkable in public” (Katz 375). As depicted by the speaker of “The Harlot’s House,” these libidinous-­yetroutinized, half-hidden dances performed by “wire-pulled automatons” (line 13) not only suit a brothel but also, like the poem in which they feature, demonstrate all the aspects of the Freudian uncanny: doubling, repetition, the obscure, the automaton, and the haunted house. Sigmund Freud indicates that “the uncanny proceeds from something familiar which has been repressed” (247), and the uncanny sexualities of “The Harlot’s House” emanate from the speaker’s repression of queerness. In keeping with late-Victorian associations and conflations of prostitution, homosexuality, and cross-dressing, the speaker elides and eludes gender and sexuality alike, projecting his fears about (his own) homosexuality and mortality onto the dancers he watches. Scholars have emphasized “the transitory and dangerous nature” of “fin-de-­siècle homosexual love” (Vicinus 85) and described the “confusion of gay identity with a death-driven narrative” (Nunokawa 317). Death likewise shadows the Victorian prostitute, who “maintains complex relations with the corpse in the symbolic imagination of these times” (Corbin 211). As Freud notes, for many the uncanny manifests itself “in the highest degree in relation to death and dead bodies, to the return of the dead, and to spirits and ghosts” (241). At once drawn to and repelled by the utterly uncanny spectacle of a drag ball in a male brothel, confronting the ultimate abject objects in the form of queer prostitutes, the speaker distances himself from his doppelgängers—his double goers, who dance while he walks, and whose “tread” (line 1) both duplicates and contrasts with his “loiter[ing]” (line 2)—by envisioning them as “ghostly dancers” (line 10). He thus takes part in “society’s attempt to suppress homosexuality by relegating the queer subject to the role of ‘phantom other’” (Palmer 7) and representing “the homosexual as specter and phantom, as spirit and revenant, as abject and undead” (Fuss 3). His complicity in such suppression is evident in his decision to remain outside the Harlot’s house

70  Jamil Mustafa even after his companion enters it. By staying in the street, the speaker affiliates himself with the police who surveilled male brothels and drag balls rather than with the queer men who enjoyed themselves inside. His secret spectatorship also affords him the princely status and pleasure of the flâneur. “The spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito,” Baudelaire writes (40). “To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world […] and yet to remain hidden from the world” (39) is to savor watching without being watched. By originally situating the ball in “the Prince’s house,” Wilde underscored the Baudelairean, regal pleasure of voyeurism. This emphasis remains despite his change to the manuscript, for the ­Harlot’s house is still the Prince’s house insofar as it represents a privileged ­viewpoint: the speaker, like Prospero, watches, from a position of prestige, a masque(rade) allegorizing his own psyche. Furthermore, both the original venue and the speaker’s elevated class status—which we may infer from both his flânerie and his diction—align with the patrician nature of homosexuality as understood in the Victorian era, when “[i]t was the wealthy who appeared to create the norms of homosexual behavior” (Cook 38) and queerness “was primarily perceived as a trait of the wealthy classes” (Goodman 436). Cross-class homosexual encounters were typically seen within the context of prostitution and assumed to evidence “a sexually dissipated aristocracy and a working class who were either grasping or vulnerable to corruption” (Cook 39). A princely, queer, slumming speaker thus fits neatly into contemporary (mis)conceptions of links among homosexuality, class, and prostitution. The change from “the Prince’s house” to “the Harlot’s house” not only offers the speaker a wider scope for his imaginings, but also e­ xemplifies how Wilde’s poem resists the binaries of its era: heterosexual/­homosexual, male/female, aristocratic/plebeian, and inside/outside. As we have seen, harlot is a word of indeterminate gender; it is also a word that suggests class status without denoting it. Wilde’s change shifts the scene from an individual nobleman’s home to a milieu whose ownership and social status are much less determinate. Additionally, the poem’s new—and newly alliterative—location and title join harlot and house, rendering them ­unheimlich: like the Baudelairean cityscape, the Harlot’s house is both home and not-home, both private and public. Its blinds are drawn, yet its occupants are visible. Its noise and music are audible beyond its walls. Figures leave and enter it: “a horrible Marionette / [Comes] out” (lines 22–23), and the speaker’s companion “[enters] in” (line 29). The poem’s uncanny locale establishes binaries while facilitating their dissolution, as two increase to three or collapse into one. Both two and three are emphasized by the aab rhyme scheme, which replicates the duple meter of the quadrille, and the triple meter of the saraband and waltz. Rhyme likewise (de)constructs outside/inside and passive/ active. “[Loitering] down the moonlit street” (line 2), the speaker and

Haunting “The Harlot’s House”  71 his partner hear “the tread of dancing feet” (line 1). Although the “din and fray” (line 4) in the house contrast with their own stillness on the street, their loitering, stopping feet and the dancing ones are linked by the exact rhyme of “feet” and “street,” while the high-frequency vowel sound denotes excitement both in the house and on the street. Similarly, movement and immobility blur when the calm inside the house comes to replicate that outside it. After the speaker’s companion has entered the house, the dancers have “wearied of the waltz” (line 32) and the shadows have “ceased to wheel and whirl” (line 33), as alliteration (“wearied […] waltz”) and assonance (“ceased […] wheel”) signify newfound stasis. When “Love [passes] into the house of Lust” (line 30), another binary opposition collapses. This moment echoes that when Prospero loses control of his masque to the Red Death, who enters the abbey as the ball orchestrated by his rival abruptly concludes, “the music cease[s],” and “the evolutions of the waltzers [are] quieted” (Tales 674). The masques set in motion by Prospero and the speaker of “The ­Harlot’s House” are stopped by Death and Love, respectively, which reveal themselves as at once the true rulers and the legitimate spectators/­ subjects of the performances. Wilde’s poem might therefore allegorize Life and Love rather than Death and Lust. Certainly it is significant that whereas Poe’s masque(rade) ends in “Darkness” (677), Wilde’s ends in light. Yet “the dawn,” who “[creeps] like a frightened girl” (lines 35–36), rises like the ghost of Baudelaire’s “Dawn” in Les Fleurs du Mal, who “[makes] her way slowly on the still-­deserted Seine” (lines 25–26) while “the women of the streets / […] lay within their stupid sleep” (lines 13–14). Her appearance is ominous, given that it precedes by three months The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon and by four the Labouchère Amendment. In concluding his delineation of uncanny sexualities with the image of a streetwalking girl, Wilde unknowingly anticipates the legislative linkage of female prostitution and male homosexuality that would destroy him, ending his poem with a false dawn heralding a long night.

Spectral Technologies The apparitional allegories and uncanny sexualities of “The Harlot’s House” are closely linked to its spectral technologies, for the poem’s puppets, shadows, and automata function as avatars for the speaker’s fears and desires. His queerness, his voyeurism, his conflation of Eros and Thanatos—all are revealed by his dancing doppelgängers, who serve as both mirrors and screens for his unconscious. In so doing, they illustrate the relationship between optical and psychological reflection and projection in the text, and in the spectral technologies that inform it. By staging a (shadow-) puppet theater of repressed desire and conflicted

72  Jamil Mustafa subjectivity, “The Harlot’s House” draws upon contemporary entertainment technologies that at once express and exemplify the ghostly and the uncanny. These range from (shadow) puppets, marionettes, and automata to the (Projecting) Praxinoscope and the illustrations that Althea Gyles produced for the 1904 folio edition of the poem. Shadows, puppets, and automata are spectral technologies because, suspended within a liminal ontological category, they blur the opposition between the living and the dead. Shadow puppets are especially potent, for their darkness “becomes a symbol of the puppet’s material density as well as of its relation to things unseen, disembodied, and d ­ emonic,” functioning as “an emblem of the puppet’s closeness to death and its powers of sustaining life” (Gross 135). Recognizing the spectrality of these tech­ ilde’s poem positions nologies and rendering them even more uncanny, W familiar shadow puppets and marionettes alongside strange, contradictory hybrids: “mechanical grotesques,” “wire-pulled automatons,” and “a clock-work puppet” (lines 7, 13, 19). “Flesh is an essential feature of the grotesque subject” (Shabot 60), and grotesques are typically human beings, animals, or plants—organic as opposed to inorganic entities. Marionettes are pulled by wires and puppets handled by puppeteers, but automatons and clockworks function without wires or visible manipulation. By eliding distinctions among types of lifelike figures, “The Harlot’s House” emphasizes how all of them are defined not by their (in)organic qualities but by their lack of agency and free will: they require someone to pull their strings, control their bodies, or start their mechanisms. The poem thereby joined a late-Victorian debate about whether human beings were “mere thinking Automata, mere puppets to be pulled by suggesting-­strings” (Carpenter 27). It also followed allegories ranging from Plato’s parable of the cave to Poe’s “The Conqueror Worm” in portraying human existence as a theatrum mundi in which puppets play leading roles. Although Wilde’s speaker, like Plato’s cave dwellers, is enthralled by shadow puppets, it is not Plato but Poe who sets the stage for the puppet theater of “The Harlot’s House.” Human beings in “The ­Conqueror Worm” are “[m]ere puppets,” compelled to “come and go / [a]t bidding of vast formless things” (lines 12–13), chasing a ghost “[t]hrough a circle that ever returneth in / [t]o the self-same spot” (lines 21–22) until they are consumed by a “blood-red thing” (line 27) and “[t]he curtain, a funeral pall, / [c]omes ­ affirm / [t]hat the play is the tragedy, down” as angels in the audience “ ­ onqueror Worm” (lines 35–40). The poem’s ‘Man,’ / [a]nd its hero, the C ababcbcb rhyme scheme and its “Phantom chased for evermore” exemplify Freud’s repetition compulsion and death drive, which we also discern in both its predecessor “The Masque of the Red Death” and its successor ­ eterministically portray human be“The Harlot’s House.” All three texts d ings as puppets moving automatically through a danse ­macabre—but Wilde’s poem is distinctive in that it features an unreliable speaker who projects his own anxieties about autonomy onto those he observes.

Haunting “The Harlot’s House”  73 Prostitutes provide an appropriate screen for his projection, as ­ Victorian discourses characteristically construct the prostitute as one “ who lacks agency” and is mechanically “destined for a ‘downward path’” (Anderson 7). The fact that “automata of the eighteenth century were about equally male and female, while those of the nineteenth century were mostly female” (Wise 9) makes sense within this cultural context, especially when we recognize that displays of clockwork women “turned to titillating effect modish materialist philosophies which […] sought to mechanize the passions, and especially those of women” (Schaffer 56). Ironically, the only figures who demonstrate agency in “The Harlot’s House” are (apparently) women: the speaker’s companion and the personified dawn. Indeed, their actions are anti-automatic. When the speaker’s companion enters the Harlot’s house, its machinery winds down and its “shadows [cease] to wheel and whirl” (line 33). Motion is now not mechanical and circular but organic and linear, as “down the long and silent street, / [t]he dawn, with silver-sandalled feet, / [creeps] like a frightened girl” (lines 34–36). For the first time, a simile evokes a subject, “girl,” rather than an object—“mechanical grotesques,” “leaves,” “automatons,” “thing” (lines 7, 12, 13, 24). The companion’s action has effected a dramatic change in the scene, whereas the speaker remains ­inert—at least until the next evening, when the repetitive and compulsive voyeurism of the flâneur again drives him into the streets. The uncanny qualities of the dancers both illustrate and exacerbate the speaker’s anxiety. He and his companion are drawn by “dancing feet” (line 1), a synecdoche that recalls Freud’s formulation of the uncanny as including “feet which dance by themselves” (244) and prepares us for the pervasive uncanniness to come. Doubles proliferate, ranging from the once-living “dead” (line 26)—including “skeletons,” “ghostly dancers,” a “phantom,” and “dust” (lines 14, 10, 20, 27)—to the never-alive-but-­ lifelike “mechanical grotesques,” “shadows,” “automatons,” “clock-work puppet,” and “Marionette” (lines 7, 9, 13, 19, 22). Similes create further duplication, as shadows are likened to machines, ghosts to leaves, skeletons to automatons, a marionette to “a live thing” (line 24), and dawn to a girl. Struggling for verisimilitude, like Offenbach’s operatic version of Hoffmann’s quintessentially uncanny dancing doll Olympia, “[s]ometimes they [seem] to try to sing” (line 21). The hesitancy of the line echoes that of the attempt, and both underscore how these replications are rendered yet more abject and horrific by their deficiencies. Equally disturbing is their transparency, for “[a]utomata, like doubles, hollow out the subject, make its workings visible and its inner, private secrets subject to knowledge, power and manipulation” (Botting 87). Disclosing the speaker’s secrets in a phantasmagoria, the ghostly dancers projected on the blinds function as both mirrors and screens for his unconscious. Their optical, psychological, and mechanical workings are drawn not only from those of (shadow) puppets, marionettes, and automata,

74  Jamil Mustafa

Figure 4.1  Praxinoscope Theatre. Source: Science & Society Picture Library/Getty Images.

but also from pre-cinematic devices popular when “The Harlot’s House” was written. Especially relevant are Charles-Émile Reynaud’s 1879 Praxinoscope Theatre (Figure 4.1) and 1882 Praxinoscope Projector (Figure 4.2). In both machines, pictures on a strip spun around the inner surface of a cylinder and were captured by mirrors at its center to produce the illusion of movement. The Praxinoscope Theatre used a glass-covered viewing aperture to create a background before which the figures moved. The glass was both reflective and transparent, “arranged to reflect the image of a scene placed in front of it, while allowing the figure animated by the Praxinoscope to be seen through it” (Mannoni 371). Since the pictures were framed by a black band, they were superimposed upon this background. The Praxinoscope Projector’s lamp cast both the mirrored images and the various backgrounds onto a screen. The mechanism resembled that used to make spirits appear onstage in the famous “Pepper’s Ghost” performance, which was staged in Britain from 1863 through the twentieth century (Carlson 40–43). Referencing this illusion and underscoring the spectrality of his own invention, Reynaud described the latter as “a new application of a device already used in theatres to produce impalpable ghosts” (Mannoni 371). His predecessors also acknowledged the ghostly essence of their creations. Étienne-Gaspard Robert’s 1798 Fantoscope (the projector for the first phantasmagoria), Joseph Plateau’s 1831 Phantasmascope (Phenakistiscope), Coleman Sellers’s 1861 Phantasmascope (Kinematoscope), and Henry Renno Heyl’s 1870 Phasmatrope

Haunting “The Harlot’s House”  75

Figure 4.2  Praxinoscope Projector. Source: Chronicle/Alamy Stock Photo.

were spectral not only in name but also in function, since, as Derrida notes in “The Ghost Dance,” “[w]hen the very first perception of an image is linked to a structure of reproduction, then we are dealing with the realm of phantoms” (61). His remark is echoed by Terry Castle, who emphasizes our “spectralizing habit”—a “compulsive need, since the mid-nineteenth century, to invent machines that mimic and reinforce the image-producing powers of [un]consciousness” (137). Marina Warner likewise observes that such devices “mirrored the melancholic mind” and were used “to project imagined interior processes” (15). Thus have optical and psychological reflection and projection joined to manifest terrors. Foremost among these was Death, who often appeared in pre-­ cinematic representations of the danse macabre. Involving spinning cylinders, depicting repetitive actions, and influenced “by the vast expansion of interest” in dance (Guido 139), devices such as the Praxinoscope “established a form of attraction, based essentially on rotation, repetition, and brevity, which was to dominate throughout the [Victorian] period” (Dulac 228), and which often found expression in images of dancers. Heyl’s Phasmatrope, an improved magic lantern wherein slides on a wheel rotated in front of a light source (Musser 45–47), made its debut in 1870, when the inventor projected images of himself and a partner waltzing on a large screen (Musser 47–48; “First Public” 14). The name of Lionel Beale’s Choreutoscope (1866), “one of the first

76  Jamil Mustafa attempts to project a moving figure onto a screen” (Turner 304), emphasizes its relation to dance. The inventor’s favorite sequence of slides portrayed a skeleton dancing and removing its head (Turner 304), perhaps in a nod to ­Christiaan ­Huygens, who, in 1659, created similar slides for his magic lantern—images inspired in their turn by the skeletons in Hans Holbein’s La Danse de la Mort (1538) (Jones 24). This skeleton dance was popular among Beale’s audiences and recurs “from century to century, throughout the imagery of the [magic] lantern” and its descendants (Mannoni 235). It was likewise common in the marionette theater, where the disjointing “magnetic skeleton” would dance, disassemble, and reassemble (McCormick 141–3). Victorian audiences saw their fears made manifest, as skeletal shadows and puppets danced for their shock and amusement. Watching dancing shadows, skeletons, and puppets projected “across the blind” (line 9) that at once figures a screen and a dreamer’s closed eyelids, the speaker of “The Harlot’s House” evokes and resembles these audiences, even as the poem as a whole evinces the rotation, repetition, brevity, and focus on dance that characterized pre-cinematic technologies. The drawings produced by Althea Gyles for the 1904 edition (Figures 4.3–4.7) illustrate both these general features and those that distinguished the Praxinoscope and the Projecting Praxinoscope: “a constant tendency on Reynaud’s part to isolate the figures and to make them conspicuous,” as manifest first “in the large black lines

Figure 4.3  A lthea Gyles, “We Caught the Tread of Dancing Feet.” Source: Reproduced courtesy of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library.

Figure 4.4  A  lthea Gyles, “The Shadows Raced Across the Blind.” Source: Reproduced courtesy of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library.

Figure 4.5  A lthea Gyles, “Then Took Each Other by the Hand.” Source: Reproduced courtesy of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library.

Figure 4.6  A lthea Gyles, “Sometimes a Horrible Marionette.” Source: Reproduced courtesy of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library.

Figure 4.7  A lthea Gyles, “The Dead Are Dancing with the Dead.” Source: Reproduced courtesy of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library.

Haunting “The Harlot’s House”  79 separating each figure on the praxinoscope strips, and then by the separation of figure and background” (Dulac 237). Seen as a series, the Gyles illustrations resemble Praxinoscope strips. Their outer frames, consisting of thick black lines, emphasize their inner frames, which latter evoke  not only the windows of the Harlot’s house but also the mirrors of the ­Praxinoscope and, given the decorative lintel, the proscenium of the Praxinoscope ­T heatre—which in turn recalls the proscenium of the puppet theater. The poem describes “the blind” (line 9), indicating just one window, which functions in a fashion similar to that of the ­Praxinoscope Theatre’s aperture. Gyles’s blind also works like the aperture, insofar as it is almost transparent rather than translucent. In addition, the illustrations, like the Praxinoscope strips, maintain a single background across which “[t]he shadows [race]” (line 9). In keeping with Reynaud’s pioneering technique, these shadows are quite distinct from their background. ­I ndeed, as the series progresses from one figure to several, the perspective in the drawings becomes increasingly complex. Likewise, the circular motion crucial to both the Praxinoscope and “The Harlot’s House” becomes ever more apparent and frenzied, captured by the curves of vines and bodies. The spectrality of the illustrations is evident not only in their correspondences to the Praxinoscope, but also in their allegorical qualities. The series frames the poem both literally and figuratively. The windows evoke the frames of mirrors, photographs, and paintings; thus, art forms uncannily duplicate. The fluted, column-like windows, the arches and balustrades featuring satyrs, and the satyrs within the frames combine to fashion a new allegory in which prostitutes become nymphs and clients satyrs. Wilde’s conflation of the organic and inorganic is retained in the vines and the net that entrap the women, which are echoed in the chains of the lintel. In Figure 4.6, the “horrible Marionette” (line 22)—a gentleman in evening dress who might resemble the poem’s speaker—is without strings, but his rigid posture and extended arms suggest the puppet and automaton. The woman in Figure 4.7 is more obviously marionette-like, pulled by vines emanating from a skeletal hand. Gyles transforms the speaker’s “dead […] dancing with the dead” (26) into a dance of both the living and the dead, but her evolving representation of the danse macabre is arguably more disturbing than his. The violinists in Figures 4.3–4.6 are ­corporeal; the one in Figure 4.7 is skeletal. Similarly, whereas the woman in Figure 4.3 is herself a violinist and the women in Figures 4.4–4.6 are active and independent, the woman in Figure 4.7 is seized and literally swept off her feet by vines and skeletons. Although Gyles’s reimagining of Wilde’s text as a hunt in which satyrs pursue nymphs appears heteronormative, her illustrations retain his poem’s queerness, for the gender of the women’s dance partners is sometimes in question. The androgyny of the person on the right in ­Figure 4.5 is indicated by the curves of the body but the apparent absence of breasts—and

80  Jamil Mustafa reinforced by the suggestively placed phallic violin bow. Likewise, while the horned skeleton in Figure 4.7 seems to be male, the genders of the skeletal violinist in that drawing and the skeletal dancer in Figure 4.6 are indeterminate. The illustrations for the folio edition of “The Harlot’s House” at once capture and enhance the allegorical and psychosexual complexity of the poem. Wilde lived just long enough to see and commend Gyles’s contributions to their project. In the “Prefatory Note” to the 1904 edition, the publisher Leonard Smithers proclaims that [t]he Issue is accompanied by five weirdly powerful and beautiful Drawings, the work of Althea Gyles, who has completely entered into and finely interpreted the spirit of the Author, and whose designs met with his unqualified approval when they were shewn [sic] to him shortly before his death. (Mason 538) In a letter dictated from bed on November 21, 1900, nine days before he died, Wilde anticipates Smithers and characterizes Gyles as “an artist of great ability.”13 Her illustrations for “The Harlot’s House” ­confirm his characterization, for they usher the text into a new cinematic ­century. Luminous, meticulously framed, and marked by subtle gradations of light and shadow, these eerie images evoke the latest and most sophisticated visual technologies while paying homage to their precursors, ­the phantasmagoria and the shadow-puppet theater. Gyles adds yet another story to this haunted house of a poem, building upon its apparitional allegories, uncanny sexualities, and spectral technologies. In contributing her imaginings to those of Poe, Baudelaire, and Wilde, she enters a ­creative dance of the living and the dead that should c­ ontinue with further investigations into the many ghosts haunting “The ­Harlot’s House.”

Acknowledgements I am deeply grateful for the expertise and collaboration of Pearl Brilmyer, Abigail Joseph, and Petra Dierkes-Thrun, with whom I studied “The Harlot’s House” during a 2012 NEH Summer Seminar, Oscar Wilde and His Circle, under the splendid guidance of Joseph Bristow. I thank Pearl for her knowledge of automata and agency, Abigail for defining harlot and teaching me about drag balls, and Petra for her insights into prosody, dance, and the polymorphous perversity of Monsieur Vénus. Scott Jacobs at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library provided valuable and cheerful assistance in locating and reproducing materials. Finally, I thank Elaine Hadley and Nancy Workman for helping me to rethink and revise this essay.

Haunting “The Harlot’s House”  81

Notes 1 Although some critics mention “The Harlot’s House,” few interpret it. J.D. Thomas considers only its publication history. Bobby Fong briefly argues for the speaker as a “Victorian dreamer [who] would have seen sexual temptation as a threat to his devotion to an ideal of love” (200). Florian Unzicker’s translated German-language lecture, likewise very modest in scope, concludes that the text “criticises the strict Victorian conventions, which condemn sexuality as evil and morally corrupt” (7). The only sustained analysis of “The Harlot’s House” is Bernhard Fehr’s 1916 article, in German, which relates it to Wilde’s conflict with James McNeill Whistler. 2 For an introduction to and overview of spectrality studies, see Maria del Pilar Blanco and Esther Peeren, The Spectralities Reader: Ghosts and H ­ aunting in Contemporary Cultural Theory. 3 The Clark Library has an autograph MS written from memory in 1892 in which this substitution is made. See MS Wilde W6721M1 H286. The substitution also appears in Mason’s reproduction of another MS in Bibliography of Oscar Wilde (56). For more information on the publication history of the poem, see Mason, A Bibliography, 57–60 and Fong 296. 4 Also noteworthy is Wilde’s plan to include a “Masque of Death” in his unfinished 1882 play The Cardinal of Avignon. See Ellmann 408. 5 A pictorial allegory that emerged in fifteenth-century Europe, the danse ­macabre figures the universality and leveling power of Death (Welsford 78). A ­Renaissance political allegory exalting the monarch and court, “the masque seems often to have suggested the thought of death” (Welsford 391). Poe may have been inspired to connect the danse macabre and the masque by Isaac ­Disraeli, who had done so in his 1824 Curiosities of Literature (E. Carlson 512). 6 See MS Wilde W6721M1 H286. 7 After concluding his American tour and arriving in Paris, Ellmann writes, Wilde had “given up his American costume” and “was now dressing like a Frenchman” (220). He wore “a white wool dressing gown” to write, “as Balzac had worn a monk’s cowl” (215). He also posed “in a red waistcoat” to imitate Théophile Gautier (216), the poet remembered in part for wearing his famous red doublet to the February 25, 1830 premiere of Victor Hugo’s play Hernani. This outfit paid homage not only to Gautier but also to Hugo and Poe: the narrator of “The Masque of the Red Death” notes that Prospero’s masquerade features “much of what has been since seen in Hernani” (Tales 673). 8 Poe, who appreciated allegory’s spectrality, viewed the most sophisticated sort of allegory as a “mystic” duality that “spiritualizes” the text. See Eric Carlson 282. 9 See Kaplan 23, 29, 34, 68–69. See also Cook 15. 10 See Hyde 128–33. 11 “Deposition of John M’Clean,” August 4, 1884, POST 120/62. British Postal Heritage Museum and Archive. 12 Times [London], May 31, 1870, p. 9. 13 See letter from Oscar Wilde to Frank Harris (CL 1206–207).

Works Cited Anderson, Amanda. Tainted Souls and Painted Faces: The Rhetoric of F ­ allenness in Victorian Culture. Cornell UP, 1993. Baudelaire, Charles. The Flowers of Evil. Translated by James McGowan, ­Oxford UP, 2008.

82  Jamil Mustafa ———. “The Painter of Modern Life.” The Nineteenth-Century Visual ­C ulture Reader, edited by Vanessa R. Schwartz and Jeannene M. Przyblyski, ­Routledge, 2004, pp. 37–42. Botting, Fred. Limits of Horror: Technology, Bodies, Gothic. Manchester UP, 2008. Brainard, Ingrid. “The Saraband in Dance and Music.” Review of Die ­Sarabande: Tanzgattung und musikalischer Topos. Dance Chronicle, vol. 23, no. 2, 2000, pp. 193–9. Cardew, Cornelius. “John Cage—Ghost or Monster?” Leonardo Music Journal, vol. 8, 1998, pp. 3–4. Carlson, Eric W., ed. A Companion to Poe Studies. Greenwood P, 1996. Carlson, Marvin. “Charles Dickens and the Invention of the Modern Stage Ghost.” Theatre and Ghosts: Materiality, Performance and Modernity, edited by Mary Luckhurst and Emilie Morin, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, pp. 27–45. Carpenter, William B. Principles of Mental Physiology: With Their A ­ pplications to the Training and Discipline of the Mind, and the Study of Its Morbid ­C onditions. 1874. Cambridge UP, 2009. Castle, Terry. The Female Thermometer: Eighteenth-Century Culture and the Invention of the Uncanny. Oxford UP, 1995. Cocks, Harry G. Nameless Offences: Homosexual Desire in the Nineteenth Century. 2003. I. B. Tauris, 2010. Cook, Matt. London and the Culture of Homosexuality, 1885–1914. ­Cambridge UP, 2003. Corbin, Alain. “Commercial Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century France: A System of Images and Regulations.” The Making of the Modern Body: Sexuality and Society in the Nineteenth Century, edited by Catherine Gallagher and Thomas W. Laqueur, U California P, 1987. del Pilar Blanco, Maria and Esther Peeren, eds. The Spectralities Reader: Ghosts and Haunting in Contemporary Cultural Theory. Bloomsbury, 2013. Derrida, Jacques. “The Ghost Dance: An Interview with Jacques Derrida.” ­I nterview with Mark Lewis and Andrew Payne, translated by Jean-Luc Svobada. Public, vol. 2, 1989, pp. 60–73. ———. Mémoires: For Paul de Man. Translated by Cecile Lindsay, Jonathan Culler, and Eduardo Cadava, Columbia UP, 1986. Douglas, Lord A. “Two Loves.” Sexual Heretics: Male Homosexuality in ­English Literature from 1850–1900, edited by Brian Reade, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1970, pp. 360–2. Dulac, Nicolas and André Gaudreault. “Circularity and Repetition at the Heart of the Attraction: Optical Toys and the Emergence of a New Cultural Series.” The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded, edited by Wanda Strauven, Amsterdam UP, 2006, pp. 227–44. Ellmann, Richard. Oscar Wilde. Alfred A. Knopf, 1987. “First Public ‘Movie’ Exhibit.” National Glass Budget: Weekly Review of the American Glass Industry, 19 June 1915, p. 14. Fong, Bobby. “Wilde’s ‘The Harlot’s House.’” Explicator, vol. 48, no. 3, 1990, pp. 198–201. Freud, Sigmund. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Translated and edited by James Strachey, vol. 17, Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1955. Fuss, Diana, ed. Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories. Routledge, 1991.

Haunting “The Harlot’s House”  83 Fussell, B. H. “The Masks of Oscar Wilde.” The Sewanee Review, vol. 80, no. 1, 1972, pp. 124–39. Goodman, Ruth. How to Be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life. 2013. Liveright-Norton, 2014. Gross, Kenneth. Puppet: An Essay on Uncanny Life. U of Chicago P, 2011. Guido, Laurent. “Rhythmic Bodies/Movies: Dance as Attraction in Early Film Culture.” The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded, edited by Wanda Strauven, Amsterdam UP, 2006, pp. 139–56. Hyde, Harford M. The Other Love: An Historical and Contemporary Survey of Homosexuality in Britain. Heinemann, 1970. Jervis, John. “Uncanny Presences.” Uncanny Modernity: Cultural Theories, Modern Anxieties, edited by Jo Collins and John Jervis, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, pp.10–50. Jones, David J. Gothic Machine: Textualities, Pre-Cinematic Media and Film in Popular Visual Culture, 1670–1910. U of Wales P, 2011. Kaplan, Morris. Sodom on the Thames: Sex, Love, and Scandal in Wilde Times. Cornell UP, 2005. Katz, Ruth. “The Egalitarian Waltz.” Comparative Studies in Society and ­History, vol. 15, no. 3, 1973, pp. 368–77. Kuzniar, Alice A. The Queer German Cinema. Stanford UP, 2000. Luckhurst, Roger. “The Contemporary London Gothic and the Limits of the ‘Spectral Turn.’” Textual Practice, vol. 16, no. 3, 2002, pp. 527–46. Mannoni, Laurent. The Great Art of Light and Shadow: Archaeology of the Cinema. Translated and edited by Richard Crangle, U of Exeter P, 2000. Mason, Stuart and Christopher Millard. Bibliography of Oscar Wilde. T. ­Werner Laurie, 1914. ———. A Bibliography of the Poems of Oscar Wilde: Giving Particulars as to the Original Publication of Each Poem, With Variations of Readings and a Complete List of All Editions, Reprints, Translations, &c. E.G. Richards, 1907. McCormick, John, Clodagh McCormick, and John Phillips. The Victorian Marionette Theatre. U of Iowa P, 2004. McKenna, Neil. Fanny and Stella: The Young Men who Shocked Victorian ­England. Faber and Faber, 2013. Musser, Charles. The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907, vol. 1, U of California P, 1994. Nunokawa, Jeff. “All the Sad Young Men: AIDS and the Work of Mourning.” Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories, edited by Diana Fuss, ­Routledge, 1991, pp. 311–23. Palmer, Paulina. Lesbian Gothic: Transgressive Fictions. Cassell, 1999. Poe, Edgar A. “The Conqueror Worm.” Complete Poems, edited by Thomas O. Mabbott, U of Illinois P, 2000, pp. 325–6. ———. Tales & Sketches, Volume 1: 1831–1842. Edited by Thomas O. Mabbott. 1978. U of Illinois P, 2000. Schaffer, Simon. “Babbage’s Dancer and the Impresarios of Mechanism.” ­C ultural Babbage: Technology, Time and Invention, edited by Francis ­Spufford and Jenny Uglow, Faber and Faber, 1996, pp. 53–80. Shabot, Sara Cohen. “The Grotesque Body: Fleshing Out the Subject.” The Shock of the Other: Situating Alterities, edited by Silke Horstkotte and Esther Peeren, Amsterdam UP, 2007, pp. 57–68.

84  Jamil Mustafa Sherard, Robert H. The Life of Oscar Wilde. T.W. Laurie, 1906. Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. Checkmark Books, 2001. Thomas, Joe D. “The Composition of Wilde’s ‘The Harlot’s House.’” Modern Language Notes, vol. 65, no. 7, 1950, pp. 485–8. Turner, Gerard L. Nineteenth-Century Scientific Instruments. Sotheby, 1983. Unzicker, Florian. Oscar Wilde—“The Harlot’s House.” Grin Verlag, 2007. Vicinus, Martha. “The Adolescent Boy: Fin-de-Siècle Femme Fatale?” ­Victorian Sexual Dissidence, edited by Richard Dellamora, U of Chicago P, 1999, pp. 83–106. Warner, Marina. Phantasmagoria: Spirit Visions, Metaphors, and Media into the Twenty-First Century. Oxford UP, 2006. Welsford, Enid. The Court Masque: A Study in the Relationship between P ­ oetry and the Revels. 1927. Cambridge UP, 2015. Wilde, Oscar. The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde. Edited by Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart-Davis, Henry Holt and Co., 2000. ———. The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Edited by Ian Small, et al., O ­ xford UP, 2000–, 7 vols. Wise, M. Norton. “The Gender of Automata in Victorian Britain.” Genesis ­Redux: Essays in the History and Philosophy of Artificial Life, edited by Jessica Riskin, U of Chicago P, 2007, pp. 163–95.

Part II

Aesthetic Worlds

5 Wilde’s Cosmos Language, Citation, and Aesthetic Communities Megan Becker-Leckrone

Almost a full century after the height of aestheticism, French theorist Michel Serres, a polymath equally at home in the intricacies of phenomenology and poststructuralism as he is in the shimmering lyricisms of the fin-de-siècle, seems to channel the aphoristic exuberance of Oscar Wilde when, early in his book The Five Senses, he pauses to praise the Greeks. In “their exquisite wisdom,” Serres writes, the Greeks combined order and adornment in the same word, the art of adorning and that of ordering. “Cosmos” designates arrangement, harmony and law, the rightness of things: here is the world, earth and sky, but also decoration, embellishment or ornamentation. Nothing goes as deep as decoration, nothing goes further than the skin, ornamentation is as vast as the world. (32) It is an early-twentieth-century painting that occasions Serres’s observation, by the late-Impressionist painter Pierre Bonnard (1867–1947). ­Bonnard’s Nude in the Mirror depicts a woman “at her washstand like the artist at his palette,” elaborately arrayed with makeup and brushes, “the whole cosmetic apparatus,” and in this scene Serres finds a rich conceit. “Superior to the physicist,” calling to mind bad jokes about confusing the cosmologist with the cosmetologist, the skillful woman before the mirror “imitates the demiurge, … decorates a layer, a variety of world, submits it to law,” enacting the full sense of cosmos as ordering and ornamenting at the same time. The entire subject of Bonnard’s painting is contrived, Serres argues, to render skin “identical to” canvas, on the order of art, of creation (32); in it, the “artist reveals the order of the world in the order of appearances, as does she…. Cosmetics approaches aesthetics in the sense of art history” (33). Serres makes explicit what is at stake in all these iterations of the analogy between cosmetics and art, which is not just that cosmetics is an art but that art is, in the full, Greek sense of the word, cosmetic. The full sense of the word is key. Written in 1985, translated into English twenty years later, Serres’s book is a vivid, sprawling meditation on

88  Megan Becker-Leckrone the embodied, lived sensation as a conscious, or rather self-conscious, act—a principled effort to live an aesthetic life in the anesthetic, anesthetized episteme of our own turn of the century. The English translation of Les Cinq Sens pictures an empty Bordeaux bottle in long shadow, and much of the book dwells on the earthy sensations of a familiar French masculinity, from a man who thinks more philosophically about wine than most of us would imagine possible; recounts his harrowing escape from a ship fire of almost Homeric visceral horror; ponders tattoos, feminine veils, female bodies; identifies lyrically with Orpheus. Though he dwells on Bonnard, who—like Max Beerbohm—came of age in the era of Joris-Karl Huysmans, Walter Pater, and Oscar Wilde but lived to see the end of the Second World War, and though his subjectively driven, epicurean, finely detailed prose in many ways closely echoes their own, Serres makes no reference to the aestheticist tradition. His major philosophical point of reference, to the extent that his eclecticism allows such conjecture, is French phenomenology. Still, to be reminded by Serres that “[a]dornment equals order” and “[c]osmos and cosmetics … have the same origin” feels consistent with the cosmopolitan, paradoxical Wilde, whose works one almost immediately indexes with the simplest markers of “art is cosmetic” tradition. In this paper, I will examine Oscar Wilde’s own most eloquent encomium to the wisdom of the ancient Greeks, his philosophical dialogue “The Critic as Artist,” one of the four critical essays published in his 1891 volume Intentions. Wilde’s essay, like Serres’s book, is about more than Greek wisdom, but it is his starting point. When Wilde’s pseudo-Socratic interlocutor, Gilbert, declares early in the essay that it is “the Greeks … to whom we owe the critical spirit,” this statement belongs within a complex constellation of rhetorical revaluings with which Wilde takes on the entire literary critical tradition (CW, vol. 4, 141). The conditions of possibility Gilbert imagines, at the end of the essay, out of which a “cosmopolitanism criticism,” in the modern age, might emerge, follow directly from these Greek beginnings and are part of its same spirit, and “[i]t is to criticism that the future belongs” (199). Wilde’s criticism, regardless of its rhetorical trappings, follows a systematic, if not syllogistic, logic disguised by turns in dense and attenuated aphorisms. What appears in a page in the “Preface” to The Picture of Dorian Gray plays out across dozens in what Wilde stages as a dialogue that keeps its interlocutors up all night, ending when “it is dawn already” (206).1 For Wilde, who so often flaunts the trappings of decadent frivolity at his reader and deploys paradox for its shock value, serious engagement with the oldest theoretical understandings of art—Plato’s and Aristotle’s debate about the value of art in a well-ordered republic—permeates his critical work, his two critical dialogues in particular, “The Decay of Lying” and “The Critic as Artist.” Everywhere in these essays, Wilde

Wilde’s Cosmos  89 disputes Socrates’s condemnation of the poet as someone who creates by merely holding up a mirror to the world, tricking his fellow citizens into believing he has made something. That the artist is engaged in a lowly, dishonest business incompatible with a well-regulated society is the premise of every objection Socrates levels at representational art. Socrates judges art only for its value within an ideal republic; his approach is moral, ethical, and political. The stakes of this argument, throughout the history of Western discourse, have been high: it is on this basis that Socrates concludes he must banish the poet from his ideal republic in Book X of the Republic. Restoring poetry to its rightful place in a well-ordered republic and bestowing upon the poet his deserved respect have been the project of every poetic apologist since Aristotle. Aristotle’s rebuttal against Plato’s Republic depends, from the first lines of Poetics, on seeing poetry “in itself and its kinds,” and judging it accordingly, providing the taxonomy, the criteria for a formal evaluation of art, judging its “goodness” as such, not its “goodness for.” Wilde’s cosmetic criticism self-consciously sees itself in this tradition and, I will argue, places him squarely on the side of Aristotle, whom he reads, somewhat willfully, as wholly on the side of his own aesthetic vision, which is both anti-mimetic and materialist. The extent to which Wilde yokes Aristotle to the side of aesthetic criticism, holds him up as an exemplar of Greek art criticism’s paramount attention to the materiality of language, deserves greater attention. “It is the Greeks who have given us the whole system of art-criticism, and how fine their critical instinct was, may be seen from the fact that the material they criticised with the most care was … language” (141), especially when we remember that Aristotle’s Poetics marks one of the oldest associations of the term cosmos with a delineation of types of poetic language. 2 To be sure, Wilde rejects the mimetic theory that “art is a mirror of life,” that its function is to copy things, the static appearances of life. 3 But he objects on another ground as well: because this primal separation of the aesthetic and the ethical in the history of criticism informs Wilde’s own most memorable critical pronouncements—for example, that “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.” Instead, he insists that the artist is himself “world-making” in precisely the way Michel Serres outlines. Wilde’s interlocutors invoke Socrates and Aristotle throughout W ­ ilde’s critical dialogues, outwitting the original Socratic logician at his own game, agreeing with the argument of Books II and X of the Republic that poetry tells lies, and taking and revaluing “lying” as its highest virtue, because “lying” is what liberates the poet from the slavish trap Socrates has set for him, in saying art can only copy life, that art makes nothing.4 Against Plato’s mimetic theory of art, Wilde offers a cosmetic one, which Serres so succinctly outlines. In “The Decay of Lying,” Vivian insists to Cyril that “Balzac is no more a realist than H ­ olbein was. He created life. He did not copy it” (82). Against Wilde’s own antagonists,

90  Megan Becker-Leckrone Platonic Idealism on the one hand and nineteenth-century Realism on the other, he situates Aristotle. In “The Critic as Artist,” we see a similar articulation: The ethical effect of art, its importance to culture, and its place in the formation of character, has been done once and for all by Plato; but here we have art treated, not from the moral, but from the purely aesthetic point of view. (139) Wilde gives Plato his due for having “dealt with many definitely artistic subjects,” who even “first perhaps stirred in the soul of man that desire which we have not yet satisfied, the desire to know the connection between Beauty and Truth, and the place of Beauty in the moral and intellectual order of the Kosmos” (139, emphasis mine). But it is ­A ristotle who has the truly animating Greek critical spirit. His criticism turns Plato’s static “order of the Kosmos” into actionable principles, “transfer[able] to the sphere of art” (139–40). In the realm of Platonic abstraction, the riddles of this “connection between Beauty and Truth” and the “order of the Kosmos” exist in suspended animation, but in Aristotle’s Poetics, “one perfect little work of aesthetic criticism … you will find that they are still vital and full of meaning” (140–1). For “Aristotle, like Goethe, deals with art primarily in its concrete manifestations, taking Tragedy, for instance, and investigating the material it uses, which is language, its subject matter, which is life” (141).5 Wilde identifies Aristotelian catharsis, too, as “essentially aesthetic, … not moral,” but just as importantly, has Gilbert tell Ernest that Goethe read Aristotle thusly, against Lessing: Goethe’s appearance and reappearance throughout the essay serves as one of a network of enlightened critic/artists who do and make by reading a “perfect little work” and reminding us of its vitality, working with “the material it uses, which is language” as its own clay, for a new creation. In this passage, then, Gilbert sets up his critical allegiances and philosophical models, but so too do we see a glimpse of the elaborate rhetorical play Wilde sets up to enact what he has Gilbert argue. Around Aristotle, Goethe, and many others, Wilde mobilizes a community of like-minded figures with generative insights. They make, but also remake, the world, through “concrete manifestations,” using its “material …, which is language” in new configurations. What Goethe perceives, many other figures throughout the essay speak, share, recite, whisper, perform, through “lips” (a pervasive metaphor throughout the text, and one to which I will return). Shakespeare, Carlyle, Browning, Ruskin, Pater, and myriad others belong to this community, mulling each other’s words. Ernest, who famously judges the critic to be lesser than the artist, also judges criticism as the noisy work of lesser minds, the “shrill clamour” that spoils the ideal conditions for creation. “It

Wilde’s Cosmos  91 seems to me,” Ernest supposes, “that the imagination spreads, or should spread, a solitude around it and works best in silence and in isolation” (128). Gilbert sides with “clamour.” Wilde’s collection of aesthetic citizens, who speak to and through one another, form community through such communication, is the essay’s sustained, active demonstration that Ernest’s supposition is exactly wrong.6 Through Gilbert’s strange incantatory cadences, he takes on “the members of the Browning Society,” who, in purporting to celebrate him, instead dully “show that he was simply inarticulate” (129). Gilbert’s language wills Browning’s greatness into being through verbal repetition that foreshadows Wilde’s citation of Walter Pater’s Mona Lisa passage from The Renaissance, which plays, I will argue, a central role in “The Critic as Artist.” Recalling Pater’s defense of Wordsworth in his “Preface” to the Renaissance, Gilbert acknowledges elements of Browning’s work that are imperfect and unlovely, but insists, nevertheless, that “[t]aken as a whole, the man was great” (129). Permutations of that phrase (“he was great”) repeat and culminate in Browning entering the pantheon of Shakespeare: “If Shakespeare could sing with myriad lips, Browning could stammer through a thousand mouths” (130). This mannered encomium, in its climax, becomes an almost literal séance, summoning to life Browning’s cast of characters, gathering together a vivid testament to greatness. Gilbert notes, as he praises Browning’s polyphony, that “[e]ven now, as I am speaking … there glides through the room the pageant of his persons” (130). This strategy, repeated throughout “The Critic as Artist,” illustrates the dynamic world-making Wilde engages, through word and voice, to build aesthetic communities that transcend time and place. Sounding the basic principle of Browning’s dramatic monologues, but also uttering a more universal critical truth, Gilbert later declares, paradoxically: “To arrive at what one really believes, one must speak through lips different from one’s own” (187). Wilde’s dialogic form concretely bears witness to this truth, of course; the cosmetic aesthetic, and ultimately his cosmopolitan principle, derives from this principle at work on every level of this essay. Cosmos: taking Serres’s cue, I want to suggest that Oscar Wilde’s invocations of the concept of “cosmopolitanism”—his hypothesis at the end of “The Critic as Artist” that “It is criticism that makes us ­cosmopolitan”— is fully understood only by recognizing how the valences of that word’s cognates within Wilde’s essays are understood; in other words, by not reducing cosmos to a mere qualifier or intensifier of politês. To see how Wilde figures the aesthetic subject as a world citizen, in an ethico-political sense, requires first understanding how Wilde conceives the relation of art to world, how the “decorative” function of the artist can be seen as being “as deep as the world.” These two versions of Wilde’s “philosophy” are not contradictory, but rather stages of one long argument, each a part of a greater whole. The “cosmopolitan Wilde” need not, indeed should not,

92  Megan Becker-Leckrone be understood at the expense of the aesthetic Wilde, nor is cosmopolitanism a synonym for ethics. To say that the aesthetic has nothing to do with ethics is not, in itself, a non-ethical argument. To view Wilde’s cosmopolitanism in the realm of ethics, or as a bridge between the aesthetic and ethics, overlooks the richness of the concept of “cosmopolitanism” within Wilde’s aesthetics; so too does it risk effacing the significance of insisting upon the aesthetic as a unique form of judgment, distinct from ethical judgment. Put more simply, moving too quickly to the realm of the polis in Wilde’s invocation of a cosmopolitan criticism risks ignoring just what cosmopolitanism means, on a granular level, for Wilde’s aesthetic criticism, for his understanding of the aesthetic. How, in other words, does aesthetic “criticism make us cosmopolitan” (202)? “You will not ask me to give you a survey of Greek art criticism from Plato to Plotinus. The night is too lovely for that,” Gilbert teases early in “The Critic as Artist” (139). One of the distinctive features of Wilde criticism of the current generation is its acknowledgement that Gilbert’s is no empty boast. At the turn of this century, a visible feature on the horizon of Wilde scholarship, coming more sharply and intricately into focus in the intervening years, is that of Oscar Wilde as a serious critical thinker, a “philosopher” even, whose body of writing articulates a sophisticated, coherent, and consequential contribution to the most important intellectual debates of his day; an “aesthetic critic,” of course, but increasingly, too, a man of ideas who regarded the aesthetic as a dynamic component of a more comprehensive philosophy. Advances in archival digitization, renewed attention to Wilde’s notebooks, and the extraordinary Complete Works project have all helped give Oscar Wilde his due as a writer profoundly engaged with the world around him, a keen observer of the society of manners or the aesthetic debates into which he was so obviously plunged, to be sure, but also an active participant in some of the most complex ethical, social, and political conversations of his time. Of course, this Wilde has been there all along, albeit veiled by a relentless irony perhaps too readily interpretable as unseriousness. Draped in the garb and deploying the verbal wit of the quintessential decadent, Wilde assumed the pose of ironic unseriousness willingly. Sitting for photo shoots in resplendent top coats, having “self-portrait after self-portrait” painted for him, Wilde attended meticulously to the dictum biographer Richard Ellmann attributes to him without citation: “‘The first duty in life is to assume a pose,’ he said; ‘what the second duty is no one yet has found out’” (311). In this epigrammatic encomium to what Ellmann calls Wilde’s lifelong project of constructing an “artistic world in which to live artistically,” we see an utterance so characteristically Wildean that its specific provenance seems perhaps immaterial. For Wilde deploys characters in all his work—even his criticism—who speak in nearly identical cadences. They appear, that is, in their iterable resemblance to one another, their shared traits and verbal habits, to be uniform exemplars

Wilde’s Cosmos  93 of a supposed decadent ideal, or thinly disguised surrogates for Wilde “himself.” Three of the four critical essays in Wilde’s Intentions feature speakers or subjects wrought from this form: frivolously self-absorbed dandies, cooly detached from the real world, living by the credo of art for art’s sake. Even accounting for the essays’ iconoclastic form and ironies, it is easy to misread Wilde’s arguments and overlook the rhetorical intricacies by which they are expressed. In a book that seems everywhere to celebrate imagined paradises, to prefer a self-contained world of artifice, it can be difficult to see the lineaments of an author, and a set of ideas, very much grounded in the world he did not merely create but, like all of us, inhabits. Several decades of late-twentieth-century scholarship, too varied and voluminous to summarize here, helped lay the groundwork for newer visions of a socially engaged and philosophically estimable Wilde; in this way, perhaps it makes more sense to view the current state of Wilde studies as an extension, rather than a dialectical rejection, of an earlier vision. In fact, the critics of the 1980–90s were the ones who expelled much of what Linda Dowling calls “the last reminders of the older view,” works whose “controlling impulse” is to see in Wilde and Decadence manifestations of “a cultural episode with sensational or lurid overtones” (ix). Ellmann’s influential biography reads Wilde’s work as a complex expression of and struggle with his sexual identity, and in its time signaled an important shift in criticism toward more complex readings of queerness in Wilde’s art and life. It featured a new kind of “seriousness.” If Ellmann identifies Wilde’s dandiacal obsessions as part of a preoccupation with “poses and masks,” he also understands these to be more than simple enactments of decadent self-absorption. Along with the “[p]ortraits … and mirrors” that animate the action of The Picture of Dorian Gray, they are not mere tropes for artificiality, but useful “subjects for his dialectic” of the self that preoccupied Wilde (311). Meanwhile, critics like Linda Dowling note that it is not until the late 1960s that Wilde criticism sees the last gasp of an endeavor that mines Wilde’s sexual biography for its “sensational or lurid overtones,” and warns that even the “more serious view of Decadence as a cult of artifice in art and literature” still contains within it a judgmental bias which believes, on some level, that in “Wilde’s trial for homosexual practices in 1895, … Decadence, too, was on trial” (ix). The shifting critical purview has come to see Wilde’s Decadence less as a pose than a stance, less in retreat than in relation, less the embodied exemplar of (and martyr for) an idea than a dynamic interlocutor in discursive communities, “real” and “imagined.”7 Against the tenacious notion of decadent writing as a closed universe and conceptual deadend, scholars have probed aspects of Wilde’s writing that challenge it. What emerges is an actively engaged Wilde: worldly, intellectual, ethical, political. A cosmopolitan Wilde, as kosmopolitês: a citizen of the world,

94  Megan Becker-Leckrone world citizen. It emerged as a topic of robust scholarly debate on the cusp of our own fin-de-siècle, with Julia Prewitt Brown’s Cosmopolitan Criticism: Oscar Wilde’s Philosophy of Art (1997) and Amanda ­A nderson’s The Powers of Distance: Cosmopolitanism and the Cultivation of Detachment (2001) acting as prime movers of this idea.8 Both Brown and Anderson give indications that the focus of their studies serves a corrective purpose, if for very different reasons.9 The figure of a cosmopolitan, philosophical Wilde militates against the indomitable popular image of Wilde the wit, the dandy, the quotable Wilde whose greatest work of art was his life. It also marks a more subtle shift in Wilde criticism, from cultural to more overtly political concerns.10 For Brown, the “high esteem in which Wilde was held as a thinker” by key literary theorists makes it all the more disappointing that such esteem “has not led to the appreciation of Wilde’s critical writing that one might have expected” (xv). Moreover, Brown sees Wilde, a deep reader of philosophy, as deserving a rightful place among “the great cosmopolitan-materialist critics” of the twentieth century, “such as Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin … who were most alive to the very questions Wilde poses concerning the nature of art” (xv). Anderson also, though differently, presents her work in certain corrective relation to the criticism of an earlier era that had, in her view, reached its apotheosis and distinguished itself from a “critical fascination with Wilde” whose motive is the “valorization of irony” for its own sake, and she rejects what she calls “the predilection among postmodern and literary theorists for the mode of irony, a form of detachment that can claim the insights of critical distance without carrying the onus of earnest enlightenment” (152, emphasis mine). But such critical typographies are themselves reductive and are offered here as illustrations, not endorsements. The critical shift I am interested in identifying is, in the most useful and learned scholarship of the last decades, set not in opposition to these “other” Wildes, but in critical dialectic with them. “Valorization” has little to do with it: the multitude of what Wilde’s texts say, do, suggest, invoke, perform is simply there. The best Wilde scholarship of every generation demonstrates that Oscar Wilde contains such multitudes, and new attention to Wilde’s criticism promises to open up new worlds within the world of his texts. In the decades since these important works were published, Wilde’s cosmopolitanism has been more broadly conceived. In The Decadent Republic of Letters, Matthew Potolsky argues that, for Wilde and others, writing was not merely a vehicle for expressing allegiance to a set of independent ideas one could label “aesthetic” or “decadent,” but rather the medium expressly enlisted to perform Decadence and, in the process, announce fealty to a community that, like Walter Pater’s genealogies of “Renaissance” figures, transcends historical period and national borders. Charles Baudelaire, Potolsky reminds us, models this concept of community on the Enlightenment Republic of Letters (7).11 He writes,

Wilde’s Cosmos  95 “decadence is a consciously adopted and freely adapted literary stance, a characteristic mode of reception, rather than a discernible quality of things or people. It is a form of judgment and a way of doing things with texts” (4, emphasis mine). Potolsky argues that a “vision of cosmopolitan community … pervades the movement”; not only did decadent writers not “isolate themselves,” but they are in fact deeply preoccupied with the writerly “relationship to others,” who “construct a new and more amenable imagined community … composed of like-minded readers and writers scattered around the world and united by the production, circulation, and reception of art and literature” (6). In his study of the Republic of Letters, intellectual historian Anthony Grafton reminds us that physical isolation was the norm for scholars for the majority of human history. Nevertheless, this “interdisciplinary, international community of scholars existed both as a number of utopian projects and a set of labile but consequential rules for the conduct of scholarly life and debate” (7). The group’s collective discussion helped shape the way individuals studied and wrote about the past and the present. …They worked hard to understand the dynamics of this complex dialectical process on every level, from language itself to the analysis of complex sources. (7) The suggestive title of Grafton’s book, Worlds Made by Words: Scholarship and Community in the Modern West, names precisely the dynamic I am exploring in this chapter: Wilde’s place within—and impact upon—the Decadent Republic of Letters. Wilde formulates canny strategies for conceiving, in “The Critic as Artist” and elsewhere, aesthetic criticism’s engagement with the broader world in which it exists, both historically and geographically. Wilde conceives of aesthetic criticism as a vital force in the world. In one sense, that is a bland truism, not an argument. But, as is true of Wilde’s most enduring epigrammatic assertions, there is another sense, activated by the strong sense of each key term (aesthetic, criticism, vital, force, world). It means much more. Alive and generative, the source and stuff of life itself, aesthetic criticism is not just an integral part of the world, but itself world-making. While I recognize important critical attention that’s been given to Wilde as a “cosmopolitan critic,” I am urging that we consider that word cosmopolitan (kosmopolitês) literally, which Wilde rhetorically invites the reader to do. Specifically, how does Wilde conceive of the critic, ideally, as a world citizen or, if it is not the same thing, a citizen of the world? As such, my understanding of Wilde’s “cosmopolitanism” bears little manifest resemblance to Brown’s or Anderson’s understanding of the term—as Wilde’s effort to reconcile the aesthetic with the ethical, art

96  Megan Becker-Leckrone with life, artistic detachment with a practical, moral engagement with the actual world. My contention is that Wilde’s aesthetic philosophy is not striving to find a practical, moral engagement with the actual world, in its premise, enactment, or conclusion. He is emphatically rejecting the ontological hierarchy of that very claim. Art gives order to the world; its fundamental function is not to copy an existing world, but to make one, from the “raw materials” of life, as he says in “The Decay of Lying.” Wilde’s aesthetic philosophy pertains to the “actual world” by insisting on how powerfully self-conscious and genuinely creative art shapes how we conceive of our world. Brown argues that De Profundis demands critical attention not just for its biographical pathos, but as a culminating expression of an aesthetic philosophy that Wilde had been developing, as his Oxford notebooks attest, since his undergraduate days.12 Together with essays like “The Soul of Man Under Socialism” and “The Critic as Artist,” Brown reads in Wilde an attempt, albeit cruelly cut short, to reconcile the aesthetic with the ethical that puts him more directly in line with the efforts of Arnold and Schiller, than with those of Walter Pater. As is well known, Arnold’s assessment of the edifying “function” of art in a serious, “critical” life and Schiller’s program for “The Aesthetic Education of Man” were expressly grounded in the assumption that cultivating aesthetic sensibilities served a greater, more important social good. Brown minimizes Wilde’s lineage with Pater to minimize Pater; Wilde is an “aesthetic philosopher,” but Pater remains an aesthete, a connoisseur of sensations. Can we take them, aesthetics and ethics, apart? Can we presuppose that Wilde was concerned with both aesthetic and ethical philosophy without collapsing the former into some subsidiary of the more serious, more “useful,” ethical worldview? My proposal is that we can, and we should. Doing so offers a vantage point for understanding how Wilde might have seen the relationship between art and life, the artist/critic and the world that remains rooted in the aesthetic. It is also, I believe, a more faithful reading of Wilde’s own, rather pervasive, insistence that we must not conflate the two; more strongly, that collapsing aesthetics into ethics repeats the “very serious error[s]” of the nineteenth century—its devotion to realism, its unquestioned assumption that art has a mimetic responsibility to hold a mirror up to life. What complicates what Wilde means by “cosmopolitanism” is the ambiguity of how he puts its two cognates together, kosmos and politês. As I suggested earlier, taking the word apart makes evident Wilde’s emphasis on the figurativity of his own critical language, and its place within long-standing aesthetic conversation, including Pater’s. Surely Wilde seems to invite such etymological scrutiny, in the logical steps Gilbert moves through on the way to declaring that “[i]t is Criticism that makes us cosmopolitan” (202). “It is criticism that, by concentration, makes culture possible,” he proposes first; it is possible because

Wilde’s Cosmos  97 “culture” resides in even “the very smallest fragment of language or art” (201). The assertion itself invokes Pater’s intricate argument that “grave readers” seeking to strip language of all residual ornament must contend with “the elementary particles of language” that retain their figurativity nonetheless. The aesthetic critic—a “lover of words for their own sake”—strives to remain “fully aware … of all that latent figurative texture in speech.” Pater neatly describes this practice, in his essay on “Style,” as being “alert not only for obviously mixed metaphors …, but for the metaphors mixed in all our speech” (17). All of these subtle correspondences between Pater and Wilde serve as my authority for asking what Wilde might mean by a “cosmopolitan criticism,” to ask what latent figurativity Wilde might be drawing on in invoking the term in the first place.13 When, late in Wilde’s “The Critic as Artist,” Gilbert says to Ernest that “[i]t is criticism that makes us cosmopolitan,” the statement reads like an epilogue, an after-thought to an exhaustive discussion that stretches through the night until dawn, at once part of Gilbert’s long summing-up and supplementary to it. A number of dramatic cues emphasize this status. At this late moment, the Socratic (and Wildean) Gilbert asserts to the earnest Ernest, who has been silent for some time, that “I have answered … already” the question of “the use … and influence of Criticism” (202). On the other side of a semicolon, he continues: “there is this also to be said. It is Criticism that makes us cosmopolitan” (404). And a paragraph later, Gilbert’s argument is still animated, still dialogic. “No: the emotions will not make us cosmopolitan,” he asserts without having been asked. And again, having suggestively invoked Goethe, Gilbert waxes metaphorically that, from Goethe’s “lips,” has sounded the “note [that] will become … the starting point for the cosmopolitanism of the future” (203). What resonates for me in the remarkable turn in which Gilbert defines a “cosmopolitan criticism” is how aptly it also describes the actual rhetorical work of aestheticism the essay both calls out for praise and itself demonstrates again and again. I believe Gilbert’s vision of a cosmopolitan criticism offers one name—and intertextuality might be another—for what aesthetic criticism makes and makes happen on the level of the letter. As many commentators have acknowledged, Wilde’s criticism is perpetually discursive or dialogical, always in “conversation,” so to speak, with a multiplicity of interlocutors allusively engaged both explicitly and implicitly. A particularly rich example is Wilde’s conceptual engagement with Walter Pater, which here and throughout Intentions is multiform, manifesting itself by way of reference, citation, example, emulation, terminology, and even a kind of contagious, concatenated syntax. In his elaboration of a cosmopolitan criticism, he envisions and calls into being a “republic of letters” convened by shared affinities, not national borders, spanning space and time. What binds Gilbert with Pater, and Pater with Leonardo, and Leonardo with Goethe, and Goethe with

98  Megan Becker-Leckrone Florian, and Wilde with Arnold via Pater with Arnold, and Wilde with Wilde via Pater, sets up an intertextual community that surpasses quotidian time or history. Indeed, the sprawling temporality of the cosmopolitan criticism Gilbert describes is perhaps the most resonant way the cosmopolitan “World-Spirit” recalls Pater’s own critical spirit, whether by dwelling on the Weltschmerz that Pater’s Florian precociously and unaccountably shares with Goethe in “The Child in the House,” or the “touch of Germany” Leonardo da Vinci ahistorically shares with Goethe in The Renaissance. For Gilbert, Goethe, “a German of the Germans,” is cosmopolitan neither because of, nor in spite of, his pride of country, but because his love of “cultivation” goes beyond place altogether. Indeed, Goethe signals for Gilbert “the starting point for the cosmopolitanism of the future,” in which love of beauty guards against the hatreds spawned by love of place. This vision is, moreover, “modern,” not just because it looks past nation toward some transnational “unity of the human mind,” but also because it is motivated by what Gilbert elsewhere singles out as a specifically “modern” relationship to the literary past. What Gilbert calls “cosmopolitan” also helpfully frames the pervasive trope, everywhere in both Pater’s and Wilde’s texts, of aestheticism coming to life, again and again, across regional space and time, generating borderless fellowship of a privileged group Pater describes in “Diaphaneitè,” as including “The artist and he who has treated life in the spirit of art” (249). In this sense too, “cosmopolitanism” is an apt metaphor for aestheticist writing as such—that is, the actual material work of producing the aesthetic community. Gilbert tells Ernest that the materials of precisely the criticism he is about to call “cosmopolitan” may be woven from the merest “thread” (201). Earlier in the chapter, I have identified Wilde’s assertion that “Criticism can recreate the past for us from the very smallest fragment of language or art” (201, emphasis mine). In this emphatically material, linguistic sense of the generative and regenerative power of collecting, admiring, borrowing from, and rewriting existing art as a means of producing new art, “cosmopolitanism” so defined is profoundly suggestive—perhaps even for aestheticism as such, where it seems to me almost impossible to think of an example in which the generative force of a given text is not motivated by explicitly mediated and mediating encounters. Beyond the network I have been tracing within “The Critic as Artist” and its resonances with Pater’s and a more general aestheticism, examples are innumerable. Des Esseintes, the infamous protagonist of Joris-Karl Huysmans’s A Rebours, comes to mind, as does the crowded cast of authors (Wilde included) with whom Mario Praz finds fault in his magisterial, if imperfect, 1933 book, The Romantic Agony. Infinitely more learned and temperate than the egregious Max Nordau, Praz nevertheless offers a condemnation of D’Annunzio’s texts in language remarkably similar to Wilde’s vision of a cosmopolitan critic, down to

Wilde’s Cosmos  99 the archaeological metaphor. In D’Annunzio, Praz is dismayed to find “a scrap heap of countries and climates, a kaleidoscope which can be twirled round ad infinitum and as one likes” (273). Only somewhat less damningly, he singles out Wilde for “irresistibly remind[ing] one of his sources,” for “ransacking the dictionary for fabulous monsters,” and generally of dwelling on familiar, even identifiable tropes, terms, and stories out of weakness, yielding to temptations he “cannot resist” (256–7). In “The Decay of Lying,” Wilde’s Socratic mouthpiece declares at the start of the critical dialogue that “What Art really reveals to us is Nature’s lack of design, her curious crudities, her extraordinary monotony, her absolutely unfinished condition” (73), as he declines Cyril’s suggestion that they take their conversation outside, where they may “go and lie on the grass, and smoke cigarettes, and enjoy Nature” (73). Inimitably turning the whole of Baudelaire’s argument—in “Éloge du Macquillage”—into a punch line, Wilde’s Vivian quips, “[i]f Nature had been comfortable, mankind would have never invented architecture, and I prefer houses to open air” (74). But “The Decay of Lying” is after something more as well, which draws out the fuller sense of the “cosmetic” dimensions of art than Baudelaire and many of Wilde’s fellow Decadents exploited by drawing on the term’s figurative constellation (cosmetics and makeup, but also decoration, embellishment, ornament, jeweling, japanning, gilding, embroidery, dandyism, and so on). Baudelaire squarely places his aesthetic philosophy against the Romantics’ deification of Nature, and, by extension, their subordination of artist to the role of humble, fallen supplicant to a more perfect Nature, their art a consoling, if generative, supplement; he provocatively reverses this hierarchy, gives privilege to the artificial, the man-made, for the both humanizing and beautifying improvements it makes to raw Nature. We see Max Beerbohm boil down this formula in his own “Defence of Cosmetics,” in the first volume of The Yellow Book, when he (satirically, he’ll later claim) rejoices at the end of the era, “[e]arly in this century” when “[a]ll things were sacrificed to the fetish Nature” (68). The day of “sancta simplicitas” has ended and “we are ripe for a new epoch of artifice” (65). “The Decay of Lying,” as I outlined earlier, engages the aesthetic issues of its day by reanimating Western philosophy’s foundational debate about the nature and value of poetry, as established by Plato in Books II, III, and X of the Republic. In Book II, Socrates declares that representational poetry is false, the product of myth-makers like Hesiod and Homer whose lurid, distorted stories of misbehaving gods have no business in the education of the future guardians of the republic. That poetry lies is fundamental; that, at its best, it does not create but only “holds a mirror up” to life, is coextensive with this same logic. That poets merely “copy” a preexisting reality, and thus “make” nothing useful, good, or true, justifies Socrates’s decision, on moral grounds, to banish poetry

100  Megan Becker-Leckrone from his ideal republic. Aristotle defends poetry as a thing “in itself” that can be done well or poorly and judged accordingly, a judgment that is purely formal, or aesthetic; choosing Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex as his ideally constructed tragedy, despite its morally dubious protagonist (Socrates condemns the story of Cronos and Uranus, specifically, on the grounds that it is not, so to speak, family-friendly), is one of the Poetics’ many indirect rhetorical masterstrokes. Arguably the best distillation of this ancient debate ever written is Wilde’s line in the “Preface” to The Picture of Dorian Gray, swearing definitive allegiance with Aristotle: “There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.” Skirting the line between provocation and blasphemy no doubt gives Wilde’s paradoxical proposals their staying power, but their shimmering ironies have been sources of confusion. One of his most prolific and earnest readers, Max Nordau, was also one of his worst. In his sensational 1892 polemic, Degeneration, Max Nordau reflects broadly on the end of a century and worries that Wilde’s pronouncements may herald the end of civilization itself. He cites an enormous array of culprits responsible for this civil, psychological, and intellectual decay—from petty criminals, to “hysterics” and “neurasthenics,” to painters and poets and those who appreciate their art. Though he protests throughout that he does not want them to be the focus of his treatise, Nordau extends his greatest critical attention to that final group. So-called artistic “degenerates” receive overwhelming attention in this 500-page book, from its first sections on “Decadents and Aesthetes” to it final screed against “German Plagiarists.” Throughout his argument, Nordau maintains little distinction between those whose art he dislikes and the criminally craven or insane; for him, “the founding of aesthetic schools” and “the banding of criminals” represent the same phenomenon (30). We can see this remarkable conflation in the following diagnostic reading of this degenerate tendency, where he lays characteristically disproportionate blame on the artist rather than the criminal: There is yet another phenomenon highly characteristic in some cases of degeneracy, in others of hysteria. This is the formation of close groups or schools uncompromisingly exclusive to outsiders, observable to-day in literature and art. Healthy artists or authors, in possession of minds in a condition of well-regulated equilibrium, will never think of grouping themselves into an association … If any human activity is individualistic, it is that of the artist. True talent is always personal. In its creations it reproduces itself, its own views and feelings; and not the articles of faith learnt from any aesthetic apostle; … it constructs its work in the form organically necessary to it, not in that proclaimed by a leader as demanded by the fashion of the day. (29)

Wilde’s Cosmos  101 It is hard to read Nordau’s complaint itself, and the presumed “common organic basis” on which it stands, as anything less than “hysterical,” ­ scar in at least two modern senses of that word. It expresses the logic O Wilde so expertly skewers in “Pen, Pencil and Poison,” his highly ironic ­ ineteenthappreciation of Thomas Griffiths Wainewright, the real-life n century artist, forger, and murderer Wilde hails as an accomplished renaissance man. Unwittingly acting out the very dynamic by which decadent texts separate outsiders from insiders, Nordau utterly misses the joke, soberly concluding from “Pen, Pencil and Poison” that “Oscar Wilde apparently admires immorality, sin and crime” (319). Nevertheless, I would like to take Nordau at his earnest word long enough to identify what he notices about the complicated dialectic between otherness and community in his observations on the supposed “degeneracy” of the “aesthetic school.” He gets Oscar Wilde wrong in absolutely every way. But paradoxically, Nordau’s observations are so precisely backward that he serves, finally, as a weirdly useful guide to the subtle set of distinctions by which Wilde repeatedly asserts his aesthetic theory, and moreover engages with the long-standing “quarrel between poetry and philosophy” Socrates cites as he summons the resolve for poetry’s banishment. In separating out “healthy” from “degenerate” artists, Nordau mobilizes the most stubborn philosophical dualisms upon which the long history of aesthetics, rooted in Platonic idealism, fundamentally depends and from which fin-de-siècle Decadence emphatically breaks. When, in a long chapter entitled “Ego-Mania,” Nordau cites one of the wilder paradoxes presented in “The Decay of Lying” to argue that Wilde himself ego-maniacally insists that artists, not nature, created the fogs of London, we can detect a lack of careful reading. When he similarly ignores the dialogic setup of “The Critic as Artist,” prefacing, unattributed, a passage in which the speaker, Gilbert, excoriates both realist and romantic poetry by crudely summarizing that “[l]ike his French masters, Oscar Wilde despises Nature” (319), Nordau’s simplification achieves a practically telescopic clarity. In the same way, the so-called “symptoms” of the “aesthetic school” are accurately observed, if oddly diagnosed. For the assertion of a kind of communal otherness, a strange fellowship of antinomianism, is in fact a remarkably important model in aesthetic criticism, one arguably in play from Gautier and Baudelaire to W.B. Yeats. Nordau’s stubbornly romantic valorization of the artist as the singular progenitor of the work of art here merges with a version of the Aristotelian defense of poetry, locating the impulses of imitative art with the fundamental imitative drive of man himself.14 Prompted by Ernest, the dialogue’s conventionally earnest Socratic foil, Gilbert argues against Matthew Arnold’s authoritative dictum that the purpose of criticism is “to see the object as in itself it really is.” When Gilbert makes the recognizably Paterian claim that “the critic’s sole aim

102  Megan Becker-Leckrone is to chronicle his own impressions,” an echo of Pater’s own revision of Arnold from the “Preface” to The Renaissance where Pater says the aim of criticism is to “see the object as in itself it really is … to me,” Ernest responds with opprobrium: “I seem to have heard another theory of Criticism.” Ernest is the voice of the Victorian doxa, systematically presenting the common aesthetic assumptions of his day; in response to every one of the (by my count) eight theses Ernest propounds, Gilbert goes against the doxa, against orthodox opinion with unorthodox, paradoxical reversals of them. Gilbert demonstrates this rhetorical pattern when he recites verbatim Arnold’s phrase, with a mock bow to his authority and hyperbolic description of its widespread hegemonic acceptance: “Yes: it has been said by one whose gracious memory we all revere … that the proper aim of Criticism is to see the object as in itself it really is.” We see Wilde’s more obvious contrarian streak in the next sentence, which baldly states its opposition to the “revered” opinion: “this is a very serious error.” This sheer reversal, outrageous and seemingly willfully perverse, is what Wilde is perhaps best known for—for instance, the claim in “The Decay of Lying” that “art does not imitate life, rather life imitates art” (which Nordau the literalist thoroughly misreads). E ­ rnest himself highlights Gilbert’s penchant for reversal, and also seems to do the work for Wilde of showing what a simplistic, or literal, misreading of such reversals might look like when he sums up the elegantly dense and intricate example I am about to read with a pithy wrongness (or at least half-wrongness) that could come straight out of Nordau: “The highest Criticism, then, is more creative than creation, and the primary aim of the critic is to see the object as in itself it really is not; that is your theory, I believe?” (159) Gilbert somewhat facetiously agrees, “Yes, that is my theory,” but then immediately lays stress on the first part of Ernest’s summary, reminding Ernest and the reader that his reverential description of the “highest Criticism” was of Ruskin’s and Pater’s painterly ekphrases. Who cares whether Mr. Ruskin’s views on Turner are sound or not? What does it matter? That mighty and majestic prose of his, so fervid and so fiery-coloured in its noble eloquence [is] so sure and certain, at its best, in subtle choice of word and epithet. (156) Gilbert’s appreciation continues, positing that even the materiality of Ruskin’s prose surpasses the material achievement and sheer physical vitality of Turner’s “sunsets that bleach or rot on their corrupted canvases in England’s Gallery.” Significantly, the superior achievement of Ruskin’s “creation” stems both from his singularly expressive power of his impression (that is, his ability to express his powerful impression) and from the superior medium of the word.

Wilde’s Cosmos  103 The notable emphasis on the texutality, the materiality, of Ruskin’s memorable impression makes way for the striking rhetorical presentation of Gilbert’s next example: the impressionistic power of Pater’s description of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. He repeats the rhetorical question with which he first cites Ruskin: “Who, again, cares whether Mr. Pater has put into the portrait of Monna Lisa something that ­Lionardo never dreamed of?” The answer, clearly, is that we shouldn’t, as Gilbert clearly does not. He does not because the question of original intention fades to insignificance in the face of the enchanting power of his words. But Gilbert does not merely tell Ernest that this is the case; his example acts it out, in a remarkable anecdotal dialogue within this dialogue: whenever I pass into the cool galleries of the Palace of the Louvre, and stand before that strange figure “set in its marble chair in that cirque of fantastic rocks, as in some faint light under sea,” I murmur to myself, “She is older than the rocks among which she sits; like the vampire, she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave; and has been a diver in deep seas, and keeps their fallen day about her; and trafficked for strange webs with Eastern merchants; and, as Leda, was the mother of Helen of Troy, and, as St. Anne, the mother of Mary; and all this has been to her but as the sound of lyres and flutes, and lives only in the delicacy with which it has moulded the changing lineaments, and tinged the eyelids and the hands.” And I say to my friend, “The presence that thus so strangely rose beside the waters is expressive of what in the ways of a thousand years man had come to desire,” and he answers me, “Hers is the head upon which all ‘the ends of the world are come,’ and the eyelids are a little weary.” (156–7) The “highest Criticism” does not slavishly devote itself to recording a common sense of what “is,” but rather to recording the critic’s own— and only his own—impressions. Wilde counters Arnold’s vision of an objective, universal aesthetic judgment with an aesthetic grounded in the singularity of a unique, personal, subjective judgment. Gilbert offers the example of Pater’s Mona Lisa in response to Ernest’s Arnoldian proposition that criticism is lower than creative art, and serves it. Gilbert also wants to refute Arnold’s imperative that, in its subordinate position, criticism has a duty to serve art faithfully, objectively, and implicitly in such a way that would achieve consensus. For objectivity implies an inclusiveness, a universal assent, that subjectivism by contrast would eschew. Thus, the irresponsibility—or in the case of Nordau, the sheer immorality and degeneracy—of an “aesthetic school” devoted to an experience with art that is turned inward, singular, concerned not with

104  Megan Becker-Leckrone communal consensus but rather what Gilbert later calls “the cultivation of self-culture.” Nordau approves of “healthy” individualism, but always implies that such an artist, of robust character and sound mind, does not maintain his individualistic “vision” at the expense of the community. In Wilde, there seems to be an initial step that requires a turn inward, a rigorous and willful attention to the singular impression that gains its integrity by means of an at least implicit “separation” and “distinction” from not only the objective, existing impressions of others, but even from the very work under critical consideration. Only by first asserting this absolute freedom from the work and others can the “new creation” of the aesthete’s impression “alone… be made perfect.” Gilbert calls this specific kind of creative autonomy “the critical spirit,” and it is not unlike the proper, “personal” individualism Nordau attributes exclusively to the “healthy” author, as opposed to the cultish, degenerate notions of the “aesthetic schools.” Thus, in “The Critic as Artist,” Wilde’s Gilbert proudly, nearly point by point, identifies the virtues of the very “aesthetic school” Nordau condemns as vice. Gilbert too asserts an aestheticism defined both by separation and profound associations, “bindings” created by a tightly held and intimately communicated set of shared ideas. But whereas ­Nordau opposes these supposedly morbid tendencies to the “healthy” activities of the good artist, Gilbert emphatically identifies them. Gilbert’s ideal creator, capable of producing the “highest Criticism,” distinguishes himself by remaining “uncompromisingly” true to his most personal vision, faithful only to his most individual “creative impulses.” From his premise that weak minds fall prey to cultish devotions, Nordau predicts that the genealogy, or “natural history of the aesthetic schools,” leads to an inevitable dead end. For devotees paradoxically reproduce ungeneratively; they “propagate” but make nothing new. They are “intellectual eunuchs, incapable of producing with their own powers a living mental work, but quite able to imitate the process of production” (31). Conversely, Gilbert maintains that the subjective—even conspicuously idiosyncratic—works of Ruskin and Pater, with their perhaps disproportionate extravagance in relation to the paints and canvases they describe—deserve to be called works of art of the “highest kind” because they produce lasting and intense effects. In their uncompromisingly personal impression, especially Pater’s, the impression has the power of materially impressing itself upon others. This is why Gilbert’s description of the effect of Pater’s passage on the Mona Lisa, the uncanny way in which it inspires, indeed inhabits the speech of Gilbert and his friend as they view the Mona Lisa, is so striking. The strange language of possession, the way that Gilbert’s own impression of the Mona Lisa is, after Pater, guided by Pater’s words—indeed becomes Pater’s words—figures the expression of impression, the communication of impression from

Wilde’s Cosmos  105 one impressed aesthete to another, as a scene of inscription. The visual experience of the work comes to be, mediated by a text. More strangely, Pater’s words not only communicate themselves uncannily to Gilbert and his friend, they become the means by which the two communicate their transformed impression to one another. The citation of Pater in Wilde’s essay, then, serves as an intricate model for the way in which citation—and here re-citation—becomes a truly generative creative act in its own right, the creation of a community, a world, a cosmos. This model, I would argue, powerfully rewrites the clichéd notion of the “aesthetic schools” as cults of discipleship and slavish recitations of feverishly exclusive dogma, creating an exclusive but thereby sterile environment of shared tired tropes or, worse, dead-ended plagiarism. ­Nordau’s “intellectual eunuchs” only repeat and imitate the existing works of others, generating work that is new only temporally, attenuating and attenuated reiteration that is the opposite of generative. His etiological explanation for this phenomenon harkens back to the deleteriously exclusive group-think of these almost criminally influential leaders and their criminally slavish devotees: “Other degenerate, hysterical, neurasthenical minds flock around [the aesthetic apostle], receive from his lips the new doctrine, and live thenceforth only to propagate it” (31). But Wilde’s gorgeously sly recitation of Pater’s Mona Lisa does far more than this. Rather than a symptom of degeneracy, Wilde presents it as a triumphant, ecstatic instance of creative generativity. As Pater’s words cross the “lips” of Gilbert, standing before the famous painting, they imagine anew what Leonardo himself “lent to the lips of La Gioconda,” her “subtle and poisonous curves” (157). Through Pater, Gilbert and his friend experience a new exchange with the painting. And furthermore, Pater’s words occasion a communal exchange with one another, as “I say to my friend” and “he answers me.” Wilde’s elegant presentation of this dialogue even extends the communicable affect of Pater’s words by having them come to shape the syntax of Gilbert’s anecdote itself. The proliferating “and … and… ands” of Pater’s ekphrasis get mimicked in the dialogic markers I just cited, “And I say to my friend,” “and he answers me.” And then in Gilbert’s next paragraph, where the lesson of his little parable is made clear: “And so the picture becomes more wonderful to us than it really is, and reveals to us a secret of which, in truth, it knows nothing, and the music of the mystical prose is… sweet in our ears,” and so on. “And it is for this very reason that the criticism which I have quoted is criticism of the highest kind. It treats the work of art simply as a starting-point for a new creation.” Through Gilbert’s story, we see that this also famous observation means much more than Ernest’s simplistic summary of it, “to see the object as in itself it really is not.” And that Nordau’s similarly dismissive characterization of the degeneracy of the “aesthetic schools” in general, and his disapproving condemnation of Oscar Wilde in particular, is itself what’s joyless and dead-end, and

106  Megan Becker-Leckrone gives little credit to the emphatically transformative power of this textual communion with “the lips of [Pater’s] doctrine.” What Nordau would call slavish plagiarism, or what even an “objective” critic might conventionally call citation, I believe demonstrates much more. First and last, Wilde throughout rejects mere copying. ­Pater “criticises in a mode that is never imitative, and part of whose charm [consists] in the rejection of resemblance” (161). Pater’s passage is great precisely because it makes, not copies; it transforms existing forms—is, in other words, cosmetic, not mimetic. And if we read Wilde’s own passages on Pater’s passage performatively, if we think of citation with more particularity than the terms “plagiarism” or even “intertextuality” invite, a more suggestive picture emerges. The specific way in which Wilde makes Pater’s words speak, the way in which he has his characters speak about them, more emphatically impresses upon us ­Gilbert’s critical argument that Pater’s words bring new life (a renaissance) to Leonardo’s work. Just as Mona Lisa, as Pater tells us, has lived many lives, Pater’s incantation makes her speak again, having her “deliver a message far other than that which was put into [the painting’s] lips to say” (158). Through his intricately staged, concatenating citation of Pater, Wilde in turn does the same for Pater’s words. He brings them to life again— through communication and within a community, a fellowship of two that signals further fellowship with his readers—that resembles none of the unimaginative assessments Nordau would seem to give it. Neither degenerate nor slavish, obsessional, hysterical, or dead-ended, but instead generative of new words and worlds, Wilde’s restaging of Pater’s criticism produces in its own turn a criticism of the “highest kind,” an expression of the critical spirit both haunting and alive.

Notes 1 Across its final pages, Gilbert sums up in grandiloquent fashion; within this statement, we can trace the entirety of Wilde’s pronouncements on cosmopolitanism. I have condensed them as follows: Hours ago, Ernest, you asked me the use of Criticism. You might just as well have asked me the use of thought. It is Criticism, as Arnold points out, that creates the intellectual atmosphere of the age. It is Criticism, as I hope to point out myself some day, that makes the mind a fine ­instrument … It is Criticism, again, that, by concentration, makes culture possible. … It is Criticism that makes us cosmopolitan … No, the emotions will not make us cosmopolitan, any more than the greed for gain could do so. It is only by the cultivation of the habit of intellectual criticism that we shall be able to rise superior to race prejudices. … This note, sounded in the modern world by Goethe first, will become, I think, the starting point for the cosmopolitanism of the future. … It is Criticism that leads us. The Critical Spirit and the World-Spirit are one. (CW, vol. 4, 200–205)

Wilde’s Cosmos  107 2 “The oldest term for ornamental diction, κόσμος [kosmos], appears in ­A ristotle’s list of the eight types of words that constituted, as he saw it, poetical language. ‘Every word is either current, or foreign, or a metaphor, or an ornament [kosmos], or newly coined, or lengthened, or contracted, or altered’” (Fletcher 108). The duality of kosmos in Greek and English has a rich, complex history this chapter can only gloss. Angus Fletcher’s Allegory (1964) remains the best single resource for its etymological and conceptual treatments, both in ancient and modern contexts. 3 “The Decay of Lying,” CW, vol. 4, 102. More profoundly, Wilde’s criticism is emphatically and explicitly anti-Platonic, at pains to locate the origins of the “mimetic assumption” with Socrates’s moral and political condemnation of representational art throughout the Republic. “Lying and poetry are arts – arts, as Plato saw, not unconnected with each other – and they require the most careful study, the most disinterested devotion” (76). Wilde, of course, revalues precisely what Socrates punishes: art’s “lying” about the world it purports to imitate. According to Wilde, the problem is that it does not lie enough. “The Decay of Lying” is as much a treatise against nineteenth-­century Realism as it is an encomium to aestheticist artificiality. 4 He laments the lost art of lying in the nineteenth-century novel in “The Decay of Lying”: “if a novelist is base enough to go to life for his personages he should at least pretend that they are creations, and not boast of them as copies” (CW, vol. 4, 79). 5 The passage continues, and glosses Aristotle’s delineations of medium, object, and manner in the opening chapters of Poetics. 6 Ironically, even Ernest’s individualistic ideal of solitary genius is a shared concept. As I will discuss later, Max Nordau’s exhaustively wrong-headed readings of Wilde’s essays lead him to declare communal creativity a sign of degeneracy, for “[i]f any human activity is individualistic, it is that of the artist. True talent is always personal.” Only criminals and “aesthetic schools” with criminal tendencies, according to Nordau, “unite in bands.” See Nordau 29–30. 7 The concept of Wilde’s cosmopolitanism as a set of shared affinities, enthusiastic borrowings, and textual practices that establish “imagined communities” I borrow here from Matthew Potolsky (4–6). As he acknowledges, he “borrow[s] Benedict Anderson’s term,” from Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: New Left Books, 1983). Potolsky’s understanding of decadent cosmopolitanism is very close to my own, particularly its textual performativity, actively manifested in decadents’ relationship to “the materials of the cultural past, defining their relationship to others in the movement by collecting … themes, tropes, and stylistic manners from around the globe” (4). I discuss his argument in more detail later. 8 It is Anderson who argues that Wilde’s “aesthetic criticism” is just a component of a larger “philosophy of life,” as I suggested earlier (149). She also emphatically states her opposition to Brown’s reading that cosmopolitanism, by that name, is central to Wilde’s philosophy, which she still considers one founded on the “cultivation of radical detachment” (147). The authors converge, however, around an idea of Wilde as world-citizen by seeing his aesthetic theory within and inextricable from an ethical one. I wholly disagree with this reading, which is a misreading of both Kant and Aristotle. My effort to treat “cosmopolitanism” as a strictly aesthetic theory, grounded in the term and as a textual strategy, steers away from this conflation, which is as old as aesthetic theory itself. From Aristotle correcting Socrates’s moral judgment of poetry with a formal one, to Schiller conflating Kant’s second

108  Megan Becker-Leckrone and third critiques (i.e. collapsing aesthetic judgment into moral judgment), connecting this long history of misreading to the question of Wilde’s philosophy requires analysis that far exceeds the scope of this chapter. For the most persuasive theoretical arguments that reducing aesthetics into a kind of ethics (like Schiller’s “Aesthetic Education”) is a serious misreading and conflation of Kant’s second and third critiques, see, for starters, Paul de Man and Jean-François Lyotard. 9 Chief among these differences, to be fair, is Anderson’s “fundamental disagreement” with Brown’s “wish … to redirect Wildean criticism” so centrally “toward the concept of cosmopolitanism,” as such and by that name. ­A nderson’s theoretical definition of “cosmopolitanism” is complex and highly nuanced (see 30–31) and part of a larger study of “detachment,” which “shares affinities with … the term cosmopolitanism” but is not synonymous with it. For this reason, Anderson reads Wilde’s own use of the term as rhetorical, or performative, “gestural remarks” in the service of a larger “ethics of detachment” (150). 10 It would require more space than I have here to assess whether a shift toward the political has come at the expense of focus on gender and sexuality, queer identity, and performativity. But Anderson does imply that certain critical concerns are better left behind. Anderson’s suggestion that a “relentlessly ironic” Wilde was a kind of fetish for a group of theorists with their own detachment issues; their critical bad faith is unfortunately an all too familiar charge against poststructuralist theory of many kinds, “postmodern” and otherwise, and involves its own degree of critical irresponsibility. It recalls the surprisingly bitter skirmish that erupted between J. Hillis Miller and Jonathan Loesberg when the latter made this supposed analogy—between decadent and deconstructive ethical “detachment”— the guiding principle of his book, Aestheticism and Deconstruction: Pater, Derrida, and DeMan. 11 While Potolsky makes a persuasive distinction between aestheticist and decadent artists in his study, I use the terms, from time to time, interchangeably. My understanding of the “decadent poetics” of Wilde and authors engaged in similar practices is close to his. Wilde’s investment in the adjectival “aesthetic” of “aesthetic criticism,” however, compels me to include this term as well. My sense is that Potolsky’s references to the “aesthetic movement” and my own to “aesthetic criticism” concern very different things. 12 Brown’s investment in reading deliberate continuity across Wilde’s many writerly postures and modes provides a useful example of the critical shift I identify earlier in the chapter. She objects to Richard Ellmann’s biographical reading of Wilde’s serious texts on the grounds that reading everything through the lens of the personal dismissively “condescends to Wilde.” She writes: De Profundis … is best understood as a culmination of Wilde’s philosophic exploration of the vexed relation between art and truth. It may well be, as Ellmann concludes, that the work is one of the greatest love letters ever written, but it is restrictive to see it primarily as a love letter. (95) 13 I explore the complexities of Wilde’s engagement with Pater’s emphatically linguistic and figurative understanding of the “critical spirit” in my essay, “Wilde and Pater’s Strange Appreciations.” 14 Nordau’s assertion is remarkably similar to Ernest’s, cited earlier, that the true artist “works best in silence and in isolation” (128).

Wilde’s Cosmos  109

Works Cited Anderson, Amanda. The Powers of Distance: Cosmopolitanism and the Cultivation of Detachment. Princeton UP, 2001. Baudelaire, Charles. Le Peintre de la vie moderne. Mille et une nuits, 2010. Becker-Leckrone, Megan. “Wilde and Pater’s Strange Appreciations.” Victor­ iographies, vol. 1, no. 1, 2011, pp. 96–123. Beerbohm, Max. “A Defence of Cosmetics.” The Yellow Book: An Illustrated Quarterly, vol. 1, edited by Henry Harland and Aubrey Beardsley, Elkin Mathews and John Lane, 1894, pp. 65–82. Brown, Julia P. Cosmopolitan Criticism: Oscar Wilde’s Philosophy of Art. U of Virginia P, 1997. De Man, Paul. “Kant and Schiller.” Aesthetic Ideology, edited by Andrzej Warminski, U of Minnesota P, 1996, pp. 129–162. Dowling, Linda. Language and Decadence in the Victorian Fin de Siècle. ­Princeton UP, 1986. Fletcher, Angus. Allegory: The Theory of a Symbolic Mode. Cornell UP, 1964. Grafton, Anthony. Worlds Made by Words: Scholarship and Community in the Modern West. Harvard UP, 2009. Loesberg, Jonathan. Aestheticism and Deconstruction: Pater, Derrida, and ­de Man. Princeton UP, 1991. Lyotard, Jean-François. “The Interest of the Sublime.” Of the Sublime: Presence in Question, translated and edited by Jeffrey Librett, SUNY Press, 1993, pp. 109–32. Nordau, Max. Degeneration. Translated George L. Mosse, U of Nebraska P, 1993. Pater, Walter. “Diaphaneitè.” Miscellaneous Studies: A Series of Essays, edited by Charles Lancelot Shadwell, Macmillan, 1913, pp. 247–54. ———. “Style.” Appreciations: With an Essay on Style. Macmillan, 1889, pp. 1–36. Plato. Republic. Translated by Paul Shorey. Plato: The Collected Dialogues, edited by Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns, Princeton UP, 1961, pp. 575–844. Potolsky, Matthew. The Decadent Republic of Letters: Taste, Politics, and Cosmopolitan Community from Baudelaire to Beardsley. U of Pennsylvania P, 2013. Praz, Mario. The Romantic Agony. Translated by Angus Davidson, 2nd ed., Oxford UP, 1991. Serres, Michel. The Five Senses: A Philosophy of Mingled Bodies (I). Translated by Margaret Sankey and Peter Cowley, Continuum, 2008. Wilde, Oscar. The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Edited by Ian Small, et al., Oxford UP, 2000–, 7 vols.

6 Oscar Wilde’s Las Meninas A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl Michael F. Davis

Oscar Wilde first published his short story “The Birthday of the Infanta” in a French periodical in 1889 and only later republished it in his second collection of fairy tales, A House of Pomegranates, in 1891 (CL 396). Although Wilde considered it to be his most “well-made” story, it has not received the kind of critical attention that Wilde’s self-appraisal would seem to warrant, likely because of its reclassification as a fairy tale and its attraction of scholars working primarily in that subgenre. Here, I take Wilde’s claim that it is his most “well-made” story to mean that it is his “best-conceived” story and undertake to show that it is a tour de force, not only of short fiction, but also and moreover of aesthetic theory. For Wilde’s art here (the art of fiction) does the work of criticism, much as criticism might do the work of art, a point he was concerned to theorize at this very time in one of his most important essays, “The Critic as Artist,” published in Intentions in 1891. Although ­Wilde’s story does, to be sure, have truck with the fairy tale, it has as much, if not more, with the criticism and theory in that volume, both modes or genres having a shared interest in the question of representation. I make three large claims here: first, that Wilde’s primary interests in art and aesthetics, same-sex desire, and James McNeill Whistler eventu­ ally came to a head with Whistler’s “Ten O’Clock Lecture,” delivered in February of 1885, a barely veiled attack on both Wilde’s aestheticism and Wilde’s sexuality, and that it was this lecture that incited Wilde to conceive of “The Birthday of the Infanta”; second, that Wilde’s taking up of Velásquez’s Las Meninas was overdetermined by various personal and cultural factors; and third, that in writing a literary version of Velásquez’s famous painting, Wilde not only imitates Velásquez’s complex conceit concerning the representation of the artist in the process of representation, but also appropriates that conceit to his own particular ends and his own representational concerns. While Velásquez’s painting is a complex self-portrait of Velásquez and his various issues, ­Wilde’s story is a complex self-portrait of Wilde and his. While Velásquez’s painting might represent one sort of psychoanalytic scene, as Lacan maintained in Seminar XIII in 1966, which dedicated four sessions to the painting in immediate, direct response to Foucault’s famous reading

Oscar Wilde’s Las Meninas  111 of it in Les Mots et les choses (1966), Wilde’s story represents another. Indeed, I argue here that Wilde takes Velásquez’s scene and reimagines it as his own “primal scene,” locating in the scene of adolescent female castration (the Infanta) his origin as both an artist and a subject of desire and conceiving of himself as the remainder of that castration (the Dwarf), but with an acute, avant-garde sense that castration itself is a function of what Foucault would call “the labyrinth of representation” and Lacan “the symbolic world”—all of this ten years in advance of Freud’s psychoanalysis and nearly eighty years in advance of Foucault and Lacan.1

Art & Aesthetics, Sexuality, and Whistler Shortly after Wilde arrived at Oxford in 1874, he fell under the ­immediate influence of two of the most important art critics of the day, John Ruskin and Walter Pater, and might be said to have had a primary intellectual interest in the joint topics of art and aesthetics and even to have begun his career as an art critic. Just three years later in 1877, he published his first work, a review of an art exhibit at the Grosvenor Gallery, which shows the clear influence of both Ruskin and Pater and Wilde’s own early effort to establish himself as an art critic himself. While ­Wilde’s first foray into art criticism is fairly commonplace, it does, however, mark an official beginning of Wilde’s long arc of increasingly complex thinking about art. Just a few years later, Wilde set out on his tour of America in 1882 as the self-described “apostle” of Ruskin and Pater, disseminating ideas about art and aesthetics in lectures like “The English Renaissance,” “The Decorative Arts,” and “The House ­B eautiful,” and, following his return from America, gave lectures in the UK and Ireland with titles such as “Modern Art Training,” “The Value of Art in Modern Life,” and “The Mission of Art in the Nineteenth Century.” He even delivered a lecture on fashion and dress from 1884 to 1886 and produced an essay called “The Philosophy of Dress” in 1885, a work I single out here not only to show that Wilde’s broad understanding of art included fashion and dress, but also to establish the aesthetic-theoretical value he ascribes to dress in general, in anticipation of the aesthetic-­theoretical value he later ascribes to the Infanta’s crinoline dress in particular. Again, while Wilde’s early thinking about art is not exactly groundbreaking, it is, however, ongoing and developing during the several years from that first review until 1885. Just as Wilde had a primary intellectual interest in art and aesthetics, so did he have a primary intellectual interest in the subject of samesex desire. Indeed, in that same review of the exhibition at the Grosvenor, Wilde shows particularly keen interest in the visual representation of the eroticized male body. Reviewing Spencer Stanhope’s Love and the Maiden, Wilde focuses his attention on Stanhope’s depiction of the

112  Michael F. Davis mythical figure of “the boy Love,” which, following Pater, Wilde abstracts into a “type of beauty,” an early effort to specify what we might call a “type of desire”: His boyish beauty is of that peculiar type unknown in Northern Europe, but common in the Greek islands, where boys can still be found as beautiful as the Charmides of Plato. Guido’s St. Sebastian in the Palazzo Rosso at Genoa is one of those boys, and Perugino once drew a Greek Ganymede for his native town, but the painter who most shows the influence of this type is Correggio, whose lily-bearer in the Cathedral at Parma, and whose wild-eyed, openmouthed St. Johns in the “Incoronata Madonna” of St. Giovanni Evangelista, are the best examples in art of the bloom and vitality and radiance of this adolescent beauty. (CW, vol. 6, 5) And just as Wilde will develop his thinking about art with increasing complexity over the next decade, so will he develop his thinking about the subject of same-sex desire, most notably perhaps—we can see the germ of this in the previous passage—in his long poem Charmides (1881), which is primarily concerned to animate the erotic male body and put it into poetic plot. Further, while Wilde’s lectures on art in the early 1880s were not expressly concerned with the subject of same-sex desire, they were often occupied with the subject of “Greek culture,” which for many writers of the period was synonymous with “Greek love.” Insofar as Wilde was an apostle of Pater’s, he was the organ of an aesthetic theory that was often tantamount to a theory of same-sex desire. Of course, both ­Pater’s and Wilde’s “aestheticism” were promptly satirized and derided precisely for their gender and sexual implications, Pater’s by W.H. ­Mallock in The New Republic and Wilde’s by Gilbert and Sullivan in Patience, contemporaneous satires that, while certainly problematic, have the value of making the implicit explicit—in and for the cultural record. Finally, while Wilde was not at full liberty to explore the topic of same-sex desire openly and publicly, it is fair to assume, given the nature of his intellect and his habit of self-inquiry, that he was occupied with the topic privately, both intellectually and psychologically, even as he entered into a heterosexual marriage that produced two sons. In the fairy tales he wrote for those two sons, he is clearly concerned with the question of childhood development and the attendant questions of gender difference and sexual desire. In 1886, Wilde entered his first samesex relationship—with ­Robbie Ross. And, of course, Wilde’s interest in the subject of same-sex desire persists through The Picture of Dorian Gray, Salomé, and beyond. In addition to primary intellectual interests in art/aesthetics and same-sex desire, Wilde also had a long-standing preoccupation with the

Oscar Wilde’s Las Meninas  113 figure of James MacNeil Whistler. In that first review of the Grosvenor exhibition, which I am treating here as a sort of foundation text, Wilde shows special interest in the avant-garde representational experiments of Whistler. Later in the review, Wilde turns his attention to Whistler’s paintings, which were surely the most radical experiments in the exhibition, pushing beyond the conventions not only of nineteenth-century realism but of mimesis itself. Whistler’s more experimental pictures emphasized the principles of formal composition within the work of art over and against the correspondence between the work of art and the object of representation. These experiments were so controversial that they had prompted Ruskin to disparage them and Whistler to sue Ruskin for libel, a lawsuit that in turn gave rise to a legal exchange about the nature of art and artistic representation. Clearly aware of this controversy and this debate, Wilde introduces the paintings as “the most abused pictures in the whole Exhibition—the ‘colour symphonies’ of the ‘Great Dark Master,’ Mr. Whistler, who deserves the name of Hoskoteinos, as much as Heraclitus ever did” (CW, vol. 6, 8). While Wilde’s calling the pictures “abused” suggests he might sympathize with Whistler, and while his awarding him a seemingly honorary Greek epithet suggests he might defend him, he comes down largely on Ruskin’s side and adds some light abuse of his own. Of Whistler’s more experimental paintings, Nocturne in Black and Gold and Nocturne in Blue and Gold, 2 both of which feature falling rockets, Wilde jokes, “These pictures are certainly worth looking at for about as long as one looks at a real rocket, that is, for somewhat less than a quarter of a minute,” and goes on to prefer some of Whistler’s more traditional representations. But just two years later in another review of another exhibition, Wilde praises Whistler’s work and attributes to him a “wonderful and eccentric genius” “better appreciated in France than in England” (CW, vol. 6, 17). Over the next several years, Wilde developed a close though contentious friendship with Whistler, which was marked, as Wilde’s early ambivalent reviews predict, by a sustained sparring and an ongoing ego-contest. This contest culminated in Whistler’s “Ten O’Clock Lecture,” delivered the evening of February 20, 1885 and Wilde’s immediate review of it in The Pall Mall Gazette, “Mr Whistler’s Ten O’Clock,” the next day, an exchange so highly charged that it eventually led to the end of their relationship. 3 For, while that famous public lecture and impassioned defense of aestheticism might seem from a distance to be similar to statements by Pater and Wilde—affirming the special status of the artist and the autonomy of the work of art, reasserting Gautier’s famous dictum about the uselessness of art, and emphatically rejecting the moral applications of art—up close, however, it appears to be critical of Paterian and Wildean aestheticism, particularly of its queer aspects, and it targets Wilde, who was in the audience, and Wilde’s sexuality specifically.

114  Michael F. Davis First, Whistler’s objection to the privileging of Greek and ­Renaissance art over all other art periods targets a major, signature feature of ­Paterian and Wildean aestheticism and, while the objection is made on the ostensibly egalitarian grounds that it was not just classical Greece and Renaissance Italy but all periods that produced great art, it is worth pointing out that Pater and Wilde had promoted these two periods in particular precisely because they were propitious periods for the representation of the male body and the affirmation of same-sex desire. In this regard, Whistler’s seemingly egalitarian argument looks a lot like the contemporary conservative argument that objects to the so-called “special rights” of gays and lesbians in the name of “equal rights for all,” which is to say, like a reactionary argument in favor of a return to the heteronormative order of things. Second, Whistler’s favoring of “high art” over “low art” is more specifically directed at Wilde alone and eventually hones in on Wilde’s queer sexuality. In his defense of “high art” over “low art,” Whistler inveighs against an evangelical spirit that has brought art to the people and urged upon them the practical applications of art. According to Whistler, art had been taken down from its rightful pedestal and “brought to its lowest form of intimacy.” While Whistler does not name Wilde here, Wilde had styled himself the apostle of aestheticism and had made it his express mission beginning in 1882 to bring art to the masses.4 Although Wilde’s lecture “The English Renaissance in Art” was a fairly highbrow account of “high aestheticism,” others, including “The House Beautiful” and “The Decorative Arts,” proffered practical advice and specific instructions to women on how to beautify their homes. While Whistler does not name Wilde, his increasingly vitriolic attack on this aesthetic evangelism increasingly implicates him. It implicates him, moreover, in a cult of queer sexuality: Vulgarity—under whose fascinating influence “the many have elbowed ‘the few,’” and the gentle circle of Art swarms with the intoxicated mob of mediocrity, whose leaders prate and counsel, and call aloud, where the Gods once spoke in whisper! And now…the Dilettante stalks abroad. The amateur is loosed. The voice of the aesthete is heard in the land, and catastrophe is upon us. The meddler beckons the vengeance of the Gods, and ridicule threatens the fair daughters of the land. And there are curious converts to a weird culte, in which all instinct for attractiveness—all freshness and sparkle—all woman’s winsomeness—is to give way to a strange vocation for the ­unlovely— and this desecration in the name of the Graces! Shall this gaunt, ill-at-ease, distressed, abashed mixture of mauvaise honte and desperate assertion call itself artistic, and claim

Oscar Wilde’s Las Meninas  115 cousinship with the artist—who delights in the dainty, the sharp, bright gaiety of beauty! No!—a thousand times no! Here are no connections of ours. We will have nothing to do with them. (The Gentle Art 152–3) While Whistler’s string of clauses, “the Dilettante stalks abroad,” “The amateur is loosed,” “The voice of the aesthete is heard in the land,” must have struck a target in Wilde—who was at this point still very much a dilettante stalking abroad, an amateur on the loose, and an aesthete reaching a large audience—the line that begins “And there are curious converts to a weird culte” must have cut even closer to the quick. For, with this comment, Whistler takes the Gilbert-and-Sullivan satire of the aesthete and aestheticism in their comic opera Patience and redeploys it in a more critical, more serious register.5 While both Gilbert and S­ ullivan and Whistler are concerned with the way in which this new “weird culte” of aestheticism was establishing a new gender type for men and a new desiring position for women, some of whom were taking the new “queer” man (the “aesthete”) as the object of their heterosexual desire (“a strange vocation for the unlovely”), Whistler is particularly concerned to maintain a masculinist, heteronormative notion of the artist and to differentiate the artist from the aesthete with an emphatic homophobic negation: “No!—a thousand times no! Here are no connections of ours. We will have nothing to do with them.” In addition to privileging “high art” over “low art” and the artist over the aesthete, Whistler was also concerned to privilege the artist over the art critic. Berating the art critic as a “middleman in this matter of art,” he blames him not only for distancing the artist from the public, but also for misunderstanding art and misrepresenting it to the public. Specifically he argued that painting was a very particular medium of representation with its own set of rules that called for commensurate critical practices, complaining that art critics tended to conduct their criticism with the analytical tools more commensurate with literary criticism. Given Wilde’s own vocation, however, as an art critic and an aesthetic theorist, we can understand how Wilde might have been piqued by this claim. Wilde would go on not only to maintain the legitimacy of the art critic and art criticism, but also to collapse, even deconstruct, the distinction between artist and critic and conceptualize “the critic as artist” in the essay with that title. Wilde conceived of himself as an “artist” even when he was writing criticism and would repeatedly maintain not only the legitimacy of literary art, including literary criticism/aesthetic theory, well aware that the discipline of aesthetics had originated in the world of letters with Plato and Aristotle,6 but also the superiority of literary over visual art. Further, if the (literary) critic is an artist, then so might (the literary) artist be a critic.

116  Michael F. Davis Whistler’s barely veiled attack on Wilde must have struck Wilde deeply and personally, and his immediate, sardonic review indicates that it did. Wilde’s “Mr. Whistler’s Ten O’Clock” opens on a sharp rhetorical note that takes Whistler’s own opening gambit, in which he had claimed to eschew the role of preacher, and turns it back upon him: “Last night at Prince’s Hall, Mr Whistler made his first public appearance as a lecturer on art, and spoke for more than an hour with really marvelous eloquence on the absolute uselessness of all lectures of the kind” (CW, vol. 6, 34). Wilde proceeds to describe Whistler’s anthropological account of the origin of art in an arch style that mocks that account as both trite and simplistic before fixing on Whistler’s arrogance: Mr. Whistler was relentless, and, with charming ease…explained to the public that the only thing they should cultivate was ugliness, and that on their permanent stupidity rested all the hopes of art in the future. The scene was in every way delightful; he stood there, a miniature Mephistopheles, mocking the majority! (CW, vol. 6, 34) About half-way through the review, however, Wilde itemizes a string of Whistler’s barbs that, we might suggest, struck him particularly: Then there were some arrows…shot off with all the speed and splendour of fireworks, at the archaeologists, who…estimate the value of a work of art by its date or its decay; at the art-critics who always treat a picture as if it were a novel, and try to find out the plot; at dilletanti in general and amateurs in particular; and (O mea culpa!) at dress reformers most of all. “Did not Velásquez paint crinolines? What more do you want?” (CW, vol. 6, 35) Wilde singles out these four discrete attacks because he was personally implicated in each one of them. First, Wilde’s initial professional aspiration had been to be an archaeologist, and he would have found ­W histler’s out-of-hand critique of this new, avant-garde field of inquiry to be supercilious; second, as we have seen, Wilde had actually debuted as an art critic with a review that criticized Whistler’s rockets, to which Wilde’s “speed and splendour of fireworks” here clearly alludes; third, although he did debut as an art critic, he was very much a dilettante, learned in a vast range of knowledge and interested in a variety of occupations; finally, Wilde saw himself as a dress reformer, having given a lecture on dress from 1883 to 1885, which he would expand into “The Philosophy of Dress,” published two months later in April 1885. And the parenthetical and italicized—if only to mark the Latin—“O mea culpa”

Oscar Wilde’s Las Meninas  117 both indicates that he felt implicated in Whistler’s criticism and sharply punctuates his irony. But what is most significant for us here is Wilde’s climactic mocking ejaculation—“Did not Velásquez paint crinolines? What more do you want?”—because it marks the precise moment at which the developing dispute with Whistler over art, aesthetics, and sexuality converges on and concentrates in the overdetermined figure of Velásquez’s representation of crinoline. Whistler had mentioned Velásquez early in his lecture, almost in passing. While asserting the intrinsic value of art over and against the instrumental use of art and the value of a whole range of art epochs over the singular privileging of the Greek, Whistler eventually cites the very brief, almost incidental example of Velásquez: She [Art] is, withal, selfishly occupied with her own perfection only… seeking and finding the beautiful in all conditions and in all times, as did her high priest Rembrandt, when he saw picturesque grandeur and noble dignity in the Jews’ quarter of Amsterdam, and lamented not that its inhabitants were not Greeks. As did Tintoret and Paul Veronese…while not halting to change the brocaded silks for the classic draperies of Athens. As did…Velásquez, whose Infantas, clad in inaesthetic hoops, are, as works of Art, of the same quality as the Elgin marbles. (136–7) While Whistler emphasizes Velásquez’s artistic ability to transform what he takes to be the “inaesthetic” object of representation into ­capital-“A” Art worthy of the Greeks, Wilde seems to take issue, not with Whistler’s claim for Velásquez’s artistic ability, but rather with Whistler’s characterization of the Infantas’ “hoops” as “inaesthetic” in the first place. ­A lthough this reaction stems in part from Wilde’s current thinking about the philosophy of dress, it stems in larger part from the deeper recesses of Wilde’s psyche, Whistler’s offhand comment having struck especially close to home for Wilde, not his recently established home with his new wife, whose wedding dress he had designed, so much as the past home of his childhood and the underlying, layered site of childhood trauma. For it is hard to imagine that Whistler’s pejorative comment about “inaesthetic” hoop dresses would not have aroused Wilde’s memory of his two half-sisters, both of whom died just after Wilde turned ­seventeen, when their hoop dresses caught fire. According to Ellmann, In the course of showing off their ball dresses before a party, one went too close to an open fire, caught her crinoline in the flames, and was terribly burned. So was her sister, who tried frantically

118  Michael F. Davis to rescue her. Their gravestone records them as dying, both on the same day, on 10 November 1871. Sir William’s grief was intense, and his groans could be heard outside the house. (14) We might suggest that when Wilde converts Whistler’s phrase “inaesthetic hoops” into the highly charged “Did not Velásquez paint c­ rinolines?” he is registering this traumatic memory.7 Similarly, it is hard to imagine that this memory of his half-sisters’ death would not have been closely associated with, and perhaps a psychological screen for, the still more traumatic memory of his whole sister Isola’s death four years earlier when Isola was nine and Wilde twelve. Just beneath the crinoline dress was what was arguably the primary trauma of Wilde’s childhood and the critical event in his early development. Again, according to Ellmann, both parents were devastated, while “Oscar was equally distressed”: “He paid regular visits to his sister’s grave, and wrote a poem (‘Requiescat’) about her; the melancholy which he always afterwards insisted underlay his jaunty behavior may have been first awakened by this early death” (25). In the final stanza of that poem, Wilde sums up his reaction: “All my life’s buried here.”8 It was clearly a major traumatic event for Wilde, and one that appears to have been formative for his subjectivity. Ellmann links this one event of Wilde’s mourning his dead sister, if only by narrative juxtaposition, with Wilde’s formation of a gender and sexual identity. Immediately following the death of Isola, according to Ellmann, “Wilde’s dandyism and Hellenism became conspicuous at Portora.” Interestingly, he also notes that at this point Wilde developed an “independence of judgment,” which he illustrates with Wilde’s question, put to a school master, “What is a Realist?” (26) Thus, Ellmann clusters together Wilde’s mourning of his dead sister, his coming into his adolescent sexual subjectivity, and his individuation as an aesthetic theorist, with a primal interest in issues of representation. What, indeed, is a realist? While Whistler’s “Ten O’Clock Lecture” provoked Wilde to pen the one immediate and almost entirely critical reply of “Mr Whistler’s Ten O’Clock,” it also incited him, I would like to suggest, to conceptualize the more creative rejoinder of a short story “about the little pale Infanta whom Velásquez painted” (CL 493), through which he could more fully explore these theoretical questions about the nature of the artist and artistic representation and their relation to theoretical questions about the nature of the subject of desire. Although Velásquez painted the Infanta a number of times, it is clear that Wilde is concerned with his most famous depiction of her in his most important painting, one of the most important in the whole history of art: Las Meninas. Not only does he appear to have consulted William Stirling’s monumental study of Velásquez and discovered in the chapters on Las

Oscar Wilde’s Las Meninas  119 Meninas important source material for his story, but he also closely imitates Las Meninas’s left-to right “movement” in the narrative sequencing of the story.9

Las Meninas, Aesthetics, and Aestheticism Completed in 1656, Las Meninas is a complex painting that has two fundamental concerns. First, it is concerned to represent the painter himself (Velásquez), behind an easel and looking out of the painting, and in the process of painting. It is self-reflexively occupied with the whole process of painting, including the scene and the tools of painting, and also with some of the more theoretical concerns of representation itself. The painting prompts us to reflect on what the painter within the painting is actually looking at and what he might be representing on the canvas within the canvas, which is facing into the painting and therefore concealed from view. Is he representing the Infanta on the canvas within the canvas making use of a mirror, a key device for self-reflection and self-representation? Or is he representing himself at this moment? Or if we shift from the scene of painting in1656 to any given subsequent scene of spectatorship, is he somehow representing the spectator? How does art draw us into and implicate us in its systems of meaning? Does it represent us to ourselves, or does it conceal us from ourselves? Or does it somehow represent to us what is concealed from us? What is artistic representation and what are its relations to subjectivity? Second, the painting is concerned to represent at its very center, the Infanta herself, a young girl of about six or seven years old. The painting might be said, therefore, to have a double cynosure and to be simultaneously a portrait of an artist and a portrait of a young girl or even a portrait of the artist as a young girl, given the various possible sight lines of the painting. Within a generation, Italian baroque painter Luca Giordano called Las Meninas “the theology of painting,” and in the early nineteenth century, English portrait painter Sir Thomas Lawrence called it “the philosophy of art.” Velásquez’s reputation grew quickly in the first half of the nineteenth century throughout Europe, culminating in Sir William Stirling’s substantial study Velásquez and His Works in 1855. Whistler himself was so interested in Velásquez and his works that in 1857 he traveled from Paris to Manchester to see an exhibition of paintings attributed to Velásquez, and three years later in 1860, when his painting At the Piano was exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1860, it was explicitly compared to Velásquez, the reviewer even cautioning that Whistler should not merely imitate the great master. A few years later he conceptualized a direct response to Las Meninas, making several studies for a painting to be called The Artist in His Studio.10 Here we can see Whistler taking measure of some of the representational issues raised by Velásquez and trying at the same time to break from the realist tradition and develop

120  Michael F. Davis new radical techniques of representation. As Whistler scholar M. Elizabeth Boone has written, “Whistler transformed Velázquez’s painting into a declaration of art for art’s sake, and cleverly crafted for himself an original self-portrait” (92). Moreover, as Boone goes on to observe, “Whistler began promoting Velázquez as the quintessential artist of the aesthetic movement during the mid-1860s” (93). We can safely assume that Whistler and Wilde discussed Velásquez and reasonably speculate that Wilde saw Whistler’s studies for The Artist in His Study during the period of their friendship in the early 1880s. We can also safely assume that Wilde did not find Whistler’s response to Las Meninas quite as clever as Elizabeth Boone does, for while Whistler’s studies might register some of the basic issues of Velásquez’s painting—that it is a self-portrait, that it is a portrait of a girl, and that it is about painting—they seem to miss the more theoretical ones, not the least of which is “what is art?”: what does it mean for an artist to represent himself?; to represent another self (a subject)?; to represent a spectator?; what can art tell us about its various subjects and, indeed, about subjectivity itself?; how does art interpellate its subjects into its systems of meaning?; or, as Stirling, Wilde, and Lacan all have it, what does art conceal?; what is the relation between art and the real? These are precisely the kinds of questions about art with which Wilde was concerned at the peak of his career in the late 1880s. Given the significance of Velásquez for aesthetics in general, and aestheticism in particular, and given Whistler’s attack in the “Ten O’Clock Lecture” on Wilde’s aestheticism and his sexuality, an attack that included a perhaps unwitting but nonetheless painful penetration into Wilde’s psychic life by way of an off-hand remark about Velásquez’s representation of hoop skirts, Wilde’s decision to carry out a more elaborate response to Whistler through the figure of the Infanta and over the canvas of Las Meninas was overdetermined. It was also and moreover ingenious. It enabled him to demonstrate that he was not only the superior art critic who better registered the terms of the painting, but also the superior artist who would take those pictorial terms and reimagine them in literary terms, so as to produce his own subtle and sophisticated self-portrait in which he explores both consciously and unconsciously, his own status as an artist and interrogates his own “inmost” origins as both an artist and a subject of desire.11 For Wilde apprehended not only the complex aesthetic issues, but also the complex issues concerning the representation of the subject and, indeed, subjectivity, for he was broadly and deeply implicated in the painting. He would have identified not only with the figure of the artist/aesthetician and the spectator, but also with the girl in crinoline, who must have recalled to him the loss his two half-sisters and the loss of his one whole sister Isola of whom he had written “all my life’s buried here.” Just as he sees himself in The Picture of Dorian Gray as Basil, Lord Henry, and Dorian, so he sees himself here as artist/aesthetic theorist, spectator, and Infanta. He sees

Oscar Wilde’s Las Meninas  121 her moreover as a sexual figure, as Lacan will, and as the “lost object of desire,” in whose loss he constitutes his own origin as both an artist and a subject of desire. Further, he even sees himself as one of the dwarves in the right margin of the painting as a castrated subject of desire.12

Oscar Wilde’s Las Meninas Wilde broke with Whistler at the end of 1886, the same time that he began his relationship with Robbie Ross, and began writing “The Birthday of the Infanta” in 1888, publishing it in 1889. Prior to its republication in A House of Pomegranates in 1891, Wilde wrote to Mrs. H.W. Grenfell in November of 1891, informing her that he had dedicated the story to her and indicating that the story was “about the little pale Infanta whom Velásquez painted.” While Wilde was not so explicit about his sources of information about the Infanta and Velásquez, he appears to have consulted William Stirling’s Velásquez and His Works (1855), specifically Chapter 8, which begins in 1651, and is concerned with the birth and early life of “the infanta Maria Margaret.” Stirling describes not only the birth, but also, two weeks later, the christening of the infanta, and two weeks after that, after the mother had gone abroad, a “bull-feast on a magnificent scale for her diversion” (167), before going on just a page later to describe the painting of Las Meninas (complete with an account of the dwarves) of which he writes, alluding to Quintilian, “the perfection of art which conceals art was never better attained than in this picture” (173). This chapter appears to have provided Wilde with the basic plot of his story, in which Wilde converts the birth and christening into the twelfth birthday of the Infanta, which he makes the occasion for not a real but a mock bullfight, and to both of which he links the figure and actions of the dwarf. And Stirling’s allusion to Quintilian might also have informed Wilde here, who will shortly give his own variation on the line just a couple of years later in the Preface to Dorian Gray: “To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim.” While we might well take this as a gloss of Wilde’s work in this fiction, we might also take the very next aphorism in the Preface, “The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things,” as a gloss of Wilde’s method in the formation of that fiction. Wilde takes Stirling’s critical material and converts it into literary art, which in turn functions as a kind of criticism: a prescient criticism of the figure of the Infanta herself; a trenchant criticism of the figure of the Infanta’s relation to the figure of the dwarf (carried out through the story of the mock bullfight); and a deeply psychoanalytic self-criticism of Wilde’s own origin as a subject of desire, for, as Wilde writes in the very next aphorism of the Preface, “the highest, as the lowest, form of criticism is a mode of autobiography.” Wilde’s most fundamental and most significant fictional invention here is to reimagine the birth and christening as the twelfth birthday of

122  Michael F. Davis the Infanta. This significant change, which virtually doubles the age of Velásquez’s Infanta, brings the young girl to the point of entrance into female adolescence: into more pronounced gender and sexual difference and into reproductive sexuality. Wilde is intent to emphasize the Infanta’s sexuality, situating her at the outset amidst a profusion of natural images of fecundity, culminating in two vivid natural images of vaginal sexuality, one of the pomegranates which “split and cracked with the heat, and showed their bleeding red hearts,” a graphic image of the onset of menstruation and the entrance into fertility,13 and the other of magnolia trees which “opened their great glove-like blossoms of folded ivory and filled the air with a sweet heavy perfume,” an equally graphic image of vaginal bourgeoning. The magnolia blossom features a striking display of the female reproductive organ, an exemplary illustration of what botanists call the “gynoecium,” and gives visual-material expression to the human female sexual organ, which had ordinarily been conceived of as invisible (and hence as lack), usually in contrast, of course, to the visibility of the male organ.14 Wilde’s eye then settles back onto the figure of the Infanta and specifically now onto the highly cathected “figure” of her crinoline dress, to which he gives special sexual value. He begins his description with what sounds like a rejoinder to Whistler’s provocative characterization of such dresses as “inaesthetic hoops,” seeming to want to rehabilitate the Infanta’s taste against Whistler’s charge of bad fashion—“But the Infanta was the most graceful of all, and the most tastefully attired, after the somewhat cumbrous fashion of the day”—reassigning blame from the Infanta to contemporaneous cultural practice. Wilde is quick to give a description of the dress that is rhetorically rich, a demonstration of the superior value of literary art as a creative/critical mode, and rich particularly in its proliferation of sexual imagery: Her robe was of gray satin, the skirt and wide puffed sleeves heavily embroidered with silver, and the stiff corset studded with rows of fine pearls. Two tiny slippers with pink rosettes peeped out beneath her dress as she walked. Pink and pearl was her gauze fan, and in her hair…she had a beautiful white rose. (CCW 223) In the short space of these last few lines, Wilde describes three different accessories to the dress, all of which function as visual-material markers of something like a “phallic female sexuality” or alternatively a female phallus. The one accessory of “tiny slippers with pink rosettes” combines a common phallic figure of feet, a figuration common in the Bible that Wilde will shortly revisit in Salomé, with the even more common vaginal figure of the rosette. The pink and pearl gauze fan combines two common attributes of vaginal sexuality with a material deltoid shape, the older fixed form of which Wilde will deploy in Salomé, and

Oscar Wilde’s Las Meninas  123 the more modern flexible form of which—deltoid-shaped when open and ­phallic-shaped when closed—he will give full dramatic treatment in Lady Windermere’s Fan, a play preoccupied with the question of “sexual property” and the notion of the female phallus. More esoterically, the white rose is an attribute of the birth of Venus, where white roses mark Venus’s androgenetic birth from the foam of the castrated genitalia of the father, Venus herself being something of a phallic woman. Wilde’s writing/reading of the figure of the Infanta as such a sexual figure, at once vaginal and phallic, anticipates Lacan’s reading of the same figure some seventy-five years later in his Seminar XIII, of which four sessions are dedicated to the analysis of Las Meninas. While Lacan spends the first two sessions subtly analyzing the complex sight lines of the painting that give it its special value and establishing the fundamental point that the painter’s canvas actually conceals the representation from all of its possible subjects, including the spectator, he eventually settles on the central figure of the Infanta, whose mouth, he imagines, is asking the central question of the painting, namely, “may I see” what is being represented on the concealed canvas. The answer to this question is “no” since it represents precisely what we cannot see (the unconscious), but the Infanta herself represents, as the primary “subject” we can see, the primary signifier of this lack. Thus, Lacan writes, in the centre of this picture is the hidden object, and it is not because of having the deviant mind of an analyst … but to call it by its name, because this name remains valid in our structural register, and is called the slit (fente). (237) And shortly he adds, “This central object…the little girl, the girl = ­phallus, which is what, moreover, I earlier designated for you as the slit” (239).15 For Lacan, she is the objet a and signifies the lost (and unattainable) object of desire. He even suggests that her distinctive dress—the specificity of which I would argue is precisely its hyperbolic form, both literally (it is a hyperbola) and metaphorically (it is an exaggeration)—is the operative figure for the concealment of this most fundamental lack.16 But it is important to recall that Wilde is more deeply implicated in the various vectors of the painting than Lacan is. He identifies with the artist Velásquez, whom Whistler had made a figure for “art for art’s sake”; with the Infanta, in whom he sees an important figure in his own psychic life; with the spectator, particularly as a perspicacious art critic; and even with the dwarf, with whom he deeply identifies as a castrated subject of desire. Wilde could construe the whole painting as a multiplicitous representation of himself, the vertex of its various vectors. Further, Wilde is a more material thinker than Lacan, with stronger commitments to the material world, concerned as he is to eschew Western thought’s

124  Michael F. Davis mind-body distinction (which had put the body and its sexuality under elision) and, in a signature Wildean inversion, work now toward a reconciliation of body and mind in modern thought. Thus, I would suggest that Wilde’s Infanta is both more personal and more material than Lacan’s and that she represents first and foremost Wilde’s own lost object of desire, the figure of the dead sister, with whom he had so closely identified and in whom he was so deeply invested. As I have already suggested, the dominant motif of the crinoline dress must have been a reminder and an unmistakable metonymy for the deaths of his two half-sisters and functioned as a screen for the prior death of the younger sister Isola, who was near the age of Velásquez’s Infanta when she died, and upon whose death the twelve-year-old Wilde emerged as an artist to write “all my life’s buried here.” Here we might recall that vivid image of the pomegranates “split and cracked with the heat, and show[ing] their bleeding red hearts” and note that the pomegranate was a well-known attribute of the myth of Proserpine—an attribute recently reinscribed in the cultural imagination by both Rossetti and Swinburne—where it is a figure of fertility and death at once.17 While Proserpine’s annual return from Hades is a symbol of rebirth, her annual return to Hades, required because she satisfied her hunger (her desire) to eat pomegranate seeds while she was a prisoner there, is a symbol of death. All of this suggests that Wilde’s Infanta is a kind of Proserpine, who has been abducted by death and eaten the fruit of death, and whose fate is to continually cross back into death. She not only represents the lost object of desire, but also dramatizes the loss of that object, the action of falling away from the symbolic world into the vast regions of unknowing.18 In this regard, we might say that she represents not only Wilde’s lost object of desire (the figure of the dead sister Isola), but also Wilde’s own loss of that object. In bringing the Infanta to the point of her twelfth birthday, Wilde brings her not only to the point of entrance into her adolescent sexuality, but also to the point of his own age at the time of her death and thus the point of entrance into his adolescent sexuality, as if to suggest that the Infanta were a conflation of sister and brother and that her loss were one and the same as his loss, her castration (death is castration writ large) one and the same as his.19 I will return to this point of identification later. First, however, I would like to follow what I see as Wilde’s fairly close, largely left-toright limning of Velásquez’s pictorial scene in his own narrative plotting. For, following this initial rendering of the figure of the Infanta, Wilde proceeds next to the figures of the king and queen, who appear in Velásquez’s painting over the Infanta’s shoulder in the deep recess of the pictorial space in a small painting-within-the-painting hanging on the back wall. Wilde discerns in Velásquez’s visual composition a symbolic representation of the imaginary role that the king and queen play in the Infanta’s psychic life. 20 Not only do they appear over her shoulder and

Oscar Wilde’s Las Meninas  125 in the back, but also in miniature, and they appear, moreover, to be spectral—“they are the palest, the most unreal, the most compromised of all the painting’s images,” writes Foucault—one reason among others that, in one major reading of the work, this picture of the king and queen is said to be a mirror reflecting them from their subject positions in front of the canvas. While Foucault comes close to reading these reflected figures of the king and queen as representations of the ego-ideal, Lacan, noting that originally the painting was known as “The Family of the King,” sees the parents in explicit psychoanalytic terms. 21 For his part, Wilde sees the king and queen not as sovereign court figures, but as sovereign parental figures. He is clearly concerned to reconstruct their own psycho-sexual histories and to suggest how those histories might have shaped the psycho-sexual formation of the Infanta herself, from her infancy (itself continually suggested in Wilde’s use of the epithet “Infanta”) now to her adolescence, working within nineteenth-century notions of personal history and personal inheritance while simultaneously working toward a twentieth-century, Freudian understanding of the role parents play in the development of the sexual subjectivity of children. Wilde is especially concerned to sketch a psychological profile of the figure of the father. Taking his cue from the painting, Wilde pictures the father in the frame, not of a painting or a mirror, but of a window in the exterior facade of the palace, from which he looks, still from behind and  above, down upon his daughter the Infanta.22 Wilde portrays him primarily as a sad man, mourning the loss of his wife, the mother of the Infanta, some twelve years earlier, and is clearly concerned to show how the father’s sadness and the structure of his mournful gaze—his own desire for the lost object of desire—structures, in turn, the daughter’s subjectivity and constitutes her as such a lost object. Wilde’s father is fundamentally preoccupied with his ritual mourning of the dead wife, whose own twelve-year-old body he has preserved in a chapel behind the palace, visiting her monthly for the twelve years she has been dead and thus maintaining an ongoing libidinal investment in her, which he has kept entirely to himself. Picking up on the trope of doubling that runs throughout Las Meninas, Wilde positions the mother and daughter as doubles. The mother was twelve at the time she married the father, twelve when she died, and twelve in perpetuity, just as the Infanta now turns twelve, and the father’s “monthly visits” to the dead mother correspond to the Infanta’s entrance into menstruation and reproductive sexuality.23 Wilde is keen to show how the father’s desire for, and prohibition of, the absent mother, makes the daughter herself a kind of redoubled absence or exaggerated lack. I have used the phrase “Wilde’s father” here, not only to refer to Wilde’s fictional development of the figure of the king as father, but also to suggest that Wilde’s representation of the figure of the king is also, in part, a representation or refiguration of his own father, who, upon the

126  Michael F. Davis death of his youngest daughter Isola, identified himself as “a mourner for life,” and who, upon the subsequent deaths of his two elder (illegitimate) daughters four years later, after their crinoline dresses caught fire, grieved so intensely that, Ellmann reports, “the groans could be heard outside the house.” This corroborates that Wilde, in his perceptive reading/rewriting of Las Meninas, is reading it (as it asks to be read) as a mirror in which he sees a representation of his own origins, within his own family romance, as a subject of desire, and that those origins are inextricably linked to the mourning for the lost object of desire. If here he refigures the father as father to the Infanta, later he refigures him as father to the dwarf, William Wilde having been likened in his own lifetime to a dwarf, and Wilde being easily identifiable in the story with the figure of the dwarf (as a court jester), the dwarf being, as we will shortly see, the symbol of castration. This doubling of the father suggests, in turn, a sibling, or half-sibling, identification behind the Infanta and the dwarf, a theme that recurs throughout Wilde’s works, most notably in The Picture of Dorian Gray. 24 Wilde concludes this scene of the father’s absent gaze upon the daughter by having the father withdraw his gaze from the window, in what seems to be a reference to and a rendering of the “pendant portrait,” structurally at least, next to that of the king and queen on Velásquez’s canvas, in which Velásquez has painted, not in a picture frame but now a doorframe, a double of himself, the so-called “other Velásquez,” pulling a curtain closed and withdrawing into the vanishing point of the painting. 25 In conflating these two “pictures,” and the figure of the father with the figure of authorial withdrawal, and thus placing the father at the vanishing point, Wilde seems to be suggesting that it is precisely the withdrawal of this gaze that is at the vanishing point of the daughter’s (and Wilde’s own) subjectivity. The daughter takes notice of that withdrawal and registers it psychologically with “a moue of disappointment” that seems to register the relation between the absence of the father and her own absence of feeling, the absence of the father and the absence of the phallus—“the object cause of desire.” Wilde develops his drama of the family romance by following up the scene of the withdrawal of the King/father with the spectacular scene of the mock bullfight, which is an unmistakable, though, to be sure, not an ordinary, scene of castration. For Wilde imagines the compound scene of the Oedipal overthrow of the king/father and the associated sexual penetration and simultaneous castration of the Infanta/daughter. Just as Wilde has the King withdraw from the window (and into the background of the story), he has a procession of noble young boys, “fantastically dressed as toreadors” (Wilde’s italics), enter to the sound of a trumpet, singling out among them the Count of Tierra-Nueva, “a wonderfully handsome lad of about fourteen years of age,” whose significant initial action is to uncover his “head.”26 Just after the father withdraws his

Oscar Wilde’s Las Meninas  127 head from the window, the count uncovers his own head, and effectively assumes the place and the phallic function of the father. While that replacement is a quiet one, the subsequent mock bullfight dramatizes it as spectacular theatrical violence. In it, the young count brings “the bull to his knees,” and, after securing the permission of the Infanta, stabs him in the neck so forcefully that he severs his head. This is a clear allegory for the killing off of the father as the principal figure in the Infanta’s erotic life and the replacement of the father by the young male suitor, who is himself about the age of the King at the time of his own betrothal to the Queen. The count’s decapitation of the mock bull reveals the laughing head of the youth beneath, an image that both echoes the initial image of the replacement of the father’s head in the window by the count’s uncovered head and adds to that earlier image now a laughter that punctuates the joyful completion of this particular Oedipal action. The count’s act of stabbing and cutting off of the head is also, however, an equally clear allegory for the penetration and simultaneous castration of the Infanta herself. The count’s act has the special value of being a penetration that is also a castration, a stabbing in that also cuts across: “having obtained permission from the Infanta to give the coup de grace, he plunged his wooden sword into the neck with such violence that the head came right off.” Wilde suggests here that as the Infanta enters into adolescent reproductive sexuality, she must consent to penetration by the young suitor and in the process admit to her own castration within the heterosexual law of the father. But as we saw earlier, after the count cuts off the head of the bull, another head is revealed beneath, which we might now take to be a sign of the regeneration of the Infanta’s “head,” a disavowal of her castration, and a reappropriation of the phallus (a theme that Wilde will revisit most notably in Salomé), while we might take the associated laugh to be something like the laugh of the Medusa. If the Infanta’s entrance into adolescent sexuality is marked first by this spectacle of the mock bullfight, it is marked last by the final and climactic spectacle of the dancing Dwarf, and the first is intimately linked to the last, for if the Infanta has passed through the scene of Oedipal castration, then the Dwarf would appear to be the signifier of that castration, the personification of the dismembered phallus. In ­Lacan’s second session on Las Meninas, one participant, Dr. Andre Green, explicitly equates the figure of the dwarf to castration. Further, we see this same structure of the adolescent girl accompanied by the figure of the animated dwarf in both Snow White and the Wizard of Oz, both of which “fairy tales” feature a young female protagonist who has recently entered into adolescent sexuality and who is accompanied and amused by a number of dwarves, multiplication being, according to Freud in the “Fragment on the Medusa’s Head,” a primary function of castration. This reading of the Dwarf as the figure of the Infanta’s castration is not only archetypal and structural, but it is also strongly suggested

128  Michael F. Davis by Wilde himself in his description of the Dwarf’s performance. First, Wilde introduces the Dwarf “wagging his huge misshapen head from side to side,” providing a visual echo and reminder of the head of the mock bull, stabbed and cut off at the beginning of the festivities, and to the head of the father. Second, Wilde indicates that the “fantastic” “little monster” was “discovered only the day before,” much as the missing phallus is suddenly discovered upon the onset of the castration complex, and was, moreover, himself cast off by the figure of the father. Third, the Dwarf immediately develops an intense attachment to the Infanta: “As for the Infanta, she absolutely fascinated him. He could not keep his eyes off her, and seemed to dance for her alone,” the word “fascinating” suggesting the Latin word “fascinum” and the Roman cult of the phallus, “fascinum” signaling not only the divine phallus, but also representations of the phallus, particularly lifelike bronze castings of the independent, or castrated phallus. 27 Fourth, and perhaps most significantly, the Dwarf’s performance reminds the Infanta of an earlier court performance by “Caffarelli, the famous Italian treble,” or the famous Italian castrato. Finally, on making this association between the Dwarf and the earlier castrato, and remembering how the ladies threw flowers at him, the Infanta takes the white rose from her hair and throws it to the Dwarf, which we can take in this context to be the clear sign of the Infanta’s sympathetic recognition of the figure of castration, the cut rose functioning as a symbol for the castrated female phallus. 28 While Wilde’s Infanta might sympathetically recognize the Dwarf as the figure of her own castration and thus acknowledge the new ineluctable terms of her sexual subjectivity, the Dwarf reads this scene rather differently. He does not, of course, see himself as the symbolic sign of the Infanta’s castrated female phallus, but rather as the male phallus and object of her new desire, and it is in the space of this misrecognition that he now constitutes himself as a sexual subject. If Wilde dedicated the first part of the story to the Infanta’s coming into her sexual subjectivity, he now dedicates the remainder to the Dwarf’s, which is, Wilde suggests, precisely the remainder of the Infanta’s having passed through the scene of castration. Wilde imagines for the Dwarf a plot that first takes him away from the site of the palace garden further and further out into the natural world and then returns him to the original site, in order to thrust him deeper and deeper into the most interior spaces of the palace itself, culminating in a critical interior scene of self-reflection and, ultimately, self-­ recognition as a castrated subject. With this first outward arc of the plot, Wilde suggests that it is highly civilized social life that is responsible for the construction of subjectivity in general, and the castration complex in particular, and that in the natural world neither of these obtains, even suggesting that in the deep recesses of the woods, the Dwarf is free of any artificial mechanisms that might reflect him to himself and thus fix

Oscar Wilde’s Las Meninas  129 him as a subject and, moreover, as a castrated subject. With the return arc, however, he delves deeper into this question of the social and cultural construction of the subject of desire, and, more particularly, the subject of (same-sex) desire. Wilde brings the Dwarf back to the palace and plunges him into its interior space and a maze of interconnected rooms that serves as an extended metaphor for the exploration of interiority and the construction of the human subject. For the Dwarf, born and bred in the natural world and abducted from it only the day before, this is “naturally” an alienating experience. He comes across a tapestry that artificially re-presents the very natural world with which he is familiar and confuses it for that world attempting to engage with one of its figures. While the tapestry indicates that the Dwarf has entered into the artificial world of representation, it also has the same double function that it had in “The Canterville Ghost” of serving as a warning of things to come and as a gateway to a major psycho-sexual event. Whereas in the earlier story, that event was of a fifteen-year-old American virgin’s hidden intercourse with a 300-year-old English ghost, here it is the Dwarf’s first encounter with the mirror-image of himself, a major scene of self-reflection that is critical to the Dwarf’s development as a subject. Having made his way deep into the interior spaces of the palace, the Dwarf sees a figure whom he first identifies as the Infanta, before realizing next that it is, in fact, a monster, and, finally, that it is, in plainer “fact,” a reflection or representation of himself. If upon seeing a figure in the near distance he is able to identify it, with the simple exclamation “the Infanta,” as the Infanta, it is in part because although he has traveled far into the “labyrinth of representation,” in Foucault’s phrase, or the “symbolic world,” in Lacan’s, he has still not registered how this brave new world works. Just as he had mistaken the two-dimensional images on the tapestry as three-dimensional figures with whom he might fully interact, so does he construe this image as such an animate other. Further, if he thinks that he is looking at the Infanta as other, it is because he has been looking for her, which is to say that he sees not only what he wants to see (the fantasy of projection), but also what he desires to see, namely, the other of whose desiring gaze he fancies himself the object. This is not a simple act of sighting and naming the other. While the Dwarf might believe it is the image of the other, it is actually the image of himself. With the exclamation “the Infanta,” then, he (mis) recognizes and (mis)identifies the image of himself as the figure of the Infanta in what appears to be a primary act of cross-gender identification (with the lost object). Thus, while he might consciously think he desires her (and hopes that he can be the object of her desire), he unconsciously identifies with her as a figure of castration. Almost instantly he realizes that this other figure is not the Infanta but rather a “monster,” and has a protracted engagement with it in what

130  Michael F. Davis appears to be an “inverted” mirror stage. Unlike in Lacan, where the child sees the image in the mirror, makes note of its coherent form and its seeming command of the world, and registers the discrepancy between it and the child’s own sense of its incoherent form and commensurate inability to manage the world, here, in Wilde, the Dwarf sees the image in the mirror, makes note of its deformity—“Not properly shaped as all other people were, but hunchbacked and crooked-limbed, with huge lolling head and mane of black hair”—and delights in the discrepancy between it and his own more coherent experience of the world: “He laughed and it laughed with him.” This, however, initiates the scene of “mimesis,” in which the Dwarf begins to see how the monster mimics his moves and leads ultimately to the Dwarf’s realization that the monster is not a tangible “other” but rather the mirrored image of himself, “Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.” Significantly, he has his realization when he takes the white rose from his breast (to which it seems to be fixed like a “buttonhole”), kisses it, and presses it to his heart, all the while noting that the image in the mirror has a similar rose and performs the same actions with it. Immediately, the Dwarf has a cry of despair and collapses on the ground, where he takes full measure of this revelation. If Lacan’s mirror stage dramatizes the formation of the “I” as it enters into the Imaginary/Symbolic world, then Wilde’s dramatizes the inverse: the deformation of the “I” as it enters into such a world, inversion being a signature rhetorical move for Wilde and intersecting with contemporary sexological discourses of same-sex desire. While in the natural world the Dwarf might have been able to maintain an ideal sense of himself, here in the interior world of the palace and in the labyrinth of realistic representation (of mimesis), he is made to see himself, by both the mirror and the gaze of the other, as “unnatural”: “Why had they not left him in the forest where there was no mirror to tell him how loathsome he was” (CCW 234). If earlier he had seen himself as one who might satisfy the desire of the Infanta, mistaking the white rose as a sign of her desire for him rather than a sign of her sympathetic identification with him, now he is made to see himself no longer as the phallus but as the figure of castration, the white rose as the special attribute of that castration. When he identifies the monster with himself, he recognizes the monstrosity of his own status as a psychological subject within the symbolic world, what Zizek calls the horror of the “Imaginary real,” or, as Wilde puts it in The Picture of Dorian Gray describing Dorian’s full descent into the opium den, the Dwarf recognizes that “ugliness was the one reality.”

Notes 1 Notably, Freud began writing and publishing in the mid-1880s, the exact time that I am concerned with in this chapter. However, it is the 1899/1900 publication of The Interpretation of Dreams that is traditionally taken as the starting point of psychoanalysis. To be clear, I am not conducting a

Oscar Wilde’s Las Meninas  131 psychoanalytic reading of Wilde’s story, so much as I am suggesting that Wilde himself was conducting a psychoanalytic reading of Velásquez’s painting and in the process a psychoanalysis of himself—avant la lettre, as it were. In this regard, this chapter is as much a historicist project as it is a psychoanalytic one. 2 Wilde mistakenly calls the latter Nocturne in Blue and Silver. 3 For a detailed account of the split, see Ellmann (270–8). Notably, Ellmann links the “murder” of Whistler to Wilde’s initiation of a same-sex relationship with Robbie Ross. 4 As Ellmann reports, Whistler actually attended some of Wilde’s lectures. 5 Although Patience does not identify its aesthete Bunthorne with any one personage in particular, it does suggest Wilde more than any other figure. Further, when the promoter of Patience, who had already brought the show to America, recruited Wilde to give a series of lectures on art in America, he solidified the connection between Bunthorne and Wilde to the extent that Wilde became the real-life incarnation of, and, in a rich oxymoron, the retroactive prototype for Bunthorne, as evidenced by many American newspaper accounts of Wilde’s lecture tour. 6 “It is the Greeks who have given us the whole system of art criticism.” (“The Critic as Artist,” CW, vol. 4, 141). 7 Presumably Ellmann’s use of the word “crinoline” comes directly from his primary sources. 8 Wilde appears to represent this scene of address in The Picture of Dorian Gray when he has Dorian pen “his first love letter to a dead girl.” 9 As Ellmann observes, Wilde was familiar with Lessing’s theory that painting was spatial and literature temporal (312). 10 This according to Elizabeth Boone. Whistler seems to also have in mind Velásquez’s Venus in Her Mirror. 11 Cf. Hamlet: “I set you up a glass/Where you may see the inmost part of you” (III.iv.23). 12 There are actually two dwarves on the right side of Las Meninas, one female and male, but this gender difference seems to emphasize the fact that the genders are actually difficult to distinguish, that dwarfism itself seems to diminish gender difference. In Wilde’s story, there is only one. 13 Wilde treats this motif in “The Canterville Ghost,” another story occupied fundamentally with the entrance of a young girl (significantly named ­Virginia) into adolescent sexuality and into sex. 14 In his seminar, Lacan notes that Velásquez has painted himself “in the middle of … [a] whole gynaecium” (233). 15 Notably, Lacan compares the Infanta to Lewis Carroll’s Alice, who would have provided a major contemporary cultural precedent for Wilde, and who has also been equated in the recent critical tradition to the phallus, the socalled Alice-as-phallus argument. 16 “At the point that we are at, and where at least some of you were able to hear me the last time, after having situated this look, at the very centre of the picture, hidden somewhere under the robes of the Infanta, to give them, as I might say, from this enveloped point, their radiation and I pointed out that it was there through what function?” (Lacan 242). Interestingly, Whistler’s socalled responses to Las Meninas seem to completely disregard this central figure of the hoop skirt. 17 Swinburne published two important poems, the “Hymn to Proserpine” and “The Garden of Proserpine” in Poems and Ballads in 1866, and Rossetti completed his famous painting Proserpine in 1874. Wilde invokes the myth of Proserpine in both “Charmides” and the “Critic as Artist.”

132  Michael F. Davis 18 Cf. “The Critic as Artist”: “Yes: it has been said by one whose gracious memory we all revere, and the music of whose pipe once lured Proserpina from her Sicilian fields, and made those white feet stir…” 19 In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde reworks this same brother-sister relation through the Dorian-Sibyl relation (Sibyl herself inflected as sister of James Vane). Just as Wilde was said to have written his first passionate poem to his dead sister Isola, so is Dorian said to have written “his first passionate letter to a dead person.” It is in connection with this scene as well that Wilde introduces the provocative trope of “my sister’s box.” 20 This configuration corresponds to that of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, written about fifty years earlier. The device of the painting-within-the-painting echoes Shakespeare’s play-within-the-play, both of which are concerned in some measure with the function of the ego-ideal. 21 “Where are they, this king and this queen around whom, in principle, the whole scene is properly speaking suspended? For there is not only the primal scene, and which put the accent on the ideal ego and the ego ideal, functions that are so important in the economy of our practice; but where seeing the incorrigible psychology of these consciousness references enter into the field of analysis, we saw there being produced again, the first as the ego that one believes one is and the other as the one that one wants to be” (Lacan 236). 22 While Wilde seems to have taken the image of the king in a window from Stirling, that is not to say that it doesn’t have theoretical value and that Wilde isn’t also thinking about the painting. As Lacan suggests, a mirror that reflects the subject might be also be a window into the subject. 23 Wilde thematizes menstruation in both “The Canterville Ghost” and Salomé. 24 Stirling notes that the Infanta had a brother, who died at three years of age. 25 In addition to being the court painter, Velásquez was also appointed ­“quartermaster-general of the king’s household” (Stirling 164); thus, there is a long tradition of identifying this other figure as another Velásquez. Lacan calls him “the other Velásquez.” Of course, he could also be drawing the curtain open. 26 It should also be observed that Wilde often figures gay fantasy through heterosexual encounter. 27 I am grateful to Joe Bristow for pointing out the Roman cult of the fascinum. 28 The white rose is an attribute of the myth of the birth of Venus. According to Hesiod, Cronos overthrows his father Uranus, cuts off his genitals, and throws them into the sea. The sea-foam produces Aphrodite. In this version of the myth, Venus is the “offspring” of the castrated genitalia of the “father” and thus both the remainder of a male castration and a substitute female phallus. Later in the development of the myth, perhaps by way of Ovid’s “Venus and Adonis,” where Venus’s tears sprout white roses over the body of Adonis, the sea foam is transfigured into white roses. Botticelli’s famous painting scatters nearly twenty alba maximus roses over the sea while Swinburne’s “Hymn to Proserpine” calls Venus “a blossom of flowering seas” and a few lines later a “White rose of the rose-white water.” Wilde seems to be pointing to an active mytho-etiology of same-sex desire.

References Boone, M. Elizabeth. “‘Why Drag in Velásquez?’: Realism, Aestheticism, and the Nineteenth Century American Response to Las Meninas.” Velásquez’s Las Meninas, edited by Suzanne L. Stratton-Pruitt, Cambridge UP, 2003, pp. 80–123.

Oscar Wilde’s Las Meninas  133 Ellmann, Richard. Oscar Wilde. 1984. Vintage-Random House, 1988. Foucault, Michel. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. 1970. Vintage-Random House, 1994. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Book XIII: The object of psychoanalysis. 1965–1966. Collected Translations and Papers by Cormac ­Gallagher. Esourcedbs.ie./handle/10788/162. Stirling, William. Velásquez and His Works. London, 1855. Whistler, James M. The Gentle Art of Making Enemies. G. P. Putnam, 1904. Wilde, Oscar. The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde. Edited by Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart-Davis, Henry Holt, 2000. ———. The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Edited by Merlin Holland, ­Harper­ Collins, 1994. ———. The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Edited by Ian Small, et al., ­Oxford UP, 2000–, 7 vols.

Part III

Mythical Worlds

7 Salomé and Saint Sebastian Modern Myths in Wilde and D’Annunzio Elisa Bizzotto

Salomé and Saint Sebastian are among the most popular late-nineteenthand early-twentieth-century historical archetypes, pervasively employed in the arts and culture of the time and significantly contributing to its mythologies. Like other archetypal figures of European culture endowed with a historical or pseudo-historical status—from Faust, to T ­ annhäuser, to Don Juan—Salomé and Saint Sebastian had their origins in the late-medieval or early modern era, when they began to become privileged subjects of art, but then gained maximum recognition in the nineteenth century, especially at its turn to the twentieth century when they were appropriated by an unprecedented number of artistic and cultural forms. In or around the end of the nineteenth century, a period of major epistemological changes, Salomé represented a malleable trope to convey such crucial issues as social and sexual dissidence, open dynamics of desire, and general non-acceptance of normative behaviors. Through Salomé, moreover, strictly aesthetic questions such as the search for new artistic forms, or the creation of transnational and interdisciplinary works illustrative of aestheticism and Decadence, were also tackled. It is not difficult to advance analogous arguments about the myth of Saint Sebastian, which likewise appears to have functioned as a powerful heuristic device for most cogent cultural concerns as well as for experimentation on the interdisciplinarity and hybridization of languages, genres, and styles in the long fin de siècle. Theoretical support for these considerations on Salomé and Saint Sebastian is provided by Harold Fisch’s book A Remembered Future: A Study in Literary Mythology (1984), which proposes an analysis of the meanings, proliferation, and recurrence of founding ­mythologies of modern Europe. Historical archetypes or “modern myths”—Fisch ­argues— stem from “the beginning of the modern period (in the ­sixteenth or seventeenth century)” and yet “have their apogee in the nineteenth century” (12). Their essential characteristic is the propensity to metamorphose under the influence of history in order to answer the cultural and intellectual needs of different epochs in which they function as tropes to express crucial social, aesthetic, and personal issues. Fisch adds that the

138  Elisa Bizzotto frequent use of modern myths in the art and culture of the nineteenth century depended on the awareness of living in an age of change and crisis, of living precisely in a period for which there were no set schemes, no adequate historical prototypes, and where events revealed themselves as irreversible, even our own actions being in a deep sense unpredictable. (13) As a result, certain past myths were given a new historical urgency to efficaciously articulate contemporary concerns (14).1 I would here like to start from these views on modern myths to specifically focus on the typical fin-de-siècle myths of Salomé and Saint Sebastian and offer a comparative reading of the thematic, structural, and aesthetic points of contact between the tragedies Salomé (1893) by Oscar Wilde and Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien (1911) by Gabriele D’Annunzio, a work belonging to the new century but still much affected by the culture of the 1890s. This reading, based on the hypothesis that D’Annunzio took substantial inspiration from Wilde, is meant to disclose new aspects of the two texts and to highlight their significance in relation to their age. When we consider that D’Annunzio’s penchant for rewriting and intertextuality as privileged modalities of composition, so common in his oeuvre as to border on plagiarism (an approach actually shared by Wilde), Salomé may well have constituted a hypo-text for Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien, which modified Wilde’s drama through thematic expansion or amplification ­(Graham 108–10). Following these premises, I will regard Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien as an imitation of Salomé, since it evokes and enlarges upon Wilde’s text more or less perceptibly, though always implicitly ­(Genette 5–6). In addition, Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien occasionally proposes more literal transformations of Salomé through paraphrases of Wildean lines, which seem to have already fully elaborated D’Annunzio’s own ideas, thus somehow confirming Petra Dierkes-Thrun’s assessment of Salomé as a work ahead of its time, as Modernist theater avant la lettre. Although some critics have noted echoes of Salomé in Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien (De Michelis 335), as of yet, there is no evidence of a direct influence between them. We do know, however, that D’Annunzio owned a 1907 copy of Salomé—a French edition, illustrated by Beardsley. 2 It is still housed at il Vittoriale, D’Annunzio’s villa on Lake Garda, where he kept most of Wilde’s books, including a later Salomé, also in French, published in 1917.3 He was, in fact, much more fluent in French than in English, and Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien, composed during his self-inflicted exile in France from 1910 to 1915, was the main outcome of this linguistic expertise. The 1907 Salomé in D’Annunzio’s possession does not bear any clear marks or annotations, yet, unlike other

Salomé and Saint Sebastian  139 Wildean volumes in the Vittoriale library, all its pages are cut. As this appears to be the text from which D’Annunzio was working, the 1907 French text of Salomé will serve as a basic point of reference and source of citation throughout this chapter. As anticipated, the inspirational modern myths for Salomé and Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien helped introduce urgent, difficult, or otherwise critical contemporary topics. It should not come as a surprise, then, that both plays underwent censorship for alleged irreverence or profanity. Salomé was banned from British stages in 1892 shortly before its projected London première, by the invocation of an old law promulgated by Henry VIII that prohibited the interpretation of biblical characters, and the ban would last until 1931 (Dierkes-Thrun 4–6). Similarly, Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien, first performed at the Théâtre du Châtelet in May 1911, incurred the archbishop of Paris’s condemnation. Performances stopped after the tenth soirée, and all D’Annunzio’s novels were blacklisted in the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.4 Among the English censor’s unofficial reasons for finding Salomé disturbing one could easily count its penchant for sadomasochism, noticed by various critics over time. 5 When Wilde wrote Salomé, discussion on these subjects was indeed at an intense stage: Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis had been published in 1886 and would be issued in several enlarged editions until 1902, eliciting a debate that led to Freud’s “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality” in 1905, and whose effects were still palpable in Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien. Nevertheless, D’Annunzio’s drama was principally the fruit of the poet’s enduring fascination—notoriously professed by Wilde too (Kaye 2008, 110–11)—with the erotic potential of the beautiful saint and his ­martyrdom (Oliva 208–9; D’Annunzio 2005, 69–71), which the play did not fail to emphasize. Intensely pleased by self- and hetero-inflicted pain, ­D’Annunzio’s protagonist triggers masochistic emulation chains in his disciples: S­ ebastian induces his followers to enact the same masochistic acts he enacts upon himself and, by having them experience physical pain, he manifests his hidden sadistic vein. In these lines from the First Mansion, one of the sections of Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien, he has just overtly embraced the new faith and presently longs for the joys of martyrdom. Wishing to be the first to walk on fire, his eagerness to suffer as a Christian sets the example for acolytes, whom he begs to increase his torture: LE SAINT. Souillez de prés, soufflez de près, vite, avec des soufflets de forge […] Que la flamme jaillisse, que les étincelles

140  Elisa Bizzotto s’envolent comme des abeilles ivres, que l’ardeur en devienne sept fois plus ardente, Que je sois nu-pieds et nu-jambes, comme le vendangeur agile qui s’apprête à fouler les grappes rouges dans la cuve fumante! Apportez les sarments, les ceps, les branches, les racines mortes, les écailles des pins et tous les roseaux de tout le midi poudreux de soleil, pour la flamme soudaine, ô frères; et couvrez d’un grand bûcher les noirs tisons. Je danserai plus haut, plus haut que la flamme, sept fois plus haut.


In the Fourth Mansion, Sebastian urges the reluctant archers to shoot at him as an extreme act of love by initially paraphrasing the refrain of The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898)—D’Annunzio’s “Il faut que chacun tue son amour” almost literally corresponds to Wilde’s “each man kills the thing he loves” (Andreoli 460; Miller 245)—and then by unfolding the latent sadomasochism of Wilde’s line in a crescendo of associations among love, pain, and finally death as the ultimate experience: LE SAINT. Il faut que chacun tue son amour pour qu’il revive sept fois plus ardent. Archers, Archers, si jamais vous m’aimâtes, que votre amour je le connaisse encore, à mesure de fer! Je vous le dis, je vous le dis: celui qui plus profondément me blesse, plus profondément m’aime (253–4) Salomé and Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien share other manifestations of sexual dissidence, or what was considered as such at the time, with D’Annunzio picking up Wilde’s sadomasochistic motif. In Salomé, homosexual undertones characterize the subplot of the young Syrian and the Page of Herodias, the former killing himself out of despair for not

Salomé and Saint Sebastian  141 being reciprocated in his love. Their seemingly minor episodes, which include the Page’s flashback on their moonlight walks, the exchange of gifts (perfumes and rings) traditionally seen as feminine, and overt homosexual allusions to the flute, are semantically conspicuous. Here is the scene as it appears in D’Annunzio’s French edition: LE PAGE D’HÉRODIAS: Il était mon frère, et plus proche qu’un frère. Je lui ai donné une petite boîte qui contenait des parfums et une bague d’agate qu’il portait toujours à la main. Le soir nous nous promenions au bord de la rivière et parmi les amandiers et il me racontait des choses de son pays. Il parlait toujours très bas. Le son de sa voix ressemblait au son de la flûte d’un joueur de flûte. Aussi il aimait beaucoup à se regarder dans la rivière. Je lui ai fait des reproches pour cela. (38) This scene’s sexual suggestions are so conspicuous as to have inspired Beardsley to depict them in an illustration that he titled The Platonic Lament. Beardsley clearly recognizes, draws out, and illuminates the homoerotic content of the passage in his illustration. He does this both with the title “The Platonic Lament,” which identifies the erotics as those of Platonic love, and with the drawing itself, which pictures a standing figure caressing a recumbent figure and suspends a significant carnation between them. The drawing also depicts one of Beardsley’s monsters crouching beneath them, generally suggesting baser instincts (Figure 7.1). Despite being more explicit than Wilde’s passage, Beardsley’s illustration still somehow tackles homosexual issues obliquely. The adjective “Platonic” in the title, while suggestive of homosexual practices in antiquity, relegates them to a spiritual, rather than a physical, level, and the depiction of the one figure caressing the other is fairly asexual. These attenuated motifs in both Wilde and Beardsley become, however, liberated and normative in Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien, where the central character, the handsome saint, at one time ephebic and virile, is loved by the Emperor himself, who declares his overwhelming, though unrequited, desire for him: L’EMPEREUR. […] Tu es trop beau. Et il est juste qu’on te couronne, devant tous les dieux. Je ne veux pas savoir si tu fais des rêves. Je t’aime. Tu m’es cher. (203)

142  Elisa Bizzotto

Figure 7.1  A  ubrey Beardsley, “The Platonic Lament” (1894). Reproduced courtesy of Mark Samuels Lasner.

The Emperor’s desire becomes so uncontrollable as to even find expression in blasphemous undertones. In the next passage, Sebastian is equated to the paragon of Christian femininity and appropriates her related imagery and semantics by paraphrasing and reiterating the French incipit of the Hail Mary (“Salut […]! Salut […]! Je te salue […]!”): L’EMPEREUR. Salut, beau jeune homme! Salut, sagittaire à la chevelure d’hyacinthe! Je te salue,

Salomé and Saint Sebastian  143 chef de la cohorte d’Emèse, qu’Apollon aime, en qui le dieu Porte-Lumière s’est complu! Par mon laurier, Sébastien, je t’aime aussi. […] Que les dieux justes conservent ta beauté pour l’Empereur, Sébastien! (199–200) Gender ambiguity and subversion are alluded to in Salomé mostly through the main character’s sexual overtures to Iokanaan, as well as through the homophile Page of Herodias. Beardsley exacerbates this rather cautious gender discourse in Wilde’s text by producing for it more risqué illustrations: apart from the above-mentioned The Platonic Lament, there are John and Salomé and The Climax, both portraying Salomé and Iokanaan with matching facial traits, as well as Enter Herodias, where the queen appears dominatrix-like to the ephebic Page and the other male figures. A still more overt treatment of these issues is found in ­D’Annunzio, whose choice of the androgynous, bisexual, and scandalous Ida ­Rubinstein— whom he privately called “il Santo” (“the [male] Saint”) to underline such concentration of contrasts (Lettere  443)—for the leading role in Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien is particularly indicative of gender disruption. Although D’Annunzio defended his play as “pervaded in every scene by a most ardent puff of faith” and chaster than medieval mysteries (Oliva 211–2; my translation), while also underlining Rubinstein’s ascetic features and ethereal physicality (209–11, 231), it is undeniable that both the text and its original mise-en-scène largely relied on undermining of gender roles and sexual vagueness to titillate the public and create a succès de scandal (a typical behavior in D’Annunzio), but also to lay stress on certain fin-de-siècle paradigms of femininity. Accordingly, not only did Rubinstein impersonate a man, but the sensual dance she performed as a male character turned a potentially hyper-masculine figure – the young Roman soldier Sebastian – into a femme fatale, to whom the act of (eroticized) dancing was usually associated at the time, according to a vogue greatly encouraged by the very myth of Salomé and by Wilde’s tragedy in particular (Kermode 73, 81–89; Sully 51–53; Sinisi 40–41). It does not come as a surprise, then, that Rubinstein had debuted in the title role in a famous 1908 St. Petersburg performance of Wilde’s Salomé where the dance of the seven veils acquired extreme emphasis (Dierkes-Thrun 96).7 The fact that Rubinstein’s type of artistic persona suggested her as an ideal performer for both Wilde’s and ­D’Annunzio’s tragedies establishes further strong connections between them. Both plays also feature the dissident sexual practice of fetishism. Various studies (Bernheimer, Becker-Leckrone, Fernbach) have pointed out that Salomé is saturated with references to body parts and objects being

144  Elisa Bizzotto eroticized by different characters in different situations. These references follow erratic dynamics of desire, always unrequited and unsatisfied: Herod and the Young Syrian fantasize about Salomé’s feet, hands, and skin; the Page of Herodias is aroused by the Young Syrian’s voice; ­Iokanaan’s skin, hair, and mouth magnetize Salomé’s sexual interest, as most conspicuously does his head in the final scene, which represents the culmination of all fetishism in the text. Salomé’s paraphilic partialism in her paean to Iokanaan’s body is directly related to fin-de-siècle debates on sexuality and the challenging of fixed gender constructions. With this in mind, it is significant to note that fetish tendencies in Salomé’s monologue on Iokanaan’s body are conveyed through recourse to the blazon, a figure of speech that praises a woman’s body parts by comparing them with natural elements, hence enacting an erotic objectification and metaphorical dismemberment of the feminine that comes close to fetishism. Quite unusually for Victorian culture, in Salomé the blazon and the fetishism it reflects are expressed by a female subject, thus defying traditional gender roles while also engaging in the great contemporary taboo of the articulation and satisfaction of female desire. Expanding on motifs presented in Salomé, Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien features a male subject as the exclusive object of fetishism, with some occasional blazons devoted to him, such as in the lines cited earlier that describe him as a “sagittaire à la chevelure d’hyacinthe.” Unlike in Wilde, however, the gender subversion activated through fetish allusions becomes normative, even institutionalized, within the economy of D’Annunzio’s play, where the focus on Sebastian’s body is often proposed and controlled not only by the character of the Emperor, but also by the authorial voice in the stage directions, as in the following cases: “Ici il ajuste le trait; puis, renversant le corps en arrière et soulevant tout le bras gauche, il tire de toute sa force la corde jusqu’à la grande veine du cou” (90); “On lui ôte les solerets, les genouillères, les grèves, les cuissards. Il reste avec les pièces du tronc et des bras sur la nudité de ses longues jambes sveltes” (96). Another link between Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien and Salomé is their presentation of religion as an aesthetic experience, whose pleasure is intensified by transgressively manipulating the sacred-profane opposition. The two tragedies combine Christian morality, doctrine, and hagiography with an overwhelming yearning for beauty, erotic allusions and fantasies, pagan impulses, rituals, and imagery. In both, the inspirational myths are Christian yet deeply imbued with paganism: a feature stemming from early modern cross-cultural imbrications that may in fact be seen as characteristic of historical archetypes as described by Fisch. Viewed in this context, Salomé’s dance of the seven veils is a Dionysian moment endowed with the sacredness and iconicity of a Christian ceremony. It arouses Herod—a pagan creature dependent on signs, omens, and superstitions—first, to sexual ecstasy, and then to fearful paranoia, from which he can only be freed by the sacrificial

Salomé and Saint Sebastian  145 deaths of Iokanaan and the princess. In Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien, where third-century religious syncretism offered ample opportunities to develop ­D’Annunzio’s iconoclasm, Christo-paganism is even more ingrained in the story. Salient examples are scattered throughout the text, in particular in the Third Mansion, “Le concile des faux dieux,” staging the beginning of Sebastian’s martyrdom. The Mansion opens with a very prolonged ekphrasis of the Emperor’s Lararium, the shrine sacred to household gods. It lingers on a plethora of statues of Latin, Mediterranean, and Asian deities, coming from all corners of the Roman Empire, seen as “une cohorte exsangue en rangs serrés” (193) soon to succumb to Christ, but desperately affirming their power to the last. Here is a brief portion of the paragraph: Dans l’hémicycle, la multitude multiforme des dieux se dresse comme une cohorte exsangue en rangs serrés, faite de marbres, de métaux, de bois, d’argiles, de pierres fulgurales, de pâtes inconnues. Aux douze grands dieux de Rome, aux mille petits dieux latins des demeures, des carrefours, des étuves, des vergers, des celliers, des champs, des ports, des navires, et de tous les actes, de tous les aspects, de tous les instruments de la vie, et de tous les rites et de tous les mystères de la mort, des funérailles, de la sépulture, se mêlent les déités énormes des Ptolémées et des Achéménides, les Baals ardents de Syrie, les idoles raides à oreilles pointues, à bec, à museau, les sphinx, les apis, les cynocéphales transportés de la vallée du Nil par les Empereurs superstitieux, les Couples et les Triades farouches venus d’outre-mer avec les esclaves, les courtisanes, les marchands et les soldats. (193–4) The redundant list of exotic or strange names, places, and characters, along with the presence of useless details, the overall atmosphere of intemperance, and hedonistic sophistication, all rendered through convoluted syntax, evokes precise passages of Salomé and in particular Herod’s tirade to make the princess desist from wanting Iokanaan’s head.8 In Wilde’s play, Herod’s hopes and fears are uttered in a rhetorical interplay of pagan and Christian references, with the king struggling between old polytheistic imagery (“I have sworn by my gods” [CW, vol. 5, 726]), monotheistic Judaism and his faith in the prophet, who—he says—”comes perchance from God” and “is a holy man” (727). Then follow the promises to Salomé: HÉRODE: […] J’ai des opales qui brûlent toujours avec une flamme qui est très froide, avec des opales qui attristent les esprits et ont peur des ténèbres. J’ai des onyx semblables aux prunelles d’une morte. J’ai des sélénites qui changent quand la lune change et deviennent pâles

146  Elisa Bizzotto quand elles voient le soleil. J’ai des saphirs grands comme des œufs et bleus comme des fleurs bleues. […] J’ai des chrysolithes et des béryls, j’ai des chrysoprases et des rubis, j’ai des sardonyx et des hyacinthes, et des calédoines […]. (77–78) In the insistent listing of precious stones (“marbres,” “pierres fulgurales,” “ambres,” “nacres”) to convey hyperbolic or megalomaniac statements, the passage seems to have been rewritten in the Third Mansion of Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien, precisely in the lines in which the Emperor tries to persuade Sebastian to abandon his new religion, and consequently be spared from death, with a series of extraordinary pledges: L’EMPEREUR. […] Vois. J’ai là tous mes dieux. […] Vois. Regarde. Dans tous les marbres, les métaux, les bois, les argiles, les verres, et dans les pierres fulgurales qui sont les messages des nues, et dans les pâtes inconnues semblables aux ambres, aux nacres, aux labyrinthes les plus vains de la mer, j’ai les simulacres de tous les dieux […]. Tu peux choisir pour ton offrande un dieu farouche, une déesse molle, du sang, du miel. […] Le Soleil? Et je te ferai pontife du Soleil, au temple du Quirinal. J’ajouterai d’autres dépouilles aux dépouilles de Palmyre. (205–6) Happening at dramatic climaxes of the plays, these two excerpts develop parallel temptation scenes based on pagan-Christian interaction and contamination that finally lead to pagan-Christian sacrifices. Unlike

Salomé and Saint Sebastian  147 previous examples brought to support the hypothesis of a dialogue between the two works, however, here Salomé does not function as a hypo-text that D’Annunzio thematically and aesthetically adapts and expands according to the epistemological frame of the early twentieth century. Instead, the hyperbolic argumentations in Wilde must have appealed to D’Annunzio’s poetic taste so strongly—the hyperbole was in fact among his favorite rhetorical figures, at the basis of his distinguished eloquence in both written and spoken language—that he simply needed to appropriate them through paraphrastic techniques. Both recognized as remarkable examples of Symbolist drama, Salomé and Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien also reveal a common legacy from the theatrical tradition of the late Middle Ages—the period assumed in the present chapter as generating modern myths—which chiefly operates via Symbolist poetics. Elinor Fuchs has actually explained how early 1890s Paris—just where and when Wilde composed Salomé—witnessed a medieval fascination that affected the theater and was somehow connected to the occultist vogue among the avant-garde artists of Symbolism: In the Paris of the 1890s, as Strindberg observed, the Middle Ages seemed to be “coming again to France… . Young men don the monk’s cowl…” [in] theater, medievalism ranged from revivals of religious forms to atmospheric performed by the Petit theatre des marionettes, developed almost a cult a mysterious and other-worldly Middle Ages, launched Lugné-Poë’s Théâtre de l’Oeuvre. Mallarmé greeted the work as the “paradigm of the theater of the future.” As Strindberg had reason to know, the medieval craze was closely related to the hermetic revival – centered in, but not limited to, Paris – of the last decade and a half of the century. (36) Salomé may be well perceived as possessing some of the characteristic features of this Symbolist-medieval theatrical vein, as is especially patent in the play’s fixed and stereotyped characters, repetitive language, and extensive use of metaphors and rhythmic dialogues. The effects of such medieval revival mediated through Symbolism certainly increase in Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien, whose subtitle “Mystère composé en rythme français” points to the text’s ultimate inspiration from medieval mystery plays. So does, on the other hand, the tragedy’s incipit, which reports passages from the French mystère L’ystoire de monseigneur Sainct Sebastien, performed by the inhabitants of Lanlevillar (or Lanslevillard, in the Savoy region) in 1567. Indeed, Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien shows vast knowledge of the liturgical drama of the Middle Ages, whose structural conventions D’Annunzio adopted by opening and closing the work with a prayer and dividing it into mansions— the original term to indicate the different locations for the setting of

148  Elisa Bizzotto religious plays inside churches (Oliva 209, 211–3).9 Given these considerations, and borrowing Rita Severi’s classification for Wilde’s unfinished tragedy La Sainte Courtisane (1894), very close in time to Salomé and bearing similarities to it, Salomé itself and Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien can be defined as Symbolist mystery plays: a genre that encountered some fortune at the fin de siècle and early twentieth century not only in France, but also across Europe (Fuchs 36–37, 39; Benson 183; Solterer 32–34, 56–58). Through his adherence to medieval theatrical practices after painstaking philological research on the origins of European drama, which he did not fail to publicize (Oliva 211, 217–20), D’Annunzio subscribed to contemporary debates on the art of the theater which found theoretical endorsement in the studies of his friend Jacques Rouché and of other contemporaries.10 By doing so, he situated his work within transnational literary poetics that allowed him to gain recognition outside Italy and attempted to secure for himself the role of European playwright for the new century. If the label of Symbolist mystery plays seems the aptest to justify the fluidity and liminality of the two dramas in terms of genre, their pervasive paganism suggests a further generic swerve toward the uncommon status of “pagan mystery plays.” This is in fact a rarity in literary history, eventually going back to the Christopagan hybridizations at the genesis of English theater (Diller 127–8, 232, 241–2), born in the same epoch in which modern myths emerged. Few other specimens of pagan mystery plays can be identified in the long fin de siècle apart from Wilde’s and D’Annunzio’s. One is Aleister Crowley’s The Rites of Eleusis (1910), a series of seven one-act dramas combining mysticism and paganism with the conventions of medieval mysteries, in line with their author’s syncretic occultist system. Structurally speaking, Crowley’s Rites were similar to Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien, as well as to Salomé, for having very little dramatic action, to such an extent that in them “dialogue and action were little more than a setting for the soloists” (Crowley 636). These were precisely an actor (Crowley himself), a female violinist, and a male dancer, thus forming a cast that implied experimental ambitions across the arts.11 An akin, though much more profound and theoretically earnest, experimentalism is actually involved in both Salomé and Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien. Written, as has been said, during D’Annunzio’s voluntary French exile, Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien was conceived to be put to music by Claude Debussy concurrently with its literary composition and meant from the start to be played and danced (Andreoli 466–8). In accordance with its liminal aesthetic nature, the choice for the leading role fell on Rubinstein, who considered herself a total performer (Sinisi). These features indicate striking analogies with Salomé, Wilde’s most accomplished interdisciplinary effort. Created for Sarah

Salomé and Saint Sebastian  149 Bernhardt, the greatest actress of the time, containing a pivotal dance scene and intended to be accompanied by an elaborate stage scenario by Charles Ricketts in the initial 1892 performance (Tydeman and Price 44–48; Dierkes-Thrun 62–63), before it was prohibited by the Lord ­Chamberlain, Salomé shows determination to generate a total artwork. Wilde’s inter-art project found further, though originally unplanned, realization through Beardsley’s illustrations in 1894, and then again after his own death, with Richard Strauss famously setting the play to music in 1905 and with Antoine Mariotte following suit in 1908. Comparable but more committed and more thorough experimentation characterizes Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien. In D’Annunzio, the aspiration to total theater is fulfilled through the presence of Debussy’s music, of Rubinstein’s dance interlude—which she performed with strong hieratic presence, in such a way as to be reminiscent of classical sculpture and paintings of the old masters—and of Léon Bakst’s lavish Symbolist stage and costume design. Bakst, a Russian artist collaborating with Ballets Russes, who also designed the costumes for Rubinstein’s 1908 Salomé in St. Petersburg, gave a vital contribution to attain a new type of total drama at the beginning of the twentieth century. In his conception, drama conflated not simply different arts, but also cultures and traditions, ultimately aiming at the public’s participation in the performance, thus anticipating later forms of audience inclusion, as Carlo Santoli has explained: L’importance du Martyre de Saint Sébastien tient en effet à sa représentation scénique. On peut parler de “poésie de l’espace”, autrement dit de la création d’un nouveau langage figurative, d’un “théâtre total”, qui unit harmonieusement Occident et Orient. […] Bakst connaît l’art d’enchanter: en suivant les indications de d’Annunzio, il génère des suggestions particulières, offrant au public un émerveillement total. Ce public n’est d’ailleurs plus simple spectateur mais, en entrant virtuellement sur scène, il devient un acteur-­ personnage qui revit le tourbillon des émotions et des passions. (19) In the interpretation of Salomé as a subtext for Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien, therefore, experimentalism across the arts—budding in Wilde and mature in D’Annunzio—may represent further evidence of a dialogue between the two works. In both cases, however, the ultimate derivation of this aesthetic position is Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk. In Wilde, the concept was mainly filtered through Pater’s “The School of Giorgione” (1877), with its advocacy of an interaction between the arts: as Pater puts it, “an Anders-streben — a partial alienation from […] [their] own limitations, through which the arts are able, not indeed to supply the place of each other, but reciprocally to lend each other new forces”

150  Elisa Bizzotto (Renaissance 105). In D’Annunzio, instead, Gesamtkunstwerk merged with the ideas of the Italian critic Angelo Conti, himself a Wagner enthusiast and Pater exegete (Zanetti 53–62; Bizzotto 126–8).12 D’Annunzio, whose novels The Flame of Life (1900) and The Triumph of Death (1894) were greatly inspired by Wagnerian poetics, and who appeared himself as an emanation of Wagner’s art,13 drew attention to the Wagnerian nature of Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien in an interview that highlighted his transformation of musical into visual sensations in composing the play. “When writing The Mystery of Saint Sebastian”—he declared—“I am dominated by certain hues and certain accords which incessantly return into my brain like an insistent ‘leit motiv’ [sic]. At night, while I am writing, this indefinite music attends my vigil” (Oliva 253; my translation). Experimentalism in Salomé and Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien also entailed the choice of obsolete and formal types of French as the language for the two texts which indicates the intentions to create new codes of artistic expression. In the case of D’Annunzio in particular, the use of French belonged to a larger ambition to reform the theater and produce a modern Mediterranean tragedy similar, but also opposed, to Wagner’s Nordic Wort Ton Drama. At the beginning of the twentieth century, under the influence of the avant-gardes, of the Ballets Russes (established in Paris in 1909) and of such progressive treatise as Rouchés’s L’art Théatrale Moderne (1910), France, much more than provincial Italy, offered opportunities for radical rediscussions of drama aesthetics and was open to debates around the necessity for theatrical reform. For D’Annunzio, writing in French became a way of subscribing to this movement and being identified as a real innovator and precursor. As Maria Rosa Chiapparo has maintained, Écrire en français voulait dire entrer dans ce mouvement de réforme qui investit le monde théâtral de l’époque, et se justifie par l’aptitude de D’Annunzio à saisir le phénomène de transformation ainsi que par son besoin d’innovation. Cela signifiait aussi reconnâitre la nécessité d’une “solidarité latine”, au nom de laquelle il fallait opérer pour créer la tragedia moderna e mediterranea qui devait être l’expression suprême de la “race latine.” (16–7) It cannot be denied, on the other hand, that Wilde and D’Annunzio likewise nurtured more prosaic hopes to be credited as (the most) famous artists of their age, well beyond national confines, as has already been suggested. In view of that, both adopted French to acquire international, or at least European, prestige. Through French, Wilde hoped to convince Bernhardt to act for him and bring him glory as a playwright outside England, whereas D’Annunzio wanted to overcome the limits imposed upon him by the little transnational circulation of the Italian language.

Salomé and Saint Sebastian  151 D’Annunzio’s efflorescent French, resenting the influence of Latin, is based on the Medieval langue d’oil, as he remarked in interviews where he assured that each word in Le Martyre was at least 400 years old ­(Oliva 220, 228, 231). In fact, Guy Tosi (115–9) has shown that this is not always the case, while also noticing the awkwardness and inconsistencies of D’Annunzio’s over-bookish vocabulary. Wilde’s French, rather limited in lexical range and syntactic complexity though it is ­(MacDonald 4), shares with D’Annunzio’s a highly musical and ekphrastic quality, but its style is generally more solemn on account of biblical derivations.14 Moreover, as happened to D’Annunzio, Wilde’s determination to write in French incurred criticism and lampooning because of his occasional lack of competence. Famous in this regard is Beardsley’s drawing Oscar Wilde at Work (1893), which portrays the writer at his desktop, surrounded by a French dictionary and French grammar books for beginners (Figure 7.2).

Figure 7.2  Aubrey Beardsley, “Oscar Wilde at Work” (c. 1893). Reproduced courtesy of Mark Samuels Lasner.

152  Elisa Bizzotto In both cases, however, the choice of French did not simply amount to an exercise in preciosity and sophistication, nor was it only connected to the search for international fame. For the two writers, French also represented the idiom of aestheticist and decadent literature. It was thus an ideal instrument of expression, supremely musical and refined—as exemplified by such models as Flaubert, Mallarmé, and Verlaine—though an uncanny one, at one time familiar and strange. Preferring French over their mother tongues allowed them to intensify the aestheticist-decadent quest for le mot juste in such a way that they could posit themselves as real martyrs of style according to Pater’s well-known definition of Flaubert in Appreciations (24). Moreover, it is possible that their partial familiarity with the language helped them perceive it as less semantically charged and closer to sound, thus fulfilling the P ­ aterian aspiration of all arts to the condition of music and the Symbolist ideal of word as music. As ambitious plays by unconventional artists who embodied the spirit of their transitional age, both Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien and its apparent hypo-text Salomé offer paradigmatic examples of the function of modern myths at the beginning and toward the end of the fin de siècle, respectively. Through modern myths, recognizable and popular across countries, cultures and histories, and therefore ideal tropes to pursue cosmopolitan fame, Wilde and D’Annunzio could deal with such urgent issues as sexual and religious dissidence, the utopias of the total artwork and of Anders-Streben, inter-art and inter-genre experimentalism, and the sacralization of art. They did so in French, the artistic lingua franca of the time, which was also finalized to augment their international aura and accomplish the desire to create a transnational oeuvre symbolic of the fin de siècle and paving the way to the avant-gardes. Nonetheless, for the two writers, French firstly constituted a malleable instrument to fathom and practice some of their most entrenched aesthetic beliefs. The success of the two dramas in reaching these aims can be better gauged by their rich and extended afterlife. It is a fact that D’Annunzio’s and Wilde’s rereadings of modern myths set a necessary canon for subsequent interpretations of Saint Sebastian and Salomé in and outside literature during the twentieth century and after. As finely shown by Petra Dierkes-Thrun (for the case of Salomé) and Richard A. Kaye (for the case of Saint Sebastian), Wilde’s Salomé and D’Annunzio’s Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien are still enjoying international recognition in the (post-)postmodern period, amply realizing their authors’ boldest aspirations. By providing such long-standing, cross-cultural influence, Wilde’s Salomé and D’Annunzio’s Martyre represent crucial contributions in the metamorphosis of Fisch’s historical myths or archetypes from modern to postmodern.

Salomé and Saint Sebastian  153

Notes 1 Although Fisch is never mentioned in the volume, his views are, to a certain degree, shared by Ian Watt in Myths of Modern Individualism. Faust, Don Quixote, Don Juan, Robinson Crusoe. As in Fisch, Watt’s myths are historical, but are nonetheless seen “not as actual historical persons perhaps but not merely as invented fictions either” (xi). 2 Salomé: drame en un acte, illustré par Aubrey Beardsley, Paris, Alençon, Imprimerie V.ve Felix Guy et C., 1907. 3 Salomé: drame en un acte, précédé de notes sur l’auteur par Ernest La Jeunesse; frontispice et illustrations dessinés et gravés sur bois par Louis Jou, Paris, George Crès et C. Le Théâtre d’Art, 1917. 4 For a detailed report of D’Annunzio’s ban by the Church of Rome, see Brera. 5 A comprehensive survey on the subjects is given in Burgers 165–182. See also Bentley 49–50, 78–79. 6 Since Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien has never been translated into English, all quotations come from the French edition listed in the bibliography. 7 Rubinstein’s obsession with Salomé is discussed in Bentley 135–40. 8 In their turn, the language and style of Salomé (Herod’s long speech included) were inspired by precise French sources—from Flaubert’s Tentation de saint Antoine and Hérodias, to Laforgue’s Moralités légendaires, to Maeterlinck’s La princesse Maleine (see Tydeman and Price 4–8; Domenichelli). 9 It is perhaps worth noticing that D’Annunzio showed profound awareness of the late-medieval and early-Renaissance origins of the myth of Saint ­Sebastian. The preliminary research for his tragedy focused on fifteenthand sixteenth-century iconography and on such earlier texts as the Contes pieux, the Chansons de geste, the Romans epiques, Marie de France’s Lanval, Robert de Bojon’s Perceval, and Jacobus de Garazze’s Golden Legend (Oliva 209–10, 220, 223–4, 231). 10 Acknowledging the value of Viatcheslav Yvanov’s ideas, Rouché (44) mentions “Le drame symbolique; la tragédie héroïque et mystique; le mystère (se rapprochant du mystère moyenâgeux); la comédie” as forms for the new theater. On the revival of the medieval mystery play in late-nineteenth-­century France, see also Datta, 24, 36, 154. 11 It is difficult to say whether Crowley, who would live in Italy, from 1920 to 1923, had any influence on or from D’Annunzio. No letter from Crowley, nor any other work by him, is present at Il Vittoriale apart from a presentation copy of Mortadello, or the Angel of Venice, a Comedy (1912) complemented with the author’s dedication to “the great Italian poet,” which testifies to Crowley’s admiration and perhaps to some familiarity. 12 For Wagner’s influence on Wilde, see Sutton (24–56); see also Yvonne Ivory’s chapter in this volume. For Wagner’s influence on D’Annunzio, see Chiesa and Paratore. It should perhaps be mentioned that D’Annunzio wrote three articles in defense of Wagner for the Roman newspaper La Tribuna on July 12 and August 3 and 9, 1893. These were republished in D’Annunzio’s Il caso Wagner (2013). 13 In 1902 writer Edmondo De Amicis confessed that listening to D’Annunzio made the same effect on me as the first listening to Wagner’s music, which vibrated in my head all night, even in my sleep, as if it had come there through a mysterious entrance, more direct and easy than the sense of hearing. One would say that all arts are included in his art of the word, that he is talking, singing, drawing and sculpting at one time. (Oliva 81; my translation)

154  Elisa Bizzotto 14 Although there is no direct evidence of the influence of the French Bible on Wilde’s biblical language, Ian Andrew MacDonald identifies the presence of diverse French translations of the Bible in Salomé (4–5). The fascination with the French Bible was long-standing in Wilde who, in a letter from prison of March 8, 1897, wrote to More Adey asking for “a Bible in French: la Sainte Bible” (CL 682).

Works Cited Andreoli, Annamaria. Il vivere inimitabile: Vita di Gabriele D’Annunzio. Mondadori, 2000. Becker-Leckrone, Megan. “Salomé: The Fetishization of a Textual Corpus.” New Literary History, vol. 26, no. 2, 1995, pp. 239–60. Benson, Stephen. Cycles of Influence: Fiction, Folktale, Theory. Wayne State UP, 2003. Bentley, Tony. Sisters of Salome. Yale UP, 2002. Bernheimer, Charles. “Fetishism and Decadence: Salomé’s Severed Head.” Fetishism as Cultural Discourse, edited by Emily Apter and William Pietz, ­Cornell UP, 1993, pp. 62–83. Bizzotto, Elisa. “‘Children of Pleasure’: Oscar Wilde and Italian Decadents.” The Reception of Oscar Wilde in Europe, edited by Stefano Evangelista, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2010, pp. 124–40. Brera, Matteo. “Gabriele d’Annunzio e la Santa Sede. Il processo e la condanna del 1911 nei documenti della Congregazione dell’Indice.” Quaderni del Vittoriale, Nuova serie, vol. 8, 2012, pp. 27–43. Burgers, Johannes H. “The Spectral Salomé: Salomania and Fin-de-Siècle Sexology and Racial Theory.” Decadence, Degeneration, and the End: Studies in the European Fin de Siècle, edited by Marja Härmänmaa and Christopher Nissen, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, pp. 165–82. Chiapparo, Maria R. “Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien: une expérience de écriture française de Gabriele D’Annunzio.” La langue dell’autre, ou la double identité de l’écriture. Publication de l’université François Rablais de Tour, 2001, pp. 67–84. Rpt. In Nuovo Rinascimento, vol. 2. No. 19, 11 May 2015.

Chiesa, Renato. “Riccardo Wagner nell’opera di D’Annunzio.” Quaderni del Vittoriale, vol. 9, 1978, pp. 17–62. Crowley, Aleister. The Confessions of Aleister Crowley: An Autohagiography. Penguin, 1989. D’Annunzio, Gabriele. Il caso Wagner. Edited by Paola Sorge. Elliot, 2013. ———. Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien. Mystère composé en rythme français par Gabriele D’Annunzio et joue at Paris sur la scène du Chatalet le XXII Mai MCMXI avec la musique de Claude Debussy. Calmann-Lévy, 1911. ———. Lettere a Natalia de Goloubeff (1908–1915). Edited by Andrea ­L ombardinilo. Carabba, 2005. Datta, Venita. Heroes and Myths of Fin-de-Siècle France. Gender, Politics, and National Identity. Cambridge UP, 2011. De Michelis, Eurialo. Guida a D’Annunzio. Meynier, 1988. Dierkes-Thrun, Petra. Salome’s Modernity: Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetics of Transgression. U of Michigan P, 2011.

Salomé and Saint Sebastian  155 Diller, Hans-Jürgen. The Middle English Mystery Play: A Study in Dramatic Speech and Form. Cambridge UP, 1992. Domenichelli, Mario. “Wilde e Beardsley. Salomé.” L’asino di B., vol. 5, no. 5, March 2001, pp. 13–58. Fernbach, Amanda. “Wilde’s Salome and the Ambiguous Fetish.” Victorian Literature and Culture, vol. 29, no. 1, 2001, pp. 195–218. Fisch, Harold. A Remembered Future: A Study in Literary Mythology. Indiana UP, 1984. Fuchs, Elinor. The Death of Character. Perspectives on Theater after Modernism. Indiana UP, 1996. Genette, Gerard. Palimpsests. Translated by Channa Newman and Claude Doubinsky. U of Nebraska P, 1997. Graham, Allen. Hypertextuality. Routledge, 2000. Kaye, Richard A. “‘Determined Raptures’: St. Sebastian and the Victorian Discourse of Decadence.” Victorian Literature and Culture, vol. 27, no. 1, 1999, pp. 269–303. ———. “Losing His Religion: Saint Sebastian as Contemporary Gay Martyr.” Outlooks: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities and Visual Cultures, edited by Peter Horne and Reina Lewis, Routledge, 1996, pp. 86–105. ———. “Oscar Wilde and the Politics of Posthumous Sainthood: Hofmannsthal, Mirbeau, Proust.” Oscar Wilde and Modern Culture: The Making of a Legend, edited by Joseph Bristow, Ohio UP, 2008, pp. 110–32. ———. “‘A Splendid Readiness for Death’: T. S. Eliot, the Homosexual Cult of St. Sebastian, and the First World War.” Modernism/Modernity, vol. 6, no. 2, 1999, pp. 107–34. Kermode, Frank. Romantic Image. 1957. Routledge, 2002. MacDonald, Ian A. “Oscar Wilde as a French Writer: Considering Wilde’s French in Salomé.” Refiguring Oscar Wilde’s Salomé, edited by Michael Y. Bennett, Rodopi, 2011, pp. 1–19. Miller, James E and Eliot, TS. The Making of an American Poet, 1888–1922. The Pennsylvania State UP, 2005. Oliva, Gianni, ed. Interviste a D’Annunzio. Carabba, 2002. Paratore, Ettore. “D’Annunzio e Wagner.” D’Annunzio e la cultura germanica. Centro Nazionale di Studi Dannunziani, 1985, pp. 101–17. Pater, Walter. “Style”. Appreciations, with an Essay on Style. 1890, pp. 1–36. ———. The Renaissance. Studies in Art and Poetry. The 1893 Text. Edited by Donald L. Hill. U California P, 1980. Rouché, Jacques. L’Art Théâtral Moderne. Édouard Cornély & C., Éditeurs, 1910. Santoli, Carlo. Le théâtre francais de Gabriele D’Annunzio et l’art décoratif de Léon Bakst: la mise en scène du Martyre de Saint Sébastien, de La Pisanelle et de Phèdre a travers Cabiria. PUPS, 2009. Severi, Rita. “La Sainte Courtisane by Oscar Wilde. Dramatic Oxymoron and Saintly Pursuits.” The Journal of Drama Studies, January 2007, pp. 57–71. Rpt. in The Oscholars Library. 24 Apr. 2015 Sinisi, Silvana. L’interprete totale. Ida Rubinstein tra teatro e danza. UTET, 2011. Solterer, Hellen. Medieval Roles for Modern Times: Theater and the Battle for the French Republic. The Pennsylvania State UP, 2010.

156  Elisa Bizzotto Sully, Jess, “Challenging the Stereotype: The Femme Fatale in Fin-de-Siècle Art and Early Cinema.” The Femme Fatale: Images, Histories, Contexts, edited by Helen Hanson and Catherine O’Rowe, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, pp. 46–59. Sutton, Emma. Aubrey Beardsley and British Wagnerism in the 1890s. Oxford UP, 2002. Tosi, Guy. “D’Annunzio écrivain français: le travail du style dans Le Martyre de saint Sébastien.” Quaderni del Vittoriale, vol. 5, no. 6, ottobre-dicembre 1977, pp. 104–39. Tydeman, William and Steven Price. Wilde: Salomé. Cambridge UP, 1996. Watt, Ian. Myths of Modern Individualism: Faust, Don Quixote, Don Juan, Robinson Crusoe. Cambridge UP, 1996. Wilde, Oscar. The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Edited by Ian Small, et al., Oxford UP, 2000–, 7 vols. ———. Salomé: drame en un acte. Illustré par Aubrey Beardsley. Alençon, Imprimerie V.ve Felix Guy et C., 1907. ———. Salomé: drame en un acte. Précédé de notes sur l’auteur par Ernest La Jeunesse. Frontispice et illustrations dessinés et gravés sur bois par Louis Jou. George Crès et C. Le Théatre d’Art, 1917. Wilde, Oscar. The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde. Edited by Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart-Davis, Henry Holt, 2000. Zanetti, Giorgio. Estetismo e modernità. Saggio su Angelo Conti. Il Mulino, 1996.

8 Eros/Threnos Mournful Necrophilia in Wilde and Fernando Pessoa’s Antinous Kostas Boyiopoulos Cold to cold, corpse to corpse, with my dead love to lie Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper, “The Song of Aphrodîtê” (Leigh 135)

The work of Oscar Wilde is imbued with scenes of mourning and lamentation that carry strong erotic overtones, as in “The Fisherman and His Soul” and the sonnet “The Grave of Keats.” Conversely, necrophilic encounters are suggestive of ritual lament, especially in the long narrative poem “Charmides” from Poems (1881/1882). In other words, sexual yearning and grieving are tunes played to the same beat. Wilde’s mournful necrophilia is also associated with homoerotic gazing and desire, while Wilde simultaneously neutralizes its traumatic and transgressive qualities by arresting it in artistic form. The first part of this chapter investigates Wilde’s convergences of mourning and necrophilia by highlighting important aspects of “Charmides.” These convergences are energized by an esoteric network of Classical and Christian allusions that pivot on cultural continuities between the figures of Adonis and Christ. The second part of the chapter then tethers Wilde’s world of the Greek ideal with his afterworld of twentieth-century Modernist poetics, specifically to Antinous: A Poem (Lisbon 1918), a homosexual elegy composed in English by Portuguese author Fernando Pessoa (1888–1935). The merging of mourning and necrophilia, diffused as it is in Wilde’s work, informs Pessoa’s poem in an exemplary manner. The necrophilic imagery in Antinous parallels that of “Charmides.” Antinous is not only indebted to Wilde, but also casts a useful retrospective light on Wilde’s fusion of grief and sensuality.1 The taboo theme of erotic activity with the dead is treated by such dissident Romantic and decadent authors as Edgar Allan Poe, Théophile Gautier, Baudelaire, and Swinburne. Wilde’s Salomé (1891/1894), of course, with its gruesome and grotesque dénouement, is the iconic example of post-Romantic necrophilia. Moreover, in this play, N ­ arraboth’s dead body is bewailed by his Page, a scene with same-sex insinuations, as Aubrey Beardsley’s visual rendition of “Platonic Lament” suggests.

158  Kostas Boyiopoulos Wilde’s nexus of sexuality and lamentation in particular does not stem from the Gothic Romantic tradition’s obsessing with beautiful dead women, however, but draws inspiration from amalgamating the Classical notions of eros and threnos—threnos or threnody is an ode of mourning—from epic and tragedy. Eros in grief can be traced all the way back to Homer’s Iliad. In Book 18, the dead body of Patroclus, who has been killed by Hector, is repossessed by the Achaeans and brought into Achilles’s tent. Achilles, with his warriors (the Myrmidons) and the women, is intensely grieving over his friend’s corpse. The scene is marked by domesticity and a physical display of comradeship as Achilles “led the thronging chant of their lamentation, / and laid his manslaughtering hands over the chest of his dear friend / with outbursts of incessant grief” (405; ll. 18.316–8). Aeschylus interprets Achilles’s lament for Patroclus as necrophilic. In a surviving fragment from his lost play Myrmidons, Achilles addresses his dead friend: “And I honoured the intimacy of your thighs by bewailing you” (147; Fragment 136).2 A woman would not have mourned her male lover in such a manner; overt sexual language in a context of grief seems to be specific to homoeroticism. In the Iliad, by performing a lamentation ritual, Achilles mirrors Andromache, Helen, and Hecuba, who lament in succession the dead Hector at the epic’s close. He does not assume femininity here, but takes on the role of an erotic mourner in his own right. Achilles’s grieving of the body of Patroclus with its undertones of male love would have been particularly attractive to Wilde. As an Oxford undergraduate, Wilde was haunted by the luxuriant evocations of Classical and Hellenistic literature, notably in Studies of the Greek Poets (1873) by Uranian Classical scholar John Addington Symonds. This is a work that often makes reference to Homeric lamentation while steeped in an air of homoeroticism. In his annotated copy of Studies, Wilde marks Symonds’s numerous references to Achilles and Patroclus (Oscar’s Books 89–90).3 Henry Staten points out that in the Iliad, Achilles makes women weep not just for Patroclus but for himself, in anticipation of his own death. In what he calls Achilles’s “automourning,” Staten argues that the Greek hero projects on Patroclus’s corpse a libidinal fantasy, a desire for himself to be grieved by others. “Mourning in the Iliad is represented as a structure of self-reflection in which the death of the other arouses automourning in the onlooker” (Staten 40). This idea gains currency in Wildean poetics. The body, which is mourned while retaining the status of object of desire, essentially reflects the subject’s self-absorption, conjuring a world not of lovers but of proxies, narcissistic mirrors that point to self-love and introspection. This is partly why Wilde is interested in exploring interactions with non-human entities such as statues, nymphs, deities, mermaids, and sphinxes; these encode homoerotic desire that, through the curious pleasures issuing from the inaccessibility to the inanimate other, ricochets on the self.

Eros/Threnos  159 Freud posits in “On Narcissism” (1914) that homosexuals take “as a model not their own mother but their own selves. They are plainly seeking themselves as a love-object” with their “object-choice” being “narcissistic” (554). Wilde’s cultivation of eros/threnos amplifies yet distorts the Greek heroic ideal, using it to explore this narcissistic fixation on the level of formal imagery. Indeed, Wilde confounds and fuses erotic poetry and threnody. “Love’s Litany” and “the Language of grief,” Gilbert says in “The Critic as Artist” (1891), are both species of aesthetic pleasure, subordinated to “Form, which is the birth of passion, [and] is also the death of pain” (CW 4, 196).4 Practices of necrophilia and mourning are regulatory formal exercises, endowed with ritualism and performativity that mitigate the impact of death by turning it into aesthetic pleasure. In the convergence of eros and threnos, the profane and the customary are either heightened or cancel each other out.

Part I Wilde’s “Charmides” and Eros as Kommòs Approximating an Ovidian tale, “Charmides” is a decadent masterwork that shocked its readers with its daring themes of sacrilege and unnatural sexuality. The poem subverts Plato’s dialogue Charmides about the virtue of temperance. It encodes homoeroticism, living up to Socrates’s pederastic admiration for the handsome Charmides in Plato’s dialogue. In his copy of Plato’s text, Wilde marks Socrates’s exclamation: “O rare! I caught a sight of the inwards of [Charmides’s] garment, and took flame” (Wright 91).5 This image certainly inspires Wilde’s poem in which the protagonist, a young Grecian sailor, in clandestine fashion strips and sexually violates the statue of goddess Athena inside her temple of divine worship. Athena has her revenge by luring Charmides to drown at sea. Sensual excess in this first part of the poem resembles religious veneration in a scene that brings together agalmatophilia and hierophilia, sexual attraction to statues and divinities, respectively. The poem’s second part continues to blur the boundaries between different ritual practices as Wilde introduces his most nuanced instance of dirge-like necrophilia. This is what Walter Hamilton, the author of The Aesthetic Movement in England (1882), might have had in mind when he aptly synopsized the poem as “classical, sad, voluptuous” (105). Here, Charmides’s dead body, like a parody of a Boticcellian Venus, is jettisoned on the seashore and found by a stray Dryad, a virgin wood nymph, who is smitten with desire as she mistakes him for a slumbering “sea-god” (l. 344). She ravishes his body while striving to revive him. The goddess Artemis punishes her misdemeanor by killing her, a narrative ploy that enables her spectacular collapse that blurs sexual frustration with a suggestive practice of lamentation. A variation of the

160  Kostas Boyiopoulos Charmides-Dryad episode that fuses necrophilia and grief is the tale of “Dimoetes” from the collection of love stories Erotica Pathemata (The Sorrows of Love) by Parthenius of Nicaea (first c. BC), a Hellenist philologist who tutored Virgil. Dimoetes chances upon the dead body of an extraordinarily fine-looking woman cast ashore. He falls in love and has intercourse with her body until it begins to decompose. Dimoetes decides to bury her only to commit suicide at her tomb as a result of his unquenchable passion (Parthenius 359). In “Charmides,” Patricia ­Flanagan Behrendt notes, Wilde associates heterosexual passion with “self-­centred sexual desire where the love object is unresponsive, inanimate, or dead” (50). In addition, heterosexual encounters with inanimate bodies in Wilde carry homoerotic undertones. The element they emphasize in these narratives is that the coalescence of the erotic and the threnodic hovers diffusely as a formal process. Wilde encodes homoeroticism in the Charmides-Dryad episode by evoking adeptly eros and threnos without circumscribing them as distinct practices. In the poem’s funereal gesture, mermaids embalm and groom Charmides’s body with “sweet spices from far Araby” (l. 281). They “combed his dank and dripping hair / And smoothed his brow, and loosed his clenching hand” (ll. 279–80) with the “halcyon sing[ing] her softest lullaby” (l. 282), in effect simulating a dirge or epicedium. From the outset of the poem’s second act, Charmides’s body is transported by the wave’s “clotted foam” which “Lay diapered in some strange fantasy” (ll. 285– 6). This compelling image on the one hand immortalizes perished male beauty, preserving and displaying it in the poem’s Romance space, as if it is trapped in amber, lying in state. On the other hand, it is an image of tomblike enclosure, a mausoleum of Romance. Elisabeth Bronfen contends that “beauty” always “includes death’s inscription, because it requires the translation (be it in fantasy or in reality) of an imperfect animate body, into a perfect, inanimate image, a dead ‘figure’” (64). Charmides is a dead figure, both physical and literary, or a formal process as noted earlier. But how else is threnos conjured in this poetic mausoleum which brims with carnal details and instances of ravishment? The wood nymph that has drifted from her group is overcome with lust for Charmides’s anointed body that is gently poised in the liminal threshold between land and sea (ll. 337–42). Her “pallid chastity” (l. 447) and sexual misconduct classify her in the decadent cult of the lustful virgin. With Swinburnian insatiability, frustration, and violence, the Dryad is “crushing her breasts in amorous tyranny” (l. 345), And lay beside him, thirsty with love’s drouth, Called him soft names, played with his tangled hair, And with hot lips made havoc of his mouth Afraid he might not wake, and then afraid Lest he might wake too soon, fled back, and then, fond renegade,

Eros/Threnos  161 Returned to fresh assault, and all day long Sat at his side, and laughed at her new toy, And held his hand, and sang her sweetest song, Then frowned to see how froward was the boy Who would not with her maidenhood entwine, Nor knew that three days since his eyes had looked on Proserpine (ll. 350–60) The Dryad’s necrophilic assaults bear extraordinary resemblance to the so-called kommòs (κομμός) of Greek tragedy. Aristotle identifies kommòs as the joint and alternate lamentation of the Chorus and the actors. The term comes from the verb koptein, which means to cut and is associated with “beating the breast” (Aristotle 99; note on “dirge”). Although there is no Chorus in the poem, Wilde suggests its threnodic presence through symbolism and rhetoric pertaining to seasonal transience as white and red lilies withered by “grisly death with chill and nipping frost” […] “Answered each other in a sweet antiphonal counterchange” (ll. 345–6, 348). In its evolution kommòs embraced any violent emotion, as French classicist Paul Masqueray pointed out in 1893, including “Désespoir, tristesse, angoisse, sollicitude inquiète, passion tumultueuse” (Despair, sadness, anxiety, anxious concern, tumultuous passion; my translation) (Cornford 42). This is precisely the spectrum of emotions that the Dryad undergoes in sexually assaulting Charmides’s body. Kommòs is crucially tied in with tactile interaction: it is a ritualistic, frenetic bewailing of the dead, an energy-releasing performance, almost like a shamanic ecstasy, that involves gentle murmuring as well as rending apart (sparagmos). It is associated with self-harm, extreme pathos, fury, affliction, and affect.6 In her erratic oscillations, the Dryad is both a frenzied maenad and a solemn wailer. The Dryad does not lament the death of a loved one though, but the impossibility of her union with a stranger. The fact that she has never seen Charmides before means that what appears as threnodic performance on her part does not originate from a genuine loss of a true lover. Her passionate kommòs is extraneous and not the result of a misfortune as in a tragic plot. Moreover, in her attempt to revive Charmides, the Dryad essentially laments not just for a complete stranger, but for one whom she mistakes for a deity; and not even for one who is dead but merely slumbering. Through a series of filters of absurd misunderstandings and misperceptions, sexuality and ritual lamentation, transgressive as they are especially in relation to each other, lend themselves to irony. They are circumstantial, devoid of intention, and so permitted in the poem’s context. This is Wilde’s clever trick in order to avoid moral judgement for what he is depicting. With this construction, Wilde reverses his own maxim in “The Critic as Artist” that “Art does not hurt us”: “We weep, but we are not wounded” (CW4, 173).

162  Kostas Boyiopoulos The Dryad weeps and is wounded, exhibiting the symptoms of tragic ­ athos, without being part of any tragedy. It is the display of pathos that p matters to Wilde and not its cause. In such a reading where a radically different context can fit a given action or conduct, even the episode of Charmides’s sexual act on Athena’s statue in the first part of the poem can be put into perspective and seen as a subtle variation of necrophilic lament: “all night long he murmured honeyed word” (l. 116) while he “pressed / His hot and beating heart upon her chill and icy breast” (ll. 119–20). This merger of eros and threnos in “Charmides” is unequivocally mirrored, while symmetrically gender-reversed, in the ending to the short story “The Fisherman and His Soul” (1891). In this tale, the fisherman receives the dead body of his mermaid lover on the seashore, paralleling the liminal location of mournful necrophilia in “Charmides.” The mermaid is nonhuman and potentially also a coded figure of homosexuality. The fisherman’s necrophilic kommòs resembles a scene from Greek tragedy. It exudes agony and poignancy that is not far from delight; the symptoms of grief are also those of hedonic excitement. The fisherman “made confession,” that is, sang his dirge “to the dead thing,” reducing the mermaid to a mere object just like the Dryad’s “toy”: “Weeping as one smitten with pain he flung himself down beside it, and he kissed the cold red of the mouth, and toyed with the wet amber of the hair” (Wilde 1986: 270). In “Charmides,” the Dryad’s lamentation unfolds in a series of soliloquies that use both the second- and third-person voice and run for about twenty-five stanzas (ll. 374–522) in luscious mythological imagery, elaborate Homeric similes, and genital symbolism. Her addresses to Charmides’s corpse and entreaties to “awake” (ll. 397, 505) mediate this style with soothing lullaby and somber, erotic confession. Her performance contains an elaborate aquatic fantasia (anticipating the marine realm of the Sea-Folk in “The Fisherman and His Soul”) in which she imagines herself dwelling with Charmides in an underwater palace “in some cavern of the sea” (l. 366), with “a blue wave” as their “canopy” (ll. ­373–4), with a “bridal bed” of “emerald pillars” and “a throne of pearl,” “sphered in foaming silver, and with coral-crownèd head” (ll. 371–3). This marine fancy is all the more striking as it stands in contrast with the wood nymph’s terrestrial nature. With its sepulchral architecture and ­mausoleum-jewelled look, this underwater reverie of immersion in water is suggestive of the mourner’s far-reaching desire: participation in an unfamiliar realm that lies beyond breathing space, joining the lamented person sheltered therein. It is a latent vision of drowning, constituting what Gaston Bachelard in 1947 called the “Ophelia complex,” described as a delectable submersion in water, the female element (Bachelard ­112–3); this is associated with the liquid woman whose blood, milk, and tears symbolize a blissful drowning since for “l’imagination matérielle,

Eros/Threnos  163 tout liquide est une eau” (“for the material imagination, all types of liquid are like water”; my translation) (Bachelard 158). The Dryad becomes the liquid woman. Through the divine agency of Eros, her frustration crescendos to a spectacular death, in which “the little flowers of her breast / Just brake into their milky blossoming” (ll. 517–8). Artemis’s punitive dart “ploughed a bloody furrow” and “dug a long red road” in her heart (ll. 521–2). The Dryad anticipates the fisherman (in Wilde’s fairy tale) whose grief, as it intensifies, thus causing his death, turns carnal: “when he knew that the end was at hand he kissed with mad lips the cold lips of the Mermaid, and the heart that was within him brake” (Wilde 1986: 271). In a stanza that brings to mind the Venus and Adonis myth (discussed in the next section), the Dryad’s kommòs is redirected to her own looming death: Sobbing her life out with a bitter cry On the boy’s body fell the Dryad maid, Sobbing for incomplete virginity, And raptures unenjoyed, and pleasures dead, And all the pain of things unsatisfied, And the bright drops of crimson youth crept down her throbbing side. (ll. 523–8) Kommòs functions here at two removes: in her dying moments the Dryad laments not only “pleasures dead,” but also the loss of lamentation itself, “the pain of things unsatisfied,” her own imminent death. Her self-­lamentation resembles Achilles’s “automourning.” The trope of threnody in “Charmides” attains universal significance: the unmanageable, escaping energy of eros can only be dealt with by reflecting its unreachability in the context of what appears to be, by a suggestive collusion with Artemis, her punishing patroness, a dramatic sacrifice. The “bright drops of crimson youth” is an image symptomatic of a Christlike wound and yet of menstruation, capturing a peculiar transference from sexuality to death. The Dryad’s initial carnal thirst here turns into a tragic display of intense love and emotional affliction, but without the presence of a true love object. In the poem’s sweeping dénouement, the pain of loss is resolved when death is radically transcended. The realm of death accommodates the mourner’s ultimate fantasy: with Venus’s intervention, the two dead figures appear to consummate their sexual desire in Hades, in a sort of sexual transfiguration. The “melancholy moonless Acheron” (l. 607) becomes the setting of a peculiar hedonic sanctuary. It becomes an impossible love nest that upgrades (or downgrades) the underwater palace envisaged earlier by the Dryad. But Wilde’s final plot trick is fraught with ambiguity that further endorses the idea of desire as something that returns to the self. Like Narcissus, Charmides watches in a well “His

164  Kostas Boyiopoulos own wan face, [and] a shadow seemed to pass / Across the mirror, and a little hand / Stole into his” (ll. 621–3). Flouting logic by investing the hereafter with life, the speaker describes in vividly sensual terms—in contrast with the cold wasteland surroundings—how Charmides turns around and clasps the maiden that shows up “Until they seemed one perfect rose of flame” (l. 628). The intermingling of his own reflection with the presumed Dryad suggests that in the Wildean universe characterized by “That self-fed flame” (l. 332), love means auto-loving. Wilde conjures in cold, “loveless land of Hades” a “scorching” space “Where passion walks with naked unshod feet / And is not wounded” (ll. 645–8). “Passion” miraculously transcends the realms of poetry and reality, death and life. Wilde collapses these categories in the same way he dissolves the categories of erotic passion and the passion of lamentation. Recognizing the limits of presentation, the speaker, in somber, protesting accents, bids “venturous poesy” to fold its wings (l. 637–8). The poem essentially pushes the limits of its own form, yet laments its death under its own cloying weight, that moment of infinite intensity, “Which dies through its own sweetness and the stress / Of too much pleasure” (ll. 651–2). Mournful necrophilia at the close of “Charmides” acquires a metapoetic dimension. But the amplification of sensuality after death means that Charmides’s and the Dryad’s resurrection and their consummation in the Underworld provide a context for quasi-religious transfiguration. In Salome’s Modernity (2011), Petra Dierkes-Thrun argues that Salome’s defiant final act of kissing Iokanaan’s head is akin to divine ecstasy, a nexus where the aesthetic and the sublime converge and intensify (Dierkes-Thrun 43, 53–54). With “Charmides,” Wilde looks forward to Salomé. Moreover, Wildean eros as a variety, or inversion, of spiritual trance, as we will see in the next section, is tightly linked with the cultural axis of Adonis-Christ. Cults of Adonis Wilde’s ambivalent rhetoric of mournful eroticism is a reversal of the erotic mourning we find in the Greek elegy Lament for Adonis (Epitaphios Adonidis) by Bion of Smyrna. Bion lived around 100 BC and was a poet of the Bucolic School, whose other main exponents are Theocritus and Moschus. Wilde was familiar with Bion’s epitomic example of threnodic poetry through the translation by John Addington Symonds, “Bion’s Lament for Adonis.” Symonds’s translation appeared in the 1890 issue of The Century Guild Hobby Horse, an aesthetic little magazine that Wilde endorsed and even contributed to. The Adonian elegy inspired a number of especially luxurious poetic specimens on this theme in the 1890s and beyond. Examples can be found in Lord de Tabley’s Poems Dramatic and Lyrical (1896) and Harold Acton’s

Eros/Threnos  165 obscure and eclectic Indian Ass (1925). Wilde occasionally alludes to Symonds’s translation of Bion’s elegy: the image of “robes of purple recline” (Bion 121), for instance, as J. D. Reed contends, is aestheticized in “The Critic as Artist” as “the amethyst [which] became the purple couch for Adonis” (CW4, 133).7 In “Pen, Pencil, and Poison” (1889), Wilde singles out (pseudo-)Moschus’s poem “Lament for Bion” (CW4, 112), which uses Bion’s own technique to elegize him. In that poem, Venus mourns for the poet Bion, who replaces Adonis. Wilde emulates this elegiac strategy: his two sonnets on “The Grave of Shelley” and “The Grave of Keats” lament the two Romantic poets, respectively, by assimilating them with characteristic images from their own poems. “The Grave of Keats,” for instance, ends with the “tears” that keep Keats’s “memory green, / As Isabella did her Basil-tree”—a whiff of necrophilia in the allusion to Keats’s “Isabella.” Wilde’s fascination with elegizing a male author’s death, besides the possible homoerotic implications, is like a mise-en-abyme narcissistic fantasy about his own posthumous reception, again resonating with Staten’s idea of Achilles’s “automourning.” It also conforms to the Freudian view of homoeroticism as a template for narcissism: fascinated by Shakespeare’s poem Venus and Adonis (1593), which depicts a frustrated Venus ridden with ravenous lust (like the Dryad in “Charmides”), Symonds comments that “In some confused way I identified myself with Adonis; but at the same time I yearned after him as an adorable object of passionate love” (Memoirs 63). The subject and the object fuse and yet juxtapose each other. In the necrophilic lament, the author of desire also perceives his self through the object of desire. A consideration of Bion’s Lament for Adonis unlocks the generic and cultural nuances of Wilde’s Dryad-Charmides episode. Bion’s Adonis, who is in his dying throes, fatally wounded by a wild boar, is grieved by Aphrodite in a dynamic and passionate kommòs. While the Dryad’s “moan” (l. 529) in “Charmides” is predominantly orgasmic, Aphrodite’s “moan” in Bion’s poem (Bion 122, 124) is predominantly the chant of grief. In a recondite connection of Wilde’s poem with Bion’s, Venus transports the expiring Dryad and Charmides’s body “Till the faint air was troubled with the song / From the wan mouths that call on bleeding Thammuz all night long” (ll. 581–2). Thammuz (or Tammuz) is the Sumerian/Semitic counterpart to Adonis who is lamented by ­Inanna-Ishtar, a composite goddess and counterpart to Venus. In Lament for Adonis the lachrymose refrain “Wail, wail, Ah for Adonis!” (Bion 121) by the chorus of Loves or Erotes (Ἔρωτες) falls relentlessly, giving Bion’s elegy a tone of solemnity and suffering. The afflicted Aphrodite pours forth her grief in the kommòs, “dishevelled,” “unsandalled,” with “Briars [that] stab at her feet and cull the blood of the goddess” (121). Like Wilde’s Dryad, the inconsolable Cytherea (Aphrodite) demands Adonis back (122). Symonds’s translation objectifies and aestheticizes the male body by emphasizing it as a color composition: the bleeding flesh creates sharp,

166  Kostas Boyiopoulos lush contrasts between the “empurpl[ing]” blood and the “snow-white / flank” (122) that dominate the imagery of the poem: She, when she saw, when she knew the unstanchable wound of Adonis, When she beheld the red blood on his pale thigh’s withering blossom, Spreading her arms full wide, she moaned out: “Stay, my Adonis! Stay, ill-fated Adonis! that I once more may approach thee! Clasp thee close to my breast, and these lips mingle with thy lips! Rouse for a moment, Adonis, and kiss me again for the last time; Kiss me as long as the kiss can live on the lips of a lover; Till from thy inmost soul to my mouth and down to my marrow Thy life-breath shall run, and I quaff the wine of thy philtre, Draining the draught of thy love: that kiss will I treasure, Adonis....” (122) As Aphrodite’s threnody grows in intensity, it becomes increasingly tactile and sexual. Her thirstiness and oenological metaphor are echoed in Wilde’s poem when the Dryad implores Charmides’s corpse, “once at least / Let me drink deep of passion’s wine, and slake / My parchèd being” (ll. 506–8). In a “Note” that complements his translation, Symonds contends that Venus’s “thrilling cry of divine sorrow is, at any rate, the climax of the poem considered as a Passion-song” (Symonds 125). And although a necrophilic tendency abounds, this does not quite precipitate in obvious transgression. Readers in the late-Victorian period, J. D. Reed writes, “were identifying the poem’s artificiality with an insincere emotionalism” (Reed, “Introduction” 54). Reed posits that “it is perhaps Bion’s mastery over a world of the senses that entrances some readers, and disturbs those who expect poetry to be more detached” (56). It is for this artificiality and appeal to the senses that Bion’s elegy chimed with the spirit of fin-de-siècle Aestheticism. Threnos and eros are presented here in a perfect fusion. The poem’s focus on the ultimate, long-lasting kiss is an attempt to preserve the life force of Beauty. Wilde inherits and transforms this Bionian protraction of affect and slow dispossession as the dramatization of a paradox in which beauty gains currency through its loss. Wilde’s “Charmides” and Symonds’s translation of Bion’s elegy invite us to rethink the categories of beauty, pleasure, and mortality in the context of fin-de-siècle Aestheticism and Decadence. A closer folkloric and religious look at Adonian lament yields some astounding insights, illuminating a subcutaneous network of symbols that complements Wilde’s rhetorical ambiguities of eros/threnos. Adonis, often worshipped as a solar deity, is a precursor to and analogue of Christ: the name “Adon” in Hebrew means “Lord,” Adonis’s mother is

Eros/Threnos  167 Myrrha (a variant of Mary) who, allegedly, delivered him through virgin birth (although in Book 10 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses Myrrha conceives Adonis through incestuous sex with her father Cinyras). Zeus allows Adonis to return to Aphrodite from the Underworld annually; the last couplet of Bion’s elegy is “Cease from moans, Cytherea, to-day refrain from the death-songs: / Thou must lament him again, and again shed tears in a new year” (124), in line with the tradition of the ancient mystery of Adonia. This festival was related to the passing of the summer solstice and the cult of nature’s death and rebirth; it has survived almost unchanged in Eastern Orthodox Christianity, with Adonis replaced by Christ in his Passion and Resurrection. Theocritus in Idyll 15 (“The Festival of Adonis”) refers to Adonia as the epitaphic ceremony in which women apply essences on the effigy that represents the god’s body, clothe it in shrouds, and decorate the deathbed with evergreen branches and fragrant blossoms. Wilde tinkers with these pagan-Christian continuities. The “bleeding Thammuz” in “Charmides” is an indirect reference to the messianic figure of Christ. Crucially, in the “Garden of Eros,” Wilde hints at the association of Christ with Adonis in symbolism of the Roman-Catholic Passion: “Sorrow take a purple diadem” and “Despair / Gild its own thorns, and Pain, like Adon, be / Even in anguish beautiful” (ll. 207–10).8 Wilde renders the agony of the dying god image a universalized aesthetic spectacle that amalgamates Greek myth and the figure of the Christ through a distinctive style of parataxis and personification. If Adonis parallels Christ, then Venus’s sensuality in mourning opens up the possibility of the Virgin Mary as possessing sensual elements in her grief. Such comparison, it will become apparent, is useful in supporting the encounter of the Dryad with Charmides’s body as culturally invested with Christian threnody. Indeed, there are surprising similarities between the Venusian lament and the Christian Pietà. Early-­Byzantine liturgical texts, such as Thrênos Theotókou a kontakion (a type of ­Christian hymn in scroll) by Romanos the Melodist (sixth c. AD) and the anonymous Passion play Christòs Páschon (eleventh–twelfth c. AD), emphasized the physical excess and intensity of human agony in the divine drama of the Crucifixion as they drew from pagan traditions. In Christòs Páschon, which borrows from Euripides’s The Bacchae among other sources, the Virgin Mary desires to kiss the Son’s body while praising his beauty (Alexiou 70). The stringent Church Father John Chrysostom patronizingly condemns the Dionysian practice of kommòs in lamenting the dead Christ: “would you tear your hair, rend your garments and wail loudly, dancing and preserving the image of Bacchic women, without regard for your offence to God?”9 Chrysostom may also be responding to Theocritus’s Idyll 15 in which Aphrodite kisses the “smooth lips” of Adonis’s corpse while the women grieve him who is “Half-god, half-man,” like Christ, “With loosened hair, breasts bared and garments rent” (Theocritus 106). This daring necrophilic, incestuous type

168  Kostas Boyiopoulos of threnody of the Virgin Mary for dead Christ is something that did not leave Victorian Aesthetes indifferent. For instance, in “A Pietà: Carlo Crivelli” from Sight and Song (1892), Michael Field (Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper) bring out the Passion in naturalistic, earthy detail and suggestive undertones. And Swinburne’s “Dolores” is an openly perverted, sacrilegiously lascivious version of the Mater Dolorosa. Going beyond Swinburnian anti-Christian sentiment, the Wilde of “Charmides” is interested in the aesthetic arbitrariness of combinations and inversions, interrogating the antithetical structures of the sacred and the profane, convention and transgression, afflictive woe and orgasmic ecstasy, and indeed death and life. The dead Charmides then appears to be a unique fusion of a Classical ephebe and a reconfigured Christ: he is perceived as a “sea-god” and has even been dead for three days, just like Christ in the Gospels. The Dryad, then, also parallels the Virgin Mary:10 she is a virgin, and yet the fact that at the hour of her death her breasts break “into their milky blossoming,” designates her as a nurturing mother. In her long confession to Charmides’s corpse, she describes her arboreal existence with sexual vitality that is procreative and maternal (“the sap of Spring / Swelled in my green and tender bark or burst / To myriad multitudinous blossoming” ll. 452–4) as well as virginal (“the wild winds of passion shook my slim stem’s maidenhood” l. 462). In a further explorative reading, the Dryad is associated with Christ: she is a tree which is symbolic of the Cross, and her blood which “crept down her throbbing side” echoes the wounding of Jesus by a Roman soldier’s spear, a suggestion reinforced by the esoteric reference to the “bleeding Thammuz.” From Poems to De Profundis, Wilde maintains a fascination with Christ. In De Profundis, there is a kind of necrophilic attitude to Christ who, after Ernest Renan’s Vie de Jésus (1863), is “as much loved after his death as he had been during his lifetime” (CW 2, 175).11 Wilde alludes to Bion’s Adonis and his Hebrew equivalent also in The Sphinx with the line: “And did you mark the Cyprian kiss white Adon on his catafalque?” (l. 25). A catafalque is an elevated bier, and so the lamentation here has an aspect of ceremony and stateliness. Besides this reference, Wilde develops the association of copulation with mourning later in this exotic, quasi-hieratic poem as a thematic vignette. As with “Charmides,” the student-speaker of The Sphinx prompts the seductive yet dangerous Sphinx to revive the dead Egyptian god Ammon (Amun-Ra)—another messianic, solar archetype—blending morbid necrophilia and gender-reverse pygmalionism with ritualistic aspects of mourning and entombment. The Student urges the Sphinx to restore and sexually unite with the god’s ruined “fragments” in lines 121–8: to “seek them where they lie alone and from their broken pieces make / Thy bruised bedfellow! And wake mad passions in the senseless stone!” (ll. 123–4). He even evokes

Eros/Threnos  169 the deposition and anointing of Christ: “Pour spikenard on his hair, and wind soft rolls of linen round his limbs!” (ll. 126). Classical and biblical customs and rituals of embalming, grooming, clothing, liturgy, and lamenting are mixed with illicit “mad passions.” Since the Student’s voice animates the Sphinx, one wonders whether it is the Student who is lamenting and yearning for Ammon, with disguised same-sex desire. In this variation on eros/threnos, necrophilia and mourning are truly balanced. Ammon is depicted as a dead god in the flesh and as fashioned idol, in both cases wasted. The traditional funerary preparation and cleansing of Ammon’s body conform to the theme of weeping for a dead deity as with Charmides, Adonis, and Christ.

Part II Pessoa’s Antinous That Wildean sensibility in which mournfulness and lamentation commingle with necrophilic topoi centrally informs Modernist poet Fernando Pessoa’s Antinous: A Poem (1918), drafted in 1914–15 and revised and included in English Poems I–II (1921).12 Pessoa’s poem is crucial in order to illuminate a certain Wildean afterworld of modernity proceeding from the amalgamation of eros and threnos. This afterworld combines myth, the objectified body, transgression, homosexuality, and sacredness. Pessoa’s modern brand of necrophilic grief partly resists and partly validates Wilde’s stylistic and sensuous explorations in “Charmides.” Such a comparison is also encouraged by the fact that Pessoa was profoundly influenced by Wilde. The Portuguese poet wrote nearly twenty passages about him in the 1910s and 1920s. Richard Zenith notes that Pessoa was “ambivalent” toward Wilde: he criticized his work, yet, like many others, was captivated by the aesthete’s life as a work of art (Pessoa, Selected Works, 218–9).13 Pessoa’s so-called fingimento evolves from Wildean “lying”; he famously adopted authorial personae, which he called “heteronyms”: Álvaro de Campos, Alberto Caeiro, and Ricardo Reis emulate Wilde’s adoption of masks, multiplicity of selves, and aesthetic worldview. With The Picture of Dorian Gray in mind, Pessoa writes that Wilde “does not invoke” beautiful things “in a living manner” but “catalogue” them with “voluptuosity” (Selected Prose 220); Wilde “likes strange names of strange beautiful things and rich names of lands and cities, but they become as corpses in his hands” (220). In panning Wilde’s style, Pessoa stresses Wilde’s necrophilic attitude toward language. His poem Antinous registers shifting attitudes to Wilde’s aesthetic project, but also develops the Wildean interrelation of eros and threnos into a more pronounced and distinct version. Pessoa expands on Wilde’s entanglements of pathos, grief, and the objectification of beauty in the worship of the frigid, sculptural body

170  Kostas Boyiopoulos of the male youth. Hysteria, sexual frustration, opulence, and dramatic intensity are here endowed with existential angst. A prurient, idiosyncratic, and at times metaphysical elegy, Antinous, along with Pessoa’s Epithalamium (1913), is a sexually explicit text and a landmark of the homoerotic literary canon. It was reviewed unfavorably in Britain, and just like “Charmides,” it was deemed “repellent.”14 It comprises ­stanzas and lines of varied lengths, with some odd English usage and inventive, even startling, turns of phrase. It tells of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and his obsessive grieving over the dead body of Antinous, his beautiful ephebe-lover, or erômenos, from Claudiopolis of Bithynia. Following Antinous’s drowning in the Nile—a death that parallels that of ­Charmides—Hadrian deified him, establishing a religious cult on a large scale and commissioning statues of him that adorned many cities. The poetry of late-Victorian and early-twentieth-century periods saw a resurgence of interest in Antinous as a homoerotic paragon of male beauty. This resurgence begins with J. A. Symonds’s poem “The Lotos-­Garland of Antinous” (1878), includes such obscurities as Montague Summers’s Antinous and Other Poems (1907), and culminates with Pessoa’s poem.15 It must be noted that Wilde too was fixated with this figure. In “The Portrait of Mr W. H.” (1889), on pondering the creative power of beauty, Wilde correlates Antinous with Charmides: the former “lives in sculpture” and the latter “in philosophy” (1986: 1193). In “The Young King,” the protagonist is “pressing his warm lips to the marble brow of an antique statue [of Antinous] that had been discovered in the bed of the river” (Wilde 1986: 225). This agalmatophilic reference, a nod to Charmides’s violation of Athena’s statue, presents not the drowned youth, but in a sense, his drowned statue, anticipating certain obfuscation between the sculptural and the necrophilic in Pessoa’s Antinous. Scholarship comparing Antinous with Wilde’s poems that celebrate the dead or inert body as artefact, “Charmides” and The Sphinx, is scant. Sarah Waters states that Antinous “appears in fin-de-siècle literature sometimes as beloved boy, sometimes as priceless artefact, more often as a subversive combination of the two” (217).16 This “subversive combination” is fundamentally Wildean. It fuses or alternates between conflicting tropes (eros and threnos), an idea reflected in Pessoa’s ambivalent depiction of Antinous as a source of sorrow and woe and yet a source of immortality, just like Wilde’s Ammon as well as the Sphinx herself. In fact, Jorge de Sena has suggested that Antinous is influenced by Wilde’s The Sphinx (qtd. in Monteiro 130). The thematic connection of Pessoa’s poem with “Charmides” hinges on lamenting the transience of beauty while desiring states of permanence in inanimate bodies. In a passing comparison of Wilde to Pessoa, Edouard Roditi posits that Antinous and Epithalamium are more decadent than “Charmides” (162). This appears to be the only comparison of the two texts in the criticism.

Eros/Threnos  171 As I already indicated, Antinous often confuses Pygmalion-like sculpture with dead flesh. Sculptural objectification even occurs in the poem’s recollection of Antinous when he was still alive. Hadrian recalls how Antinous “in statued nudity” imitated gods: “Now was he a Venus, white out of the seas; / And now was he Apollo, young and golden; / Now as Jove sate” in “ever-repositioned mysteries” (629). This is both an allusive and a stylistic echo of Dorian Gray: Basil Hallward paints Dorian as “Paris in dainty armour,” “as Adonis with huntsman’s cloak and polished boar-spear,” and as Antinous, “Crowned with heavy l­otus-blossoms […] on the prow of Adrian’s barge” (CW 3, 264). Emulating Basil’s attitude toward Dorian, Hadrian is an idolater-artist who casts Antinous’s ideal beautiful body in a range of contrived roles. What remains unchanged is that ideal body, a chameleon shifting through a range of artistic postures. This fits Wilde’s notion of inter-­transformations of erotic activity and threnody; art’s guises rotate, but the beauty of form remains constant. The backdrop for Antinous is the “rain” motif, a seasonal symbol in accord with the wider significance of Hellenistic bucolic elegy. As the “boy” lies in state, for Hadrian “the memory of what he was gave no delight” (625). From the outset, the elegy is unconventional as it does not cling to recollections but instead focuses on the sense of touch. Pessoa presents a charged, Dionysian kommòs full of tempestuous and lustful interjections as “His grief is like a rage” (625): O bare female male-body such As a god’s likeness to humanity! O lips whose opening redness erst could touch Lust’s seats with a live art’s variety! O fingers skilled in things not to be told! O tongue which, counter-tongued, made the blood bold! O complete regency of lust throned on Raged consciousness’s spilled suspension! […] (625) The feminization of the dead body in these lines does not underscore Romantic gender power structures of necrophilic mourning. Elisabeth Bronfen posits that “an anatomically ‘male’ corpse may be rendered ‘feminine’ in a given cultural construction” (65), but the “female malebody” points to a homoerotic gracefulness and even epicene aesthetic that, as with Wilde, transcends gender binaries. By joining fundamental opposites, male/female, divinity/humanity, officialdom/unbridled lust, and even speech and muteness, Pessoa amplifies that Wildean sense of instability, congruent with the overarching generic identity crisis of the poem in its fluctuation between lamentation and pornography.

172  Kostas Boyiopoulos Furthermore, Mariana de Castro asserts that the aforementioned lines are inspired by Wilde’s reference to Antinous in The Sphinx, especially the sensuous ruddiness of his mouth as he laughed on “Adrian’s gilded barge” where the Sphinx “watched with hot and hungry stare / The ivory body of that rare young slave with his pomegranate mouth!” (CW 1, ll. 34–6). ­Wilde’s passage, de Castro contends, “anticipates much of the atmosphere of Pessoa’s poem” (234). As if having “forgotten” Antinous’s erotic “gestures,” Hadrian “lies awake waiting for their hot return” (626). He therefore resembles W ­ ilde’s sexually frustrated Dryad who thinks Charmides is just asleep and endeavors to revive him. Memory and displacement in Antinous are employed to objectify the dead lover: “Naked he lies upon that memoried bed” (626). Shifts of perspective in the speaking voice enhance the suggestion of a Greek tragedy chorus, Venus’s troupe of “loves.” ­Evoking Bion’s Lament in the fifth stanza, Antinous is likened to Adonis, and Venus with her retinue of weeping “loves” is invoked and “Lends her old grief’s renewal to be blent / With Hadrian’s pain” (­Pessoa, Obra, 626). Pessoa’s ingenuity here lies in capturing the spirit of the archetypal erotic elegy and the pre-Christian, annual Adonian mystery of death and rebirth in the same rhetorical figure. In the imperative tone, characteristic of Wilde’s Sphinx, the presumed chorus urges Hadrian to “uncloy with more cloying, and annoy / With newer uncloying till thy senses bled” (627). These bewildering lines show the ebb and flow of excess, of the self-feeding force of Hadrian’s erotic kommòs. Hadrian’s obsessive tedium in his repetitive carnal bouts reduces him to a sexual automaton driven only by the circuit of excess. Yet, his behavior carries tragic depth as it marks the irrationality of grief: “Sometimes it seemed to thee that all was hollow / In sense in each new straining of sucked lust” (627). The ebb and flow of Hadrian’s passion and excess transforms the ebb and flow of the “billow” in Wilde’s “Charmides,” which “like a lingering lover oft returned / To kiss those pallid limbs which once with intense fire burned” (l. 330). Wilde’s delicate symbolism of returning excess in surging waters turns into a Sisyphean futile absurdity in Pessoa. Hadrian’s combativeness and circularity of demeanor parallel Wilde’s feverish Dryad who “Returned to fresh assault” (“Charmides,” l. 355). In his grief, Hadrian broods over the endless possibilities and permutations of erotic entanglement in Antinous’s “new turns of toying” to his “nerves’ flesh” (627), a phrase that evokes the Dryad’s “new toy” in Wilde’s poem. In a maelstrom of hallucination, memory, and obscene sensuality, Hadrian imagines in reverse necrophilia that Antinous’s corpse “on the bed starts up and lives” (627), violating him sexually. Lisa Downing, in Desiring the Dead (2002), usefully concludes that in mourning “[n]ecrophilia mobilizes psychical energy in order to make a lost object return at will, but equally to enable a glimpse of self-loss in the perception of the

Eros/Threnos  173 other’s death” (58). This is how Hadrian’s fantasy is partly motivated. In an entrancing, morbid description, he endeavors to reconcile the senses with the realm of death: So he half rises, looking on his lover, That now can love nothing but what none know. Vaguely, half-seeing what he doth behold, He runs his cold lips all the body over. And so ice-senseless are his lips that, lo!, He scarce tastes death from the dead body’s cold, But it seems both are dead or living both And love is still the presence and the mover. Then his lips cease on the other lips’ cold sloth. (627) The corpse becomes a landscape of erotic explorations, a fetishized, aesthetic surface. Hadrian’s necrophilia transcends the categories of living and non-living. He is self-conditioned or imagines himself to operate within the same dimension as Antinous, irrespective of whether the poem’s ontological mise-en-scène is the realm of life or that of death (or afterlife). Pessoa’s conceit of both being “dead or living both” indicates a peculiar smoothing out of the mutually exclusive states of life and death: if the mourner-lover is as corpselike as the dead object of desire, then the cold touch between them can be perceived as warmth. The poem here can be compared with the concluding third part of “Charmides,” in which the dead Dryad and the Grecian youth consummate passionately their love in the Underworld, violating the laws of life and death. What remains to operate is the pure, restless force of eros, abstracted from the bounds of mortality. The elegy continues with Hadrian’s torrential monologue, tropes of excess, intricate repetitions, bouts of grand passion, and references to infinity. Necrophilic mourning gradually mutates into a metaphysical anxiety for immortality and posterity. Hadrian envisions a magnificent “deathless statue” (632) of the dead Antinous that will defy time. His grandiose projections stem from the fact that “Thy death has given me a higher lust— / A flesh-lust raging for eternity” (630). Pessoa’s use of the word “raging” takes various inflections throughout the poem, pointing equally to “grief” and “lust.” Moreover, “lust” is a word that inundates Antinous and stands not only for physical desire, but also desire for posthumous worship that is comparable to Achilles’s fantasy of “automourning.” In a parody of divine creation and of the Christian Trinity, Hadrian howls: “the god / Thou art now is a body made by me” (631). “All that thou art now is thyself and I. / Our dual presence has its unity / In that perfection of body” (632). We should note that Symonds in 1879 had touched upon the divinity of Antinous and his historical

174  Kostas Boyiopoulos comparison with Christ (80–2). In striving to transcend the mortality of flesh, ­Hadrian’s involved fantasy is regulatory, enabling a divine union to take place in the historicized glory and perfection of the statue-body. In his inventive, posthumous autobiography Livro do Desassossego (The Book of Disquiet), Pessoa writes, What are ideals but an admission that life is worthless? What is art but the negation of life? A statue is a dead body, chiselled to capture death in incorruptible matter. Pleasure itself, which seems to be an immersion in life, is in fact an immersion in ourselves, a destruction of the relations between us and life, an excited shadow of death. (158) In light of this brooding passage, Hadrian’s sensually indulgent disposition toward the sculptural perfection of Antinous’s dead body is a travesty of life and a fascination with the flawless beauty that only in an unconscious state (death) is achievable. This is an impossibility which he arrests in his fantasy of fusing the self with the object of desire. Pessoa’s philosophy matches that of Wilde, albeit from an existential or pessimistic angle: his notion of pleasure as “an immersion in ourselves” is comparable to the self-reflexive, self-centered sexuality of “Charmides.” As Antinous draws to a close, the Emperor having spent his weeping falls into a soporific repose, with “[t]he very consciousness of self and soul” growing “dim”; “The Emperor lay still, so still that now / He half-forgot where now he lay” (633). In this liminal threshold of quasi-consciousness, Hadrian falls into a state of petrification, himself turning into a statuesque installation that locks his desire in his endeavor to unite with the perfect object. And yet, he embodies that perfect object, turning the Bithynian slave into the proxy of his own desire for immortality. Wilde’s legacy of blending necrophilia with mourning as reflective of homoeroticism extends even beyond Pessoa’s Antinous: for instance, the prolific British poet James Kirkup published an infamous poem titled “The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name” in Gay News in 1976, as an imaginative Wildean homage to Lord Alfred Douglas’s “Two Loves” (1894), the poem that was used against Wilde in his trial. Kirkup’s poem, which was banned after a sensational libel trial, is an unflinching, pornographic description of a Roman centurion having sex with the body of Christ after the Crucifixion. Despite its shocking bluntness, the poem shares many elements with Pessoa and Wilde. Its sexual energy and threnodic kommòs gesture back to Wilde’s legitimization of sacrilege through artistic presentation; examples being Charmides’s violation of goddess Athena’s chaste and sacred statue, or Salome’s defiling of the head of Christ-like Iokanaan. Kirkup neutralizes sacrilege by accentuating it, adapting the Wildean spirit in responding to the societal

Eros/Threnos  175 mores of his time. By transforming and universalizing an age-old hybrid literary theme, Oscar Wilde managed to project a pathway into the ­t wentieth-century, channelling the Classical world and hybridizing it with a post-obit afterworld of Decadence and subversion, supplying a metaphor for homosexual, illicit, inaccessible, and eventually narcissistic desire all rolled into one. The treatment of deified dead ephebes—Adonis, Charmides, ­Antinous— is ultimately a cultural response to the textual as an eroticized and lamented inaccessible site. In an essay titled “Be It Cosiness” (1896), later retitled “Diminuendo,” Max Beerbohm, with a depreciating, although unjust, attitude, reminisces whimsically that Walter Pater treats “English as a dead language, bored by that sedulous ritual wherewith he laid out every sentence as in a shroud—hanging, like a widower, long over its marmoreal beauty or ever he could lay it at length in his books, its sepulchre” (230). The Wildean text is a stately corpse, tended to and indeed mourned by author and reader alike. Lisa Downing proffers that “necrophilia is as much as aesthetic mode of representation, as it is a sexual perversion” (4). Wilde’s figure of venerated and eroticized dead figures in “Charmides” arrested Classical tradition in an unusual light, yet opened the way to a distinct mode of aesthetic representation. It is a metaphor, a historical paradigm which pivots on a perennial predicament: it advocates an erotic attraction to beauty, yet heralds and laments its uncapturable loss in modernity.

Notes 1 The notion of necrophilia and mourning as it is discussed in this chapter is first introduced briefly in Boyiopoulos, 55–6. 2 See also Fragment 137: Achilles: “And yet to me, because I love him, this is not loathsome.” Alan Sommerstein notes that “this” refers “either to the sight of Patroclus’s bloody corpse (if, for example, Achilles is asking for it to be uncovered) or, as has also been suggested, to the act of affectionately touching or even kissing it” (147). 3 Symonds’s book had a direct influence on Wilde’s stylistically explorative essay The Women of Homer, a text brought to light for the first time in 2008 by the Oscar Wilde Society. 4 The abbreviation CW refers to the Oxford multivolume edition of Wilde’s Complete Works. References to Wilde’s poetry are indicated by line numbers. 5 See also 90–2. For a discussion of homoeroticism in “Charmides,” see P ­ ulham 167–70. 6 For the origin of kommòs see Alexiou 103. 7 See Reed 44. For other references to Adonis in Wilde, see “The Burden of Itys” (CW 1, ll. 199–210), and “La Sainte Courtisane” (1986: 701). 8 In the following year in “The English Renaissance of Art” (1882), Wilde developed this image into that of the poet as Christ/Adonis: “the thorncrown of the poet will blossom into roses for our pleasure; for our delight his despair will gild its own thorns, and his pain, like Adonis, be beautiful in its agony” (Miscellanies 261). 9 J. P. Migne, Patrologiae cursus completes; qtd in Alexiou 29.

176  Kostas Boyiopoulos 10 This view is also supported by the fact that Wilde implicitly sexualizes the Virgin Mary or compares her with Classical women such as Danaë and Semele (“Ave Maria Gratia Plena”) and Helen of Troy (“The Women of ­Homer,” 71, 98 n.24). 11 Wilde in De Profundis comments on the Passion, specifically on Christ’s kingly burial with “his body swathed in Egyptian linen with costly spices and perfumes,” as a Tragedy which, “from the point of view of art,” survives institutionally in the spectacle of Church liturgy. In a further pagan-­ Christian continuity, Wilde delights in “the ultimate survival of the Greek chorus” which “is to be found in the servitor answering the priest at Mass” (CW 2, 175). 12 For Pessoa and necrophilic themes generally, see Margarido and Earle 111–2, 115, 116. 13 For Wilde’s numerous points of influence on Pessoa, see De Castro, 219–49. 14 See Monteiro 135–6. 15 George Monteiro examines the Victorian legacy of Pessoa’s Antinous, especially Symonds’s “The Lotos-Garland of Antinous” (124–48). For a survey of Antinous’s literary popularity from the 1870s to the 1910s, see Waters 194–230. 16 Rachilde’s Monsieur Venus (1884), for instance, signals homoeroticism by making numerous references to Antinous. Like Wilde’s “Charmides,” this novel treats the sexualized subject as an aesthetic prop.

Works Cited Aeschylus. The Fragments. Edited and translated by Alan H. Sommerstein, The Loeb Classical Library 505, Harvard UP, 2008. Alexiou, Margaret, and Dimitrios Yatromanolakis, editors. The Ritual Lament in Greek Tradition. 2nd ed., Rowman & Littlefield, 2002. Aristotle. Poetics. Translated by Richard Janko, Hackett, 1987. Bachelard, Gaston. L’Eau et les Rêves: Essai sur I’imagination de la matière. 1942. Librairie José Corti, 1964. Beerbohm, Max. “Be It Cosiness.” The Pageant, vol. 1, 1896, pp. 230–5. Behrendt, Patricia F. Oscar Wilde: Eros and Aesthetics. St. Martin’s, 1991. Bion of Smyrna. “Bion’s Lament for Adonis.” Translated by John Addington Symonds, Century Guild Hobby Horse, vol. 4, no. 20, 1890, pp. 121–4. Boyiopoulos, Kostas. The Decadent Image: The Poetry of Wilde, Symons and Dowson. Edinburgh UP, 2015. Bronfen, Elisabeth. Over Her Dead Body: Death, Femininity, and the Aesthetic. Routledge, 1992. Cornford, Francis M. “The So-Called Kommos in Greek Tragedy.” The Classical Review, vol. 27, no. 2, 1913, pp. 41–5. De Castro, Mariana. “Oscar Wilde, Fernando Pessoa, and the Art of Lying.” Portuguese Studies, vol. 22, no. 2, 2006, pp. 219–49. Dierkes-Thrun, Petra. Salome’s Modernity: Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetics of Transgression. U of Michigan P, 2011. Downing, Lisa. Desiring the Dead: Necrophilia and Nineteenth-century French Literature. Legenda, European Humanities Research Centre, U of Oxford, 2003.

Eros/Threnos  177 Freud, Sigmund. The Freud Reader, edited by Peter Gay, 1989. Vintage, 1995. Hamilton, Walter. The Aesthetic Movement in England. 3rd ed., London, 1882. Homer. The Iliad of Homer. Translated by Richmond Lattimore, 1951, U of Chicago, 2011. Leigh, Arran, and Isla Leigh [Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper]. Bellerophôn. London, 1881. Margarido, Alfredo and T.F. Earle. “Necrophilia in Portuguese Poetry: From the Eighteenth Century to the Present.” Portuguese Studies, vol. 4, 1988, 100–16. Monteiro, George. “Fernando Pessoa, He Had His Nerve.” Embodying Pessoa: Corporeality, Gender, Sexuality, edited by Anna Klobucka and Mark Sabine, U of Toronto P, 2007, 124–48. Parthenius of Nicaea. The Poetical Fragments and the Ἐρωτικὰ Παθήματα, edited by J. L. Lightfoot, Oxford UP, 1999. Pessoa, Fernando. The Book of Disquiet, edited and translated by Richard ­Z enith, Penguin, 2002. ———. Obra Poética, edited by Maria A.D. Galhoz, Aguilar, 1960. ———. The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa. Edited and translated by ­R ichard Zenith, Grove Press, 2001. Pulham, Patricia. “Tinted and Tainted Love: The Sculptural Body in Olive Custance’s Poetry.” The Yearbook of English Studies, vol. 37, no. 1, 2007, pp. 161–76. Reed, J.D. “Introduction.” Bion of Smyrna, The Fragments and the Adonis, edited by J.D. Reed, Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries 33, Cambridge UP, 1997. pp. 1–90. ———. “Wilfred Owen’s Adonis.” Dead Lovers: Erotic Bonds and the Study of Premodern Europe, edited by Basil Dufallo and Peggy McCracken, U of Michigan P, 2006, pp. 39–56. Roditi, Edouard. Oscar Wilde. 1947. New Directions, 1986. Staten, Henry. Eros in Mourning: Homer to Lacan. Johns Hopkins UP, 1995. Symonds, John A. “A Note upon the Foregoing Lament Out of Bion.” Century Guild Hobby Horse, vol. 4, no. 20, 1890, pp. 125–6. ———. The Memoirs of John Addington Symonds, edited and introduced by Phyllis Grosskurth. 1984, Hutchinson, 2012. ———. Sketches and Studies in Italy. London, 1879. Theocritus. The Idylls, edited and translated by Robert Wells, Penguin, 1989. Waters, Sarah. “‘The Most Famous Fairy in History’: Antinous and Homosexual Fantasy.” Journal of the History of Sexuality, vol. 6, no. 2, 1995, pp. 194–230. Wilde, Oscar. The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, edited by Ian Small, et. al. Oxford UP, 2000. 7 vols. ———. The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde: Stories, Plays, Poems, Essays. Introduced by Vyvyan Holland. 1966. Collins, 1986. ———. The Women of Homer, edited by Thomas Wright and Donald Mead. The Oscar Wilde Society, 2008. ———. The Works of Oscar Wilde: 12: Miscellanies. Facs. ed., Elibron, 2005. Wright, Thomas. Oscar’s Books: A Journey around the Library of Oscar Wilde. Chatto and Windus, 2009.

9 Wagner without Music The Textual Rendering of Parsifal’s Pity in Oscar Wilde’s “The Young King” Yvonne Ivory In July 1892, Oscar Wilde was taking the rest cure at Bad Homburg, near Frankfurt. The regime was strict, and he craved diversions, so he wrote to his new friend, the Belgian poet Pierre Louÿs, and begged him to at least send a letter (Holland 530–4). Louÿs went one better and visited Wilde in person (Clive 86). An enthusiastic Wagnerian, Louÿs was en route to Bayreuth to attend the annual Richard Wagner festival, where Parsifal, Tannhäuser, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and Tristan und Isolde were to be given. Louÿs believed Wilde was going to join him at some point during the festival, but, as Louÿs would later complain to their mutual friend John Gray, “I did not see him. He was seen [in Paris] lunching with a lady at the Cafe Durand; but doubtless only passed through as his friends did not know” (Campbell 19).1 For serious Victorian Wagnerians, a trip to the Bayreuth Festspielhaus was a rite of passage: Wagner’s 1877 visit to London within a year of the inaugural Bayreuth festival had ensured that among British elites, “pilgrimages to Bayreuth” were “socially fashionable” (Sessa, Richard Wagner 37); it is estimated that there were “five thousand English at Bayreuth” by the early 1890s (154). 2 But for Wilde—who paid homage to Wagner in his writings and who may even have been personally invited to the festival that year by Wagner’s son Siegfried—a trip to Bayreuth was merely a casual commitment that could easily be shrugged off.3 Even the prospect of experiencing Parsifal—an opera that was only permitted to be staged at Bayreuth—less than a day’s journey from where he was staying, was not enough to tempt Wilde to join his friend. Wilde’s ambivalence toward Wagner’s music should come as no surprise: while he mentions or alludes to Wagner a number of times in his writings, Wilde limits his observations to the composer’s words and ideas and turns to Wagner’s musical output only to highlight—or lampoon—its role in London cultural life. Evidence that Wilde ever attended a Wagner concert or staged production is circumstantial at best, and nowhere in his writings does he address Wagner’s music seriously or at any great length. Wilde’s meaningful encounters with Wagner are primarily textual rather than sonic or visual, and at times, the textuality

Wagner without Music  179 of Wilde’s Wagner is doubly layered, as he engages with Wagner’s works through the lenses of francophone Wagnerians like Charles Baudelaire and ­Joris-Karl Huysmans. But rather than see this as a problem in ­Wilde’s Wagner reception, in what follows, I take Wilde’s appropriation of Wagner’s words and ideas seriously; after all, it was Wagner who argued that words were as important as any other element in an opera— hence his insistence on calling his mature works “music dramas”—and Wagner who constantly translated his music into essayistic discourse. In this chapter, then, I map out the parameters of Wilde’s engagement with the German composer by sketching his acquaintance with Wagner’s music, his exposure to Wagner’s ideas, and his incorporation of certain Wagnerian motifs into his writings. It will become clear that Wilde’s exposure to Wagner’s music was limited, whereas he had many more potential sources for Wagner’s ideas. I first explore Wilde’s social network, which included London Wagnerians, contributors to the Revue wagneriènne in Paris, and even a close friend of Siegfried Wagner; then I look at the textual resources that were available to Wilde—books, essays, and reviews in periodicals. Turning to Wilde’s use of Wagnerian motifs, I trace lines through ­Wilde’s Wagner reception that cohere around the nodes of absolution—best captured, as Nicolai Endres has shown, in a key motif in Tannhäuser to which Wilde alludes many times in his oeuvre (“Wilde” 79–80)— and pity, an underexplored aspect of Wilde’s thought. After briefly discussing the former, I focus on “The Young King” (1888) to see how and suggest why, in this fairy tale, Wilde recasts the Tannhäuser motif of divine redemption by subordinating it to a notion of pity borrowed from Wagner’s final and most Catholic work, the Bühnenweihfestspiel (“Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage”) Parsifal. “The Young King,” I suggest, lays the groundwork for a philosophy of pity as an avenue toward self-redemption—a philosophy on which Wilde will base key aspects of his last major works: his letter from prison and “The Ballad of Reading Gaol.” *** When Wilde writes about Wagner’s music, he is not generous. He characterizes Wagner’s music simply as “dramatic” in an 1887 review (CW, vol.  7, 119); but in his plays, he can be quite taunting. Lady Henry praises the German Meister when Dorian Gray reminds her that they last saw each other at a performance of Lohengrin: “Yes; it was at dear ‘Lohengrin.’ I like Wagner’s music better than anybody’s. It is so loud that one can talk the whole time without other people hearing what one says” (CW, vol. 3, 209). The fact that Lohengrin does not actually have the overwhelming auditory impact of other Wagner operas is beside

180  Yvonne Ivory the point; the inside joke is that Lord and Lady Henry’s marriage is as asexual as that of Lohengrin and Elsa. Lohengrin makes an appearance in The Importance of Being Earnest, too, and also under the sign of nuptial failure: Algy plays the Wedding March from Lohengrin to the (he believes) newly engaged Ernest; a furious and no-longer-engaged Jack demands that Algy stop playing “that ghastly tune” immediately (CCW 370). The “Gorgon” who has put an end to his hopes is, of course, Lady Bracknell, she of the “Wagnerian” doorbell ring (363).4 These are just the most striking examples of how Wilde shows himself to be sensitive to Wagner’s storylines, even while he is flippant about Wagner’s sound. We can infer from these comments, too, that Wilde had heard Wagner’s music; but we have no evidence of his having attended any specific event or production. It has often been assumed that Wilde was at a concert conducted by Wagner himself in 1877, as Wilde alludes to it in his very first published review, writing that “those who were in London last May … had in one week the opportunities of hearing Rubenstein play [and] of seeing Wagner conduct the Spinning Wheel Chorus from the Flying Dutchman” (CW, vol. 6, 1). From May 7 to 29, Wagner oversaw a series of eight concerts at the Royal Albert Hall as part of a European fundraising tour for the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, which had opened the previous year. Wagner was making his third (and what would be final) visit to London: he had unsuccessfully tried to launch himself there during a brief trip in 1839, and had come again in 1855, when he earned £200 for conducting eight concerts. Victoria and Albert had heard him on June 11, 1855, and had been enthusiastic about the overture to Tannhäuser (Westernhagen 59, 207; Rizzuto 6). During the 1877 sojourn to which Wilde is referring, Wagner was feted again by Queen Victoria, and socialized with the likes of George Eliot and Robert Browning (Sessa, Richard Wagner 34–37; Westernhagen 516–7, 609). Critics and biographers disagree as to whether Wilde attended these fundraising concerts, though: where Endres is confident Wilde “heard Wagner” (“Wilde” 68), Ellmann hedges his bets by saying Wilde “apparently” attended a Wagner concert (75); but Horst Schroeder is even more skeptical: “considering that Wilde had returned to Dublin by the middle of May, it is as good as certain that he was speaking generally and not from first-hand experience when he referred to the Rubinstein and Wagner concerts” (Schroeder).5 Schroeder’s point is crucial: Wilde had been rusticated from Oxford in April as punishment for having missed the opening weeks of the term; on his return from Europe, he spent several days in London (attending the opening of the Grosvenor Gallery on 30 April) and then headed to Dublin for the summer (Ellmann 74–75). From there he sent a letter to Gladstone that was received by May 14 (Holland 46). Only the concerts of May 7 and 9, then, fall inside the

Wagner without Music  181 probable window of Wilde’s London stay. According to contemporary reviews, Wagner conducted excerpts from The Flying Dutchman only on May 9 (“Wagner Festival” 8), so if Wilde did in fact attend, this was the concert he must have heard—or, to use his own verb, seen.6 The reviewers for The Era and The Scotsman both expressly complained, however, that Wagner did not include the Spinning Wheel Chorus in his selection from the Dutchman that night (“Wagner Festival”); so we can be confident that Wilde is only imagining being there when he writes of “seeing Wagner conduct,” and that he did not attend this or any other concert of the series. Nevertheless, Wilde’s comments about the Wagner concert in his Grosvenor Gallery review are worth examining in more detail, as they provide an explanation for Wilde’s reluctance to write about music in general. He mentions the concert only as a foil against which to portray himself as a connoisseur not of music but of art: [S]urely those who were in London last May, and had in one week the opportunities of hearing Rubenstein play the Sonata Impassionata, of seeing Wagner conduct the Spinning Wheel Chorus from the Flying Dutchman, and of studying art at the Grosvenor Gallery, have very little to complain of as regards human existence and art-pleasures. Descriptions of music are generally, perhaps, more or less failures, for music is a matter of individual feeling. ... So leaving Rubenstein and Wagner to be celebrated by Franz Huëffer [sic], or Mr. Haweis, or any other of our picturesque writers on music, I will describe some of the pictures now being shown in the Grosvenor Gallery. (CW, vol. 6, 1)7 The quote goes some way to explaining why Wilde was always unlikely to write about music itself. He believes that most listeners will fail when they try to put their aural experience into words; the few truly talented music critics succeed by virtue of their Paterian methodology: they render their personal reaction to the sounds “picturesque,” and then perform the ekphrastic exercise of translating these impressions into words. This is not something Wilde feels he can do himself. The two critics Wilde singles out here as being adept at describing Wagner’s music are Francis [Franz] Hueffer and Hugh Reginald Haweis. At the time of Wilde’s writing, the German immigrant Hueffer was England’s best-known Wagner expert, having published Richard Wagner and the Music of the Future in 1874, and written essays describing the Ring cycle and Wagner’s other music dramas in venues with which Wilde would have been familiar: the New Quarterly Magazine, the Academy, the Fortnightly Review, the Athenaeum, and the Examiner (Sessa, ­Richard Wagner 27–29).8 In 1878, Hueffer would become music critic for The Times; at the time of Wilde’s review, that newspaper was already

182  Yvonne Ivory referring to him regularly as a Wagner specialist.9 Haweis, meanwhile, was best known for his 1871 treatise on Music and Morals; also, in anticipation of Wagner’s London visit, he had produced a lengthy and glowing appreciation of the composer’s life and works for the Contemporary Review (“Wagner”).10 Wilde might well have even read this piece by Haweis, as John P. Mahaffy, the mentor with whom Wilde had just spent the month of April visiting archeological sites in Greece and Italy, published an essay on current excavations in the April issue of the same journal. So, despite his denial of any expertise on ­Wagner, the young Wilde can readily name the era’s two most prolific writers about Wagner, which suggests that he was a careful consumer of words about Wagner and his work. Wilde mostly found Wagner’s sound loud, relentless, melodramatic, and faintly ridiculous; however, by reading commentaries by the likes of Haweis and Hueffer, he learned about Wagner’s themes and methods, and came to understand the layered cultural and discursive significance of Wagner’s works. Wilde knows enough to gesture toward Wagner casually in his critical writings, noting in an 1886 review of a production of “Helena in Troas,” for instance, that classical drama is an imaginative, poetic art, which requires the grand style for its interpretation, and produces its effects by the most ideal means. It is in the operas of Wagner, not in popular melodrama, that any approximation to the Greek method can be found. (CW, vol. 6, 80) Such a comment, which flies in the face of some of Wilde’s caricatures of Wagner’s music, suggests that Wilde had more than a passing familiarity with Wagner’s dramaturgical aims and methods, and found them compelling. Wilde’s phrasing in his 1877 Grosvenor Gallery review adds one final layer to Wilde’s idiosyncratic Wagner reception: his reference to “hearing Rubenstein” but “seeing Wagner” suggests that Wilde imagines the sight of Wagner might be more stimulating than his sound. The notion is echoed in other comments Wilde periodically makes about ­music— especially about opera. During his North American lecture tour in 1882, he was quoted by Inquirer as saying that he “saw Patience, the comic opera, while it was played in London” (Hofer and Scharnhorst 18).11 On the same tour, he made a point of attending a “Patti Night” at the Cincinnati Opera festival: the world-famous soprano Adelina Patti participated in a recital for the first half of the evening, and for the second sang the role of Leonora in the final act of Verdi’s Il trovatore (Cincinnati 82). For Wilde, the event was more about being seen and meeting the famous diva than enjoying the opera: according to the Cincinnati Gazette, “Mr. Wilde looked in at the opera last night to see the

Wagner without Music  183 diva and the audience, and was in the manager’s box for half an hour” (Hofer and Scharnhorst 71; emphasis added). This impression is corroborated by the Cincinnati Enquirer: “many were the opera glasses that were levelled at him as he stood up in the box listening to Patti and her supports. During the performance he was taken behind the scenes and introduced to the diva” (74).12 Wilde did not stay, apparently, for the Verdi—just as he had made no effort to see the production of Wagner’s Lohengrin that had been offered as part of the festival the previous Saturday (Cincinnati 74). Living in or near London from 1874 to 1895, Wilde would have had numerous opportunities to avoid Wagner operas and concerts. According to Anne Dzamba Sessa, staged productions in London began with The Flying Dutchman “sung in Italian in 1870” and “reached a peak in 1888 with the initial performances of Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and Der Ring des Nibelungen, all sung in German” (“At Wagner’s Shrine” 248). Lohengrin also toured the provinces in 1876 (248). Even Parsifal was performed in London—against the wishes of Wagner’s widow—when Sir Joseph Banby led the Royal Albert Hall Choral Society in two complete concert performances in November 1884 (Cormack 76); additionally, orchestral excerpts from it—especially the Prelude and the “Good Friday Spell”—could be heard regularly at London venues.13 We have no record of Wilde having been present at any of these concerts, but it is possible that he did attend a Wagner opera in July 1889. The young British composer Clement Harris, a regular visitor at Tite Street, notes in his diary that he attended an opera with Oscar and Constance that month (Bock 22),14 and—as Harris was a Wagnerian—he may well have persuaded the couple to see either Covent Garden’s Lohengrin or its new Italian-language production of Die Meistersinger.15 There were many other Wagner enthusiasts within Wilde’s social network, among them George Bernard Shaw,16 Aubrey Beardsley,17 and Arthur Symons in London. In Paris, the circle was even wider. Wilde became friends with Catulle Mendès while honeymooning in Paris in 1884. Mendès had been a supporter and acquaintance of Wagner since the 1860s (Ellmann 237, 329–30); he published a book of reminiscences about the composer and analyses of his major works in 1886 (Furness 128; Mendès); Wilde met him regularly in Paris in the 1880s and early 1890s, and so in all likelihood owned a copy of the Wagner study. Wilde did not know Stéphane Mallarmé while the latter was a contributor to the Revue wagnérienne, but was welcomed at his Tuesday salons from 1891 onward (Ellmann 316).18 Pierre Louÿs and Stuart Merrill, too, only became friends of Wilde after he had already made his major nods to Wagner in “The Young King” and The Picture of Dorian Gray.19 Clement Harris’s diaries, again, provide a sense of how Wagner and his music might have been interwoven into social interactions in these

184  Yvonne Ivory circles. Harris describes one typical day spent with the Wildes—January 4, 1891—thus: I sat in Oscar’s study and read and chatted with him until Constance (his wife) returned from church. … After lunch, for which Cyril (Wilde’s son) was allowed to come down, I stayed in Oscar’s room until four o’clock. Then I accompanied Constance to Lady Mount Temple. It was a stimulating and entertaining afternoon. The conversation with Oscar touched on many diverse themes: Kant, Schopenhauer, eternal life in another world, the Meister [i.e., Wagner], and more. (Bock 21)20 A week later, Harris’s visit to the Wildes is repeated, this time with Oscar joining Constance and the young music student on their afternoon visit to Lady Mount Temple. Harris entertained the group by playing “a few things by Wagner, Beethoven, Schumann, and so on” (22). Clement Harris was also responsible for Wilde meeting Wagner’s son, Siegfried, early in 1892 (Furness 37; Renckhoff 219–20). Harris and Siegfried Wagner were in London together, about to embark on a romantic, lengthy voyage to Asia (Carr 19–22). They saw Wilde at a gathering on January 30, and he invited them to come to his home the following Tuesday (Renckhoff 220). Siegfried Wagner found in Wilde “a brilliant conversationalist and lover of paradoxes,” as he wrote in a letter home to Bayreuth (219); he would go on to work Wildean themes into some of his own compositions. 21 It is in intimate settings such as these, then, at home or in society, that Wilde may have been most systematically exposed to Richard Wagner’s ideas: the Meister was part of the social glue that bound the intellectual elites of London and Paris in the late nineteenth century—a high-value token of cultural capital to be displayed and played regularly. Stoddard Martin is right to see Wilde in this broader context and characterize him as a “social” Wagnerian; but he also characterizes him as a “philosophic Wagnerian” (Martin 34). Being a voracious reader, Wilde would have also absorbed much of what he knew about Wagner’s philosophy from the printed page—from newspapers, monographs, program notes, and periodicals. Whether Wilde owned libretti of Wagner’s operas or books about the composer (Mendès’s monograph, say, or even Nietzsche’s Der Fall Wagner 22) is almost impossible to say, due to the disorderly dispersal of Wilde’s library during the 1895 bankruptcy sale. None of the lots listed in Bullock’s hastily printed catalogue includes a mention of Wagner; the random assemblage of lots of up to 100 unnamed French novels (Munby 382), “pamphlets” (379), “other books” (382), and even “three volumes of newspaper cuttings” (375) leaves us with more questions than answers. Some facts are clearer: by 1877, as we have

Wagner without Music  185 seen, Wilde could already name London’s most prolific Wagner experts; the journals to which Wilde contributed reviews during the 1880s—such as the Pall Mall Gazette, the Athenaeum, or the Fortnightly Review—­ regularly featured items on Wagner; an all-Wagner periodical, The Meister, started publication in London in 1888, right at the time that Wilde took over editorship of the Woman’s World;23 and reviews of Wagner’s music were a staple of the London daily press from the time Wilde moved to the city. 24 Wilde read Huysmans’s A rebours—which includes a paean to Wagner—while on honeymoon in Paris in 1884 (­ Ellmann 237); members of Wilde’s circle in Paris (Mallarmé, Mendès, and Stuart Merrill) were involved with the Revue wagnérienne, a monthly that appeared from 1885–88;25 in 1888, Wilde even commissioned Arthur Symons to write a piece for the Woman’s World on Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, another member of the Revue wagnérienne team.26 Even if Wilde had never had—or, rather, seized—the chance to experience Parsifal in person, he would certainly have had many opportunities to learn about its plot, characters, and overarching themes from secondary sources, read or heard, before he set out to work on “The Young King” in 1888. An English translation of the libretto was in circulation from 1879 onward (Parsifal: A Festival Drama); this was made ­available—along with program notes by Francis Hueffer—to the London concertgoers who heard the work in 1884, for instance (“Parsifal”). Detailed reviews of the Bayreuth productions of Parsifal appeared annually in the London press; here, the drama’s plot was often repeated, as in this 1884 summary from the Evening Standard: Parsifal, … knowing nothing of the world and its dangers … [has] a definite mission to fulfil. It is for him ultimately to cure the wounded king Amfortas, the guardian of the Grail, who has been hurt by the holy spear which pierced our Saviour’s body. … Amfortas’ wound is practically unhealable, but there exists a chance for him to recover by the aid of “a pure fool by pity enlightened.” Parsifal is this “pure fool,” and his enlightenment comes with the sight of the helpless Amfortas. (“Wagner’s ‘Parsifal’” 3) This principle—that a “pure fool, made wise by pity” (“durch Mitleid wissend, der reine Tor”) can be an agent of redemption—lies at the core of Wagner’s drama. The community of grail knights has been told that the cryptic phrase holds the key to the salvation of the current grail king, and that it prophecies how the redeemer (Parsifal) will be himself redeemed. Plot summaries and discussions of the opera similar to this one from the Evening Standard rehearsed the motif often enough for it to be familiar to any sophisticated consumer of Victorian print media. So when David C. Large and William Weber characterize Wilde’s extra-musical encounter with Wagner as his coming to the composer

186  Yvonne Ivory “through the back door of French aestheticism” (290), they are overstating the case considerably. Wilde knew of Wagner from newspapers and periodicals as far back as the 1870s; he did read the short sections in Huysmans’s A rebours in 1884, and learned much through his 1880s friendship with Catulle Mendès—who may well have shared copies of the Revue wagnérienne with him—but by the time he got to know Mallarmé, Louÿs, and Merrill, Wilde had become a friend of Clement Harris, he had been exposed to many Wagner reviews and essays in the daily press, and he had already incorporated Wagner’s ideas into his writings. The Wagner works Wilde most often mentions by name are Lohengrin, Tristan und Isolde, and Tannhäuser, but he weaves hidden references to them into his works, too. Dieter Fuchs has explored what he calls “a carefully constructed parallel network of references to Wagner’s Lohengrin” (132) in The Importance of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Gray.27 Tristan und Isolde resonates in a similar fashion with Wilde’s fairy tale “The Nightingale and the Rose,” according to Amelia Rutledge. But Rutledge acknowledges that this Wildean homage to Wagner’s Tristan is minor when ranged alongside Wilde’s multiple allusions to Tannhäuser, a work with a particularly word-rich heritage for Wilde. 28 The young Wilde would have learned about the legend of Tannhäuser from a number of sources, including Pater’s Renaissance and Swinburne’s “Laus Veneris.”29 The 1861 Paris premiere of Wagner’s version of the legend, moreover, made the opera and its composer a cause célèbre of the French decadents for decades: Baudelaire famously championed the work in articles and a pamphlet published in 1861; ­Joris-Karl Huysmans wrote a paean to its overture for the Revue wagnérienne after attending a performance with Mallarmé in 1885. If Wilde’s two substantive references to Wagner’s Tannhäuser focus on ­ uysmans the opera’s overture,30 it is doubtless because Baudelaire and H also find in that prelude a précis of the tensions between the flesh and the spirit that haunt the entire work.31 As Baudelaire puts it, Tannhäuser represents the struggle of the two principles that have chosen the human heart as their chief battlefield—flesh against spirit, hell against heaven, Satan against God. And this duality is represented immediately, in the overture, with an incomparable skill. (“Richard” 209) For Huysmans, over two decades later, little has changed: Lust and purity are bound together by the two musical motifs that are snaking round each other, blending the rapid, exhausting kisses of the violins, the dazzling and mournful caresses of taut, nervous

Wagner without Music  187 strings, with the calm, majestic chorus that unfurls itself, … that canticle of the now kneeling soul celebrating its final immersion … in the bosom of God. (“Overture” 158) In Wagner’s Tannhäuser, these tensions are resolved when God forgives (a penitent) Tannhäuser for his sexual transgressions after the Pope has refused to grant him absolution. The Pope had declared that he could no more forgive Tannhäuser’s great sexual sins than the barren staff in his hand could bloom again; as the opera closes, a pilgrim’s wooden staff sprouts green leaves, indicating the intervention of a higher power. This flowering staff, the opera’s iconic image of miraculous absolution, is alluded to repeatedly by Wilde in his works: its promise of forgiveness beyond human understanding recurs in “The Young King,” “The Fisherman and his Soul,” “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” and a letter written to Robert Ross from Rome in 1900. When the young king prays for his subjects, “the sunlight [came] streaming upon him.... The dead staff blossomed, and bare lilies that were whiter than pearls. The dry thorn blossomed, and bare roses that were redder than rubies” (CCW 221). In “The Fisherman and his Soul,” the unconventional lovers are buried in a barren corner that three years later bears exotic flowers (CCW 258–9). The poet wonders, in “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” “who can say by what strange way, / Christ brings His will to light, / Since the barren staff the pilgrim bore / Bloomed in the great Pope’s sight?” (CW, vol. 1, 210). Finally, in a letter dated April 16, 1900, Wilde tells Ross that when he was blessed by the Pope, his “walking-stick showed signs of budding; would have budded indeed, only at the door of the chapel it was taken from me by the Knave of Spades. This strange prohibition is, of course, in honour of Tannhäuser” (CL 1180). Nicolai Endres, after outlining the myriad ways in which Wagner and his works were tied to same-sex desire in nineteenth-century Europe, argues persuasively that Wilde, in his repeated use of the image of the blossoming staff, “is really making a radical plea for the forgiveness of the sin of homosexuality” (“Wilde” 79). Wilde also uses Tannhäuser in his prison letter, Epistola: in carcere et vinculis, to support an argument that reconciles Christianity with unconventional sexual expression: the essence of being “Christlike,” Wilde maintains there, is not imitation— something “made from without and by dead rules”—but rather self-­ realization, a commitment to follow that which “spring[s] from within, through some spirit informing it,” as Tannhäuser did. 32 Wilde’s regular exhortation in his writings that we realize our personalities as fully as possible—becoming individualists in so doing—often functions as his de facto justification for sexual experimentation; in his letter from prison, he is building on an argument he has already made along these lines in “The Soul of Man under Socialism.” Christ, he argued there, did not

188  Yvonne Ivory forgive Mary Magdalene her sins because of her repentance, but because ­ ersonality— she committed those sins in an attempt to fully realize her p to become a true individualist (CW, vol. 4, 242). Of course, sexual expression is not the only path to self-realization, for Wilde: Father Damien was Christlike when he went out to live with the lepers, because in such service he realized fully what was best in him. But he was not more Christlike than Wagner when he realized his soul in music. (243) Wilde, then, consistently draws clear lines in his work that tie self-­ realization to absolution and, ultimately, redemption. The inner potential that both Parsifal and the young king share, their unique qualities whose expression will help them realize their personalities, become full individuals (and therefore Christ-like), and be redeemed, is their capacity for radical pity. In three dreams during which the young king sees the horrors suffered by those who are preparing beautiful things for his coronation, he becomes a witness to pain and suffering; he is deeply saddened and personally transformed by what he sees. He reacts to the hungry weavers, the abused pearl divers, and the wretched ruby miners with cries of identification that mark his emotional state as one of empathy (CCW 216–7, 219). It is his ability to express this inner empathy that makes him Christ-like at the end of the tale, just as it is Parsifal’s deeply felt empathy for the suffering of Amfortas that makes him Christ-like at the end of Wagner’s opera. The Tannhäuser motif of the sprouting staff may make a brief appearance, then, in “The Young King,” but the entire story is suffused with images from Parsifal. Stoddard Martin has noted this intertextual layering, a phenomenon he dubbed Wilde’s “Parsifalian turning,” but his analysis does not consider the implications of such a turning; he simply points out textual parallels between Wilde’s story and Wagner’s two operas, and very briefly notes that the young king seems to be an amalgam of the figures of Parsifal and Tannhäuser (49–50). The young king resembles Parsifal insofar as both are of noble blood, both are raised in poverty, and each is ignorant of his true identity. The young king is plucked from his goat-herding adoptive family and educated in the ways of the court before his coronation; Parsifal, dressed in sheepskin clothing, stumbles upon the court of the Holy Grail but is banished from it for inappropriate behavior before he can be crowned the new Grail King. In both cases, supernatural forces (in Parsifal, via a kiss from the undead healer and seductress Kundry; in “The Young King,” via three dreamlike visions) cause the protagonists to vicariously experience, and thus gain insight into, the great suffering of others; this transforms them completely, giving the young king the courage to challenge the norms of

Wagner without Music  189 his exploitative regime and become a radically new kind of Christ-like monarch, and giving Parsifal the insight he needs to release his predecessor from the agony of rule and become a Christ-like savior of the court and the Grail (Wagner, Parsifal: Textbuch 109; CCW 215–9). The transfigurations portrayed in the final ecstatic moments of both works are filled with parallels. As the young king wields a wooden staff whose miraculous blossoms mark him the Chosen One, so Parsifal, the Chosen One, wields the holy spear to heal the unspeakable wounds of his predecessor Amfortas and restore order in the realm of the grail. As the young king is suddenly bathed in divine light that streams through the stained-glass windows of the cathedral, transfixing the congregation, so the Holy Grail that Parsifal reveals to the Grail brotherhood at the end of the opera slowly becomes suffused by divine light as he raises it up. The resonances are quite striking and suggest that Wilde had access to detailed information about the plot of Parsifal when he wrote “The Young King” in 1888. This intertextual layering invites us to read “The Young King” more generally in the light of Parsifal and vice versa. Indeed, if we apply the central principle from Parsifal to “The Young King,” it allows us to see how Wilde is less concerned with absolution as divine intervention (à la Tannhäuser) in the fairy tale than he is with the absolution that comes from our fellow man—from below—through the mechanism of pity or empathy. Wilde comes closest to theorizing this mechanism in his letter from prison. There he makes little distinction between empathy and pity—usually seen as a more distanced and potentially patronizing affect than empathy—as he lays out for Lord Alfred Douglas his analysis of the dynamics of their relationship. He repeatedly claims that he stayed with Douglas out of a sense of pity (CW, vol. 2, 38, 43, 50), especially after the death of Douglas’s brother, Viscount Drumlanrig, in 1894: “the mere sense of the lacrimae rerum, of the tears of which the world is made, and of the sadness of all human things—out of the confluence of these thoughts … came infinite pity for you and your family” (57); this is why Wilde did not break up with Douglas during the lowest point of their relationship, but went to comfort him instead. Wilde goes on to describe to Douglas the moment when he first understood the full potential of pity: in a passage that begins “[w]here there is sorrow there is holy ground,” he relates how, when he was brought down from the court of bankruptcy in handcuffs, Robert Ross was waiting for him, and silently raised his hat to him. This little, lovely, silent act of love has unsealed for me all the wells of pity: made the desert bloom like a rose, and brought me out of the bitterness of lonely exile into harmony with the wounded, broken, and great heart of the world. (85)

190  Yvonne Ivory So pity is engendered by a specific process: the sight of suffering provokes sadness in the empathic, loving observer; this sadness leads to pity; pity inspires acts of generosity—of love—toward the sufferer; the sufferer is not necessarily relieved of his or her burden, but is brought out of isolation and into “harmony” with the rest of (a “tearful”) humanity. The one who pities has also been transformed, redeemed by virtue of having identified with the suffering of others, and having expressed their unique inner potential for pity. This is the mode of redemptive pity that we also find in Wagner’s Parsifal. The naïve protagonist is saddened by the suffering of another, and understands what that suffering means through the process of ­“Mitleid”—literally, “suffering-with,” generally translated as pitying or empathizing with others. Pity leads him to act: he fights a powerful enemy to win the object that will heal the sufferer—the Holy Spear—and uses it to cure the Grail King. As he touches Amfortas’s wound with the spear, Parsifal declares that the true value of Amfortas’s suffering was its role in arousing his—Parsifal’s—pity and making him wise: “Gesegnet sei dein Leiden, / das Mitleids höchste Kraft / und reinsten Wissens Macht / dem zagen Toren gab” (“O blessed be your suffering, / that gave compassion’s highest power / and purest wisdom’s might / to the timid fool”; Wagner, Parsifal: Textbuch 155; Everett). Parsifal is himself redeemed by the act of healing Amfortas, a fact made clear by the last words of the opera: “Erlösung dem Erlöser” (“redemption to the redeemer”; Parsifal: Textbuch 157; Everett). The savior has also been saved, thanks to the knowledge and impetus he gained through “Mitleid.” All of these quotes from the final scenes of Parsifal can be applied equally to the young king, who is redeemed via the wisdom he gains through “Mitleid” for his most oppressed subjects; and whose transfiguration, in turn, gives new meaning to their suffering. Wilde was clearly exposed—via reviews and essays in periodicals and newspapers, perhaps through books, and certainly through conversations with British and French friends—to the storyline of Parsifal in the 1880s, and it played a role in the composition of “The Young King.” He was also clearly thinking about Wagner when he was writing his Epistola: in carcere et vinculis: not only does he mention Tannhäuser and set out a Parsifalian model of pity in the letter itself, but within days of finishing it, he writes to Ross and asks him to acquire the volume of letters Wagner sent to his revolutionary friend August Roeckel while the latter was in prison (CL 792).33 It is one of the works Wilde wishes to have in his possession once he is released the following month. This suggests, perhaps, an eagerness to know how Wagner might himself have expressed compassion for an imprisoned individual—Wilde wanting to experience vicariously Wagnerian pity for his own suffering. The sentiment of “Mitleid” haunts, too, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” written by Wilde just after his release. Here all the prisoners lie

Wagner without Music  191 sleepless during the condemned man’s final night on earth: “we—the fool, the fraud, the knave— / That endless vigil kept, / And through each brain on hands of pain / Another’s terror crept” (CW, vol. 1, 203). They feel the terror of their fellow inmate, while those in authority are either afraid to do so (the wardens) or too closed-minded to feel anything (the chaplain). There are echoes of the wound inflicted on Amfortas—and of course Christ—in the metaphor Wilde uses to express the pain that empathy causes the prisoners: Alas! It is a fearful thing To feel another’s guilt! For, right within, the sword of Sin Pierced to its poisoned hilt, And as molten lead were the tears we shed For the blood we had not spilt. (203) The condemned prisoner arouses sorrow and pity in those who can identify with his suffering: “he has but passed / To Life’s appointed bourne: / And alien tears will fill for him / Pity’s long-broken urn, / For his mourners will be outcast men, / And outcasts always mourn” (212). The concept of “pity” in this stanza has its roots in the Parsifalian pity of the young king, and Wilde’s reflections on pity in the Epistola. There is an important difference between Wagner’s Tannhäuser and Parsifal: Tannhäuser’s path to redemption comes through “Buß und Reu” or “penance and contrition” that is recognized and rewarded by God (Wagner, Tannhäuser 51); Parsifal’s comes through a kind of knowledge that has its origins in pity or empathy: he comes to the knowledge of who he is and what he has to do by truly empathizing with the suffering of his predecessor. This allows him, Parsifal, to bestow absolution on Amfortas and Kundry. Wilde’s young king is also “durch Mitleid wissend, der reine Tor,” and the flowering staff in his hand is not a sign of his having been forgiven, but rather of his having been granted the power of absolving others. In this light—particularly if we consider Wilde’s reflections on the transformative power of pity in de Profundis—we might revisit the blossoming staff in “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” as the narrator’s wielding of the power of absolution over the condemned man (CW, vol. 1, 210); the same could be said of the flowers that grow on the grave of the fisherman in “The Fisherman and his Soul” (“Fisherman” 258–9); or even of Wilde’s wry comment to Robert Ross that his “walking-stick showed signs of budding” when he had an audience with the Pope (CL 1180). Wilde, the fool made wise through pity, can effectively absolve himself. ***

192  Yvonne Ivory It is easy to dismiss Wilde’s interest in Wagner as merely superficial, especially given the ease with which his characters can ridicule Wagner’s music; however, Wilde’s discursive and social networks steeped him in Wagnerian thought—even as he fled from Wagnerian music, and his adoption of Wagner’s methods or ideas is ripe for further scholarly scrutiny. Was Wilde thinking of Wagner, for instance, when he asserted that “recurring motifs make Salome … like a piece of music and bind it together as a ballad” (CW, vol. 2, 172–3)? If traces of Lohengrin, Tristan, Tannhäuser, and Parsifal have been found in Wilde’s writings, what of the monumental Ring cycle? Did Wilde engage with it via Shaw’s Perfect Wagnerite after 1898? Such intertextual explorations might yield further insights into Wilde’s Wagner reception. So, too, would archival work examining unpublished letters by Wilde’s network of friends; while none of the standard published memoirs of Wilde’s circle mention his engagement with Wagner specifically, it is possible that letters or diaries make reference to attendances at performances, or record Wilde’s conversational allusions to Wagner. Other desiderata include Clement Harris’s missing diaries and any source that would provide more detail about the hundreds of volumes in Wilde’s library that were insufficiently catalogued by Bullock during the Tite Street bankruptcy sale (Munby). Oscar Wilde and Richard Wagner have been yoked together under the sign of unproductive Decadence for well over a century. The iconic image of an enraptured Dorian watching the orgiastic prelude to Tannhäuser tricks us into thinking we understand Wilde’s W ­ agner reception: it was superficial, consummately decadent, relentlessly aestheticist. But there are important aspects of that reception that go against the grain of this conventional understanding of Decadence. Wilde’s use of Wagnerian imagery to capture the self-affirming and enlightening power of pity, and his championing of pity as a radical and unique form of self-realization, are just two particularly striking instances of how his Wagner reception resists the expected tropes of Decadence. The “languor” of the young king, his sensual indulgence in “the mystery of beautiful things” (CCW 215), is destroyed by his horror at the suffering of others; in the tale, Decadence functions as a kind of necessary naiveté—a state of unknowing from which the pure fool can become “wissend”—can recognize the structures that hold his world in place, and can realize his full potential (for pity) for the first time. In this sense, “The Young King” might be seen as an example of what Richard Dellamora has called “productive decadence”; that is, a mode of critique that unsettles “commonly held assumptions” about the world and is “radical in its opposition to the organization of modern urban, industrial, and commercial society” (Dellamora 529).

Wagner without Music  193

Notes This chapter started life as a paper written for “The Importance of Being Wilde: A Day Symposium on Oscar Wilde and Fin-de-siècle Culture” held at the University of Limerick in June 2013. My thanks to the conference conveners, Dr. Tina O’Toole, Dr. Eoin Devereux, and Dr. Kathryn Laing for their invitation and for providing such an invigorating forum for the exchange of ideas about Wilde and his contexts. 1 The Durand was a famous café on the Place de la Madelaine in Paris (Paris 18). 2 In 1888, the editors of the new British Wagner journal noted “the increasing numbers of foreigners, especially of English and Americans, who throng to the performances at Bayreuth” (“Art-Work” 4). 3 On Wilde’s 1892 meetings with Siegfried Wagner, see below; on the possibility that Wilde was invited to Bayreuth by Richard Wagner’s son, see Endres, “Wagner” 2. 4 DiGaetani suggests that Wilde’s doorbell joke is also a pun on the title of Wagner’s Ring cycle (177). 5 Schroeder bolsters his argument by pointing out a mistake made by Wilde in the review: “we would have to assume that he attended two concerts on 9 May: in the afternoon Rubinstein’s recital of Beethoven’s Appassionata, and in the evening Wagner’s selections from the Flying Dutchman … and it is hard to believe that someone who had listened to a recital of the Appassionata should have misspelt it as ‘Impassionata’” (Schroeder). 6 The reviewer mixes up the dates but is talking about the second concert of the series, which took place on May 9 (Sessa, Richard Wagner 153 n. 80). 7 Curiously, Wilde makes no mention of the fact that the Grosvenor Gallery itself hosted a huge reception for Wagner during his 1877 visit (Sessa, “At Wagner’s Shrine” 248). 8 We can be certain Wilde owned a copy of another work by Franz Hueffer, The Troubadours: A History of Provençal Life and Literature in the Middle Ages, as it was sold at the bankruptcy auction in 1895 (Munby 381). 9 See, for instance, “‘Wagner’ at the Lyceum,” or “Covent-Garden.” 10 For more on Haweis, see Schroeder. 11 The editors add that he attended a further performance of it in New York on January 7. 12 For a full account of the event, see Cooper. 13 The prelude was played at the Crystal Palace during a memorial concert for Franz Liszt on October 23, 1886, for instance (“St. James’s”); the Karfreitagszauber was on the program for a series of symphony concerts conducted by Mr. Henschel at St. James’s Hall in November and December of the same year (“London”). 14 Harris’s diaries have never been published, and it is not clear where they are currently located. Bock’s short biography makes use of the diaries, which were in the possession of Harris’s nephew in the late 1950s, but Bock does not always quote them directly. I am indebted to Nikolai Endres for the suggestion that Clement Harris was an important figure in Wilde’s Wagner reception. 15 According to the daily listings in the Pall Mall Gazette, Lohengrin was performed on July 8 and 22, and the Meistersinger on July 13, 18, 24, and 26. By the end of the month, Wilde was in Kreuznach, however (Holland 409). 16 In this context, Shaw is best remembered for his influential socialist reading of the Ring cycle in The Perfect Wagnerite (1898), but he was publishing pieces on Wagner already a decade earlier—including a review of the 1889

194  Yvonne Ivory

17 18


20 21



24 25 26


28 29

Parsifal at Bayreuth for the Star (Sessa, Wagner 50–53). While the two Irishmen were never very close, in an 1893 letter to Shaw, Wilde writes that he likes “to think that we are friends” (Holland 554). For a thorough discussion of Beardsley’s Wagnerism, and how his working relationship with Wilde is coloured by that interest, see especially Chapter 1 of Sutton. Wilde attended Mallarmé’s Tuesday salons while in Paris in autumn 1891 and exchanged books—and admiring comments—with the giant of French letters (Ellmann 316–18). On the complexity of Mallarmé’s Wagnerism, see Lees 4–8. While Merrill published a French translation of “The Birthday of the Infanta” in 1889, he first made Wilde’s acquaintance while passing through London late in 1890 (Henry 65–6). Louÿs’s biographer believes he may have met Wilde at Mallarme’s salon as early as February 1891, but contends that the first firm evidence of the friendship is a November 1891 letter (Clive 71). The first version of The Picture of Dorian Gray appeared in July 1890. All translations from the German are my own. Renckhoff argues that Siegfried’s six-month-long voyage with Harris strengthened the former’s familiarity with Wilde’s works, and explains why themes from Intentions and Wilde’s fairy tales recur in such works as Banadietrich and Sehnsucht. Nietzsche’s work appeared in German in 1888, and Wilde’s German was not proficient enough to have read it; no German lots were sold at the Tite Street auction, so it is unlikely—though not impossible—that Wilde had ever owned this book. It is much more likely that he owned a copy of Mendès’s book, as the author had been a personal friend since the early 1880s. During Wilde’s tenure as editor, nothing was published that dealt with Wagner directly, although the composer is mentioned in passing in three articles: Juliet Pollock declares that “Wagner has exalted dramatic opera into the highest regions of art” (250); Janey Sevilla Campbell finds that Edward William Godwin’s dramatical genius “meant growth, originality, freedom from tradition”—just like “the art of musical composition meant” for the “wonderful genius of Wagner” (3); and Mathilde Blind notes that “exaggerated enthusiasm” about art is only appropriate toward “a master genius such as Wagner” (456). The British Library’s online British Newspaper Archive retrieves over 7,500 articles and 2,700 advertisements that mention Wagner in the London press alone in the 1880s (British). For more on how French Wagnerians influenced British writers, see DiGaetani 176–77. Symons’s contribution appeared after Wilde had left the magazine, but a letter from Symons to Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper leaves no doubt that it was to Wilde that Symons had handed over the essay: “I wish Oscar Wilde would bring out my article,” he writes in April 1889 (Symons 47). Lohengrin is the knight who cannot reveal his true name or lineage; Fuchs sees many correspondences between his situation, Jack Worthing’s inability to give an account of himself to Lady Bracknell, and Dorian Gray’s reluctance to reveal his identity to Sibyl Vane. For succinct summaries of Wilde’s allusions to Tannhäuser, see commentaries in Ian Small’s edition of Epistola: In carcere et vinculis (CW, vol. 2, 265) and Joseph Bristow’s edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray (CW, vol. 3, 401). In the first essay of the 1873 edition, “Aucassin and Nicolette,” Pater compares Tannhäuser to Abelard (4, 16); and in the chapter on Michelangelo, he characterizes Tannhäuser as a traditional medieval icon (83).

Wagner without Music  195 30 In “The Critic as Artist,” Gilbert rhapsodizes about the emotions stirred within him by “the overture to Tannhäuser” (CW, vol. 4, 158), and although in 1890 Dorian Gray sees his own tragedy reflected generally “in that great work of art,” in 1891, Wilde has him seeing “the tragedy of his own life” specifically in “the prelude to that great work of art” (CW, vol. 3, 113, 282). 31 The Story of Venus and Tannhäuser, Aubrey Beardsley’s Wagner-inspired illustrated erotic novel, also lingers on the period of time Tannhäuser spent “under the hill” with Venus—the time represented by the overture of Wagner’s opera. But Beardsley’s work did not appear in its uncensored form until after Wilde’s death; and even the bowdlerized version (1897) appeared years after Wilde had had such characters as Gilbert and Dorian heap praise on Wagner’s overture. As such, it cannot be seen as a primary influence on Wilde’s reception of Tannhäuser. 32 Wilde lists Tannhäuser here among “the most diverse things and people” who exemplify this principle (CW, vol. 2, 116). 33 Wagner’s letters, written in the early 1850s, first appeared in German in 1894, and were published in translation (and with an introduction by Houston Stewart Chamberlain) by Bristol-based Arrowsmith early in 1897. Although Wilde in his letter to Ross gives the date of the collection as 1887, he can only have meant this 1897 edition.

Works Cited “Art-Work of the Future.” The Meister, vol. 1, no. 1, 1888, p. 4. HathiTrust Digital Library, catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000549581. Baudelaire, Charles. Richard Wagner et Tannhäuser à Paris. E. Dentu, 1861. ———. “Richard Wagner and Tannhäuser in Paris.” Baudelaire as a Literary Critic, edited and translated by Lois B. Hyslop and Francis E. Hyslop, Penn State UP, 1964, pp. 188–231. Blind, Mathilde. “Marie Bashkirtseff, the Russian Painter, II.” Woman’s World, edited by Oscar Wilde, Cassell & Co., 1888, pp. 454–7. Bock, Claus V. Pente Pigadia und die Tagebücher des Clement Harris. Castrum Peregrini Presse, 1962. The British Newspaper Archive. British Library, www.britishnewspaper archive.co.uk. Accessed 14 Feb. 2017. Campbell, Allan W., editor. A Friendship of the Nineties: Letters between John Gray and Pierre Louÿs. Translated by Suzanne Robinson, Tragara Press, 1984. Campbell, Janey S. “The Woodland Gods.” Woman’s World, edited by Oscar Wilde, London, 1888, pp. 1–7. Carr, Jonathan. The Wagner Clan: The Saga of Germany’s Most Illustrious and Infamous Family. Grove, 2009. Cincinnati Opera Festival in the Great Music Hall. John Shillito and Co., 1882. Google Books, books.google.com/books?id=yAQbAAAAYAAJ. Clive, H. P. Pierre Louÿs (1870–1925): A Biography. Clarendon Press, 1978. Cooper, John. “Patti in Cincinnati.” Oscar Wilde in America, www.oscar wildeinamerica.org/features/patti-in-cincinnati.html. Accessed 26 Jan. 2017. Cormack, David. “Parsifal as English Oratorio.” Musical Times, vol. 148, 2007, pp. 73–98. “Covent-Garden.” The Times [London], 27 Dec. 1876, p. 5.

196  Yvonne Ivory Dellamora, Richard. “Productive Decadence: ‘The Queer Comradeship of Outlawed Thought’: Vernon Lee, Max Nordau, and Oscar Wilde.” New Literary History, vol. 35, no. 4, 2004, pp. 529–46. DiGaetani, John Louis. “Oscar Wilde, Richard Wagner, Sigmund Freud, and Richard Strauss.” Oscar Wilde: The Man, His Writings, and His World, edited by Robert N. Keane, AMS Press, 2003, pp. 175–82. Ellmann, Richard. Oscar Wilde. Hamish Hamilton, 1987. Endres, Nikolai. “Wagner, Siegfried (1869–1930).” GLBTQ Archives, www. glbtqarchive.com/arts/wagner_siegfried_A.pdf, pp. 1–4. Accessed 18 Mar. 2017. ———. “Wilde and Wagner: Tannhäuser and The Picture of Dorian Gray.” The Wildean, vol. 48, 2016, pp. 67–85. Everett, Derrick. “Parsifal Translation Act 3.” Monsalvat: The Parsifal Home Page, www.monsalvat.no/trans3.htm. Accessed 10 Apr. 2017. Fuchs, Dieter. “Wilde, Wagner, and the Aestheticist Debate of Representation: ‘What’s in a Name?’ The Importance of Being Earnest, or Lohengrin.” Anglistik, vol. 20, no. 2, 2009, pp. 131–43. Furness, Raymond. Wagner and Literature. St. Martin’s Press, 1982. Haweis, Hugh R. Music and Morals. London, 1871. ———. “Wagner.” Contemporary Review, vol. 29, May 1877, pp. 981–1003. Heath, Michelle Beissel. “Lessons Not Learned: ‘Bad Cocoa,’ ‘Worse Blankets,’ and the Unhappy Endings of Oscar Wilde’s Fairy Tales.” The Oscholars, A Giant’s Garden: Special “Fairy Tales” Issue, Spring 2009, http://www.­oscholars. com/TO/Specials/Tales/Cocoa_BeisselHeath.htm. Accessed 26 May 2013. Henry, Marjorie L. La contribution d'un Américain au symbolisme français: Stuart Merrill. Edouard Champion, 1927. Hofer, Matthew and Gary Scharnhorst, editors. Oscar Wilde in America: The Interviews. U of Illinois P, 2010. Hueffer, Franz. Richard Wagner and the Music of the Future. History and Æsthetics. London, 1874. Huysmans, Joris-Karl. “L’ouverture de Tannhäuser.” La Revue wagnérienne, vol. 1, no. 3, 8 Apr. 1885, pp. 59–62. ———. “The Overture to Tannhäuser.” Parisian Sketches, edited and translated by Brendan King, Dedalus Books, 2004. Large, David C. and William Weber, editors. Wagnerism in European Culture and Politics. Cornell UP, 1984. Lees, Heath. Mallarmé and Wagner: Music and Poetic Language. Ashgate, 2007. “The London Symphony Concerts.” London Evening Standard, 18 Nov. 1886, p. 3. Mahaffy, John P. “Modern Excavations.” Contemporary Review, vol. 29, Apr. 1877, pp. 888–900. Martin, Stoddard. Wagner to “The Waste Land”: A Study of the Relationship of Wagner to English Literature. Macmillan, 1982. The Meister: The Quarterly Journal of the London Branch of the Wagner Society, edited by William Aston Ellis, George Redway, 1888–1895. HathiTrust Digital Library, catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000549581. Mendès, Catulle. Richard Wagner. Paris, 1886.

Wagner without Music  197 Munby, Alan N. L., editor. “Oscar Wilde, 24 April 1895.” Sale Catalogues of Libraries of Eminent Persons, vol. 1, Mansell, 1971, pp. 371–88. Paris and Environs: Handbook for Travellers. Leipsig, 1891. “Parsifal.” Morning Post, 11 Nov. 1884, p. 5. Pater, Walter. Studies in the History of the Renaissance. London, 1873. Pollock, Juliet. “The Drama in Relation to Art.” Woman’s World, edited by Oscar Wilde, London, 1888, pp. 249–52. Renckhoff, Dorothea. “‘… und die Seele ging weinend durch die Sümpfe davon.’ Das Erlebnis Oscar Wilde bei Siegfried Wagner.” Siegfried Wagner-­Kompendium 1, edited by Peter Pachl, Centaurus Verlag, 2003, pp. 219–34. Rizzuto, Thomas. “The Critical Reception of Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde in the English-Speaking World.” CUNY, 2010. MA thesis. Rutledge, Amelia A. “Flowers of Love, Death, and Redemption: Wagnerian Motifs in Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Fisherman and His Soul’ and ‘The Nightingale and the Rose.’” The Oscholars, A Giant’s Garden: Special “Fairy Tales” Issue, Spring 2009, www.oscholars.com/TO/Specials/Tales/Opera_Ruttledge. htm. Accessed 26 May 2013. Schroeder, Horst. “‘The Grosvenor Gallery’: A Supplement to Review No. 1 in the Journalism Volumes of the OET Complete Works of Oscar Wilde.” Horst Schroeder, www.horst-schroeder.com/grosvenor_gallery.htm. Accessed 28 Feb. 2017. Sessa, Anne Dzamba. “At Wagner’s Shrine: British and American Wagnerians.” Wagnerism in European Culture and Politics, edited by David Clay Large and William Weber, Cornell UP, 1984, pp. 246–77. ———. Richard Wagner and the English. Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 1979. Shaw, George Bernard. The Perfect Wagnerite: A Commentary on the Ring of the Niblungs. Grant Richards, 1898. Google Books, books.google.com/ books?id=EkhbAAAAMAAJ. “St. James’s Hall.” Morning Post, 25 Oct. 1886, p. 3. Sutton, Emma. Aubrey Beardsley and British Wagnerism in the 1890s. Oxford UP, 2002. Swinburne, Algernon Charles. Laus Veneris and Other Poems and Ballads. London, 1866, 1–20. Symons, Arthur. Selected Letters, 1880–1935, edited by Karl Beckson and John Murchison Munro, Macmillan, 1989. Wagner, Richard. Letters to August Roeckel. Translated by Eleanor C. Sellar, introduction by Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Bristol, 1897. ———. Parsifal: A Festival-Drama. Translated by F. Corder and H. Corder, Mainz, 1879. ———. Parsifal: Textbuch, Einführung und Kommentar, edited by Kurt Pahlen and Rosemarie König, Schott, 2010. ———. Tannhäuser: Textbuch, Einführung und Kommentar, edited by Kurt Pahlen, Schott, 2008. “‘Wagner’ at the Lyceum.” The Times [London], 10 Oct. 1876, p. 6. “The Wagner Festival.” The Era, 13 May 1877, p. 7. “The Wagner Festival.” The Times [London], 14 May 1877, p. 8. “The Wagner Festival in London.” The Scotsman, 10 May 1877, p. 3. “Wagner’s ‘Parsifal’ at the Albert Hall.” London Evening Standard, 12 Nov. 1884, p. 3.

198  Yvonne Ivory Westernhagen, Curt von. Wagner: A Biography. Translated by Mary Whittall, Cambridge UP, 1981. Wilde, Oscar. The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde, edited by Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart-Davis, Henry Holt, 2000. ———. The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, edited by Merlin Holland, Harper Collins, 1994. ———. The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, edited by Ian Small et al., Oxford UP, 2000, 7 vols.

Part IV

Alternative Worlds

10 “I am not a Catholic, I am simply a violent Papist” Oscar Wilde’s Protestant “Romishness” Claire Masurel-Murray On April 26, 1900, during his last trip to Rome, Oscar Wilde wrote to his friend More Adley: “My position is curious: I am not a C ­ atholic: I am simply a violent papist” (CL 1184). These words, expressing a “curious position” indeed, offer a key to some of Wilde’s works. In the last two decades of the nineteenth century, Roman Catholicism became something of a trend in literary circles in England. A number of fin-de-siècle writers and artists even chose the path of conversion: John Gray (received into the Church of Rome in 1890 and ordained a priest in 1901), Aubrey Beardsley (converted in 1897), Lionel Johnson, and ­Ernest ­Dowson (who both became Catholics in 1891), to name a few1—as well as Wilde, of course, who flirted with Catholicism in the 1870s while a student at Oxford and was received into the Church on his deathbed, just a few months after having defined himself as a non-Catholic papist. What drew Wilde and his fellow Decadents to the Roman faith was less a set of beliefs and rules than an aesthetic and poetic experience. The Church that Wilde extolls in some of his texts is not so much a community of believers or a hierarchical structure as the locus of a highly subjective experience. In that sense, Wilde’s native Protestantism is, paradoxically, a defining element in his fascination for Catholicism. Private judgement (religious or aesthetic), rather than obedience to an institutional body or adhesion to dogma, is at the heart of his “religion.” Just like Gray, Dowson, Beardsley, and Johnson, Wilde tends to sees the Roman Church through the lens of Protestantism, although a distorted, even subverted, form of Protestantism. These authors and artists were all from Protestant backgrounds, and even if the religious situation in Ireland, where Wilde was born and grew up, was very different from the English context, Wilde, as a member of the Anglo-Irish Ascendency, was brought up in the Anglican Church of Ireland and would have been more familiar with the world of the Protestant minority than with the views of the Catholic majority. Of course, fundamentally, the main element of attraction in ­Catholicism for Wilde and his fellow Decadents was that, precisely, it was not Protestant. Roman Catholicism fascinated them because it stood for what Victorian Anglicanism was not. In “The Decay of Lying” (1889), Vivian

202  Claire Masurel-Murray says: “The growth of common sense in the English Church is a thing very much to be regretted. It is really a degrading concession to a low form of realism,” before adding: “Man can believe the impossible, but man can never believe the improbable” (CW, vol. 4, 100). In a sense, Roman Catholicism represented in Wilde’s eyes this faith in the impossible that the Established Church could not embody. Indeed, whereas the Protestant vision is based on the radical opposition between nature and transcendence, Catholicism fills the gap between the Creator and his creature with a multitude of mediations. Devotion to the saints and to the Virgin Mary, the sacraments, and the belief in miracles (including the daily miracle of transubstantiation) are all elements that contribute in sacralizing reality and in introducing a mythical dimension into the perception of the world. As Wilde writes in “The Critic as Artist,” “Nowadays we have so few mysteries left that we cannot afford to part with one of them” (CW, vol. 4, 128). The temptation of Catholicism for fin-de-siècle writers, and for Wilde in particular, thus offers a possibility for rescuing the last remainders of mystery in a world that they perceive as dull and ugly.2 The Roman Church, with its rejection of positivism and secularism, its abundant cultural and artistic heritage, the rich symbolism of its rites, and its sensual liturgy, represents an aesthetic—rather than religious—alternative to everything they dismiss in Modernity. What interests Wilde in particular are the liturgical and devotional practices of Catholicism as art forms (more than as expressions of faith)—hence the use he makes of Catholic symbols and rituals, which he detaches from their religious meaning. At the same time, Wilde chooses to focus on the most polemical elements in the Catholic faith. When on March 20, 1876 he writes to William Ward “I am more than ever in the toils of the Scarlet Woman” (CL 15), and a year later on March 3, 1877, “[I] am caught in the fowler’s snare, in the wiles of the Scarlet Woman […]” (CL 39), he deliberately uses a typically Protestant, anti-Catholic phrase—a reference to the “whore of Babylon” of the Book of Revelation3 —to suggest his attraction to the Church. This is symptomatic of Wilde’s attitude toward Catholicism. He systematically emphasizes the aspects of Catholic devotion that are most un-English, un-Protestant, and incompatible with the religion of the Established Church. These aspects are summed up in the passage of The Picture of Dorian Gray, which describes (somewhat ironically) Dorian’s conversion dreams4 and which can be read as a list of the most “picturesque” characteristics of Roman Catholicism: It was rumoured of him once that he was about to join the Roman Catholic Communion; and certainly the Roman ritual had always a great attraction for him. The daily sacrifice, more awful really than all the sacrifices of the antique world, stirred him as much by its

“I am not a Catholic, I am simply a violent Papist”  203 superb rejection of the evidence of the senses as by the primitive simplicity of its elements and the eternal pathos of the human tragedy that it sought to symbolize. He loved to kneel down on the cold marble pavement, and watch the priest, in his stiff, flowered dalmatic, slowly and with white hands moving aside the veil of the tabernacle, or raising aloft the jewelled lantern-shaped monstrance with the pallid wafer that at times, one would fain think, is indeed the “panis caelestis,” the bread of angels, or, robed in the garments of the Passion of Christ, breaking the Host into the chalice, and smiting his breast for his sins. The fuming censers, that the grave boys, in their lace and scarlet, tossed in the air, like great gilt flowers, had their subtle fascination for him. As he passed out, he used to look with wonder at the black confessionals and long to sit in the dim shadow of one of them and listen to men and women whispering through the worn grating the true story of their lives. (CW, vol. 3, 280) In a rather perverse manner, all the aspects of Catholicism that are staged here are related to bones of contention between Rome and the Church of England, whether it be the notion that the Eucharist is a sacrifice, which is condemned by Article 31 of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Anglican faith, the devotion to the Eucharistic bread, refuted by Article 28, or the practice of auricular confession, considered as a perversion by many anti-Catholic writers. Wilde hence turns Catholicism into an anti-­ Anglicanism, as if Dorian’s Catholic temptation was first and foremost a Protestant’s provocation geared at his own people, a revolt against the society that bred him. Significantly, thus, Wilde chooses to focus on the aspects of ­Catholicism that are denounced in the anti-Catholic literature of the time, undoubtedly out of his usual sense of provocation, but also because he is genuinely fascinated by the most polemical features of Catholic devotion, which he sees as exotic and esoteric, and as such aesthetically interesting. He repeatedly picks up on the elements of doctrine and liturgy that are most controversial at the time, and most repugnant to the Victorian mind, and he does so not out of a sense of personal adherence to these forms of devotion (Wilde’s fascination with Catholicism has actually very little to do with belief), but, on the contrary, out of a desire to divert faith into a religion “for those who cannot believe” (De Profundis, CW, vol. 2, 165). This chapter focuses on three Catholic motifs which are also highly controversial issues in the Victorian context, and which Wilde dwells upon and develops in several of his works, namely, the cult of the ­Virgin Mary, Eucharistic devotion, and finally Rome and the figure of the Pope. These are probably the three main polemical questions opposing the Catholic Church to the Anglican Church in the nineteenth century, three

204  Claire Masurel-Murray of the most sensitive topics in the religious debates of the time, and the subjects of many pamphlets, in particular anti-Catholic ones. They are also aspects of Catholicism that Wilde seems obsessed with at different times in his life, perhaps for psychological reasons (it could be argued that one of these concerns is about the image of the mother, the other about a father figure, and the third one about the body and the collapse of the distinction between spirit and flesh), but also for aesthetic motives.

Wilde and “The Virginal White Queen of Grace” In order to understand the importance of Marian images in Wilde’s writings, one has to take the measure of the symbolic weight of the figure of the Virgin in Victorian Britain. Since the Reformation, the cult of the Virgin Mary had been seen as a highly reprehensible Roman ­Catholic practice. John Henry Newman himself acknowledged in his Apologia pro Vita Sua (1864) that the Mariolatry that was widespread in the ­Roman Church was one of the reasons that made him think twice before giving up the masculine and patriarchal culture of the Church of England (Graef 106–127). The divinization of Mary in popular Catholic devotion was indeed perceived as foreign to British Protestantism and as an idolatrous practice. Indeed, though Catholic doctrine acknowledges that Mary is not entitled to latria, the supreme worship that is due to God alone, it states that she deserves more than dulia, the reverence accorded to angels and saints, hence the concept of hyperdulia, which designates the special veneration properly given to the mother of God (Pelikan 102). For Protestants, this distinction between latria and hyperdulia is purely rhetorical and justifies the accusation of Mariolatry leveled at Marian devotion in the Catholic Church. This criticism is part of a wider condemnation: Catholics are accused of feminizing religion. The importance given in the Roman Church to appearances, liturgical vestments (do Catholic priests not wear dresses and embroidered clothes?), beliefs and practices considered as superstitious, the cult of saints (including female saints) and of the Virgin are all elements that make Catholicism the religion of irrational belief, of effusion and profusion—all “feminine” characteristics in the eyes of many Victorian Protestants. In Wilde’s works, and in particular in his early poetry, Marian images are often part of a recurrent opposition between a Catholic undercurrent that can be read as feminine, and a more masculine Protestantism. The exaltation of the feminine principle goes hand in hand with a rejection of the patriarchal structure of Victorian society. “San Miniato,” for instance, a poem addressed to the Virgin Mary, makes reference on the one hand to the harsh and dazzling light of the sun (“O listen ere the searching sun / Show to the world my sin and shame”) and on the other hand alludes to the soft and protective gleam of the moon on which the Virgin sits (“And throned upon the crescent

“I am not a Catholic, I am simply a violent Papist”  205 moon / The Virginal white Queen of Grace, — / Mary!” (CW, vol. 1, 6)). Ruth Vanita, in Sappho and the Virgin Mary, writes the following commentary on the poem: “The appeal in ‘San Miniato’ from the ‘searching sun,’ the judgmental male principle, to the feminine principle, Mary ‘throned upon the crescent moon,’ is also an appeal against Victorian Protestantism to outcasted [sic] Catholicism, with its pagan suggestions” (80). In the Catholic tradition, the figure of the woman with the moon under her feet in the Book of Revelation is traditionally interpreted as an image of the Virgin Mary. 5 But the moon is also the symbol of Diana and of chthonian divinities such as Persephone and Cybele; it represents a femininity that stands on the side of obscurity and mystery, far from the bright, hard light of reason. Wilde’s use of an image that belongs both to the Christian imagination and to pagan symbolism is symptomatic of his ambiguous use of Catholicism, hovering between Hebraism and Hellenism, between faith and hedonism, between a Judeo-Christian frame of reference and ancient classical culture. This is particularly clear in another explicitly Marian poem, “Ave Maria Gratia Plena.” Following in the footsteps of Dante Gabriel Rossetti in the second sonnet entitled “Mary’s Girlhood” (1870), written as an ekphrasis to his famous painting The Girlhood of Mary Virgin and heralding the Annunciation to come, and following also A.C. Swinburne who in his poem “Blessed Among Women” refers to the archangel Gabriel’s words to Mary in order to apply them to another woman (the Signora Cairoli) whom he magnifies in comparison to the Virgin, Wilde in turn diverts the central theological event of Mary’s Fiat Mihi, which made the Incarnation possible. Like Edward BurneJones who treats the scene in a purely ornamental way in his 1879 Annunciation, Wilde transforms the central moment of Mary’s acceptance into an aesthetic motif, comparable to a mythological scene. The title of Wilde’s sonnet refers to Gabriel’s words (Luke 1.26–38) on the day of the Annunciation, but by using the Latin rather than the English form, Wilde chooses to write in a Catholic mode,6 turning his poem into a rewriting of sorts of the quintessential Catholic prayer of the “Hail Mary” (or “Ave Maria”). Was this His coming! I had hoped to see   A scene of wondrous glory, as was told   Of some great God who in a rain of gold Broke open bars and fell on Danae: Or a dread vision as when Semele   Sickening for love and unappeased desire   Prayed to see God’s clear body, and the fire Caught her brown limbs and slew her utterly: With such glad dreams I sought this holy place,   And now with wondering eyes and heart I stand

206  Claire Masurel-Murray   Before this supreme mystery of Love: Some kneeling girl with passionless pale face,   An angel with a lily in his hand,   And over both the white wings of a Dove. (CW, vol. 1, 41–42) The poem is constructed on a parallel between the Annunciation on the one hand, and two scenes from Greek mythology on the other hand, integrating the earlier pagan paradigms into the Christian narrative. It thus draws an analogy between Mary and the mythical figures of D ­ anae and Semele, Zeus becoming the pagan version of the Holy Ghost fecundating Mary. A symmetry is established between Zeus penetrating Danae’s tower and Semele being thunderstruck by the glorious vision of Zeus, two scenes evoked in the octave, and the Christian representation of the Annunciation in the sestet, inspired by Rossetti’s 1850 painting Ecce Ancilla Domini, in which Mary is represented cowering timidly against a wall and gazing at the two lilies (symbolizing God the Father and the Holy Spirit) that the archangel Gabriel holds in his right hand, while a white dove hovers between the two white figures. Wilde’s poem seemingly concludes on the speaker’s acknowledgement of the greatness of the humble mystery of the Incarnation (“this supreme mystery of Love”) rather than on the sacred terror of the Greek myth. The impression the reader is left with is, however, much more ambiguous, first because the conclusion of the sonnet does not cancel the effect produced by the first lines, in which the speaker expresses his disappointment with the ­Christian scene of the Annunciation (“Was this His coming! I had hoped to see / A scene of wondrous glory as was told / Of some great God”), and second, because the vision of Mary and her “passionless pale face” appears as rather dull and unimpressive after the highly dramatic portrayal of Danae and Semele. Wilde thus appropriates images drawn from the Catholic tradition, but decontextualizes them (or, one could argue, recontextualizes them in the historical and aesthetic development from the classical to the Christian) and, in doing so, deprives them of their original religious meaning. The parallel between the Christian episode of the Annunciation and the Greek myth seems to mark Danae’s and Semele’s triumph over Mary. Wilde’s exaltation of the Virgin’s role in the economy of salvation, inspired by Catholic doctrine, does not lead him to embrace Catholic hyperdulia, but instead ends in a rather anticlimactic portrayal of the future “passionless” mother of God, as if the skeptic aesthete in him eventually triumphed over the Marian Catholic.7 Wilde’s use of Marian imagery is not restricted to his explicitly religious poems. It also suffuses some of his secular poetry, including such love poems as “Madonna Mia”: A lily-girl, not made for this world’s pain,   With brown, soft hair close braided by her ears,

“I am not a Catholic, I am simply a violent Papist”  207   And longing eyes half veiled by slumberous tears Like bluest water seen through mists of rain: Pale cheeks whereon no love hath left its stain,   Red underlip drawn in for fear of love,   And white throat, whiter than the silvered dove […]. (CW, vol. 1, 117) The title alone conveys the ambiguity of the whole poem: “Madonna” is an epithet generally used to invoke the mother of God, but the possessive “mia” (which is somewhat redundant, given that the first syllable of the word “Madonna” is in itself, etymologically, a possessive) conveys the urge to possess the object of one’s desire. The network of images that runs through the poem is based on Marian symbolism: the colors white and blue are in Catholic iconography associated with the Virgin; the Madonna of the poem is linked to the symbols of the lily and the dove, traditionally expressive of purity (as in “Ave Maria Gratia Plena”); like the mother of God, she has been preserved from the taint of original sin (“Pale cheeks whereon no love has left its stain”). In its first version, “Madonna Mia” was entitled “Wasted Days,” but Wilde rewrote the text for the 1881 edition of his Poems and transformed the “fair slim boy” of the original sonnet into a “lily girl.” Simultaneously, he transposed the sensuality of the initial poem into an idealized representation of feminine sexuality, seen as pure and unattainable. This representation of femininity has very little in common with that found in Salomé, for instance, the fragile, ethereal, timid girl of “Madonna Mia” being completely at odds with the sensuous heroine of the play. And yet, references to the “Madonna”’s hair, cheeks, lips, and throat insidiously eroticize the portrayal and firmly root the poem into the tradition of love poetry. Through the use of Marian imagery and vocabulary, the “lily-girl” is made an object of religious worship and amorous desire simultaneously. This ambivalence is a topos in fin-de-siècle literature. One may think of other decadent poems, such as Arthur Symons’s “Mater Liliarum,” which plays on the porous boundary between eroticism and mysticism and turns the lover’s plea to his mistress into a Marian prayer (“Mother of Lilies, pity me!”, Symons 91–92), Ernest Dowson’s sonnets “To a Little Girl” which suggest a dual portrait of the loved one, as both virginal “dear saint” (Dowson 127) and femme fatale, and Theodore Wratislaw’s “Songs to Elizabeth,” in which the beloved woman is called “Star of the chaste inviolate sea,” “Chaste star, sweet star, star perfect and divine,” “O star above the sunset’s purple wave,” and “My star of eve above the silent dell” (Wratislaw 32–35), transposing phrases from the ninth century hymn to Mary “Ave maris stella” (“Hail, star of the sea”), which was very popular in nineteenth-century Marian devotion, into a secular context. In all of these poems, just as in Wilde’s “Madonna Mia,” sexual desire and religious fervor are merged together through the use

208  Claire Masurel-Murray of ­Marian symbolism and draw the sublime portrait of a woman who appears as both chaste and sensuous, disincarnate and desirable, revealing the ambiguities and contradictions of the decadent feminine ideal.8

The “Chalice Empty of Wine”: Eucharistic Devotion for the Faithless Wilde’s works contain many references to tabernacles, monstrances, chalices, and hosts, and to the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation (that is, according to the definition given at the Council of Trent in 1551, the “change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood”), one of the best-known examples being the “Ballad of Reading Gaol,” where images of wine and blood are part of a structural network of sacrificial metaphors. These allusions, which are to be found in many decadent texts, from Ernest Dowson to Lionel Johnson and from Vincent O’Sullivan to Frederick Rolfe, reflect a general tendency in the Catholic world at the time (the nineteenth century was a period when Eucharistic devotion became increasingly important), but they are also highly polemical elements in the British context, given that in Protestantism, the Eucharistic bread and wine are meant to be consumed, not worshipped as such. Transubstantiation and the belief that God, through the priest, transforms integrally and fully the bread into the body of Christ and the wine into his blood, are considered superstitious and irrational, a view which is summed up in Article 28 of the Thirty-Nine Articles: XXVIII. Of the Lord’s Supper. […] Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but it is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture; overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions. The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith. The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up or worshipped. Anglicans do not believe in the physical, objective, and permanent transformation of matter into God, hence the absence of tabernacles in ­A nglican churches and the condemnation of all devotions related to the host outside the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist. From this perspective, devotion to the Holy Sacrament is seen as an idolatrous practice—­ something that appeared very clearly in the Ritualist controversy over

“I am not a Catholic, I am simply a violent Papist”  209 the question of the sacred species. In 1898, a certain Lady Cornelia Wimborne thus wrote a pamphlet entitled “The Ritualist Conspiracy,” the aim of which was to defend the Protestant identity of the Established Church against the Romish elements that threatened it from within and without. In it, she attacks in particular the “error of transubstantiation”: The error of transubstantiation, with its gross materialism lies at the root of all the mimicry of the Roman Mass in the celebration of the Eucharist, in the fasting communion, in the denial of the cup to the laity lest a drop should be spilt, in the reservation of the elements, and in the worship of the altar. And yet we have only to read the 28th and 31st Articles of our Church to see with what stringency our Reformers condemned the doctrine and enforced the belief of the one and only sacrifice of our Lord upon the cross. (17) She denounces energetically the marks of respect and the rituals surrounding the consecrated wine and host in the Roman liturgy as expressions of a form of “materialism.” For her, as for most of her fellow Victorians, the presence of Christ in the host is purely spiritual, not physical, and worshipping a piece of bread is akin to idolatry. Interestingly, it is on these polemical aspects that Wilde chooses to focus his attention. This is quite clear in the aforementioned excerpt from The Picture of Dorian Gray, but it also appears in the references that he makes to Eucharistic devotion in other texts, such as the very precise description of the ceremony of benediction in the tale “The Fisherman and His Soul”: after having shown the monstrance containing the consecrated host, the priest incenses it, uses it to bless the congregation, and then places it back into the tabernacle: And when he had robed himself with his robes, and entered in and bowed himself before the altar, he saw that the altar was covered with strange flowers […]. And after that he had opened the tabernacle, and incensed the monstrance that was in it, and shown the fair wafer to the people, and hid it again behind the veil of veils, he began to speak to the people […]. And when he had finished his word the people wept, and the Priest went back to the sacristy, and his eyes were full of tears. And the deacons came in and began to unrobe him, and took from him the alb and the girdle, the maniple and the stole. (CCW, 258) These few lines mention rather insistently the vestments worn by the priest, with the redundant phrase “robed […] with his robes” and the

210  Claire Masurel-Murray detailed enumeration of ornaments, clothes, and accessories (“the alb and the girdle, the maniple and the stole”), which create a sense that the sacramental presence of Christ in the bread is secondary, in the same way as Dorian’s collection of ecclesiastical vestments, described in great detail in Chapter 11 of The Picture of Dorian Gray, deprives the objects of their liturgical and devotional function and turns them into precious works of art to be preserved and exhibited. The reader’s attention is drawn, as is often the case in Wilde’s works, to the decorative profusion of appearances, highlighting the writer’s focus on the aesthetic aspects of the Roman liturgy, but also showing the persistent influence over him of anti-Catholic discourses that saw in Catholicism the religion of seeming, surfaces, and theatricality, as Susan M. Griffin points out in ­Anti-Catholicism in Nineteenth-Century Fiction: Protestants disputed the authenticity of Catholic belief and practices by describing Romanism as a religion of forms and surfaces: gilded decorations, ritualized behaviors, and mediated (through clergy and saints) relations with God. In contrast, Protestant religiosity was said to be distinguished by its wholeness and integrity: individual reading of the Bible and personal experience of the divine make for a religion that runs deep. Unlike Catholicism, a religion which is theatrically performed, real (Protestant) Christianity permeates the believer, makes for a genuine, homogeneous self. (4) Such movement from the religious to the theatrical and from the sacramental to the aesthetic is characteristic of Wilde’s use of Catholic symbols and motifs. In particular, he likes making a symbolic or metaphorical use of Eucharistic images, drawing on the Catholic liturgy for poetic purposes. He often resorts to the sacramental analogy between bread and flesh and between wine and blood in an erotic context, as for instance in the poem “In the Gold Room”— “And her sweet red lips on these lips of mine / Burned like the ruby fire set / In the swinging lamp of a crimson shrine, / Or the bleeding wound of the pomegranate, / Or the heart of the lotus drenched and wet / With the spilt-out blood of the rose-red wine” (CW, vol. 1, 154)—or in “Quia Multum Amavi,” where passion is compared to the consumption of the consecrated bread and wine by the priest at mass: Dear Heart, I think the young impassioned priest When first he takes out from the hidden shrine His god imprisoned in the Eucharist, And eats the bread, and drinks the dreadful wine, Feels not such wonder as I felt When first my smitten eyes beat full on thee. (CW, vol. 1, 123)

“I am not a Catholic, I am simply a violent Papist”  211 References to the central sacrament of the Roman Catholic liturgy are here used to extoll sexual desire, and the physicality suggested in those lines is not so much that of Christ’s flesh and blood consumed in the host and the chalice, as that of the beloved’s body. Such analogy between sacramental communion and erotic consummation is evident in the veiled Eucharistic references that are to be found in Salomé’s words after Iokanaan’s death: “I love thee yet, Iokanaan, I love only thee…. I am athirst for thy beauty; I am hungry for thy body; and neither wine nor apples can appease my desire” (CW, vol. 5, 730). The thirst and hunger of the princess, focused on the sacrificed body of the Precursor, are here endowed with a symbolic significance through the religious allusions to the wine, linking together the motifs of desire, sacrifice, and religious mystery, and transforming the action of eating and drinking into an act both mystical and erotic. Another interesting element in Wilde’s Eucharistic references, perceptible in particular in the passage from “The Fisherman and His Soul” quoted earlier, is the use of the image of the veil to convey a sense of mystery. Biblical in its origins, this symbol is also found in the poem “Rome unvisited” (“The only God-anointed King […] shows his God to human eyes / Beneath the veil of bread and wine” [CW, vol. 1, 9]) and in The Picture of Dorian Gray (“He loved to […] watch the priest […] moving aside the veil of the tabernacle” [CW, vol. 3, 280]). This conception of the sacrament as veil, simultaneously concealing and revealing, is central in other fin-de-siècle texts, and is sometimes used as a religious metaphor for the status and function of the work of art, the artist being seen as a sort of priest figure consecrating the bread and wine of human experience to transform them into an aesthetic object.9 And this is precisely what liturgical motifs in general, and more specifically Eucharistic images, are about in Wilde’s works. In De Profundis, they are used metaphorically to express his vision of art. Wilde suggests the possibility of an agnostic ritual for non-believers, which would preserve the liturgical gestures and symbols of Eucharistic devotion, but would free them from their religious meaning: I would like to found an order for those who cannot believe: the Confraternity of the Faithless one might call it, where on an altar, on which no taper burned, a priest, in whose heart peace had no dwelling, might celebrate with unblessed bread and a chalice empty of wine. Everything to be true must become a religion. And agnosticism should have its ritual no less than faith. (CW, vol. 2, 165) The religion fantasized by Wilde here is a secular Catholicism, a ritual without transcendence, in which the central elements of the mass (the bread and wine, the altar, the chalice) are no longer the vectors of transubstantiation, but become the means to a sensual experience

212  Claire Masurel-Murray that excludes the divine, conveying a form of sublime without God, one could say. Later in the same text, Wilde compares mass to a Greek tragedy (a dramatic form that probably has its origin in the religious rituals of Dionysian worship, interestingly), turning the central event of the ­Roman faith into a work of art that can be appreciated even by those who are not believers: When one contemplates all this from the point of view of Art alone one cannot but be grateful that the supreme office of the Church should be the playing of the tragedy without the shedding of the blood, the mystical presentation by means of dialogue and costume and gesture even of the Passion of her Lord, and it is always a source of pleasure and awe to me to remember that the ultimate survival of the Greek Chorus, lost elsewhere to art, is to be found in the servitor answering the priest at Mass. (CW, vol. 2, 175) When underlining the importance of dialogue, costumes, and gestures, Wilde gives a fundamentally theatrical definition of the Catholic mass, which, as a symbolic and aesthetic representation of Christ’s sacrifice, becomes for Wilde the quintessential drama, but a drama that replaces the central mystery of transubstantiation with the pagan beauty of ancient tragedy, sublimated by Christian symbolism.10 Wilde draws on the dominant Victorian discourse which views the Roman Catholic liturgy, in particular the mass, as nothing but an elaborate performance, a fascinating spectacle in which the faithful are the audience, the chancel and the altar the stage, liturgical objects the props, the priest’s and the acolytes’ vestments the actors’ costumes, and the religious ritual the actual play. In that sense, even if he expresses a strong fascination for the ­Catholic cult of the Eucharistic bread and wine, he does not believe in transubstantiation any more than the average Victorian Protestant (though his interest in the “miracle” of mass might also be related to the hylo-idealistic approach to reality that he expounds in “The Canterville Ghost”). He just turns his Protestant skepticism into an aesthetic experience.

Rome’s “God-anointed King”: From Repulsion to Fascination The dogma of papal infallibility, which was proclaimed during the ­Vatican I Council in 1870, surprisingly elicited in the young Wilde an enthusiastic reaction that he expressed in a letter to his friend William Ward on July 17, 1876 (CW 1184). This was probably a deliberate provocation in a social world (whether it be the Dublin Ascendency that Wilde’s family belonged to, or England) where the question of C ­ atholics’ allegiance to the pope was a sensitive point. The restoration of the

“I am not a Catholic, I am simply a violent Papist”  213 Catholic hierarchy in England in 1850, often referred to in the Victorian press as the “papal aggression,” was seen as a political attack on the sovereignty of the country, the pope being perceived as the leader of an enemy power. In the anti-Catholic literature of the time, the words “popish” and “popery” were often used as derogatory, if not offensive, substitutes for the words Catholic and Catholicism, and the Supreme Pontiff was not infrequently described as the Antichrist—something that Wilde would have been well aware of. Wilde’s fascination for the Pope crops up in his correspondence and literary production at two moments in his life: during his student days in Magdalen College, and at the end of his life, after he was released from jail and moved to continental Europe. In 1877, he traveled to Rome, and this trip was the central inspiration for a series of poems written in Italy, which are filled with allusions to Pope Pius IX, who had received Wilde in a private audience, thanks to the intervention of David Hunter-Blair, a Catholic convert friend from Oxford. Examples include “Sonnet on approaching Italy” (“far away at Rome / In evil bonds a second Peter lay”), “Urbs Sacra Aeterna” (“the Holy One, The Prisoned Shepherd of the Church of God”), “Italia” (“Look southward where God’s desecrated town / Lies mourning for her God-anointed king”), and the third part of “Rome unvisited” (CW, vol. 1, 33, 35, 38–39, 8–9). Wilde’s vision of the Pope is fundamentally ambiguous. It hovers between condemnation and fascination, and remains deeply marked by Protestant suspicion. The sonnet “Easter Day” is highly significant in that regard: The silver trumpets rang across the Dome: The people knelt upon the ground with awe: And borne upon the necks of men I saw, Like some great God, the Holy Lord of Rome. Priest-like, he wore a robe more white than foam, And, king-like, swathed himself in royal red, Three crowns of gold rose high upon his head: In splendour and in light the Pope passed home. My heart stole back across wide wastes of years To One who wandered by a lonely sea, And sought in vain for any place of rest: ‘Foxes have holes, and every bird its nest. I, only I, must wander wearily, And bruise my feet, and drink wine salt with tears.’ (CW, vol. 1, 37) The explicit message, based on a parallel between the figure of the Pope, evoked in the octave, and that of Jesus in the sestet, is clear. The sonnet develops on the one hand an implicit criticism of the splendors and riches

214  Claire Masurel-Murray characterizing the “Holy Lord of Rome,” who receives the treatment of an earthly king, and on the other hand a praise of Christ’s humble and marginalized existence, suggested through an approximate quotation of Matthew’s gospel which concludes the poem (“The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head” [Matt. 8.20]). Wilde uses the form of the Petrarchan sonnet to make his point, with line 9 (the first of the sestet) signaling a radical change both in the chronology of the poem, which at that point takes the reader back “across wide wastes of years,” and in the tone. The denunciation of the Pope’s worldly supremacy is made indirectly, through the contrast between the octave, filled with references to power and wealth, and the sestet, which is about homelessness and alienation. However, this apparent meaning is undermined by the very way in which the poem is written, with a profusion of details, adjectives, and comparisons making the vision of the Pope much more striking than the depiction of Christ in the final sestet. Those last six lines, ending on a quotation, offer a rather unsatisfactory resolution to the proposition presented in the octave. The poet seems to have mixed feelings about his object and to be torn between a “Protestant” praise of simplicity and a “Catholic” fascination for theatricality and appearances. One could go as far as argue that the apparent denunciation of papal splendors is inverted and turned into a fascinated representation of the papacy. In this poem, the Pope is described in mundane rather than spiritual terms. He is likened to “some great God,” with the use of the indefinite article “some” (which is somehow contradicted by the quasi-­ blasphemous—at least from a Protestant point of view—capitalization of the word “god” applied to a human being) suggesting that the world the pontiff belongs to is the polytheistic world of Roman religion rather than Christianity, and underlining the continuity between pagan antiquity and Catholicism. And indeed, in Wilde’s eyes, Catholic Rome and its bishop are in many ways more pagan than Christian, which is part of their attraction for the poet, but is also another cliché that he picks up from the anti-Catholic discourse of the time. Once more, he revisits Protestant views on Catholicism to give them an aesthetic turn. In the sonnet “Urbs Sacra Aeterna” (CW, vol. 1, 35) he conjures up the past of Rome, starting with the days of the ancient Republic, and concludes on a vision of the Pope imprisoned in the Vatican (“When pilgrims kneel before the Holy One, / The prisoned shepherd of the church of God”). The poem underlines the continuity between the pagan past and the Christian history of the city—a continuity that is embodied in the figure of the Holy Father. In “Rome Unvisited,” Christian iconography and pagan references are merged in the representation of the Pope: A pilgrim from the northern seas— What joy for me to seek alone

“I am not a Catholic, I am simply a violent Papist”  215 The wondrous Temple and the throne Of Him who holds the awful keys! When, bright with purple and with gold, Come priest and holy Cardinal, And borne above the heads of all The gentle Shepherd of the Fold. (CW, vol. 1, 30–31) The pagan motif of the temple and the symbol of the throne, associated with secular power, are here superimposed over the Christian image of the Good Shepherd. The papacy seems to be the locus of a possible reconciliation between Christianity and Ancient Rome, Christ and Apollo, the worship of God and the cult of beauty, just as Christ in De Profundis will be portrayed as a synthesis of the Gospel’s man of sorrows and the archetype of the aesthete. Significantly, Wilde’s praise of Catholic Rome as one of the last pagan places left in the modern world is not particularly original in the Victorian context. The anti-Catholic literature of the day is full of accusations of paganism, which suggest that the Roman Church is not a truly Christian church, but the heir to ancient polytheism. In an 1878 pamphlet entitled “Ritualism Traced to its Pagan Origins,” the Reverend H. C. Leonard explains that Roman Catholicism, and hence Anglican ritualism, are directly descended from Roman paganism: Such then was the worship of Pagan Rome for a period of 1000 years. Its resemblance to the worship of Papal Rome, and its English imitators, need not be dwelt on. […] In the 5th century pictures were introduced, and, later, images of Christ, the Virgin and Saints. Some there were who protested against this heathenising of the church, but in vain. The pagan ritual came in. The Lord’s supper took the place of the “unbloody sacrifices” of Old Rome. Incense was retained in the churches, once temples. Candles were placed on altars as before the re-dedication, gorgeous vestments clothed the Christian ministers now called priests. Thus came in Ritualism […]. (8) Leonard goes on to explain that the Pope is nothing but the heir to the Pontifex Maximus of Ancient Rome, who claimed to represent the gods on earth and demanded that the faithful kiss his feet. In his view, ­Catholicism is thus fundamentally a transposition of the pagan religion of Ancient Rome, and the cult of images, the mass, the use of incense, tapers, and liturgical vestments are only the last vestiges of the Roman people’s idolatrous practices. What the author offers here is a reinterpretation of Antiquity based on contemporary anti-Catholic clichés, and his

216  Claire Masurel-Murray starting point in not so much the analysis of historical facts as contemporary religious controversies. The insistence on the supposed affinities between Catholicism and paganism is a recurrent thread throughout the nineteenth century, from Matthew Arnold11 to Wilde, and one can see how Wilde’s view of Papal Rome is rooted in this rereading of Catholic devotion in the light of pagan rituals. Wilde had a second “Popish” phase toward the end of his life. In April 1900, he stayed in Rome, and his correspondence reveals a real obsession with the Pope, as in this letter to Robert Ross, written on April 16: We came to Rome on Holy Thursday. […] I appeared in the front rank of the pilgrims in the Vatican and got the blessing of the Holy Father—a blessing they would have denied me. He was wonderful as he was carried past me on his throne, not of flesh and blood, but a white soul robed in white, and an artist as well as a saint12 —the only instance in History, if the newspapers are to be believed. I have seen nothing like the extraordinary grace of his gesture, as he rose, from moment to moment, to bless—possibly the pilgrims, but certainly me. (CW 1179–1180) Ten days later, he wrote the following words to More Adey: I wish you could come out here: one is healed at Rome of every trouble: and I should like to go with you to the Vatican, where I hope you will some day walk gravely in mediaeval dress, with the gold chain of office, and guide pilgrims to the feet of the Pope. I do nothing but see the Pope: I have already been blessed many times, once in the private Chapel of the Vatican. […] My position is curious: I am not a Catholic: I am simply a violent Papist. […] I have given up bowing up to the King. I need say no more. (CW 1184) Wilde’s Catholicism as it is presented in these lines has very little to do with religious belief. What appears here is an implicit opposition between Rome and England, between the Pope (whom he referred to several times in his earlier poetry as the king—“God-anointed King”– in “Rome unvisited” and “Italia”) and the English monarch, between two loyalties—maybe between two father figures as well, if one remembers that Wilde’s father had sent him to Oxford so that he would not defect to Rome. Loyalty to the Pope, as opposed to religious faith, appears to be the defining feature of Wilde’s Catholicism. He appropriates and subverts the anti-Catholic notion (dating back to the 1605 Gunpowder Plot)

“I am not a Catholic, I am simply a violent Papist”  217 that Roman Catholics are bound to be traitors to the nation, as an English citizen cannot possibly pledge allegiance both to Rome and to the Crown. Unlike a poet such as Gerard Manley Hopkins, who remained deeply attached to England after his conversion to Catholicism and felt torn between his Roman faith and his Englishness, Wilde (who, unlike Hopkins, was not English by birth, which might partly account for the diametrically opposed attitudes of the two writers) does not express any qualms: if he has to choose between the Pope and the king, he chooses the former. It could be argued that in opting for the Catholic (that is, “universal,” etymologically) Church rather than the Church of England (or Ireland), Wilde also manifests his preference for continental Europe over insular Englishness, for cosmopolitanism over patriotism, and for internationalism over the idea of nation—but this is yet another topic to explore. Wilde’s Catholicism, as it appears in his writings, is thus a highly subjective and idiosyncratic appropriation of the Roman faith. The religion that fascinates Wilde has very little in common with the faith of the Irish industrial migrant or of the Old Catholic who inherited his faith from his forebears. Instead, it is an aestheticized religion filtered and distorted through a Protestant lens. Indeed, his Catholicism could paradoxically be defined as Protestant in two fundamental ways. First, Wilde chooses to focus on the same aspects of the Roman faith as those denounced in the anti-Catholic pamphlets of his days, picking up on the elements of doctrine and liturgy that are most controversial at the time, and somehow perversely integrating into his Catholicism the accusations of theatricality, paganism, and idolatry leveled against the “Romish” Church. The second “Protestant” aspect of Wildean Catholicism is its intensely personal dimension: Wilde’s Catholic experience is anything but ecclesial, and the horizontal dimension of the Church as a community of believers is something that does not interest him. His focus on religious experience is primarily emotional and aesthetic13 and therefore subjective, based on private judgement rather than dogmatic orthodoxy.

Notes 1 The list could also include Frederick Rolfe (conversion 1886); Wilde’s friend Robert Ross (1894); the poet and essayist André Raffalovich (1896); the founding editor of The Yellow Book, Henry Harland (1898); Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper, also known as Michael Field (1907); and Lord Alfred Douglas (1911). 2 Cf. Ellis Hanson, Decadence and Catholicism, and Claire Masurel-­Murray, Le Calice vide: l’imaginaire catholique dans la littérature décadente anglaise. 3 “[A]nd I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY,

218  Claire Masurel-Murray BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” (Rev. 17.3–7). 4 This passage is from Chapter 11, which focuses on the influence on Dorian of an unnamed “yellow book”—a thinly veiled reference to J.K. Huysmans’s A rebours (1884). Even though the interest that Des Esseintes, the hero of the novel, shows for Catholicism is mainly aesthetic, the book concludes on a prayer that was seen by many as premonitory, as Huysmans converted to Catholicism a few years later and went on to write a series of “Catholic” novels (En route, La Cathédrale, and L’Oblat). 5 “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev. 12.1). 6 Unlike the Roman Catholic Church (which perpetuated the use of Latin as its main liturgical language until the Vatican II Council), the Anglican Church had been using English in its services since the Reformation. Article 24 of the Thirty-Nine Articles states that “It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the primitive Church, to have public Prayer in the Church, or to minister the Sacraments in a tongue not understood of the people.” 7 Wilde’s approach here owes much to Swinburne’s “Hymn to Proserpine” (1866), in which the speaker laments the passing of Greco-Roman antiquity, the rise of Christianity, and the displacement of the Roman goddess of the underworld. Paradoxically, while Swinburne attacks in his poem the foundations of Christianity, he also recurrently uses images drawn from Catholicism in order to do so. 8 Even though the femme fatale and the Madonna might seem to represent two opposite and irreconcilable poles of decadent femininity, they often cross-contaminate each other. Here, it could be argued that by giving Marian attributes to the inaccessible object of his desire, the poet somehow gives the Madonna figure a femme fatale twist. 9 Arthur Symons, in particular, in his essay “Arthur Rimbaud” in The Symbolist Movement in Literature, sees in the sacrament of the Eucharist an image of the work of art, and compares the artist’s imagination to the power that the priest has of transforming the bread into the body of Christ: Is it not tempting, does it not seem a devotion rather than a superstition, to worship the golden chalice in which the wine has been made God, as if the chalice were the reality, and the Real Presence the symbol? (36) 10 In De Profundis, such synthesis of the Christian and the pagan is perfectly accomplished in the figure of Christ, who according to Wilde reconciles in his life Hellenism and the Judeo-Christian tradition. 11 Arnold wrote in his 1865 essay “Pagan and Mediaeval Sentiment”: Luther’s reaction was a reaction of the moral and spiritual sense against the carnal and pagan sense; it was religious revival […] against the Church of Rome, not within her, for the carnal and pagan sense had now, in the Church of Rome, its prime representative. 12 This is yet another echo of De Profundis. 13 This aesthetic transformation of religion is particularly striking in Wilde’s use of the figure of Christ, especially in De Profundis, where the Homo Dolorosus becomes an archetype of the artist. For more on this, see Guy Willoughby, Art and Christhood: The Aesthetics of Oscar Wilde.

“I am not a Catholic, I am simply a violent Papist”  219

Works Cited Arnold, Mathew. Essays in Criticism, First Series. Edited by Sister Thomas Marion Hoctor. U Chicago P, 1968, p. 130. Dowson, Ernest. The Poetical Works of Ernest Christopher Dowson. Edited by Desmond Flower, Cassell and Co., and John Lane. The Bodley Head, 1934. Graef, Hilda. Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion, vol. 2. Sheed and Ward, 1965. Griffin, Susan M. Anti-Catholicism in Nineteenth-Century Fiction. Cambridge UP, 2004. Hanson, Ellis. Decadence and Catholicism. Harvard UP, 1997. Leonard, Rev. H. C. “Ritualism Traced to its Pagan Origins,” a lecture published at the office of the Bournemouth Observer, 1878 [?]. Masurel-Murray, Claire. Le Calice vide: l’imaginaire catholique dans la littérature décadente anglaise. Presses de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2011. Pelikan, Jaroslov. Mary through the Centuries. Yale UP, 1996. Symons, Arthur. Images of Good and Evil. William Heinemann, 1899. ———. The Symbolist Movement in Literature. 1899. Kessinger, 2004. Vanita, Ruth. Sappho and the Virgin Mary: Same Sex Love and the English Literary Imagination. Columbia UP, 1996. Wilde, Oscar. The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde. Edited by Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart-Davis. Henry Holt, 2000. ———. The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Edited by Ian Small, et al. ­Oxford UP, 2000–, 7 vols. ———. Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. 1948. Harper Collins, 2003. Willoughby, Guy. Art and Christhood: The Aesthetics of Oscar Wilde. Associated UP, 1993. Wimborne, Lady. “The Ritualist Conspiracy.” London, 1898. Wratislaw, Theodore. Caprices (1893) with Orchids (1898). Woodstock Books, 1994.

11 Oscar Wilde, Rachilde, and the Mercure de France Petra Dierkes-Thrun

Prelude The “Preface” to Rachilde’s 1884 novel Monsieur Vénus greets readers rather ominously, with this one sentence on a blank page: “We warn our readers that at the very moment they are cutting these first pages, the heroine of our story is perhaps going past their front door” (5). Silver penknives in hand after slicing open the virginal double leaves, the novel’s first readers were to discover a decadent shocker by an as yet unknown author, Rachilde, née Marguerite Eymery (1860–1953), launching herself to literary fame with a Frankensteinian tale of sensual indulgence, gender refashioning, and creative cruelty. Like her provocative heroine Raoule in Monsieur Vénus, it seems that Rachilde has been walking right by the front doors of Oscar Wilde scholars, escaping our attention as we were reading the seemingly wellknown story of Wilde and Paris, habitually told through Wilde’s many connections with famous male French authors and artists. In focusing our attention on the many men with whom Wilde corresponded, dined, competed, and whom he wooed with ferocious intention in Paris, la ville artiste, and Wilde’s intellectual home of choice, we seem to have missed the heroic woman who supported and enabled much of Wilde’s high-profile literary networking in the 1890s, the French translation and publication of many of his works, and who helped save his reputation as a serious author after the 1895 scandal and his death in 1900. Perhaps we didn’t notice Rachilde’s name in the story, only mentioned in passing in Richard Ellmann’s biography,1 because it was her husband’s name, not her own, that was inscribed on the sign by the Mercure’s front door at the rue de Condé—Alfred Vallette, l’éditeur de Mercure de France—even though she was his coeditor as well as intellectual and business partner in this venture. Perhaps we didn’t pay attention to Rachilde because her salons, provocatively held on the same day as Stéphane ­Mallarmé’s mardis so that writers frequently had to choose between hers and Mallarmé’s, were not as often mentioned by the eager male writers who coveted these invitations, or because Rachilde’s works, despite their 1890s fame, are now largely forgotten, like so many women writers’ in the annals of literary history.

Oscar Wilde, Rachilde, and the Mercure de France  221 What if Rachilde and the literary circle she curated at the Mercure de France had been more visible to us in the story of Oscar Wilde and Paris from the start, however? It is time to open the front door and take a fresh look at the slight, petite woman dressed in a man’s suit, walking by briskly and with purpose.

Introducing Rachilde Rachilde emerged as a central player on the French literary scene in the late 1880s and 1890s. Known as the author of several daring decadent novels with a provocative sadomasochistic bent, such as Monsieur Vénus (1884) and La Marquise de Sade (1887), as well as a patronne of and leading contributor to the newly forming Symbolist theater scene, Rachilde was also a skilled journalist and literary and erotic networker. Called a distinguished pornographer by Barbey d’Aurevilly and known for her strong will and independence (her visiting cards famously read, “Rachilde—man of letters”), Rachilde liked to provoke and question the rules in work as well as in life. Before her 1889 marriage to Alfred Vallette, Rachilde often cross-dressed, had her hair cut short and dyed blonde, and had affairs with men as well as at least one woman, Gisèle d’Estoc. 2 Maurice Barrès famously nicknamed Rachilde “­Mademoiselle Baudelaire,” certainly in recognition of her literary genealogy and acumen, but perhaps also alluding to her provocative challenges to established gender roles and the scandalous erotic proclivities openly expressed in her novels, if not in life. Rachilde was the only woman in her circle of French Decadents, as well as the only woman invited to contribute to Anatol Baju’s journal Le Décadent, and she was already a successful author. Between 1880 and 1889, before her marriage, Rachilde had already “published eleven full-length novels, two novellas, a children’s book, and several stories of varying length” (Holmes 55). Besides her own prolific output as a writer (with a list of over sixty literary works in her name by the end of her life, including some interesting Symbolist plays), Rachilde co-published the influential journal Mercure de France and built up its literary empire together with her husband. 3 Diana Holmes describes their collaboration as coequals: While Vallette dealt with the editing and production side, Rachilde’s roles were those of hostess, reviewer and (at least in the early years) star author. She thus combined the conventionally feminine with a continuation of her provocative pose as an “homme de lettres”, for though she ceased to wear men’s clothing on her marriage, and let her hair grow, by reviewing and writing she assumed a masculine prerogative. (Holmes 51) Starting with the journal’s first issue in December 1889, and until 1924, Rachilde acted as the central literary reviews editor for the Mercure.

222  Petra Dierkes-Thrun Under Rachilde’s and Vallette’s leadership, the Mercure became a gathering place and beacon for the French Decadent, Symbolist, and anarchist avant-garde. Rachilde’s famous weekly literary salons brought together the most cutting-edge writers and journalists of the day and were important social networking places for young avant-garde writers in the 1880s and 1890s, among them Alfred Jarry and André Gide, Jean Lorrain, Marcel Schwob, Catulle Mendès (once a romantic interest of hers), Jean Moréas, Félix Féneon, and many others. They were also a crucial recruiting ground for authors and topics for the Mercure. Rachilde contributed majorly to the Mercure’s resounding success as a journal and publishing house by curating her salons and salon visitors so skillfully (Dauphine 21). Her influence as the coeditor of a major literary journal, a well-known writer, and salon hostess plugged into Paris’s avant-garde literary and Symbolist theater network, ensured Rachilde a central position in the world of French letters at the turn of the century, Claude Dauphine argues: “elle a occupé une position déterminante et exercé une influence majeure sur les lettres françaises en ce commencement du xxe siècle” (17).

Wilde Enters the Mercure de France Circle We know that Oscar Wilde attended at least one, if not many more, of Rachilde’s avant-garde salons in the 1890s and befriended many of her professional connections. Paris had long been a touchstone for Wilde, and he had visited regularly: first with his mother in 1879, then after his American tour in 1883, and again for his 1884 honeymoon with Constance. During his honeymoon, Wilde first read Rachilde’s Monsieur Vénus—then the talk of the town since the novel had just prompted an obscenity trial in Belgium and earned Rachilde a prison sentence (in absentia), and was soon to be censored in France as well. According to André Raffalovich, Wilde was so fascinated with the book that he could not stop talking about it for hours (Ellmann 282). As I have written elsewhere, Wilde’s reading of Monsieur Vénus (together with Huysmans’s À rebours, published in the same year and equally famous as Monsieur Vénus) clearly influenced Wilde’s description of Dorian’s little yellow book in the first drafts of The Picture of Dorian Gray, as evidenced in the typescript of The Picture of Dorian Gray for Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, even though these influences were excised in the final, published version (Dierkes-Thrun, “Decadent Sensuality” 55–57). Catulle Mendès (alluded to in Wilde’s typescript as “Catulle Sarazzin”) was a friend of Wilde’s and may have introduced the book to Wilde, if not Rachilde herself, since Mendès and Rachilde were romantically entangled at the time.4 Another possibility is that Stuart Merrill, the American expatriate poet whom Wilde befriended around 1883, made the introduction.

Oscar Wilde, Rachilde, and the Mercure de France  223 Even though it is unclear when exactly Oscar Wilde first met Rachilde in person, we know that many members of the Mercure’s inner circle had either already been or became personal friends for Oscar Wilde during the years of his most important visits to Paris, 1891–92, which were also two of the most important years in terms of his literary output. The Mercure first mentions Oscar Wilde’s name in passing, in conjunction with that of William Morris, in its August 1892 issue. 5 Holmes speculates that “[g]iven his close associations with the Paris decadents it seems almost certain that his first visit to a ‘mardi’ at the Mercure would have taken place prior to 1895” (51 n.15). According to Anatole France, Wilde was a noted presence at the Parisian salons and conscious of their networking value, so it is likely that he would at least have sought an invitation to Rachilde’s well-known salon around that time. Nancy Erber writes, “undisputedly his visits benefited many in the literary marketplace. For salon hosts, they were occasions for display and conspicuous consumption. For Wilde, they were opportunities to publicize his work” (559). Wilde’s literary star was on the rise, and he intensified his socializing with the noted writers of the day. According to Richard Hibbitt, [“t]he French creation of Wilde’s persona as the archetypal English aesthete stems […] both from his own self-publicizing and from the media’s construction of this image” (65). André Gide describes the impact Wilde first made on the Paris literary scene in 1891–92 in his 1910 book Oscar Wilde: In Memoriam, which was originally published by the Mercure de France’s book publishing wing: At Paris, no sooner did he arrive, than his name ran from mouth to mouth; a few absurd anecdotes were related about him: Wilde was still only the man who smoked gold-tipped cigarettes and who walked about in the streets with a sunflower in his hand. […] I heard him spoken of at the home of Mallarmé: he was portrayed as a brilliant talker, and I wished to know him […]. (1–2)6 Wilde’s presence in Paris was noted in the press on various occasions, starting in 1891. In Le Figaro (December 2, 1891), Hugues Rebell was the first to describe the impact Wilde was making in prominent Parisian social circles, “especially among those hostesses who ‘ornament their “five o’clocks” with artists’” (Erber 555). L’Echo de Paris followed on December 6, 1891, with Jacques Daurelle’s portrait “Un poète anglais à Paris,” noting the piles of books other writers sent and inscribed to Wilde on a table nearby. (Wilde collected a lot of French books, Thomas Wright reports.7) Daurelle’s article also broke the news that Wilde had written a French play (Salomé). Marcel Schwob, a close friend of both Wilde’s and Rachilde’s who translated “The Selfish Giant” into French

224  Petra Dierkes-Thrun in 1891 and helped Wilde with the French of Salomé, dedicated his short story “Le Pays bleu” to Wilde, which was published in the same issue as Daurelle’s article. A few days later, on December 19, another L’Echo de Paris editorial described Wilde as the season’s smash hit, “le ‘great event’ des salons littéraires parisiennes” (qtd. in Ellmann 346). On December 15, 1891, Edmond de Goncourt added his own personal impressions of Wilde in L’Echo de Paris. The critic Téodor de Wyzewa, coeditor of the Symbolist journal La Revue wagnériennne, published “the first extensive critical assessment of Wilde’s work, a six-page article in La Revue bleue” (Hibbitt 71). Wilde had arrived. Meanwhile, Rachilde’s weekly salons were in full swing. Started originally in the rue des Écoles “in the days of poverty and scandal,” the salons had “moved with her to the Mercure premises [on the rue de Condé], continuing (with a break during the 1914–18 war) until 1930” (Holmes 51). Literary salons hosted by aristocratic women had a long tradition in France, going back to the seventeenth century, when salons gave women a public voice and social influence. Salon women became increasingly well-educated as their male guests suggested books for them to read and encouraged them to learn languages. Being leaders of salons gave women reason to imagine that they could become leaders in public life. (Spayde 6–7) By the eighteenth century, there were hundreds of salons in Paris and the provinces, attended by enlightenment philosophers and writers whose ideas were disseminated and hotly debated.8 In Rachilde’s ­nineteenthcentury Paris, [t]he salons were a part of literary life in Paris, often hosted by women, and providing a regular opportunity to be seen, to make contacts, to engage in the exchange of ideas. In Rachilde’s case, however, the Tuesday receptions also meant the chance to attract and evaluate new contributors to the journal. (Holmes 51) Holmes judges that Rachilde fulfilled the role of salon hostess effectively, fostering new talent and feeding it to the journal, providing a forum for what would now be called “networking”, and at the same time staging her own deliberately unconventional person, both because she enjoyed performance, and because her personal celebrity contributed to her success as an author, and to that of the Mercure. (53)

Oscar Wilde, Rachilde, and the Mercure de France  225 Decades later, in 1928, Rachilde looked back on these intense networking years and wrote that at her Mercure salons, “ou sont passées, pourtant, les lumières de la littérature de notre époque … des hommes de lettres, les uns très bohèmes, les autres arrivés ou arrivistes, de pauvres gens de génie ou des amateurs trop riches pour avoir du talent…” (Alfred Jarry 11). She recounts an anecdote in which her guest Oscar Wilde, noting her surprisingly demure demeanor and listening rather than talking role, asked with astonishment if “this enigmatic creature,” so inexplicably bourgeois, had really written Monsieur Vénus (12, my trans.).9 We know that Wilde wrote Salomé during one of his extended stays in Paris in 1891, a season in which he actively networked with many friends who also belonged to Rachilde’s inner circle, among them Marcel Schwob, Pierre Louÿs, Adolphe Retté, and Stuart Merrill, all of whom helped Wilde with the French text. Rachilde’s and Wilde’s circles of friends in Paris overlapped quite crucially in the 1880s and 1890s, and they had many celebrity acquaintances in common, such as Stéphane Mallarmé and Sarah Bernhardt. Wilde may also have been attracted to the Mercure network by the fact that “Rachilde formed friendships and alliances with gay men from her earliest years in Paris in the 1880s,” such as Paul Verlaine, whom she nursed in her home in 1886, and Jean Lorrain, a free spirit and one of Rachilde’s closest friends. Diana Holmes points out that “the openly gay Jean ­Lorrain shared with her a taste for playing with gender roles, through dressing up and performance, and found in her a loyal, unshockable friend” (37).10 Rachilde introduced Wilde to or facilitated meetings with young avant-garde writers who shared important interests with Wilde (such as the anarchist, art critic, and fellow dandy Félix Fénéon), or those who also shared Wilde’s same-sex orientation, such as the young André Gide (who admired Wilde greatly and reportedly fell in love with him) and Jean Lorrain. Before Lorrain disavowed Wilde for a while after the 1895 trials, he was a close friend to Wilde and may have intensified Wilde’s already existing interest in the topic of art and crime (as evidenced, for instance, in his earlier writings “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime” and “Pen, Pencil and Poison,” as well as in The Picture of Dorian Gray). Jean Lorrain explicitly recalled discussing Wilde’s next important work with him—Salomé—thus creating even closer decadent collaborations between Rachilde, Wilde, and others who knew and appreciated them both.11 It is difficult to reconstruct today exactly how many of their common friends Wilde actually met through Rachilde, but we know that Rachilde was responsible for fostering strong connections between Wilde and some of the people who were most crucial for his career in France. Under Rachilde’s stewardship as literary editor and contributing writer from 1890 to 1924, Rachilde and the Mercure network started to actively champion Wilde’s work, thus helping Wilde establish his French literary reputation in the early 1890s.

226  Petra Dierkes-Thrun

Wilde’s Trials, Imprisonment, and French Exile When the news of Wilde’s trials broke, Rachilde and the Mercure remained not only steadfastly sympathetic but took an active role in defending Wilde’s reputation as a great writer. As I will show in the rest of this chapter, throughout the trials, Wilde’s imprisonment, his exile in France, and for many years even after his death, they fought an impassioned fight for Wilde’s artistic and personal standing in France—a role that deserves to be better known and appreciated. In the spring of 1895, Wilde’s trials dominated the newspaper headlines not just in London, but also in Paris: The subject of front-page editorials and humorous one-liners, l’affaire Wilde was debated by some of the leading writers of the time. […] [T]he case provided them with an opportunity to take a stand on a number of contemporary and contentious issues: the Decadent movement in literature, the moral order of the Third Republic, artistic responsibility, the social significance of hetero- and homosexuality, the distinctions of class and nationality. (Erber 550–51) In all this upheaval, the Rachilde and the Mercure’s official commentaries on Wilde and his work remained unfailingly professional and supportive. This was particularly significant because many of the French writers and public figures who knew Wilde in France quickly dissociated themselves from him to avoid being implicated in Wilde’s scandal. When Jules Huret named Marcel Schwob, Jean Lorrain, and Catulle Mendès as intimate friends of Wilde (in Le Figaro littéraire on April 13, 1895, after Wilde’s loss in the first trial and before the start of the second), a furore resulted. Schwob sent his seconds to meet Huret’s seconds, and was angry when they accepted Huret’s explanation. Lorrain had Huret publish a letter from him denying intimacy, and forgot having dedicated his story “Lanterne magique” to Wilde in L’Echo de Paris of 14 December 1891. Catulle Mendès was not so easily fobbed off. He and Huret had a duel […] on 17 April at 3:00pm. Blood was shed, but, as a commentator remarked, “in droplets only.” (Ellmann 458) Even Pierre Louÿs, to whom Wilde had dedicated Salomé, “maintain[ed] a judicious public silence” out of fear of being associated with homosexuality (Erber 551). Nonetheless, despite this wavering of some of Rachilde’s own oldest friends (such as Catulle Mendès), the Mercure published Hugues Rebell’s passionate “La Défense d’Oscar Wilde” in its August 1895 issue, which openly deplored Wilde’s harsh treatment and the

Oscar Wilde, Rachilde, and the Mercure de France  227 English legal system in general, which dared to treat an artist “of great talent” the way it treated assassins and traitors: Un acte detestable, inoni, mais bien démocratique, bien digne de cette abjecte populace qui aujourd’hui fait la loi, vient de déshonorér Londres. Oscar Wilde, l’un des plus éminents écrivains de l’Angleterre, […] artiste de grand talent, causeur délicieux, homme bon et serviable, s’est vu tout d’un coup enlevé de son domicile, jeté dans une cellule, traduit devant un tribunal, outragé par l’auditoire et les magistrats, et finalement condamné aux travaux forces […]. On se demande quelle crime a pu commettre Oscar Wilde pour être traité de la sorte, s’il a trahi l’Angleterre, tenté d’assassiner la reine ou de faire sauter le Parliament. (182) Rebell’s article also points out that even if Wilde was guilty of “crimes against nature,” which Rebell does not take as proven, the same would be true for many great artists the public still revered, such as da Vinci, Verrocchio, or Sodoma (188). Rebell thus put his finger on the extraordinarily harsh treatment Wilde had received by comparison. By publishing Rebell’s article so shortly after the verdict and Wilde’s imprisonment, Rachilde and the Mercure took a clear stance in Wilde’s favor and openly expressed sympathy for his plight, portrayed as tragic and outrageous. Moreover, in the “Livres” review section of the same issue, Rachilde published another notice on Wilde by the well-known writer, art critic, and Symbolism connoisseur Camille Mauclair (pseudonym of Séverin Faust). Mauclair offered a highly complimentary review of The Picture Dorian Gray, which had just been published in French translation. This is important because its reception was “inextricably linked to Wilde’s social reception in France, as the translation was published immediately following the coverage of the trials in 1895,” as Emily Eells points out (80). Mauclair insisted on the excellence of Wilde’s novel at a time when Wilde was already imprisoned, and, like Rebell, he makes no secret of his disapproval of Wilde’s treatment: about half of Mauclair’s review attacks Wilde’s “ignominious” and “cruel” imprisonment and sentence to hard labor. Moreover, Mauclair openly criticizes those French writers who had previously been proud to be associated with Wilde, even coveted his attention, but were now either publicly snobbing him or silently acquiescing to his outrageous legal treatment: “M. Oscar Wilde est un artiste, et ses collègues ont manqué l’honneur vrai en le lâchant” (237–8).12 Just a few months later, in December 1895, hoping to build on all the momentum of sympathy for Wilde, Wilde’s close friends More Adey in London and Stuart Merrill in Paris drew up two parallel petitions that were intended to ask the London authorities for Wilde’s release. Merrill’s call for French writers’ signatures was

228  Petra Dierkes-Thrun published in La Plume on December 1, 1895. In the end, however, neither Merrill nor Adey was able to gather enough signatures, and so both ultimately abandoned their petitions. Among Wilde’s French friends, notably, André Gide signed (Ellmann 493–4), as did Maurice Barrès and Paul Bourget, while François Coppée as well as “Zola, Goncourt, Alphonse Daudet and others refused” (Hibbitt 77). Throughout the trials and their aftermath, Rachilde not only publicly supported Oscar Wilde through the Mercure’s publishing activities, but she also took an interest in Wilde’s lover, Lord Alfred Douglas. In 1895, the Mercure had solicited and intended to publish an essay by ­Douglas himself that was to stand as Douglas’s first public defense of Wilde, translated into French by the Mercure’s translator Henry Davray, who was later going to become one of Wilde’s closest friends in Paris.13 ­Douglas’s essay was withdrawn before publication, however: in prison, Wilde had heard that Douglas intended to include some of his unpublished personal letters to Douglas from Holloway Prison, and he instructed Robert Sherard to intervene immediately. The Mercure duly followed Wilde’s wishes and did not publish the manuscript, despite Douglas’s protests. Douglas finally published his article, without including Wilde’s letters, in La Revue blanche, in June 1896. Upon its publication, the article subjected Douglas to a flood of criticism and prompted him to disavow it, blaming the translation for allegedly distorting his true views. Never one to be repulsed by a good controversy, Rachilde came to Douglas’s defense in an article she published in La Revue blanche just three issues later, in September 1896, entitled “Questions brûlantes.”14 Although it mostly targeted the suffragettes and developed the strong anti-feminist, misogynist views of women as intellectually inferior to men that Rachilde would later fully display in her 1928 pamphlet Pourquoi je ne suis pas féministe, Rachilde’s article explicitly addressed other controversial social causes (or “questions”), including homosexuality, which gave Rachilde a chance to attack social and sexual hypocrisy and respond in part to Bosie Douglas’s earlier article by holding up his relationship with Wilde as one of pure love, worthy of respect, and doomed to be misunderstood by mediocre minds: “L’Amour, le grand Amour fîche le camp parce que vous l’embêtez! Et, en presence de toutes vos turpitudes, moralistes ou socialistes, c’est, intellectuellement parlant, lord Douglas qui a raison” (“Questions” 196). If true love was divine, Rachilde even went so far as to argue, Lord Douglas was an innocent angel: “Je crois que l’amour est un dieu, le dieu unique. […] Donc, lord Douglas est un ange et il est innocent comme un ange” (199). And so, despite the controversy surrounding Douglas’s La Revue blanche article, just one month later, in October 1896, the Mercure steadfastly proceeded to publish Douglas’s first book, Poems.15 Earlier that same year, 1896, with Wilde still in prison, Rachilde very likely also played an important role in bringing Wilde’s banned Salomé

Oscar Wilde, Rachilde, and the Mercure de France  229 to its Paris world premiere at Aurélien Lugné-Poë’s Théâtre de l­’Oeuvre, as I have argued elsewhere (Dierkes-Thrun, “Decadent Sensuality”). Rachilde and Alfred Vallette were actively involved in the theater’s precursor, the Théâtre d’Art under the direction of Paul Fort, which sought to innovate the French theatrical scene and free it from its naturalist focus.16 Rachilde was acting as an adviser, reviewer, and drama writer for this theater, including serving on the theater’s play selection committee from 1891 onward (Holmes 205; Hawthorne 162), in which she would have been in the position to choose plays she wanted to champion as part of the new Symbolist theater movement. There are obvious literary allusions in at least two of Rachilde’s own later works that point to Wilde’s Salomé’s possible influence on Rachilde’s own work: L’Araignée de cristal (The Crystal Spider), the third of her plays produced at the Théâtre de l’Oeuvre in February 1894, with Lugné-Poë himself taking the lead, and in her 1900 novel La Jongleuse.17 When the Théâtre d’Art was renamed Théâtre de l’Oeuvre in 1892, Rachilde stayed closely involved, making it likely that she had a hand in choosing Wilde’s Salomé for production, especially since the next play the theater put on, the scandalous Ubu Roi (which was closed by riots the day it opened), was authored by another one of Rachilde’s scandalous protégés, Alfred Jarry.18

The Ballad of Reading Gaol and Wilde’s Friendship with Henry-Durand Davray Since Rachilde’s and the Mercure’s support had been so warm and steadfast during Wilde’s most terrible time as a human being and artists, it is no wonder that Wilde turned to Rachilde again after prison. Knowing her central importance in the Parisian literary and publishing scene, he sought to gain her attention for trying to rebuild his career and literary reputation, starting in France. The William Andrews Clark, Jr. Memorial Library owns an early presentation copy of The Ballad of Reading Gaol that was personally inscribed to Rachilde by Oscar Wilde.19 The fact that Wilde sent Rachilde an inscribed copy has not been noted by scholars before, but it is remarkable given the state of Wilde’s finances at the time and the fact that he only had very few copies to give away. Before prison, Wilde had been in the habit of sending presentation copies to friends and acquaintances quite liberally, but after prison he was utterly broke—bankrupt, disgraced, and without a professional income. A letter to Reggie Turner from October 19, 1897, mentions that publisher Leonard Smithers made a “provision to afford Wilde 12 copies of the Ballad,” so the number of Wilde’s free copies of his first postprison publication was extremely limited. Another holding at the Clark, a loose leaf in Wilde’s handwriting, shows the names of potential recipients Wilde was obviously brainstorming at the time. The leaf is undated, so we cannot be sure at which point Wilde was thinking of these recipients. But it

230  Petra Dierkes-Thrun seems that this was either early in his thinking process as there are a total of twenty-five names—some names checked, some unchecked—or for a later edition of the Ballad, not the first. The thirteen checked ones are a mixture of usual suspects and some lesser known names: Oscar Sickert, Stanley Makower, Robbie [Ross], Reggie [Turner], More [Adey], [John] Rowland Fothergill, [Major] Nelson, George Groves, [Ernest] Dowson, [Will] Rothenstein, [Charles] Ricketts, [Fritz von] Thaulow, and [Digby Holden Ross Harwick] La Motte. Other recipients Wilde brainstormed but apparently did not select include twelve more, among them wellknown people like George Bernard Shaw, Ada Leverson, Max Beerbohm, and William Archer, some of whom only seem to have received their copies much later, after The Ballad was already a publishing success.20 Rachilde’s name is not included in Wilde’s brainstorming list, nor is it mentioned anywhere in The Complete Letters, pointing to the possibility that the decision to send her one of these copies may have been a last-minute one. But the fact that Rachilde was among the selected recipients of such a prized possession at all testifies to her outstanding importance to Wilde. He had only twelve precious copies to give away to his friends in France, a concrete number that Wilde mentions to Robert Ross in a letter from Paris, written around February 20, 1898: “I have hardly seen anyone in Paris. I am waiting to distribute twelve copies to my friends here, Henri Bauër, Mirbeau, and others” (CL 1022; emphasis in the original). Interestingly, neither Bauër’s nor Mirbeau’s name is included on Wilde’s aforementioned brainstormed list of recipients held at the Clark Library (just as Rachilde’s is not); it seems that Wilde perhaps decided to distribute the few copies he had to his French literary connections once he was in Paris. The most likely reason Wilde gave one of his twelve copies to Rachilde is that Wilde hoped to move her to have the Ballad reviewed in the Mercure de France—an obvious choice, since she was the literary reviews editor. A sympathetic reviewer in the right place, Wilde may have calculated, might help him regain his literary status in France. But as we have seen, Wilde’s relationship with Rachilde’s work, and with the Mercure’s circle in general, was already deeper and more meaningful than most scholars are aware of, by the time he sent her that precious presentation copy. The Mercure did Wilde an even bigger favor, however: the Ballad was picked up for translation and published as an imprint by the Mercure de France’s publishing house arm. This was largely the work of the Mercure’s Anglophone books review editor, literary critic and translator, ­Henry-Durand Davray. Davray had translated Bosie Douglas’s ill-fated 1895 article (eventually published in La Revue blanche, as mentioned earlier) and was of course familiar with Wilde’s personal tragedy. When Wilde first moved to France after prison, Davray personally sought Wilde out, corresponding with him (as well as later with Robert Ross) and also visiting him in Naples. With a truly kind and generous gesture,

Oscar Wilde, Rachilde, and the Mercure de France  231 he replenished Wilde’s lost and dispersed personal library, Thomas Wright writes, by collect[ing] a number of volumes of contemporary literature for Wilde, all of which had been inscribed to him by their authors. Wilde was overjoyed at receiving the books: “I am greatly touched,” he said, “by the sympathy and attention shown to me by you and other French writers. I hope to thank each of the authors individually.” These gifts demonstrated to Wilde that the French continued to regard him as an artist, and not simply as a notorious ex-convict. (278) The relationship Wilde developed with Davray was one of the most important ones he formed with the Mercure circle under Rachilde’s and Vallette’s. For many years (until 1940), Davray reviewed new English books in the “Lettres anglaises” section of the Mercure and was probably Wilde’s most important partner for getting his works into the hands of the French public. At home in both Paris and London, Davray was one of the founders of the Anglo-French Society and formed professional friendships with numerous English-speaking writers and artists, including some of Wilde’s associates, such as Aubrey Beardsley and Frank Harris. Davray’s tongue-in-cheek nickname, given to him by friends, was “the Channel Tunnel,” probably for the convenient connection he provided between the London and Paris literary scenes, functioning as “a distinguished comparative scholar and cultural mediator between England and France for many years” (Escuret 30). 21 Davray frequently used his influence as a translator to champion and support English writers’ reputation in France. Alongside Wilde’s work, Davray also translated and publicized the work of H.G. Wells, Rudyard Kipling, George Meredith, and William Butler Yeats. For Wilde, however, newly released from prison and trying to gain a permanent foothold in France, he played a crucial role not just as a professional connection, but as a trusted and loyal friend. For instance, in May 1898, Henry Davray took it upon himself to personally introduce Alfred Jarry to Wilde (Fell 125). 22 With Davray’s encouragement, Jarry and Wilde struck up a casual friendship to the point that Jarry sent Wilde a complete collection of his works, as Wilde reports in a letter to Reggie Turner on May 25, 1898 (CL 1075), highlighting how important the acquaintance was to Jarry at the time, although perhaps not so much to Wilde. Wilde adds some amusing remarks on Ubu roi’s scatological obsession and goes on to comment on Jarry’s looks in his letter to Turner: “Jarry is now the rising light of the Quartier Latin. In person he is most attractive. He looks just like a very nice renter” (CL 1075). 23 Besides introducing Jarry to Wilde, Henry Davray had a lot of contact with Wilde in the spring of 1898, since he had become interested

232  Petra Dierkes-Thrun in translating and publishing The Ballad of Reading Gaol for his new own publishing project within the Mercure de France’s book-­publishing imprint, which allowed him to translate and publish English books in Paris. 24 Wilde had originally corresponded with Davray on ­December 4, 1897, asking to be connected with one of Davray’s artist friends whom he hoped to persuade to do the illustrations for a potential luxury edition of the English original of The Ballad of Reading Goal, to be published by Leonard Smithers (CL 1000). As Nicholas Frankel writes, “[w]hile it is certainly true that Wilde was the victim of legally sanctioned homophobia, injustice, and a torturous late-Victorian prison system, Wilde did not emerge from prison without ambitions or plans […]” (21). By March 1898, Henry Davray had written a long review of the Ballad for the Mercure, and the two were now corresponding about a French translation. A grateful Wilde wrote to Davray: My dear Davray, I must write a line to you to tell you again how touched and gratified I am by your appreciation of my Ballad, and by the interest you take in it. I would greatly like to have it published with a translation by you, for no French man of letters can render English as you can, and either in a review or as a separate volume. (CL 1028) In 1899, the Mercure duly commissioned and successfully published the first French translation of The Ballad of Reading Gaol, by Henry Davray. 25 Wilde hoped that the Ballad was to be a great help to him in France as he was trying to establish his postprison career there, and it briefly seemed like he was successfully launching that career. Writing to W.R. Paton from Berneval-sur-mer just months earlier, in August 1897, Wilde was full of hope: “I don’t dream of social rehabilitation, not do I want it, but I do want to do artistic work again, and hope to do so” (CL 922). Sadly, Davray’s translation of The Ballad of Reading Gaol was to be Wilde’s last professional interaction with the Mercure de France and the last publication of his life.

The Mercure’s Support after Wilde’s Death When Oscar Wilde died tragically early in Paris on November 30, 1900, and his body was initially laid to rest at the Cimétière de Bagneux, outside Paris, on December 3, Henry Davray was present. According to Robert Ross, Davray came to Wilde’s hotel just before the coffin lid was closed (CL 1222), and together with Paul Fort, the former director of the Théâtre d’Art, Davray was also among the small number of mourners present at Wilde’s funeral. Richard Ellmann writes that the Mercure de France even sent a wreath (Ellmann 584), testifying again to the importance Wilde had held for the journal and Rachilde’s circle.

Oscar Wilde, Rachilde, and the Mercure de France  233 Henry Davray wrote a career review of Wilde’s life in the Mercure in ­February, in which he singled out Wilde’s importance to English theater and once again praised Wilde’s “esprit si versatile, si brilliant, si finement ironique, si paradoxical [qui] trouva un moyen d’expression qui convenait parfaitement à ses dons si peu communs; c’était le théâtre” (“Lettres anglaises” 559). Astonishingly, even beyond Wilde’s death and well into the 1920s, Rachilde, the Mercure, and Henry Davray kept Wilde’s name alive before the French public. Rachilde regularly mentioned Wilde in her own literary columns for the Mercure de France and continued to publish positive reviews of Wilde’s works, both reflecting and ensuring Wilde’s lasting impact on Paris’s avant-garde literary scene. The Mercure continued to advertise Wilde’s works in the advertisements section just like those of any other writer it had published and championed. There is no evidence of any censorship or hesitance to draw attention to Wilde’s name on the Mercure’s list; on the contrary. Rachilde’s last personal endorsement of Wilde came in an article she published in the July–August 1918 issue of the Mercure, “Oscar Wilde et lui.” While speaking sympathetically and defensively of “le pauvre grand Wilde,” Rachilde once again pointed out the injustice of his 1895 trials and imprisonment, which could never have happened in France (“En France, on n’aurait pas pu acquitter Oscar Wilde, tout simplement parce qu’on n’aurait pas fait le procès,” 60). Formerly a strong supporter of Lord Alfred Douglas, she then went on to criticize Douglas’s recently translated tell-all book Oscar Wilde and Myself (originally written in 1911, but translated into French by William Claude and published as Oscar Wilde et Moi in Paris as late as 1917) for the author’s self-­ righteousness and cold tone toward Wilde. Rachilde minced no words in her article: Certes le livre de Lord Douglas me révolte par beaucoup de pages, d’autant plus qu’il est d’une écriture serrée, redoutablement logique, sinistrement froide, mais jamais son ton légèrement dédaigneux ne me stupéfiera autant que la présence de cette lourde monstruosité qu’il nous montre dressée en face de la justice éternelle comme on présenterait en liberté les gestes d’un orang-outang devant le socle d’une belle statue. (“Oscar Wilde et lui” 62) Rachilde wrote her passionate eleven-page essay at a time when another infamous libel trial in London had just finished with an outrageous indictment of Wilde’s Salomé, the play that Rachilde had helped bring to its Paris world premiere twenty-two years earlier. This was the socalled Pemberton-Billing Trial, in which the dancer Maud Allan and well-known avant-garde theater producer J.T. Grein accused MP Noel

234  Petra Dierkes-Thrun Pemberton-Billing of defamatory criminal and obscene libel regarding Allan’s leading role as Salome at the Royal Court Theatre. 26 It just so happened that the Mercure sent its own reporter to cover the trial, in which Wilde’s Salomé was dissected and maligned at length: Claude Cahun (née Lucy Schwob), the niece of Rachilde’s and Wilde’s friend M ­ arcel Schwob, who had translated Wilde’s “The Selfish Giant” into French in 1891 and also helped Wilde with the French of Salomé. Cahun’s article, sensationally entitled “La ‘Salomé’ d’Oscar Wilde, le procès Billing et les 47,000 pervertis du ‘livre noir’,” was strategically placed in the same Mercure issue as Rachilde’s, immediately following Rachilde’s attack on Douglas’s book. Cahun’s article strikes one as sober and factual, focusing on a direct report and translation of what was said in the courtroom, and only offering occasional commentary when stating that the courtroom English “Puritans” used the pretext of necessary moral reform in wartime as a mere excuse to suppress free artistic expression: “On y trouvera en outré la thèse de ces puritains qui, invoquant l’état de guerre, veulent, sous couleur d’une réforme des moeurs, ôter toute liberté l’expression artistique de la pensée” (70). While mostly composed of direct excerpts from the trial transcript, Cahun’s essay included—and thus explicitly drew the Mercure readers’ attention to—a substantial portion of Lord Alfred Douglas’s outrageous courtroom testimony against Wilde during the trial. Douglas had been called as a star witness for the defense to testify on Wilde’s play’s supposed perversity and homosexual nature, and thus against Maud Allan and J.T. Grein.27 According to Cahun’s translation, Bosie Douglas claimed, among other things, that Oscar Wilde himself “eut la plus diabolique influence sur tous ceux qui l’approchèrent. Il fut la plus grande force du Mal en Europe depuis 350 ans” (74–75). 28 The biggest force of evil Europe has seen in 350 years—one can easily see why Rachilde and the Mercure were moved to quickly write and publish not one, but two, articles to come to Wilde’s defense, and why the Mercure made the unusual move of taking a stand against one of its own former authors, Alfred Douglas. Cahun’s extensive trial transcript excerpts stood for themselves. When read in tandem with Rachilde’s article, a picture emerges of a veritable Judas disavowing not just Wilde, but a whole circle of French supporters who would never have agreed with Douglas’s over-the-top condemnation of his former lover as a diabolical seducer and his art as the epitome of evil. Clearly, Douglas had fallen out of favor with the Mercure, while Rachilde and others in the Mercure’s circle were still firmly on Wilde’s side and moved to defend him quite enthusiastically, almost twenty years after his death. In the meantime, the Mercure de France’s book-publishing branch had continued to publish and reprint not only Davray’s translations of Oscar Wilde’s works (De Profundis and Ballade de la Geôle de Reading), but also works on Wilde by others, such as Andre Gide’s Oscar Wilde:

Oscar Wilde, Rachilde, and the Mercure de France  235 In Memoriam (1910), as well as English works on Wilde that Davray had co-translated into French, notably Arthur Ransome’s Oscar Wilde (1912; translated by Davray and Gabriel de Lautrec in 1914) and Frank Harris’s La Vie et les Confessions d’Oscar Wilde (1916; translated by Davray and Madeleine Vernon in 1928). Henry Davray in particular seems to have continued to function as a major linchpin for Wilde’s postmortem reception in France; he was also in regular contact with ­Robert Ross, Frank Harris, and Vincent O’Sullivan. Ever Wilde’s defender, Davray also reported on an important 1921 forgery originally attributed to Wilde that had recently come to light in London, Mrs. Chan-Toon’s For Love of King.29 Davray published a detailed account of its uncovering for French readers in the Mercure in the October 1925 and March 1926 issues, stating with evident satisfaction that the forgery’s unmasking would finally put an end to such deplorable practices, as collectors of Wilde were now definitely put on their guard. 30 In 1928, Henry Davray finally published his own comprehensive retrospective on Wilde’s life and career, Oscar Wilde: La Tragédie finale, suivi de Episodes et Souvenirs et des Apocryphes, under the Mercure de France imprint, and the work quickly went through several editions. The book contains a long commentary on Wilde’s personal tragedy, followed by miscellaneous reminiscences and discussions of Wilde’s correspondence, as well as another account of the Wildean forgery Davray had already written about, Mrs. Chan-Toon’s play For Love of the King (mentioned earlier). As all his activity illustrates, the circle of writers Rachilde had assembled around her salons, and literary editing life at the Mercure de France was still actively and enthusiastically engaged in defending and explaining Wilde to the French public, almost three decades after Wilde’s death. According to Nancy Erber, “the sustained attention given to Wilde’s work by literary journals like the Mercure de France served to keep his name before the reading public and solidify his reputation as a writer” (552). While Rachilde herself had stopped writing about Wilde in the Mercure after her 1918 “Oscar et lui” article, she did him perhaps the ultimate honor by including indirect references to Salomé in two of her own works, L’Araignée de Cristal, her 1894 Symbolist play, and her 1900 novel La Jongleuse (­Dierkes-Thrun, “Decadent Sensuality” 58–63). Rachilde and her Mercure de France circle clearly deserve to be better known and acknowledged for the central role they played in orchestrating Wilde’s successful afterlife in France. Together with the international success of Richard Strauss’s opera adaptation of Salomé, they helped set the scene for Wilde’s enduring fame in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Acknowledgements Portions of the research that undergirds this chapter have been given as talks at the Decadence and the Senses conference at Goldsmiths College,

236  Petra Dierkes-Thrun London, in 2014; the Cosmopolitan Wilde conference in June 2014; and as part of the William Andrews Clark, Jr. Library Memorial Lecture in 2016. I first started this research in a NEH summer seminar at the Clark Library, directed by Joseph Bristow. I am grateful to all the seminar participants and conference attendees who engaged me and asked questions that led me to push further, but in particular to Joseph Bristow, Emily Eells, Melanie Hawthorne, and Ryan Fong.

Notes 1 Richard Ellmann only mentions Rachilde three times, and only very briefly (89, 282, 508n). 2 See Hawthorne’s article “Gisèle d’Estoc,” which draws attention to R ­ achilde’s bisexual female lover, with whom Rachilde had a brief affair some time between 1884 and 1887. Both women were also linked with various men during these years (d’Estoc was also one of Guy de Maupassant’s lovers, and Rachilde was romantically linked to Catulle Mendès and other male friends before she married Alfred Vallette). Rachilde and d’Estoc apparently had a falling out after their brief affair. As Hawthorne writes, d’Estoc wrote a tell-all roman à clef about Rachilde, La vierge-réclame (1887), which shows that “their relationship had soured” by that point (224). 3 Initially, the Mercure de France was published twice monthly and then only once a month; it also became an important publisher of books. While the journal ceased publication in 1965, it continued as a respected publishing house that exists to this day, still housed at the same address: 26, rue de Condé in Paris (close to the Jardin du Luxembourg, two blocks from the original Shakespeare & Company bookstore, and two blocks from the Théâtre de l’Odéon). 4 In the preface to À mort (1886), Rachilde describes her crush on the celebrated writer and notorious womanizer Catulle Mendès. Various unpublished (undated) letters from Rachilde to Mendès (held at the Jacques Doucet Archive at the Sorbonne, Paris) evidence her flirtation with him, even though, as Diana Holmes writes, she seems to have decided against becoming Mendès’s mistress (35–36). 5 My extensive archival research at the Clark Library (UCLA) and the Bibliothèque littéraire Jacques-Doucet (Sorbonne, Paris) thus far has turned up no surviving personal letters between Rachilde and Wilde, but I believe that the rest of the evidence introduced in this article (as well as in “Decadent Sensuality”) richly proves the importance and sustained nature of their professional connection for both. 6 André Gide first met Wilde around November 26, 1891. For about three weeks, the two met every day, and “[i]n these early days of their friendship, Gide was overwhelmed by Wilde” (Ellmann 353). 7 Thomas Wright estimates that “the volumes of French fiction comprised around a quarter of Wilde’s library—easily the best-represented genre in his collection” when his library fell victim to the 1895 bankruptcy proceedings and his books were sold, stolen, and dispersed (125). 8 One of the most famous French salon hostesses of the eighteenth century was Madame Germaine de Staël, an intellectual and sexual freethinker, politically involved and radically independent, who started her first salon around 1786. She was later condemned to exile by Napoleon.

Oscar Wilde, Rachilde, and the Mercure de France  237 9 Rachilde’s original passage reads: je m’étais résignée, ne voyant presqu\e pas de femmes, au rôle de la simple verseuse de thé, parlant peu, écoutant beaucoup, m’amusant toujours, ne comprenant jamais que ce que je voulais bien comprendre, à tel point qu’un Oscar Wilde put dire de moi : “Cette énigmatique créature en robe de laine noire a-t-elle écrit vraiment Monsieur Vénus? Pour s’en convaincre, il faut causer très longtemps avec elle. Et alors on ressent une gêne qui vous conduit au respect de son inexplicable bourgeoisie!” (Alfred Jarry 12) 10 According to Diana Holmes, in the early days of their friendship, Rachilde accompanied Jean Lorrain to the students’ ball (the “Bal des Quat-­zArts”), she short and slim, dressed in a short frilly dress with “baby” socks and shoes, her large and burly, dressed as a wrestler in leotard and Tarzan-style panther skin; each, in other words, “camping up” the gender codes they regularly undermined. She also rescued Lorrain, discreetly and imperturbably, from some of the sordid dilemmas into which his taste for rough young men tended to get him, as when she was called to a cheap hotel and found him in bed, robbed of everything including his clothes. “At least’” she wrote of him, “he knew that a friend is much more precious than a mistress.” (43) 11 In “‘Salomé’ et ses poètes,” Jean Lorrain recalls a visit in 1891 by Oscar Wilde at which everyone wanted to meet the famous author of The Picture of Dorian Gray. Lorrain hosted a lunch for Wilde in his apartment, attended by Marcel Schwob, Anatole France, and Henri Bauër, and recalls that Wilde admired a severed head of a saint made of plaster in his writing studio. 12 Notable exceptions to the turncoats or the acquiescers among the French writers in 1895 were Henri Bauër and Octave Mirbeau. Bauër pledged solidarity with Wilde in L’Echo de Paris on April 20, 1895, at the height of the scandal (although he turned away from Wilde about two years later): “I will not disavow now having known and visited him […] Young Douglas was old enough to go out without his governess, and without his father’s permission” (qtd. in Ellmann 458); he again published a piece in the same periodical on June 15, entitled “Oscar Wilde en prison,” to drum up French protest against Wilde’s prison conditions (Hibbitt 77). A day later, on June 16, 1895, Octave Mirbeau similarly protested Wilde’s harsh sentence in an article in Le Journal, “A Propos du ‘Hard Labour” in Le Journal—“just a few days before the French translation of [The] P[icture of] D[orian] G[ray] went on sale” (Eells 82). In his article, Mirbeau protested the hypocrisy of an English public that had previously embraced Wilde: His plays were shamefully driven out of the theatre, where they had been applauded enthusiastically as recently as the previous evening. […] All that was seen in that idiotic sentence was the need to dissociate from a man whose personal corruption “could cast an entire country in a glaringly dubious light.” (qtd. in and trans. by Eells 83) See Richard A. Kaye’s essay for Octave Mirbeau’s “recurring relationship with Wilde and his legacy” (114). 13 The manuscript of his translation, presumably in Davray’s hand (with corrections in another hand, probably Rachilde’s), is at Princeton (CL 646n).

238  Petra Dierkes-Thrun 14 For a detailed analysis of Rachilde’s entire scope of argument in “Questions brûlantes,” see Catherine Ploye’s essay. 15 Leonard Smithers had rejected the book of poems, although according to Douglas’s biographer Douglas Murray, “not because he did not admire them: he found Douglas too controversial, famous and provocative a poet, and wanted to protect himself from scandal” (94). 16 The Théâtre d’Art project was formed by a group of Decadent and Symbolist writers in opposition to “the extreme naturalism” of André Antoine’s Théâtre Libre (Holmes 204). 17 Salomé was not published in book form before 1893, but we know that Wilde talked about Salomé and circulated the drafts among some of her closest friends (including Marcel Schwob, Pierre Louÿs, and Jean Lorrain). For the intertextual influences between Salomé and Rachilde’s works and Rachilde’s role at the Théâtre d’Art and the Théatre de l’Oeuvre, see my “Decadent Sensuality in Rachilde and Wilde.” 18 Jill Fell writes that Rachilde was instrumental in bringing Ubu Roi to the stage. Jarry’s performances with his puppets had caused such mirth that Rachilde, in particular, decided that the play had wider potential and made up her mind to use her influence with Aurélien Lugné-Poe, director of the Théâtre de l’Oeuvre, to get it produced. […] It was Fort who took it upon himself to publish the full text of Jarry’s would-be play to enable its production. (76) 19 I am very grateful to Ryan Fong for first calling my attention to this copy during the summer of 2012, when we were both working in the archives of the Clark Library during the NEH seminar on Oscar Wilde and his circle, directed by Jospeh Bristow. 20 At some point, Wilde also toyed with the idea of sending some copies to the personnel and prisoners at Reading Prison, but apparently decided against that. See Wilde’s letter to Reggie Turner, from October 19, 1897 (CL 966). 21 As Annie Escuret points out, [w]hen Davray died in London on 21 January 1944, many people felt that they had lost an old friend and a lover, critic and patron of literature, the finest liaison officer between French and English letters imaginable, a man whose work had earned him the rank of Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in France, as well as the CBE from the British Government and the Silver Medal of the Royal Society of Arts. (47) 22 According to Jill Fell, it was not a meeting that Jarry would have dreamed of missing. What Davray’s letter does not tell us is that this momentous meeting was arranged for the first anniversary of Wilde’s release, which had taken place on 19 May 1897. Davray’s intention was to withdraw so that Wilde could enjoy Jarry’s company alone, but it seems from a letter that Alfred Douglas may have spoiled the occasion by turning up uninvited with an unwelcome companion. (125) 23 Wilde’s pseudonym, Melmoth, appears in Jarry’s lists for complimentary copies of his 1898 and 1899 novels L’Amour en Visites and L’amour absolu (Fell 125). For L’amour absolu, Jarry only had fifty copies printed,

Oscar Wilde, Rachilde, and the Mercure de France  239

24 25



28 29 30

“apparently out of his own pocket,” and “there is a list of twenty people to whom Jarry intended to send free copies, many deleted. The name Melmoth […] remains undeleted, although that of Henry Davray, who introduced them, is” (Fell 140). Among the other works Davray translated and published under the Mercure imprint as soon as he had the authority to do so was H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine (Escuret 30). Wilde apparently also sent (or intended to send) a presentation copy of the first edition of An Ideal Husband to Davray, as well as to others in their common circle of friends, such as Stuart Merrill, Félix Fénéon, Henri Bauër, and André Gide, although Wilde seems to have omitted Rachilde this time (CL 1157 n.1). For a detailed account of the Pemberton-Billing trial and the crucial role Wilde’s Salomé played in the defense’s arguments and line of questioning of Maud Allan and theater director J.T. Grein, see my chapter “Perverts in Court” in Salome’s Modernity, pp. 83–124. The line of the defense also called an expert medical witness who was asked to make connections between Wilde’s work and its supposed homosexual influence on others. In an eerie parallel to Wilde’s own 1895 trial, the literary “evidence” convinced the jury that Wilde’s work was perverse, and that those associating with the man or the work, even through performing it, were likewise tainted. Lord Alfred Douglas, newly converted to Catholicism, married and separated from Olive Custance, and now an outspoken critic of Wilde’s “evil” influence on others, including himself, was instrumental to the defense making this case. Allan and Grein lost the trial. Douglas’s original statement says, “He had a diabolical influence on everyone he met […] he is the greatest force of evil that has appeared in Europe during the last 350 years” (qtd. in Kettle 173). For a detailed discussion of this forgery, see Gregory Mackie’s article. Davray writes: Les collectionneurs d’autographes et de manuscrits sont mis sur leur garde. Il existe quelque part des faussaires qui forgent des contrefaçons d’Oscar Wilde, dont ils battent monnaie. Leur industrie sera sans doute moins prospère désormais, et il souhaitable qu’ils soient finalement démasqués. (“Les apocryphes d’Oscar Wilde” 117)

Works Cited Cahun, Claude [pseudonym of Lucy Schwob]. “La ‘Salomé’ d’Oscar Wilde, le procès Billing et les 47,000 pervertis du ‘livre noir’.” Mercure de France, July– August 1918, pp. 69–80. Dauphine, Claude. “Rachilde et le ‘Mercure’.” Revue d’Histoire littéraire de la France, vol. 92, no. 1, 1992, pp. 17–28. Davray, Henry-Durand. “Les apocryphes d’Oscar Wilde.” Mercure de France, October 1925, pp. 104–17; and March 1926, pp. 308–17. ———. “Lettres anglaises.” Mercure de France, February 1901, pp. 550–61. ———. Oscar Wilde: La Tragédie finale, suivi de Episodes et Souvenirs et des Apocryphes. Mercure de France, 1928. Dierkes-Thrun, Petra. “Decadent Sensuality in Rachilde and Wilde.” Decadence and the Senses, edited by Jane Desmarais and Alice Condé, Legenda, 2017, pp. 51–65.

240  Petra Dierkes-Thrun ———. Salome’s Modernity: Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetics of Transgression. U of Michigan P, 2011. Eells, Emily. “Naturalizing Oscar Wilde as an homme de lettres: The French Reception of Dorian Gray and Salomé (1895–1922).” The Reception of Oscar Wilde in Europe, edited by Stefano Evangelista, Continuum, 2010, pp. 80–95. Ellmann, Richard. Oscar Wilde. Alfred A. Knopf, 1988. Erber, Nancy. “The French Trials of Oscar Wilde.” Journal of the History of Sexuality, vol. 6, no. 4, 1996, pp. 549–88. Escuret, Annie. “Henry D.-Davray and the Mercure de France.” The Reception of H.G. Wells in Europe, edited by Patrick Parrinder and John S. Partington, Thoemmes Continuum, 2005, pp. 28–47. Fell, Jill. Alfred Jarry. Reaktion Books, 2010. France, Anatole. “Courrier de Paris, un déjeuner de couleur.” L’Univers illustré, June 10, 1893, p. 318. Frankel, Nicholas. Oscar Wilde: The Unrepentant Years. Harvard UP, 2017. Gide, André. Oscar Wilde: In Memoriam. [Mercure de France, 1910.] Translated by Bernard Frechtman. Philosophical Library, 1949. Hawthorne, Melanie C. “Gisèle d’Estoc: Portraits of a Decadent Woman.” Nordlit, vol. 28, 2011, pp. 223–44. ———. Rachilde and French Women’s Authorship from Decadence to Modernism. U of Nebraska P, 2001. Hibbitt, Richard. “The Artist as Aesthete: The French Creation of Wilde.” The Reception of Oscar Wilde in Europe, edited by Stefano Evangelista, Continuum, 2010, pp. 65–79. Holmes, Diana. Rachilde: Decadence, Gender and the Woman Writer. Berg, 2001. Kaye, Richard A. “Oscar Wilde and the Posthumous Politics of Sainthood.” Oscar Wilde and Modern Culture: The Making of a Legend, edited by Joseph Bristow. Ohio UP, 2008, pp. 110–32. Kettle, Michael. Salome’s Last Veil: The Libel Case of the Century. Hart-Davis MacGibbon, 1977. Lorrain, Jean. “‘Salomé et ses poètes.” Le Journal, February 11, 1896, pp. 1–2. Mackie, Gregory. “Forging Oscar Wilde: Mrs. Chan-Toon and For Love of the King.” English Literature in Transition, 1880–1920, vol. 54, no. 3, 2011, pp. 267–88. Mauclair, Camille [pseudonym of Séverin Faust]. “Le Portrait de Dorian Gray, par Oscar Wilde (Savine).” Mercure de France, August 1895, pp. 237–38. Murray, Douglas. Bosie: A Biography of Lord Alfred Douglas. Holder and Stoughton, 2000. Ploye, Catherine. “‘Questions brûlantes:’ Rachilde, l’affaire Douglas et les mouvements féministes.” Nineteenth-Century French Studies, vol. 22, no. 1–2, 1993–1994, pp. 195–207. Rachilde [pseudonym of Marguerite Eymery Vallette]. Alfred Jarry ou le surmâle de lettres. Bernard Grasset, 1928. ———. Monsieur Vénus: A Materialist Novel. Translated by Melanie Hawthorne after the 1929 translation by Madeleien Boyds, introduced and annotated by Melanie Hawthorne and Liz Constable. Modern Language Association of America, 2004.

Oscar Wilde, Rachilde, and the Mercure de France  241 ———. “Oscar Wilde et lui.” Mercure de France, July–August 1918, pp. 59–68. ———. “Questions brûlantes.” La Revue blanche, September 1896, pp. 193–200. Rebell, Hugues. “La Défense d’Oscar Wilde.” Mercure de France, August 1895, pp. 182–90. Spayde, Jon and Jaida N’Ha Sandra. Salons: The Joy of Conversation. New Society Publishers, 2001. Wilde, Oscar. The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde. Edited by Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart-Davis. Henry Holt and Co, Ltd, 2000. Wright, Thomas. Built of Books: How Reading Defined the Life of Oscar Wilde. Henry Holt & Company, 2009.

Part V


12 The Sexual Transfiguration of the Japanese Salomé, 1909–2009 Maho Hidaka

Oscar Wilde’s Salomé was enthusiastically and uniquely received in ­Japan. As the first among Wilde’s plays that underwent a Japanese production, it has been performed regularly in Japan since as early as 1913, following its first translation in 1909. Contrary to the West, where R ­ ichard Strauss’s opera Salomé became notably popular from the very start and contributed to the reception of Wilde’s Salomé, it was Wilde’s play itself that dominated the stage in Japan. The number of Salomé productions far exceeds the number of stage performances or adaptations of any of Wilde’s works, including The Importance of Being ­E arnest. Not only was Salomé the first of Wilde’s plays to be translated into J­ apanese, but it has undergone repeated translations in different eras ever since. Eiichi Banshoya states, in a commentary on the play in the journal Murasaki in August 1935, that Salomé has become a classic. Furthermore, no other work drew more attention than this play at the outset of the M ­ odern Theater Movement in Japan, as well as in other countries (­Banshoya 70). It has remained influential to this day, repeatedly adapted not only on the stage, but also to the screen and in other literary works by diverse artists and authors. This chapter argues that the popularity of Wilde’s Salomé in Japan is inseparably related to the rise of modern Japanese actresses and made a seminal contribution to their evolution, offering new insights into ­Salomé’s and Wilde’s historical and international contextualization in Japan. It compares the earliest Japanese productions of Salomé in 1913 and 1914 to a contemporary Japanese adaptation of the play nearly a century later, in 2009. The early productions starred the first modern actresses in Japan, Sumako Matsui (1886–1919) and ­Sadayakko Kawakami (1871–1946), while the more recent one featured a contemporary female impersonator, Eisuke Sasai (1958–). Investigating ­Salomé’s various personifications in these productions reveals how their sexual transfigurations reflect not only the differently styled directions of these productions, but also the unique historical development of modern ­Japanese actresses and Japanese theater as a whole.

246  Maho Hidaka

Early Translations and the Premiere of Wilde’s Salomé in Japan A seminal year in the translation history of Wilde in Japan was 1909, the year when Aiyu Kobayashi first translated Salomé into Japanese. Published in the journal Shinshosetsu (New Fiction) in March 1909, this was the first full-length Japanese translation. Prior to that, the only Wilde translations were “The Soul of Man under Socialism” by Tonosuke Masuda in 1891,1 and a translation of seven selected poems by Kobayashi in 1908. 2 The year 1909 also saw publications of the first two introductory articles on Wilde’s comedies by Homei Iwano3 and another translation of Salomé by Ogai Mori.4 Many translations of W ­ ilde’s works have followed since then. Any stage production of ­Salomé, however, had to await the modernization of Japanese theater and the evolution of Japanese actresses. Let us briefly trace the influences of the Western theater and Western productions of Salomé, which set a precedent for the earliest Japanese productions of the play. The Japanese theatrical world had just entered a new stage at the beginning of the Meiji Era (1868–1912), and many changes were required in order to prepare itself for Western theater, from theater to performers and their training systems. In Japan, women had actually been forbidden to perform since 1629, and thus onnagata, the female impersonator, had played female roles in Japan. However, as part of the Westernization in theater, modern actresses needed to be introduced—a revolutionary development for Japanese theater. Western-styled theaters also needed to be built as part of the theatrical reformation. In fact, the Teikoku Gekijo (the Imperial Theater), Japan’s first Westernized theater, was built in 1911, and staged many Western plays, operas, and ballets, including Wilde’s Salomé, alongside kabuki. Also, toward the end of the Meiji Era, Shingeki Undo, the New Drama movement that targeted modern Western drama, was born, initiated by Shoyo Tsubouchi, Hogetsu Shimamura, Kaoru Osanai, and Sadanji Ichikawa II. Japanese audiences needed to shift their consciousness to reevaluate and appreciate theater and performers, who were previously accorded low social status. It was not until the outset of the Taisho Era (1912–26) that Salomé premiered in Japan, at the Gaiety Theatre in Yokohama in 1912. 5 This was an English-speaking production, however, offered by a British traveling theater troupe, Allan Wilkie and his London Repertory Company.6 It is noteworthy that a British theater company produced Salomé in J­ apan while the play remained banned from the English public stage by Lord Chamberlain. (The play’s London premiere took place as late as 1931; therefore, Japan actually has a longer production history of ­Wilde’s Salomé than the UK.) Wilkie’s Salomé production in Japan received both high praise and severe criticism in the Japanese press; significantly,

The Sexual Transfiguration of the Japanese Salomé, 1909–2009  247 however, they gave an epoch-making introduction of the play and directly and indirectly roused interest and inspiration among the Japanese audience, among whom were many writers and theater practitioners of the day. In fact, some of them, such as Hogetsu and K. Osanai, came to contribute to the early Japanese receptions of Salomé soon afterward. The Gaiety Theatre was thus the first important milestone in intro­ estern ducing Wilde to Japan. The theater was originally designed for W residents in Japan, but it had started to lure audiences who had an understanding of and interest in modern Western theater, such as the Shingeki practitioners, who included K. Osanai, Hogetsu, and Sumako. Various Western companies performed there in English, which made it an exceptional theater in Japan. The Gaiety Theatre harnessed and enjoyed the popularity of Wilde’s comedies in the West, but put them on for different kinds of audiences, thereby indirectly acknowledging a gulf between the English-speaking and the traditional Japanese cultural communities in Japan. While tragedies and social dramas were often the more popular of Western plays produced in Japanese theaters, the Gaiety Theatre presented a more balanced selection, especially by including a range of popular comedies, from ­Shakespeare to Sheridan and Wilde. Lady Windermere’s Fan and A Woman of No Importance were performed as early as 1895; The Importance of Being Earnest followed in 1910, and An Ideal Husband in 1915. This Western theater in Japan contributed significantly to the modernization of Japanese drama by introducing various imported Western productions to the Japanese audience and practitioners of drama. In addition to Wilkie’s production of Wilde’s Salomé, other Western productions of the play also influenced successive Japanese productions. Since Japan had opened itself after the Tokugawa Shogunate’s seclusion policy of the Edo Era, not a few Japanese artists, writers, and intellectuals had visited Western countries and encountered Wilde’s works directly or in adaptation, most notably through Richard Strauss’s opera Salomé, or in popular dance versions. Back home, these intellectuals reflected in writing on their impressions of Wilde’s work for Japanese readers. For example, Kaoru Osanai became a great fan of Salomé after seeing it performed by the Wilkie Company, and was so fascinated by seeing La Tragédie de Salomé, with Tamara Platonovna Karsavina at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées on June 17, 1913, that he talked the night away with Toson Shimazaki about the world of Salomé (T. Osanai 163–4). Kichizo Nakamura saw Maud Allan dance her “Vision of Salome” at London’s Palace Theatre on July 7, 1908; in his 1910 Obei Insho Ki (Impressions of the Occident) he commented that her classical, Greek-style dance might have appeared unique to those audiences who were used to seeing Western contemporary dances, but for those who knew Japanese dancing, it seemed too monotonous and lacked variety in movements. A hazy photograph of Allan’s dance is reproduced in the book. Nakamura

248  Maho Hidaka published his translation of Wilde’s Salomé soon after, in November 1913, which was then used for the first Japanese staging of the tragedy.

Salomé and the Early Development of Japanese Modern Actresses The first Japanese production of Salomé took place at the Teikoku Gekijo in December 1913, directed by Hogetsu Shimamura, who had just established a company called Geijutsu-za the previous year. This was the company’s second public performance, but Geijutsu-za’s Salomé was epoch-making in that it was produced as part of the New Drama movement and starred Sumako Matsui, the first modern actress who received acting training as one of the first students of the newly founded institute of Bungei Kyokai (Figure 12.1).

Figure 12.1  S umako Matsui as Salomé. Source: Reproduced from Botanhake, Fuji-shuppan (1986), reprinted edition of ­Botanhake, Shincho-sha (1914).

The Sexual Transfiguration of the Japanese Salomé, 1909–2009  249 Hogetsu Shimamura, the founder and leader of Geijutsu-za, wrote in a short essay, “Sarome’s Ichimenkan” (An Aspect of Salomé, first published in the journal Geki to Shi [Plays and Poems] in December 1912), that the spirit of the play lay in Salomé’s line, “The mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death.” He analyzed it as follows: Salomé, standing between Herod, who is in fear of death, and ­Iokanaan, who has no hint of such fear, indulges herself in the dance of death and love, with “death” on one hand and “love” on the other. Then “death,” which frightens and afflicts every human as life’s final fate, eventually turns, in the face of “love,” as powerless as a candle flickering in the wind. Although both Salomé and I­ okanaan are destined to die, love remains an eternal mystery; and here lies the mystery of love. This play profoundly interweaves such mystery of love and Oriental carnal desires, and contrasts them with a ­Christian spiritual disposition. (Hogetsu 542, translation mine) Thus, Hogetsu took notice of the Oriental element intermingled in the play and pursued an original Japanese representation of the play that reflected insights of both Eastern and Western thoughts. However, when he chose Giovanni Vittorio Rosi as a choreographer, their respective interpretations of the play and performance differed radically. It seems that this dispute within the production team resulted in an unintentional jumble of the Eastern and Western elements, quite unsatisfactory to both, as well as to some observers.7 Nonetheless, although the lead actress Sumako’s Salomé was controversial, it soon became one of her signature roles. Sumako’s Nora in A Doll’s House, which premiered in 1911, had also been a success for her, perhaps because this Ibsen play echoed the rising issue of women’s greater participation in public affairs.8 Barbara Sato explains the appraisal of Sumako’s performance of Nora in connection with the international rise in awareness for the New Woman: From the time that Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House debuted on the stage of Oslo’s Christiana Theater in Norway in 1879, the fictional image of Nora and the new woman were synonymous. By ­forsaking her position as bourgeois wife and mother, Nora portended the changes that were soon to affect intellectual women in far-­reaching parts of the world. The dissatisfaction expressed in the play with the prescribed gender roles that defined Nora’s marriage led to a celebration of the individual that resonated with feminine intellectual discourse in Japan. The acclaim that actress Matsui S­ umako received for her rendering of Nora in Shimamura Hogetsu’s 1911 Japanese production of the play stemmed more from the emotional response

250  Maho Hidaka generated by Nora’s boldness in female audiences than to Matsui’s artistic talents. The play’s impact on its Japanese audience acted as an interface between the newly emerging agenda and the public, of which middle-class women formed a significant proportion. (14–15) The role of Nora helped Sumako align the newly born type of the ­Japanese modern actress with the New Woman, and Salomé seems to have offered her yet another approach to do so. Indeed, Sumako’s characterization of Salomé is far more radical than that of Nora, although the latter is generally considered to be the standard-bearer of the New Woman. Because Salomé is a role that stands outside the social framework of marriage and gender inequality, Salomé enabled Sumako to explore the New Woman spiritually, emotionally, sexually, sensually, and physically in a more liberated manner than Nora did.9 In other words, Salomé offered Sumako a chance to express the emancipation of women in another mode: the liberation of women’s wild desire, passion, sensuousness, sexual appeal, egotism, and physicality. Salomé’s expressiveness probably resonated with her contemporary audience and theater practitioners’ conscious or unconscious expectations of modern actresses. There is a photo of Sumako in a long mantle, collected in her autobiography, Botanhake, accompanied by her haiku: “Manto kite / Ware atarashiki / Onna kana” (In a mantle / now I am a / New Woman) (224, translation mine). The photo and haiku seem to indicate her pride in playing a leading role as a liberated new woman and a top working actress at the time. Sumako performed Salomé not only in the play’s Japanese premiere, but also in many successive performances by Geijutsu-za; according to Kimie Imura, the troupe performed the play as many as 127 times in various places in Japan and also in Taiwan and Korea. It was the third most popular performance in their repertoire, following that of Fukkatsu (Resurrection), based on the novel of the same title by Tolstoy, and that of Kamisori (Razor) by Kichizo Nakamura (Imura 94). The new kind of eroticism, expressed via a woman’s body on stage, seemed to have been a critical incentive for the particular enthusiasm for Salomé. The femme fatale was not a new phenomenon in Japanese theater. Indeed, such characters are found in Japanese folklore, which often provides the source material for the traditional performing arts in Japan. The legend of Anchin and Kiyohime of Dojoji Temple presents an archetypal case: it has been adapted to a range of Japanese traditional performing arts such as noh, kabuki, Japanese dancing, joruri and ningyo joruri (traditional Japanese puppet theater).10 What differentiated Salomé from such traditional works with femme fatale figures seems to have had more to do with its dance of the seven veils than its biblical setting. The interpretation of the dance of the seven veils as a kind of strip show (if not to complete nakedness) was evident from the earliest Japanese adaptations

The Sexual Transfiguration of the Japanese Salomé, 1909–2009  251 of Salomé; the alluring dance scene catered to the public’s ardent voyeurism of the female body, which, as we have seen, had only very recently been introduced to the Japanese stage.11 Public asceticism had prohibited women from the stage over two centuries: stripping was essentially incongruous with kabuki, which is based on disguising the male body with theatrical performance and traditional kimono costume. It is no wonder, then, that many female actresses, but few female impersonators, followed Sumako to perform this tragic heroine following Salomé’s Japanese premiere.12 The second earliest Japanese performance of Salomé starred Sadayakko Kawakami and took place in May 1914 at the Hongo-za Theater. Kaoru Osanai describes the performance in detail in his article, “Hongo-za no Sarome,” in the journal Kabuki in June 1915. In brief, he explains his acute disappointment, only praising the musician, Kosaku Yamada,13 and the choreographer, Tokuko Takagi. Osanai concludes ironically: Extremely speaking, the best actors at this Hongo-za’s Salomé were Kosaku Yamada and Tokuko Takagi, who did not appear on stage. Sadayakko’s Salomé also was not the Salomé I pursue. I have to start walking all over again in pursuit of my Salomé…. (163, translation mine) He observes that Sadayakko could not perform as well as Tokuko choreographed her, being overly affected by her habitual Japanese dance movements as a geisha. Ayako Kano argues that the scene of Salomé’s dance of the seven veils made it almost impossible for a kabuki female impersonator to play the role of Salomé: “The whole point of the scene, and hence of the play, is to strip down the woman to her bare body, or as close to it as the censors allow” (221). Comparing the acting of Salomé by the two actresses, Sumako and Sadayakko, on their respective degrees of nudity and acting styles, Kano points out that Sadayakko, who clothed herself heavily like a kabuki female impersonator, followed the tradition of kabuki in her performance and costumes, while Sumako opened a new path for Japanese actresses by presenting the female physicality as the basis of actresses’ acting: The tide was turning against Kawakami Sadayakko’s style of acting. Her Salomé was too heavily inflected with the tradition of the geisha imitating the onnagata; a woman acting like a male performer of female roles was not convincing in this particular role. As a woman acting like a man acting like a woman, Sadayakko embodies the kind of theatricality of gender that was in the process of being marginalized, disavowed, and foreclosed. In contrast, the audience was being won over by Matsui Sumako’s new acting style of accentuating the

252  Maho Hidaka sensuality of her woman’s body. Sumako, in other words, was the embodiments of the new alignment of sex, gender, and performance. (224) Indeed, there were animated arguments about actresses’ styles even before Sumako made her debut. Kano’s analysis is similar to Osanai’s early opinion in his “Joyu Ron” (Essay on Actresses), published in June 1910: At the Misaki-za Theater, the women merely act out the role of women by imitating a female impersonator by men, that is, these women do not appear as women but act like a man acting like a woman. That is their model of acting. Therefore, although they are women themselves, they are trying to become a woman performed by a man. Their performance thus seems to become more unnatural than that of female impersonators. (7, translation mine) Maiko Odaira relates this view to K. Osanai’s other argument on ­Japanese actresses, in which he places Sadayakko’s type of actresses in a similar category as those kabuki actresses performing at the Misaki-za Theater as a “female actor” (onna yakusha), not as the “actress” (joyu) that they are expecting (72). Contrary to Sadayakko, Sumako did not have previous experience in Japanese traditional performing arts, which helped her performance to be considered “natural,” as opposed to the artificial acting of female impersonators or the “female actors” who followed their style.14 Moreover, not only Sumako’s general acting skill, but also her physicality and voice apparently satisfied the demand for the newly born modern actress. Reiko Seki takes notice of the fact that Sumako not only performed female characters, but also impersonated a male character in Shinkyoku Urashima by Shoyo Tsubouchi, interpreting it as a possible testimony to the versatility of her variously gendered physical performances (312–3). Seki also points out that the roles of “foreign women” offered a good opportunity to newly born modern actresses to overcome the problem of the female performer’s elocution. If they performed a traditional female role, their “natural female voice” could not satisfy the expectation of the audience of a “staged female voice,” for they had been accustomed to the vocal projection of female impersonators for a long time. However, if the “staged female voice” belonged to the roles of “foreign women,” the audience would not expect the same, thus saving modern actresses from the problem of confronting the conventional expectation for performers acting a woman on the stage (313). She observes that this would have elevated Sumako’s reputation when she made her debut as Ophelia under the stage name “Sumako Matsui” (312–5). It is

The Sexual Transfiguration of the Japanese Salomé, 1909–2009  253 quite remarkable that Japanese women actually needed the mediation of Western plays and Western heroines to perform their own gender on stage in these early days of the development of modern Japanese theater. Foreign plays also brought with them new kinds of costumes to cover, or rather reveal, their biological femininity, thus liberating their mobility on stage. Kano points out some of the possible changes that Salomé’s role could have made to an actress’s movements: How can the body move differently when it is no longer encased in a long kimono? Even as the same body is being offered to the voyeuristic gaze of the spectators? Does it not acquire an increased range of mobility, a new set of muscles, greater freedoms and powers? As the arms are released from long and heavy sleeves, against what could they now be raised in protest and in self-defense? As the legs emerge from underneath the layers of kimono, in what new directions could they now stride forth? (229–30) Since the long-lasting reversal of sexuality on the traditional Japanese stage had reversed the theatrical perception of “natural” and “artificial,” paradoxically, the roles of Japanese female characters in ­Japanese plays had become unsuitable and unnatural for performance by ­Japanese actresses, so that they had to seize the occasion of newly imported foreign heroines in Western plays in order to present the original female voice and physicality on stage. Thus, Japanese modernization, Westernization, and theater reformation were inseparably combined in Japan. Wilde’s Salomé seems to have been the perfect fit for Japan’s drastic social, cultural, and artistic transformation from the premodern ­Japanese context.

Expansion in the Reception of Salomé in Japan The Salomé fever was at times so intense that it even led to a parallel performance of two Salomés in the same city at the same time, by Sumako and Sadayakko, one right after the other. Many other practitioners and dancers followed suit with different adaptations of Salomé. During the Taisho Era, Salomé, particularly its dance scene, soon came to be adapted for various kinds of strip shows and erotic dances not only by actresses and dancers, but also by geishas, especially in Asakusa, Tokyo, which became a central entertainment district during the Taisho Era.15 Imura writes: It seems that many of the Salomé plays and Salomé dances which were performed and danced in Asakusa became considerably distanced from the original play and became a sensational show to

254  Maho Hidaka exhibit an erotic, Oriental dance, as it were. Thus, there was merely a slight difference between those performances and the Salomé dance in the geisha house quarters, which was performed while stripping off pieces of kimono one by one while saying the line “Give me the head of Iokanaan.” (128, translation mine) As for translations of Wilde into Japanese, Salomé has been particularly popular, along with The Picture of Dorian Gray, De Profundis, “The Happy Prince,” and “The Selfish Giant.”16 Salomé is the most frequently translated and staged play among Wilde’s dramatic works, whereas his comedies have been far less frequently translated and performed in Japan. Translation and performance have certainly been deeply connected to each other. Some of Salomé’s performances were based on the following existing translations: Hogetsu used Nakamura’s translation; Kindaigeki Kyokai and Tenkatsu Ichiza used Ogai’s translation; Yukio Mishima used one by Konosuke Hinatsu, and so forth. Other performances used scripts that were specially designed for the production. Each translation and production reflects not only the individual interpretation of the translator and theater practitioner, but also the theatrical and cultural background of its time. Among the earliest modern actresses in Japan, Sumako in particular also inspired other streams of adaptations that effectively merged Salomé with literary and film adaptations of Sumako’s passionate, sensational, and scandalous life. This phenomenon mirrors the recurrent incorporation of Oscar Wilde’s own life into adaptations of his work. Sumako freed herself from conventional social norms by pursuing her love with a married director and university lecturer, Hogetsu; unfortunately, however, Hogetsu died from the Spanish flu in 1918, which tragically prompted Sumako to commit suicide at the age of 32. Hana no Ran (A Chaos of Flowers), a film about Akiko Yosano by Kinji Fukasaku, is just one of the many other novels, films, and theatrical productions of Sumako’s life that include scenes from Salomé. It is based on Michiko Nagahata’s novels, Hara no Ran and Yume no Kakehashi (Bridge between Dreams), and depicts the life of Akiko Yosano and her encounters with many dramatic figures around her within the turbulent social conditions of the Meiji and Taisho eras. Notable among them are Hogetsu and Sumako. A part of Salomé is incorporated in a scene in which a party is held to console Sumako after Hogetsu’s death. In the scene, ­Sumako, overwhelmed by grief, suddenly grabs the statue of a man’s head that happens to be placed nearby during a performance of Salomé’s final monologue.17 Thus, the film blends Sumako’s embodiment of the New Woman through Salomé with her image as a femme fatale in her real-life relationship with Hogetsu.

The Sexual Transfiguration of the Japanese Salomé, 1909–2009  255 Other films, such as Joyu Sumako no Koi (The Love of the Actress Sumako) by Kenji Mizoguchi and Joyu (An Actress) by Teinosuke ­Kinugasa, also address Sumako’s life story. Her dramatic life is also further captured in a variety of other literary works, such as Matsui Sumako by Karyo Kawamura, an essay about Sumako and Geijutsu-za; and Hi no Onna by Kiyoto Fukuda, a collection of short biographies of twelve passionate women in the Meiji, Taisho, and Showa eras. Some of these writings include direct references to the Japanese productions of Salomé. Similar phenomena can be seen in the case of Sadayakko, whose interesting life also drew the attention of several writers and creators. Since the lives of Sumako and Sadayakko intersected with each other, sometimes both of them appear in the same text, as in the case of NHK TV drama series, Haru no Hato (Waves of Spring) in 1985, which focuses on ­Sadayakko’s life but also features Sumako as one of the dramatic characters. These screen renditions of Sumako and Sadayakko tended to present female sexuality in similarly appealing ways. What, then, are the essential elements and causes that prompted such enthusiasm for Wilde’s Salomé in Japan? Why was there such an immense preference for Salomé among Wilde’s dramatic works? I would suggest that three main elements contributed to this phenomenon. First, the aestheticist leaning of the Japanese theater, literature, and arts scene itself, in the early stages of Wilde’s Japanese reception, fostered Salomé’s success. For example, Ogai’s particular engagement with Wilde’s text actually reflects the aesthetic trend of the Japanese literary scene at the time, which is also represented by Hogetsu and Tokuboku Hirata, who introduced Wilde’s works by focusing on his aestheticism. This aestheticist stream has continued for generations through the work of M ­ okutaro Kinoshita, Junichiro Tanizaki, and Mishima, who adapted Wilde’s ­Salomé in fiction, plays, and/or theater productions. It was also substantially influenced and nourished by Aubrey Beardsley’s art.18 Even though Wilde reportedly did not like them, Beardsley’s illustrations critically helped his Salomé to be so intensely and widely received in J­ apanese culture, distinguishing its reception from that of his other works. Visual artworks in the same aestheticist tradition have contributed to the reception of Wilde as well, including Kasho Kawabatake’s drawings of Salomé and Nio Mizushima’s illustrations for Tanizaki’s adaptation of Wilde’s “The Fisherman and His Soul,” “Ningyo no Nageki” (The Lament of the Mermaid). Beardsley’s illustrations have directly influenced Japanese stagings of the play as well, as evidenced by Mishima’s productions of Salomé.19 The second factor for Japan’s preference for Salomé probably has to do with the fact that the Japanese language is fundamentally different from English or French. When the work is densely language-based, as in the case of Wilde’s comedies, it becomes almost impossible to translate Wilde’s quintessential wit and double entendre into Japanese. This

256  Maho Hidaka difficulty is often addressed with the use of interlinear gloss in literature, which provides in smaller font in the space between lines an alternative reading of a word in the main text, such as its contextual reading or the original foreign version of a word which has been reproduced in kana (Japanese system of syllabic writing). For example, The Importance of Being Earnest is commonly translated as Majime ga Kanjin in Japanese, but majime only means “earnest” and the pronunciation of majime is completely different from the name, “Ernest.” In such case, “Ernest” could be written in kana above or alongside “Majime” to show that the word is a double entendre. 20 However, this device is limited to the written text and obviously impossible to employ in theater productions, unless subtitles are used. Besides, it is fundamentally different from conveying two meanings with the same pronunciation as in the case of “earnest” and “Ernest” in English, which critically erodes the original comedic effects. Where Wilde’s comedies are intensely language-based, Salomé has more visual elements, an uncomplicated plotline, and clearly defined characters, additional attractive factors that have contributed to its increase in translation and performance. Moreover, whereas the appreciation of Wilde’s comedies is highly dependent on the British ­Victorian context, Salomé lends itself better to decontextualization and thus opens itself for socially and culturally different settings, as can be witnessed in the case of Katsuhide Suzuki’s adaptation of Salomé. 21 Finally, we should also consider how the lack of certain dramatic and cultural traditions in Japan indirectly affected Wilde’s particular reception in Japan. As Yoshio Maruhashi points out, Japan lacks the tradition of society comedies and, accordingly, of suitable actors or actresses. ­Neither Japanese theater practitioners nor audiences have had any sort of parallel theatrical tradition to support an appreciation of Wilde’s comedies. Moreover, since Western opera was not rooted in J­ apanese culture, it was actually not via Richard Strauss’s opera that Wilde’s Salomé became popular in Japan. The Japanese writers and theater practitioners who saw Strauss’s Salomé in Europe rather contributed to the reception of Wilde’s Salomé itself, instead of Strauss’s adaptation. Japanese society has not had a Christian tradition, either; therefore, there were no such constraints on biblical themes as the ones that prevented Wilde’s Salomé from being performed in Britain for decades.

A Contemporary Japanese Production of Salomé Starring a Female Impersonator Salomé provided modern actresses the opportunity to explore a range of performances on stage and screen, but a significant break from this trend can be seen in the adaptation by Katsuhide Suzuki, which premiered in October 2009 at the Tokyo Globe Theater, with a modern female impersonator, Eisuke Sasai, in the title role (Figures 12.2 and 12.3). 22

Figure 12.2  Eisuke Sasai as Salomé. Source: Reproduced from the program of Sarome (Salomé), directed by Katsuhide ­Suzuki, The Globe Tokyo, Tokyo. October 19–25, 2009.

Figure 12.3  Eisuke Sasai as Salomé. Source: Reproduced from the program of Sarome (Salomé), directed by Katsuhide ­Suzuki, The Globe Tokyo, Tokyo. October 19–25, 2009.

258  Maho Hidaka Suzuki’s highly stylized, designedly Japanese adaptation incorporated many elements of Japanese traditional theater, dance, and music in subtle, non-anachronistic ways. It is set in fictional Japan at an undesignated time, when Japan consisted of many small fiefdoms before it became united as a nation. The play contains only four characters: the king, the queen, the princess, and a Japanese religious ascetic. Suzuki’s production interweaves various contemporary components in great detail, ranging from costumes and music to dance and acting. Salomé’s costumes exhibit a mixture of Japanese kimono and Western dress with some Oriental ornaments, and the musical band consists of Japanese traditional instruments mixed with Western percussion. 23 The ascetic, adapted from the prophet Iokanaan, dances a contemporary dance, which contrasts with Salomé’s traditional dance and the conventional image of the stillness of the prophet. Eisuke Sasai’s traditional performance background is not in kabuki, but rather in Japanese dancing, which he started to learn as a child and which eventually made him a master of a school of traditional Japanese dancing named Fujima. He is both an actor and a female impersonator and plays both male and female characters in Japanese as well as in translated or adapted Western plays. 24 He considers himself as “a player in whom all qualities such as the classics and avant-garde, the East and the West, and men and women coexist” (Sasai, Onnagata 7, translation mine). 25 In fact, the production of Salomé was the third part of a trilogy on which ­Suzuki and Sasai collaborated, following A Street Car Named Desire by ­Tennessee Williams that cast Sasai as Blanche Du Bois in 2007, followed by Sado Koshaku Fujin (Madame de Sade) by Mishima, starring Sasai as Renee, the Marquise de Sade, in 2008. It would have been rather anachronistic to cast traditional ­kabuki-styled female impersonators in Japanese productions of Salomé at the beginning of the twentieth century. New paths have opened up since then, not only for modern actresses but also for modern female impersonators. Gender-wise, it was, previously, a man’s role to perform women on stage when women were forbidden on the stage; then, with the rise of modern Japanese actresses, women’s roles were finally given to women, and the performers in modern plays became considerably freer from such previous gender frameworks. Today, it often depends on the characteristics and direction of each production whether female characters are performed by women or by female impersonators, although the former is certainly more common.26 Casting a female impersonator as Salomé in the year 2009, after female actresses have performed this role for decades, is a particularly interesting and complex decision in the ­Japanese context, since, as mentioned earlier, men originally performed all women’s roles in Japanese theater while women were forbidden on the stage. Rather than being anachronistic, the decision to cast Sasai may have been intended to signal different gender roles and expectations. The shift

The Sexual Transfiguration of the Japanese Salomé, 1909–2009  259 in Japanese theater can be seen as bringing a new challenge to contemporary female impersonators, since the audience is now more used to the female sexuality of dramatic heroines being performed by biologically female actresses. Because of this history, modern female impersonators (unlike the original ones) are now expected to present a new kind of sexuality on stage, with a unique kind of beauty and appeal that only male performers can present. A new dramatic style thus emerges. Sasai himself commented on the responsibility of onnagata as follows, in an interview with Suzuki: Onnagata cannot depend on one’s natural body, and that is the very difficulty of onnagata. Without the physicality and art of onnagata, the audience would not take him any more than a mania for transvestism, and then it would be better off using an actress. It would be better to have a proper, real female performer than taking the trouble to have an unskilled male performer playing a female character. If a man dares to perform a woman, there must be something special. Otherwise, what I am doing would be nonsensical and unnecessary. (Sasai, Onnagata 186–7, translation mine) Contrasting the earliest Japanese productions of Salomé with female actresses in the title role with Sasai’s contemporary impersonator’s performance makes clear two distinct developments: the former featured the rising actress as a symbol of independent women using Western choreography, while the latter goes back to incorporating older traditions of Japanese performing arts that feature a female impersonator and use Japanese traditional dance and music. The original tradition of female impersonation reversed the binary opposition of “natural” and “artificial” in premodern Japan, and having women’s roles artificially performed by men, with their distinctive male voices and physicality, had become “natural” on the Japanese stage. This reversal was then re-reversed and came full circle with the introduction of foreign modern plays into Japan, which allowed modern Japanese actresses to act out their natural physicality fully through new types of foreign heroines, liberating them from the traditional system of having female impersonators impersonate women on stage. Sasai’s performance constitutes yet another reversal: Salomé, which was considered unsuitable for female impersonators a century ago, has now been revived by the new rendition, introducing a contemporary female impersonator. The very challenge for early modern Japanese actresses was to transfigure the sexuality set by traditional female impersonators and to present their own, while the challenge for the contemporary female impersonator was to transcend the sexuality of Salomé set by numerous modern Japanese actresses following the first Japanese

260  Maho Hidaka Salomé by Sumako. This inversion of context for performing Salomé illustrates how deeply modern Japanese theater and the new role of female actresses on stage were already ingrained. In the international context, too, Japan may even have become over-exposed to actresses’ physical unveiling on stage, on screen, in literature, and on the internet. What was new a century ago has aged, naturally; and, at the same time, what was old now shows surprising new potential, intermingled with new ideas and practices that have been generated and evolved for over a century. Casting a modern female impersonator now presents the ultimate in artificial beauty, which is both in line with Wilde’s poetic drama, and stresses the fictionality of the theater stage itself. What onnagata embodies is the staged sexuality which is physicalized by male actors with specialized theatrical performance: it presents a hybridity of a theatricalized presence intended to be female in appearance, movements, and voice (falsetto). At the same time, however, the audience is aware of the performer’s actual male body, and thus an artificially created sexuality, one that also carries nuances of androgyny, is engendered on stage. Sexual ambiguity is already present within the original text, of course, as well as in audiences’ posthumous reading of Oscar Wilde as a homosexual or bisexual man. Androgynous features abound in Wilde’s description of his principal characters. For example, Salomé’s repeated praise of Iokanaan’s beautiful white skin, black hair, or red mouth is just as much a description of her own beauty, and thus establishes a mirror relation between Salomé and Iokanaan, bringing them together in an androgynous ideal. Indeed, Beardsley’s illustrations of Salomé constitute the first adaptation of Wilde’s Salomé, and present his decidedly androgynous interpretation. Salomé is a drama about boundaries: boundaries between sanity and insanity, morality and immorality, innocence and sin, fear and desire, death and life, repression and temptation, and men and women. Iokanaan drives Salomé over the edge, and Salomé pushes Herod to extremes as well. Further boundaries can be explored in different productions of the play, as suggested by Suzuki’s staging: boundaries between the East and the West, old and new, tradition and innovation, form and improvisation, rejuvenation and ageing, and actors and actresses. Suzuki and Sasai’s innovative approach toward the play presents another exploration of boundaries: Sasai’s female impersonation of a “virgin” princess at the age of fifty in old-time Japan is a new, eye-opening setting for the play.

Ever-Evolving Enthusiasm for Salomé In conclusion, the Japanese reception of Wilde has undergone several different phases, in accordance with historical and social changes. Therefore, it is also essential to take into account the contexts of the specific era within which Wilde’s works were performed or adapted. As

The Sexual Transfiguration of the Japanese Salomé, 1909–2009  261 we have seen, the predominant preferences for Salomé in the Taisho Era were supported by the rise of modern Japanese actresses. Yoshio Ozasa pays attention to the fact that Geijutsu-za performed Salomé as many as 127 times and points out that the reason why Wilde became so popular in the Taisho Era is that he fit the anti-Meiji wave of the time, which had been ideologically opposed to “wicked,” “cruel,” and “grotesque” things. According to Ozasa, among the playwrights who embraced such previously rejected elements was Wilde, who was categorized as diabolic along with Tanizaki, who was in turn influenced by Wilde; accordingly, the Salomé boom evolved within this larger context (132–3). For the same reason, surely Wilde’s society comedies did not suit such tastes and hence could not become popular. Besides, the female characters in Wilde’s society comedies, who present quite a contrast to the sensual Salomé, probably were not provocative enough to the audience and theater practitioners at that time. As we have seen, Japanese adaptations were often spawned not only by Wilde’s text, but by others’ adaptations as well; sometimes, these adaptations in turn then led artists, readers, and audiences back toward Wilde’s original works. The renditions of the lives of some of the artists who contributed significantly to the Japanese reception of Wilde often strikingly resemble the way that Wilde’s own life and art have been interpreted. Much weight is placed on the dramatic and sensational nature of the connection between their life and art—for instance, in the case of Sumako and Mishima, who both committed suicide at the end of their magnificent and remarkable careers and embody the dramatic and poignant connection between life, love, death, beauty, and artistic passion. An analysis of the changing theatrical history of Salomé in Japan thus explains and underscores Salomé’s astonishing, continued popularity with Japanese audiences. Music and dance fulfill an indispensable role in Salomé and may also have helped spawn adaptations in genres other than drama. Moreover, Salomé seems more susceptible to partial adaptations than Wilde’s other works, exemplifying the extraordinary diversity and range of its adaptations in Japan. Wilde’s one-act tragedy comes across as impressive and familiar even when it is only presented in excerpts, such as the dance scene and finale with Salomé kissing the head of Iokanaan at the end. Thus, many adaptations incorporated parts of Wilde’s Salomé and diversified the reception of Wilde. This is true not only of the Japanese reception, but also of other international adaptations of Wilde’s Salomé in various genres. Wilde’s work has often mediated the interaction and development among different genres of art, ranging from literature to visual arts, performing arts, films, and even comics. The unique background of the Japanese theatrical tradition and reformation contributed to the global reception of Wilde, while Salomé, in particular, helped spur modern theater reformation in Japan by offering innovative opportunities for

262  Maho Hidaka Japanese modern performers—both male and female—to widen their physical and psychological repertoire by portraying Wilde’s sensual heroine. As we have seen, Salomé first contributed to the rise of the New Woman at the outset of Japan’s modernization and, more recently, to the evolution of a new type of female impersonator, spurring theatrical innovation in Japan for a century. The variability of Salomé impersonations testify to the immense possibilities that Wilde’s Salomé proffers. It is important to realize that the history of Wilde’s Salomé and ­Japanese culture were actually inseparable from the start, from Beardsley’s ­Japonism-influenced illustrations to Japanese influences in various Western theatrical adaptations of Salomé. The production by Steven Berkoff in 1988, for example, presents the influence of Japanese noh, kabuki, and butoh. Kabuki’s influence has also been detected in Maurice Bejard’s Salomé, starring Patrick Dupond (Tsuchiya 258), and more adaptations in this vein may emerge in the future. An exciting further step into Japanese traditional theater would be to, one day, see a direct kabuki adaptation of Wilde’s Salomé on stage. A century ago, it would only have sustained the male-dominated conventional Japanese theater system, depriving rising actresses of the opportunity to play the innovative and liberating role of Salomé. However, today, in an age when society is becoming even less patriarchal and more liberalized, neither celebrating the New Woman nor the liberation of the female body per se would be the primary incentive to stage Salomé—rather, it would be to try new things. The Takarazuka Revue celebrated its centenary in 2014, and its all-female theater practice inspired Edward Hall to form an all-male company, Propeller.27 Since by now all-female casts have become acceptable to Japanese audiences, paradoxically, an all-male kabuki performance could help dismantle the male-female power relationship of the play and the patriarchal system of the Japanese traditional theater itself, relying once more on Salomé to extend Wilde’s aesthetic world to new, as yet unexplored dimensions.

Acknowledgments This chapter further develops my paper presented at the “Wilde Days in Paris” conference in Paris in June 2014. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the conference organizers, especially Mr. David Charles Rose, and to the attendees for their valuable comments. I am particularly obliged to Fuji-shuppan and CAT Produce, who have kindly granted permission to reproduce the illustrations. Sumako Matsui’s photo is reproduced from Botanhake (Fuji-shuppan, 1986), which is the reprinted edition of Botanhake (Shincho-sha, 1914). Eisuke Sasai’s images are from the program of Sarome (Salomé), directed by Katsuhide Suzuki (The Globe Tokyo, Tokyo. October 19–25, 2009). This work was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science’s Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (Grant Numbers 26770111 and 17K02521).

The Sexual Transfiguration of the Japanese Salomé, 1909–2009  263

Notes 1 Masuda did an abridged translation of Wilde’s “The Soul of Man under Socialism,” which appeared in the Japanese paper Jiyu (Liberty) on May 28, 1891. 2 Kobayashi’s translations of Wilde’s poems included “Impression du Matin,” “By the Arno,” “Impression de Voyage,” “Chanson,” “A Vision,” “Requiescat,” and “Sonnet on Approaching Italy,” published in Teikoku Bungaku (Imperial Literature) in August 1908. 3 “Windamiya Fujin no Ogi” (Lady Windermere’s Fan) and “Nesshin no Taisetsu na Koto” (The Importance of Being Earnest) by Homei Iwano were published in January and February 1909, respectively. 4 Ogai’s translation appeared in a theater journal, Kabuki, from September to October in 1909. In August 1907, in the same journal, Ogai had previously published an introductory note on Salomé. 5 For a detailed record of the performances, see Masahiko Masumoto. 6 Although Wilkie started his career in England as a Shakespearean actor, he later based himself in Australia, where his second wife and the company’s leading actress, Frediswyde Hunter-Watts, had relatives. He and ­Hunter-Watts were invited to lead an Australian Shakespearean theater company in Melbourne in January 1916, and subsequently made distinguishing contribution to Australian theater (Rickard). 7 For example, Hisao Honma criticizes Sumako’s dance as inferior to that of Hunter-Watts, firstly owing to Rosi’s problematic choreography and secondly due to Japanese women’s customary restrained movements and expressions. 8 According to Kimie Imura, A Doll’s House was performed only nine times and was no match to the popularity of Salomé (94). 9 If Geijutsu-za had only sought to let Sumako pursue another New Woman heroine besides Nora, this purpose could perhaps also have been served by Wilde’s comedies, which offer an abundance of such female characters (as analyzed, for instance, by Petra Dierkes-Thrun in her essay on the New Women in Wilde’s comedies in comparison with Ibsen and Shaw). The fact that the company never performed any of Wilde’s comedies seems to put the unique position of Salomé into relief. 10 In the folklore tale, Kiyohime, who is a daughter of a powerful feudal lord, falls in love with a monk, Anchin. Betrayed by him, she metamorphoses into a serpent to pursue Anchin, who takes refuge in the bell of Dojoji Temple. In femme fatale fashion, Kiyohime coils herself around the bell and burns him to death. 11 Matsutaro Kawaguchi even wrote a short story entitled “Sarome no O ­ shiroi” (Salomé’s Powder), which describes how an 18-year-old man gets infatuated by an actress performing Salomé at the Teikoku Gekijo in 1918. Having been entranced by her striptease of the seven veils one by one and witnessing her kissing the head of Iokanaan half-naked, he becomes her apprentice. In an era of strict moral values, there were few opportunities to see a naked body in a theater performance (Kawaguchi 68–69). 12 According to Ayako Kano, there were more than twenty-seven different productions of Salomé during the Taisho Era (219). 13 Yamada had arranged the music based on Richard Strauss’s 1905 opera Salome, substituting a clarinet, a cello, and a piano for a harp and three violins. 14 The term “female actors” here is a translation of “onna yakusha.” “Onna” means female and “yakusha” is a general term for actors. The point here is that they are physically female but stylistically male, for they are following the style of kabuki.

264  Maho Hidaka 15 American film adaptations of Salomé also reached Japan during the Taisho Era, soon after they were released: J. Gordon Edwards’s Salome starring Theda Bara in 1918 and Charles Bryant’s Salome featuring Alla Nazimova in 1923 (see Yodogawa 16). Their impact on Japanese culture is found in, for example, Kasho Kawabatake’s drawing of Theda Bara’s performance of the title role, which he saw in a cinema on April 19, 1921. 16 According to Takanori Sakakibara, 880 Japanese translations of Wilde’s works were published from 1891 to 2004. Despite the general academic disinterest in “The Happy Prince,” its number of translations, 132 in total, far exceeded Wilde’s other works. “The Selfish Giant” follows with a total of 78 translations. Salomé was translated into Japanese an astonishing 66 times. The following works have been translated over 30 times: “The Nightingale and the Rose,” “The Star-Child,” The Picture of Dorian Gray, “The Devoted Friend,” and “The Young King.” De Profundis has been translated 28 times. Considering that short stories lend themselves far more readily to translation, the number of Salomé translations is especially remarkable. 17 Sumako commits suicide soon afterward, and Akiko goes to her funeral in the film, where she happens to reencounter Takeo Arishima, with whom she falls in love. Arishima presents another connection between this film and Wilde: although there is no trace of a direct connection between his character and Wilde in this film, Arishima contributed to the Japanese reception of Wilde through his writing in real life, particularly through his adaptation of “The Happy Prince,” “Tsubame to Oji” (A Swallow and a Prince). 18 Joichiro Kawamura writes that Beardsley’s impact on the Japanese arts scene in the Meiji and Taisho Eras was so strong that there were no illustrators and graphic designers who were not influenced by him at that time (5). 19 Mishima worked as a director for two productions of Salomé: one in 1960 and the other in 1970. The latter actually took place after his suicide, but the production had been prepared before his death under his direction, and it was held as a memorial performance for him. Mishima admits that his preference for Wilde’s Salomé is inseparable from Beardsley’s illustrations, and both productions were prepared under Beardsley’s influence. The latter’s black-and-white stage and costume design, however, presented a more recognizable echo. 20 Japanese traditional format for publications applies vertical writing, which is also usually the case with translations: that is why interlinear glosses are inserted “alongside” the main text. 21 For an analysis of difficulties in the early Japanese reception of Wilde’s comedies, see Maho Hidaka, “When Japanese Tradition Meets a Western ‘Wit and Dramatist.’” 22 Male impersonation of Salomé has been present in other international productions and films, as witnessed in Maurice Bejard’s Salomé and Ken Russell’s Salome’s Last Dance. 23 The music had originally been arranged only for Salomé’s dance and sound effects, but its role became augmented throughout the play. The music itself was not directly influenced by Richard Strauss’s opera; however, according to Suzuki, he was aware of the opera and placed importance on the inseparable relationship between music and dance in Salomé, and therefore, as he worked on the production, he became keen to make music an integral part of the drama with Japanese classical music. 24 William Hamilton Armstrong uses a term, “neo-onnagata,” to refer to such modern female impersonators as Akihiro Miwa and Sasai, which he devised based on the term, “neo-kabuki,” that Yukikazu Kano’s theater company, Hanagumi Shibai, uses to describe their new approaches to modernized

The Sexual Transfiguration of the Japanese Salomé, 1909–2009  265 classical kabuki, mixing Eastern and Western elements. In this essay, I employ the term “onnagata” (female impersonator), however, since that is the term Sasai himself uses. 25 Translation mine. Sasai describes how devastated he was when he was first confronted with kabuki’s hereditary system and realized that he could never be granted a leading role in traditional kabuki, no matter how hard he might try (Onnagata 15–16; see also Sasai, Ii Shibai Ii Yakusha 53). Although it has become common for kabuki performers to act in modern plays, films, and TV dramas, the converse is not true. Sasai eventually consolidated his career as a female impersonator in modern plays. 6 Sasai’s path as a modern female impersonator has not been free from trouble 2 either, as the following anecdote illustrates: when Sasai was cast as Blanche by Suzuki for the first time in 1992, the production had to be canceled, for the copyright holder of the play forbade a man to play the role, regarding it as a considerable disgrace to the playwright himself (Onnagata 96–97). It was not until 2001 that he eventually managed to perform the role. 27 Edward Hall himself admitted that, when he staged A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Merchant of Venice at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space in 2009, he got his idea of founding an all-male company from a Japanese all-female theater company, The Takarazuka Revue, which he encountered during his stay in Japan about a quarter of a century ago.

Works Cited Banshoya, Eiichi. “Wairudo no ‘Sarome’” (Wilde’s Salomé). Murasaki, vol. 2, no. 8, 1935, pp. 70–71. Dierkes-Thrun, Petra. “Wilde’s Comedic Takes on the New Woman: A Comparison with Ibsen and Shaw.” Oscar Wilde’s Society Plays, edited by ­M ichael Y. Bennett, Palgrave, 2016, pp. 75–94. Dorian Gurei no Shozo (The Picture of Dorian Gray). Written by Oscar Wilde, scenario by Katsuhide Suzuki, directed by Katsuhide Suzuki, starring Koji Yamamoto, performance at Setagaya Public Theater, Tokyo, 21 August 2009. Hana no Ran (A Chaos of Flowers). Directed by Kinji Fukasaku, performances by Sayuri Yoshinaga and Yusaku Matsuda. Toei, 1988. Hidaka, Maho. “When Japanese Tradition Meets a Western ‘Wit and Dramatist’: Japanese Reception of Wilde’s Comedies in the Meiji Era.” The Wildean: A Journal of Oscar Wilde Studies, vol. 44, 2014, pp. 82–89. Honma, Hisao. “Sendaihagi to Sarome” (Sendaihagi and Salomé). Engei Gaho (Illustrated Theater Magazine), vol. 8, no. 1, 1914, pp. 50–54. Imura, Kimie. “Sarome” no Henyo: Honyaku/Butai (Transformations of ­Salomé: Translations; Performances). Shinshokan, 1990. Iwano, Homei. “Osuka Wairudo no Geki: Windermere Fujin no Ogi” (A Play by Oscar Wilde: Lady Windermere’s Fan). Waseda Bungaku (Waseda Literature), vol. 38, 1909, pp. 12–21. ———. “Wairudo no Shakai Kigeki: Nesshin no Taisetsuna Koto” (A ­Society Comedy by Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest). Waseda Bungaku (Waseda Literature), vol. 39, 1909, pp. 28–34. Joyu (An Actress). Directed by Teinosuke Kinugasa, performances by Isuzu Yamada and Yoshi Hijikata. Toho, 1947. Joyu Sumako no Koi (The Love of the Actress Sumako). Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, performances by Kinuyo Tanaka and So Yamamura. Shochiku, 1947.

266  Maho Hidaka Kano, Ayako. Acting like a Woman in Japan. Palgrave, 2001. Kawaguchi, Matsutaro. “Sarome no Oshiroi” (Salomé’s Powder). Kawaguchi Matsutaro Zenshu (The Complete Collection of Kawaguchi Matsutaro), vol. 16, Kodansha, 1969, pp. 61–77. Kawamura, Joichiro, ed. Biazuri to Nihon (Aubrey Beardsley and Japan). ­I nshosha, 2015. Kobayashi, Aiyu. “Higeki: Sarome” (Tragedy: Salomé). Shinshosetsu (New Fiction), 1909, pp. 97–135. ———. “Oscar Wilde Shiika” (Exquisite Poems by Oscar Wilde). Teikoku ­Bungaku (Imperial Literature), vol. 14, no. 8, 1908, pp. 1133–42. Maruhashi, Yoshio. “Kigeki to Nihonjin” (Comedies and Japanese). Studies in Comparative Culture, vol. 62, 2003, pp. 125–34. Masuda, Tonosuke. “Bijutsu no Kojinshugi: Osukaru Wairudo Shi no Ronbun Shoyaku” (Individualism of Art: An Abridged Translation of Oscar Wilde’s Paper). Jiyu (Liberty), 28 May 1891, p. 3. Masumoto, Masahiko. Yokohama Geete-za: Meiji/Taisho no Seiyo Gekijo (Yokohama Gaiety Theatre: The Western Theater in the Meiji and Taisho Eras). Iwasaki Hakubutsukan, 1986. Matsui, Sumako. Botanhake [1914]. Fuji-Shuppan, 1986. Mori, Ogai. “Gikyoku: Sarome” (Play: Salomé). Kabuki, vol. 110, 1909, pp. 1–26. ———. “Gikyoku: Sarome” (Play: Salomé). Kabuki, vol. 111, 1909, pp. 1–20. ———. “Kyakuhon Sarome no Ryakusuji” (Synopsis of the Play Salomé). K ­ abuki, vol. 88, 1907, pp. 3–10. Nagaharu, Yodogawa. “Sarome Oboegaki” (Memorandum on Salomé). Sarome (Salomé), edited by Bungaku-za Henshushitsu. Bungaku-za ­Henshushitsu, 1960, pp. 16–17. Nakamura, Kichizo. Obei Insho Ki (Impressions of the Occident). Shunjusha, 1910. Odaira, Maiko. Onna ga Onna o Enjiru: Bungaku/Yokubo/Shohi (Women Performing Women: Literature, Desire, and Consumption). Shinyosha, 2008. Osanai, Kaoru. “Hongo-za no Sarome” (Salomé at the Hongo-za Theater). ­Engei Gaho (Illustrated Theater Magazine), vol. 2, no. 6, 1915, pp. 148–63. ———. “Joyu Ron” (Essay on Actresses). Teikoku Bungaku (Imperial Literature), vol. 16, no. 6, 1910, pp. 1–23. Osanai, Tomiko. Osanai Kaoru: Kindai Engeki o Hiraku (Kaoru Osanai: Pioneering the Modern Theater). Keio UP, 2005. Oscar Wilde’s Salome. Directed by Steven Berkoff, starring Steven Berkoff, ­Kultur, 2004. Ozasa, Yoshio. Nihon Gendai Engekishi: Meiji/Taisho Hen (Modern Theater History of Japan: Meiji and Taisho Eras). Hakusuisha, 1985. Rickard, John. “Wilkie, Alan (1878–1970),” Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 12, edited by John Ritchie, Melbourne UP, 1986. Sakakibara, Takanori. “Wairudo ni miru Honyaku Shakaishi: ‘Kofuku no Oji’ to Sengo Nihon no Jido Bungaku” (The Social History of Translation in the Case of Wilde: “The Happy Prince” and Children’s Literature in Post-War ­Japan). Honyaku to Rekishi (Translation and History), vol. 24, 2004, pp. 1–17. Salome. Written by Oscar Wilde, performances by Allan Wilkie and Frediswyde Hunter-Watts, Gaiety Theatre, Yokohama, 9 November 1912. Performance.

The Sexual Transfiguration of the Japanese Salomé, 1909–2009  267 ———. Written by Oscar Wilde, performances by Allan Wilkie and Frediswyde Hunter-Watts, Teikoku Gekijo (The Imperial Theater), Tokyo, 11–15 ­November 1912. Performance. Sarome (Salomé). Written by Oscar Wilde, translated by Kichizo Nakamura, directed by Hogetsu Shimamura, starring Sumako Matsui, Teikoku Gekijo (The Imperial Theater), Tokyo, 2 December 1913. Performance. ———. Written by Oscar Wilde, translated by Kichizo Nakamura, directed by Hogetsu Shimamura, starring Sumako Matsui, Teikoku Gekijo (The Imperial Theater), Tokyo, 26 April 1915. Performance. ———. Written by Oscar Wilde, translated by Shoyo Matsui, starring Sadayakko Kawakami, Hongo-za (Hongo-za Theater), Tokyo, 8 May 1915. Performance. ———. Written by Oscar Wilde, translated by Kichizo Nakamura, directed by Hogetsu Shimamura, starring Sumako Matsui, Meiji-za (Meiji-za Theater), 30 April 1916. Performance. ———. Written by Oscar Wilde, scenario by Katsuhide Suzuki, directed by Katsuhide Suzuki, starring Eisuke Sasai, The Globe Tokyo, Tokyo, 19–25 October 2009. Performance. Sasai, Eisuke. Boku ha Onnagata: Sasai Eisuke no Sekai (I Am an Onnagata: The World of Eisuke Sasai). Metropolitan, 1998. ———. Ii Shibai Ii Yakusha (Good Plays, Good Actors). Sangatsu Shobo, 2012. Sato, Barbara. The New Japanese Woman. Duke UP, 2003. Seki, Reiko. Josei Hyosho no Kindai: Bungaku/Kioku/Shikakuzo (The Modern Representation of Women: Literature, Memory, and Visual Imagery). ­Kanrin Shobo, 2011. Shimamura, Hogetsu. Hogetsu Zenshu (The Complete Collection of Hogetsu), vol. 2. Tenyusha, 1920. Tsuchiya, Keiichiro. “Ai no Gurotesuku: Patorikku Dyupon no Sarome” (Grotesqueness of Love: Patrick Dupond’s Salomé). Gendai Shiso (La Revue de la Pensée D’aujourd’hui), vol. 14, no.11, 1986, pp. 258–62. Windamiya Fujin no Ogi (Lady Windermere’s Fan). Written by Oscar Wilde, translated by Junichiro Tanizaki, directed by Sojin Kamiyama, starring Sojin Kamiyama, Yuraku-za (Yuraku-za Theater), Tokyo, 6 September 1918. Performance. Yodogawa, Nagaharu. “Sarome Oboegaki” (Memorandum on Salomé). Sarome (Salomé), edited by Bungaku-za Henshushitsu. Bungaku-za Henshushitsu, 1960, pp. 16–17.

13 The Other Love That Dared Not Speak Its Name Wilde’s Jewish “Fans” in World War II-Era Cinema Margaret D. Stetz Film directors are known for opening up plays and taking the action beyond the confines of a stage set. Few adaptations, however, have opened up theatrical texts more deliberately in both chronological and political terms—inviting audiences to traverse time and to connect late-­Victorian theater with the realities of the present moment—than the first two versions of Oscar Wilde’s works filmed after the end of World War II: ­Alexander Korda’s 1947 An Ideal Husband and Otto Preminger’s 1949 The Fan (the latter based on Lady Windermere’s Fan). These ­productions—one released by a British studio and one from Hollywood—drew their material from 1890s Society comedies that raised issues of misapprehension and redemption, and they participated in an ongoing project, throughout the first half of the twentieth century, to rehabilitate Wilde’s reputation in and through popular culture. But these films shared another purpose, too: one that was bound up with the transatlantic understanding of Wilde’s name as synonymous with the despised outsider and the scapegoat, as well with the cosmopolitan, who seemingly is at home everywhere in the world, yet who remains alien and never fully assimilated into any single culture. Korda and Preminger alike actively contributed to the revaluing of Wilde as a Great Artist (with a capital “g” and “a”), precisely because he was associated with an identity that dared not speak its name—an identity that could, in effect, stand in for other kinds of identities that were also socially unspeakable. By moving so controversial a figure as that of Oscar Wilde into the cultural mainstream occupied by commercial film, these directors also addressed obliquely the pressing question of how to do the same for Jews—how to erase, in the new postwar societies that were taking shape on both sides of the Atlantic, the traditional stigma surrounding “the Jew as Other” (Anolik 107). Their films of Wilde’s plays were interventions, designed to create not only a more hospitable cultural space for one prosecuted gay writer, but also for many persecuted Jewish communities and, therefore, to fashion welcoming cinematic worlds that could influence the wider world. “Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth,” Wilde’s mouthpiece named “Gilbert” had said in the 1891 dialogue “The Critic as Artist” when explaining how Shakespeare’s imaginary characters could “reveal”

The Other Love That Dared Not Speak Its Name  269 their author “to us absolutely,” although “he never speaks to us of himself in his plays” (CW, vol. 4, 183). In the immediate aftermath of World War II, which had decimated European Jewry, yet still left Jews suspect and often unwelcome in both Britain and the U.S., Wilde represented a perfect—one might almost say an “ideal”—mask for his Jewish admirers (or “fans”). To bring him into mainstream cinema was a way for directors such as Korda and Preminger—European transplants whose own religious or ethnic identities were ambiguous ones, particularly in the public consciousness—to use Wilde as a vehicle for performing important cultural work against bias and intolerance of many sorts. That these directors were heterosexual did not stand in the way of their identification with Wilde as an artist who had been unjustly exiled, and over whose reputation a dark cloud still hung. It made him, in effect, a useful mask through which to speak in cinematic terms about the need for a new postwar spirit of inclusiveness and reconciliation, while modeling that spirit onscreen through adaptations of his work. Such adaptations emphasized the forging of communal bonds among the fictional characters, as well as between Wilde’s world and that of the cinema audience. Of course, Jewish filmmakers had been attracted to Wilde’s plays in earlier decades, too, well before the Holocaust, even as Wilde himself had been the subject of fascination during his lifetime for a variety of Jewish artists and intellectuals. These had included, most famously, the French actress Sarah Bernhardt and the novelist Ada Leverson, as well as Adela Schuster, who helped to support him financially at the time of his legal prosecution and imprisonment in 1895. Also part of his circle of acquaintances, moreover, going back to the days of his youth in Dublin, were the sisters Eliza Davis Aria and Julia Davis Frankau, both of whom wound up as writers in London, like Wilde himself, and who moved in overlapping theatrical and social worlds with him (Stetz, “To defend the undefendable”). Wilde may have been guilty, in his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, of trafficking in anti-Semitic stereotypes, but even there the unattractive portrait of the Jewish stage manager was framed ambiguously, so that it was unclear whether it reflected the narrator’s own perspective or merely that of Dorian himself (“To defend the undefendable”). Later generations of Jewish readers, however, including those on the Continent, were not put off by such anti-Semitic suggestions in ­Wilde’s work. Yvonne Ivory reports that “at the dawn of the twentieth century, while Oscar Wilde was still something of a pariah in England, he was the subject of an extraordinary renaissance ­ erman-speaking world” (134–5). That popularity was greatly in the G enhanced by the efforts of the Jewish critic and journalist Max (Moses) Meyerfeld, who not only championed, but also translated Wilde’s writings and encouraged their circulation in Germany (Vilain 174). The two most famous screen adaptations of Wilde in the Silent Era— Salomé in 1923 and Lady Windermere’s Fan in 1925—were the work of

270  Margaret D. Stetz Jewish émigrés in Hollywood. Although the director of record was her husband Charles Bryant, the 1923 Salomé was actually the brainchild of Alla Nazimova (born “Mariam Leventon” in Crimea), who starred in it; engaged the woman reputed to be her lover, known as “Natacha Rambova,” to design and write it; and, according to Gavin Lambert, “spent more than $400,000 of her own money” on the making of it, so dedicated was she to this undertaking (261). That Nazimova would have been drawn to this play was hardly surprising. Not only did it contain suggestions of same-sex desire between the men who surround the character of Salomé, which would have appealed to the sexually dissident actress-director, but its protagonist, as Jane Marcus has pointed out in “Salomé: The Jewish Princess Was a New Woman,” was also an icon for empowered women, in her “rage at objectification by … patriarchs,” and for Jewish women in particular (19). According to Petra Dierkes-Thrun, to write the screenplay (under the pseudonym “Peter M. Winters”) and to direct and star in Salomé offered Nazimova a means to get beyond the “vamp roles” in which she had been typecast and to “return to highbrow drama and feminist-inflected roles,” such as the ones that had made her a stage star (137). Ernst Lubitsch was equally attracted to Wilde’s work. After leaving Berlin for Los Angeles in 1922 and signing a contract with the Warner Brothers studio—a contract that Scott Eyman calls “remarkable” for the amount of autonomy and control that it gave to the director (98)—he took advantage of his unusual artistic license to direct a version of Lady Windermere’s Fan that was set in the 1920s and featured glamorous contemporary dress, though it did not use Wilde’s dialogue for the title cards. The presence of Wilde’s name allowed Nazimova to associate her own image with the forbidden and daring, but to do so safely, under the banner of high art, while enabling Lubitsch, the son of a Jewish tailor, to further his reputation for comedies that bespoke aristocratic elegance and sophistication. Wilde let Nazimova undulate; Wilde let Lubitsch sparkle. Paradoxically—and no one appreciated paradoxes more than Wilde—for cinema of the 1920s, Wilde was the sexual dissident and Irish outsider who helped other sorts of outsiders to move further into the cultural mainstream, as they rode his exquisite coattails. There were, nonetheless, no major screen adaptations in English, either in Britain or in Hollywood, of Wilde’s works for the next two decades. Despite being known as a master of dialogue, Wilde was conspicuous by his absence from early talking pictures—a truly inexplicable omission, unless we consider the emergence in 1930 of the Hays Code in Hollywood and the cloud of censorship that spread across the ­Atlantic, affecting filmmakers in London as well and causing studio heads to quake with fear at any suggestion that they condoned immorality. As the Hays Code adopted by the American film industry had mandated, “Sex perversion or any inference to it is forbidden” (Bynum). In 1936, the

The Other Love That Dared Not Speak Its Name  271 brothers Leslie and Sewell Stokes had managed to bring to the London stage (though not to the West End) and then to Broadway in 1938 their play about Oscar Wilde’s 1895 trials and subsequent ruin. Although this drama was a hit in its American production, with Robert Morley playing Wilde, there was no talk whatsoever of any studio considering a filmed version of it. It took a cataclysmic event to break through the caution about trumpeting Wilde’s name onscreen again, but his name reappeared in the credits for three American-made films in quick succession in the midst of World War II. First came a short segment based on “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime,” starring Edward G. Robinson (born “Emanuel Goldenberg” in B ­ ucharest, who initiated his acting career in New York’s Yiddish theater), for the 1943 Universal Pictures compilation, Flesh and Fantasy. This section of the three-part film (along with the other two, which did not use work by Wilde) was directed by Julien Duvivier, who had left France for Hollywood when World War II broke out. Although Duvivier was not Jewish, cinema historians have often remarked on the fact that “many of his films have Jewish themes or topics” (Baer 65). Among his previous successes in French cinema were David Golder (1931), which derived from Irène Nemirovsky’s novel about a Jewish businessman, and Le Golem (1936), a fantasy inspired by the legend of a clay figure that came to life in Prague to aid Czech Jews persecuted by Emperor Rudolph II (1583–1612). ­Elizabeth R. Baer finds in this latter film the signs of conscious political allegory: “Given the years when the film was in production—1935–36— this might be read as code, urging European Jews, about to be enslaved by Hitler, to rise up and resist” (65). Duvivier’s version of “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime” offered no equivalent political intervention—and, in reframing the action in a modern setting, it eliminated the most obvious political elements from Wilde’s original story, such as those involving turn-of-the-century anarchist plots—but it did suggest that a filmmaker sympathetic to one oppressed group might also be interested in assigning a place in mainstream cinema to Oscar Wilde. The next film to be based on Wilde’s works was The Canterville Ghost. Released by MGM in 1944, this adaptation used a present-day setting and substituted for the cultural divide between the English Ghost and the Americans who buy the manor house he inhabits—a divide that serves as the source of much comic business in Wilde’s original—an image instead of unity across difference, as an American soldier billeted on the estate discovers that he is related to the benighted spirit who haunts the property. As played by Charles Laughton in a florid, campy style, the very Wildean figure of the Ghost seems unlikely to be bound by ties of blood to a low-key American military man; yet, the latter has in fact descended from the former, and their fates prove inextricably linked. The Canterville Ghost was directed by Jules Dassin, who was originally Julius Moses Dassin, born in Connecticut to “poor Jewish immigrants,”

272  Margaret D. Stetz with an earlier career as both an actor and director for the “New York Yiddish Proletarian Theatre” company and for productions at “Jewish holiday camps” in New York’s Catskill Mountains (Shelley 5). Of this film, Peter Shelley has asserted that “parallels can… be made between the condemned, haunted and subversive figure of Simon Canterville,” the Ghost of Wilde’s short story (who also happens to be responsible for staging a series of dramatic tableaux, much as a director would be), and Dassin himself, who was later to suffer blacklisting in Hollywood for his leftist politics (79). Indeed, Shelley cites a widely held suspicion that the U.S. House of Representatives’ investigation of Communism in the film industry “had been invited by conservatives of Hollywood, who were fearful of the new wave of filmmakers who emerged in the late 1940s and who were making message pictures like the social drama Gentleman’s Agreement” (12). Elia Kazan’s 1947 Gentleman’s Agreement was, of course, an undisguised protest against American anti-Semitism, as was the novel that inspired it, by Laura Z. Hobson (born Laura Zametkin), who co-wrote the screenplay. Although the presence in Hollywood of social activists who chose not to speak from behind a mask may have helped to generate a political backlash, given how overt these reformers were in their intentions, the films made in the 1940s of Wilde’s writing provoked no such negative response: they flew beneath the radar and kept their function as “message pictures” covert. The most important and prestigious of the three wartime adaptations of Wilde’s work was undoubtedly The Picture of Dorian Gray—which, though released in 1945, had in fact been in development since 1943, as the pet project of its creator, Albert Lewin (Fellerman 6). Of this production, Robert Stilling recently has written, “Read as a document of the final days of World War II, Lewin’s film betrays war-torn Britain’s sense of vulnerability” (312). Stilling is, in fact, incorrect in his assumption about the English origins of what this film reveals. Though its setting was Victorian London, this version of The Picture of Dorian Gray reflected neither British experiences nor attitudes, and it was certainly not a “document” by anyone who had lived in “London after the Blitz” or had felt at firsthand “a desperate urge to find transcendence in the ruin” of British cultural monuments (312). Dorian Gray was a ­Hollywood production from start to finish, directed and written by ­A lbert Lewin, an American born in Brooklyn and raised in Newark, New Jersey. Lewin was politically active in Jewish community affairs, having served as assistant national director of the American Jewish Relief Committee, and having been a drama and film critic for the Jewish Tribune, before beginning his career in cinema during the 1920s and working under ­I rving Thalberg at MGM Studios. What the 1945 Dorian Gray conveyed, I would suggest, was indeed a “sense of vulnerability” of a different sort—one experienced by American Jews in wartime, who dared not speak their own name as Jews. They chose instead to speak the name of

The Other Love That Dared Not Speak Its Name  273 Oscar Wilde, a name so emblematic of a reviled, persecuted, and martyred figure. Jewish filmmakers claimed a kinship with it, as they recuperated and proudly celebrated it. Perhaps the most extraordinary scene in Albert Lewin’s film involved an act of seemingly gratuitous naming—of deliberately and daringly calling attention to Wilde’s presence as author and artist. In a conversation that is Lewin’s own invention, Dorian Gray reads aloud a brief extract from the 1894 poem “The Sphinx” to a young woman named “Gladys,” who is in love with him. “What a strange poem,” she says. “Who wrote it?” He replies, “A brilliant young Irishman out of Oxford. His name is Oscar Wilde.” Lewin’s script takes liberties both with the original text and with time (considering that the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray was published in 1891, three years earlier than the poem “The Sphinx” and many years after Wilde had left Oxford in 1878), so that Wilde enjoys a life that is seemingly independent of his fictional creation and vice versa. More significantly, however, Wilde’s reputation thus exists within the film at a point before the 1895 trials and before his disgrace. Lewin positions Wilde at a moment when he could be admired merely as “brilliant,” while emphasizing his status, moreover, as an ethnic outsider to the world of London Society—as an Irishman who may have been at Oxford, but who, in Victorian racial terms, did not wholly belong to the English milieu he inhabited. Of course, in the context of 1940s film production, bringing up ­Wilde’s alien Irishness was also a political strategy. It never hurt to remind J­ oseph Breen, the Irish American enforcer of the Hays Code who oversaw the morality of Hollywood film (and who was also reputed to be a notorious anti-Semite), that a seemingly suspect figure could be “brilliant” and might just happen to be a distinguished son of Ireland, as well. This diegetic appreciation of Wilde as an Irish poet was a shrewd decision on Lewin’s part, helping to ensure a positive reception for the film—not by suppressing its identification with Wilde, but by rebranding Wilde. In Botticelli in Hollywood, her 1997 study of Albert Lewin’s career, Susan Fellerman reads Dorian Gray as a political work, but assigns a different meaning to its politics. For Fellerman, it is “an allegory” of the destructive effects of Nazi ideology: an exposure of the ills of “a civilization conquered by the thrall of youth, beauty, and a promise of immortality” that shows the true colors of its soul in “the horrible picture” mirroring its “evil” deeds (61). Either way—whether as an indictment of fascism and/or as a rehabilitation of Wilde, to assert the value of those in general who have been shunned—it seems clear that Lewin’s film had little interest in creating what Robert Stilling calls “an idealized image of prewar England” (312) or, if Fellerman is correct, in idealizing Victorian England at all. Lewin’s concern instead was with using Wilde and his work to reflect upon the present day and, I would maintain, in restoring Wilde’s name to the screen in order to advance a more liberal and

274  Margaret D. Stetz tolerant social climate, particularly in the United States—one in which the social alien might be recognized as “brilliant” and perhaps even be acknowledged at last as kin (much as the Canterville Ghost had been in Dassin’s film). In the service of this project, Lewin eliminated from the film such troubling elements as the anti-Semitic portrayal of the East End stage manager from Wilde’s original novel. There were no cinematic versions of Wilde’s writings in Britain during World War II, but as early as 1946, Alexander Korda, head of the British Lion Films distribution company and a prominent director himself, was, according to his biographer Charles Drazin, eager to bring Salomé to the screen (280). Although this plan fell through, Korda succeeded in directing and releasing An Ideal Husband in 1947. From its opening moments, the film was explicit in its aims of forging links across time and, through appeals both to nostalgia and patriotism, to use Wilde in the service of cultural and social unity, inviting outsiders to feel themselves central, rather than marginal, to the nation they inhabited. Korda’s An Ideal Husband begins not with Oscar Wilde’s own dialogue, but with a framing device: with the speech of an unnamed narrator who, in a voiceover, reads a series of witty rhyming couplets about the geographical setting that the audience sees before it. He starts with these words: “Here’s Hyde Park Corner, 1895/ When Grandmamma and leisure were alive, / When Britain ruled the waves and held the purse./ Here was the center of the universe.” This verse acknowledges the location of the cinemagoer in the present, yet simultaneously bridges the distance of half a century between contemporary London and Wilde’s play by declaring that personal—indeed, familial—connections join them. At the same time, it rehabilitates 1895 purely as a year of triumph, whether for Britain or for fans of Wilde’s theatrical world (conveniently erasing the fact that 1895 was, of course, also the year of Wilde’s prosecution and social downfall). But whose “Grandmamma” is it that supposedly inhabited the period of the Nineties and can be linked both to this glorious British past and to Wilde’s comedy? Presumably, only the native-born English film-viewer of the late 1940s, with roots extending back several generations, would have had such family ties; yet here, every spectator is being invited to identify proudly with a collective past and to feel happily bound together. Certainly, this communal “British” memory would not actually have been shared either by the author of these couplets, the screenwriter ­Lajos Biró, or by the film’s producer and director, Alexander Korda. Both men had been born in Hungary, rather than in England; both, moreover, had changed their names: Lajos Biró began life as Lajos Blau (Patai 34), and Alexander Korda, as Sándor László Kellner (Drazin 4); both were Jews. It was Korda who initiated this project of filming Wilde’s play, and while it might be tempting to see his work merely in terms of a broader postwar heritage-recovery project, focused on bringing “classic” English

The Other Love That Dared Not Speak Its Name  275 literature of all types and periods to other media, Korda was specifically drawn to and interested in adapting Wilde (as his earlier plans for ­Salomé indicate). In the first scenes of Korda’s An Ideal Husband, which were shot outdoors on location at Hyde Park Corner, the introduction of the actors playing Wilde’s characters in 1895 gives way quickly to a time-bending spectacle that collapses the distinctions between past and present, between the cinematic genres of the theatrical adaptation and the documentary, and between the experience of watching something that is supposed to be comic and dealing with sober and sobering realities. ­Suddenly, the real-life members of the Household Cavalry, all veterans of the recently ended war, ride past the camera on horseback, with these modern-day troops splendidly turned out in their traditional scarlet uniforms. As they appear on screen, the actors in 1890s costumes whom they pass remove their top hats and bow in tribute. The result is an image meant to resonate with the postwar audience and to bring it together in fellow feeling across time with Wilde’s characters, in honoring military heroism and wartime sacrifice (Stetz 158). At this early moment in the film, therefore, even before the action of Wilde’s play has begun, the world associated with it has not only been rendered familiar, but also been imbued with patriotic emotion and communal feeling on both a diegetic and an extra-diegetic level. Charles Drazin has speculated that Korda was attracted to An Ideal Husband through his identification with Wilde’s offstage manipulator of the action, Baron Arnheim, the alien who infiltrates English politics from abroad: “Baron Arnheim lived in Park Lane just a short walk from where Alex [Korda] had his penthouse in Claridge’s, and they were near neighbors as much in their lifestyles as their addresses” (282–3). Wilde scholars such as Russell Jackson have suggested, moreover, that Wilde based his fictional character on the real-life Baron Jacques Reinach, a “German Jewish banker” (Jackson 145), which perhaps would have given Korda, as a European Jew himself, another reason to feel drawn to Wilde’s play. But as Nathan Abrams notes in “Hidden: Jewish Film in the United Kingdom, Past and Present,” Korda did everything he could, throughout his career, “to downplay, even conceal, his Jewishness,” including renaming himself (58). What Korda’s postwar film emphasizes is the unimportance of differing origins and the importance instead of acknowledging everyone’s participation in a network of relationships centered on England. An Ideal Husband proves the perfect vehicle, as it is both the most local and the most global of Wilde’s plays. It focuses specifically on London, and it demonstrates the immediate effects on Parliament of what occurs in a Grosvenor Square drawing room (and vice versa); yet it also includes the most international and globe-trotting set of characters to be found in any work by Wilde, with a central figure who is Undersecretary for Foreign

276  Margaret D. Stetz Affairs and a conflict shaped by both personal and political interests in Vienna, Argentina, and Suez. Korda’s film underlines the international flavor of the play with a Mrs. Chevely who is flagrantly American—the actress Paulette Goddard. At the same time, it recasts Wilde’s work as a narrative about Britain as a land of resilient survivors, whose urbanity or seeming triviality belies their admirable toughness. For this purpose, Wilde’s Lord Goring is the “Ideal” figure: a sophisticated and unlikely hero, who seems a more credible object for Alexander Korda’s self-identification than does Baron Arnheim. Lord Goring, the dandy who makes his mark by stage-managing events behind the scenes, through his rescue of the politician Sir Robert Chiltern, is also (like Korda himself), a cosmopolitan—a “category,” as Sarah Gracombe reminds us, “often associated with Jews” (79). By temperament an aesthete and appreciator of beauty who, even in his penniless youth, was known for “his expensive life-style”—on one occasion “checking into Vienna’s Grand Hotel and living there for two weeks in ostentatious luxury while the unpaid bills mounted up” (Drazin 41–42)—Korda understood well the pose of worldliness and unconcern for practicalities that Wilde’s protagonist adopts. He also would have valued how Wilde overturns the audience’s expectations, as Lord Goring, whose seriousness of purpose everyone doubts (and which Lord Goring himself denies), proves the savior not only of his friend’s marriage and political reputation, but in effect of the nation, which will benefit greatly from having Sir Robert’s career advance, rather than go down in flames. At a time, as Nathan Abrams points out, “after the Second World War, which did much to discredit anti-Semitism and racial prejudice” in theory, but when, nevertheless, “discrimination did not decrease” in practice, Korda’s An Ideal Husband asked cinemagoers to embrace a figure who stood apart from the social order and to celebrate his selfless dedication to repairing the torn social fabric (61). For Bryan Cheyette, the “cosmopolitan” was so identified, both in British and European thought, with the Jew, that “the cultural and literary history of cosmopolitanism” was effectively brought “to an end after the murder of the vast majority of Diaspora Jews” (41); thus, with the extinction of the world of European Jewry came the extinction of cosmopolitanism itself. Yet, Korda’s film made a brave attempt to breathe new life into this category by returning to the past and by revivifying both a play that had celebrated the cosmopolitan “ideal” and a playwright who, though not a Jew himself, had to some degree embodied it. As Margaret S. Kennedy asserts in “Wilde’s Cosmopolitanism: The Importance of Being Worldly,” Wilde “was the quintessential cosmopolitan… committed to encouraging an international community” (90). As a homosexual, moreover, Wilde was also cosmopolitan in the sense that Cheyette uses the term, when applying it to Jews in Britain: someone who experienced “a sense of marginality and in-betweenness” by virtue of his identity

The Other Love That Dared Not Speak Its Name  277 (47). In his adaptation of Wilde’ play, nonetheless, it was Korda’s special mission to take the category of cosmopolitanism and to demonstrate its compatibility both with Victorian and with postwar English patriotism, denying that there was any cause for suspicion or exclusion of those who wore both their worldliness and their Otherness on the sleeves of their dandified coats. Soon afterward, in Hollywood, Otto Preminger initiated his own project to adapt another Wilde play, Lady Windermere’s Fan. If Korda chose not to be known in Britain as Jewish, Preminger’s identity as a Jewish émigré from Vienna, where he was often the victim of anti-­Semitism, was obscured by his secondary career as an actor who specialized in playing onscreen Nazis (Fujiwara 4). By the time The Fan was released in 1949, he had taken on at least three such roles and would continue to portray German officers, but never Jews. He was either a German official or a Nazi soldier in The Pied Piper (1942), Margin for Error (1943), and They Got Me Covered (1943), and later, most famously, in Stalag 17 (1953), which meant that the public came to associate him with oppressors, rather than with an oppressed group. As a director, Preminger worked for Darryl F. Zanuck, a Nebraskan who, as head of Twentieth-Century Fox, was among a small number of Protestant studio executives. Nevertheless, in the years immediately following World War II, one of Zanuck’s biggest critical and commercial triumphs was the 1947 film Gentleman’s Agreement, which was unique in addressing the subject of American anti-Semitism directly. That film would prove important for The Fan, for which Preminger had engaged three screenwriters: Dorothy Parker, Ross Evans, and Walter Reisch— the last of these, like Preminger himself, originally a Jew from Vienna (Prawer 174). Preminger’s version of Lady Windermere’s Fan begins with a framing narrative set in present-day London, involving the reunion of Wilde’s Lord Darlington and Mrs. Erlynne, now aged survivors of the recently ended war, which claimed the lives of both Lord and Lady Windermere in a bombing of their house by German aircraft. The film’s opening shot is of St. Paul’s Cathedral—iconic for having withstood firebombing during the Blitz—followed immediately by an image of modernity: a pan to a street scene featuring the progress of a 1940s-era London bus across the road. Visible on the side of the bus is a large advertising placard that reads, “The Academy Award Picture. Gentleman’s Agreement.” Clearly, this shot would have met with the studio’s approval, given its service as subliminal advertising. Its other function, however, was to lend from the start a political note to Preminger’s film, by placing The Fan in conjunction with the title of a so-called “problem picture” about the need to confront prejudice, especially anti-Semitism. Preminger had, in fact, attempted several years earlier to make a “problem picture” of his own, while the war was still raging, but had

278  Margaret D. Stetz been stymied in the process by Hollywood’s resistance to explicit representations of Jewish victimization by the Nazis. As Foster Hirsch reports in Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would Be King, For the Jewish moguls who ran the film industry, references to the Holocaust, like most issues of Jewish concern and self-identity, were off-limits. Otto Preminger, however, a Jew from a country overtaken by Hitler and a man with a strong social conscience, felt some responsibility to address the subject, and in the summer of 1943 he began to prepare a script that he hoped would refute the industry’s silence. (93) Preminger’s plans were frustrated, though, when he could get no one at Twentieth-Century Fox “to finance the film” in question (94). This experience taught the director a great deal about the necessity of operating by oblique or covert means and of employing a seemingly neutral genre, such as an adaptation of a Victorian stage play, as his vehicle for political activism. According to Chris Fujiwara, it was wholly Preminger’s idea, and not Zanuck’s, to create a version of Lady Windermere’s Fan, “because of the vogue Wilde’s plays … [had] attained in postwar years” (105). To do so, though, risked emphasizing an ongoing linkage between Preminger and Lubitsch that the former both welcomed and chafed under. Preminger was an admirer of the older director, as well as a friendly acquaintance; in Hollywood during the early 1940s, “both were regulars at the ­Sunday afternoon kaffeeklatsches … of Walter Reisch” (55). During and after the war, Twentieth-Century Fox sometimes treated the Austrian Preminger as a mere clone of the German-born Lubitsch. The Fox ­Studio heads pressured Preminger to assume responsibility for one of Lubitsch’s planned projects, A Royal Scandal, in 1944, when ill health stood in the way of his directing it himself. After Lubitsch died in 1947, they again turned to Preminger to complete Lubitsch’s final film, That Lady in Ermine, and in neither case did these elegant period comedies serve to enhance Preminger’s own reputation (55). For Preminger, therefore, to initiate an undertaking that would no doubt remind audiences of ­Lubitsch’s successful 1925 silent adaptation of Lady Windermere’s Fan—and that would, once again, put him in the difficult position of filming in a comic genre that had already proven uncongenial to his talents—suggests how great his desire was to work with Wilde’s text. Working with the text did not mean, of course, feeling in any way bound by it. As Thomas Leitch has explained, the “intimacy between a given adaptation and its source… is in important ways beside the point” (114). Preminger’s filmed version of Wilde’s play was closer to what the adaptation studies scholar Shelley Cobb has described as a “conversation”

The Other Love That Dared Not Speak Its Name  279 with the original and thus an act of “dialogism” (35), rather than of mere reverence, even though the presence in the advertising poster for The Fan of the image of a book cover bearing the words Lady Windermere’s Fan and the name of “Oscar Wilde” might have suggested something resembling a homage. The Fan illustrated well Julie Sanders’s observation that adaptation is a form of “re-visionary” creation, and that “there is frequently heartfelt political commitment standing behind acts of… ‘revision’” (Sanders 7). The result was an adaptation that downplayed Wilde’s comic elements, while emphasizing serious matters of survival through and after war—whether the endurance of metropolitan life and locations, the endurance of Londoners themselves, or the endurance of Oscar Wilde’s characters as figures still relevant to modern life. Preminger’s film placed, moreover, ethical questions front and center, by focusing its attention on the healing of social divisions, on the necessity for empathy and tolerance, and on the importance of welcoming back to the social fold those who have been forced to leave it. The Fan handled the last of these issues in a particularly interesting way, by bringing back to London characters whom Oscar Wilde had sent far away from it. In Act II of Wilde’s 1892 play Lady Windermere’s Fan, Lord Darlington, the would-be lover of Lady Windermere, tells her, “Tomorrow I leave England. This is the last time I shall ever look on you. You will never see me again”—a declaration that makes his self-exile clear and suggests it will be permanent (CCW 440). Similarly, in the final moments of Act IV, Mrs. Erlynne—the woman with a past who has protected the reputation of Lady Windermere, her daughter, by letting everyone assume that she is the one who has gone to Lord Darlington’s rooms for an assignation—persuades Lord Augustus that she is innocent. As Lord Augustus announces that he has asked her to marry him, he also reveals that they will be going abroad forever: “All the conditions she makes are that we live entirely out of England. A very good thing, too” (CCW 464). The ending is a comic one, with Mrs. Erlynne having triumphed, yet also bittersweet; there is no place for her anymore in English Society, which will never let her status as a so-called fallen woman be forgotten or forgiven. There is no indication in The Fan, on the contrary, that those who ­ arlington leave England either should not or cannot return. When Lord D speaks of traveling, his words suggest merely that he plans to take a long holiday abroad. Preminger denies Mrs. Erlynne her comic victory: in this version, she does not get to marry Lord Augustus; neither does she speak, however, of being driven away eternally from the land of her birth. In the frame narrative of The Fan, both Mrs. Erlynne and Lord Darlington, now quite elderly, meet again in postwar London, the city in which the latter appears to have resided all along. Mrs. Erlynne has at last come home; “I’ve been away for so long,” she says, a wanderer who has made her way back. As the film concludes, she takes the arm of Lord

280  Margaret D. Stetz Darlington, whom she had described earlier as “A very dear old enemy,” and the two figures walk off together, reconciled, and once more part of the London landscape—a visual image of social harmony. This emphasis on harmony and inclusion also pervades the dialogue that ends the “Victorian” portion of the film. At the end of Wilde’s play, Lord and Lady Windermere articulate their differing views of Mrs. Erlynne. Their discussion turns specifically on the issue of sexual morality and on the code that applies to women in particular: LORD WINDERMERE. [Gravely.] She is better than one thought her. LADY WINDERMERE. She is better than I am. LORD WINDERMERE. [Smiling as he strokes her hair.] Child, you and she belong to different worlds. Into your world evil has never entered. LADY WINDERMERE. Don’t say that, Arthur. There is the same world for all of us, and good and evil, sin and innocence, go through it hand in hand. To shut one’s eyes to half of life that one may live securely is as though one blinded oneself that one might walk with more safety in a land of pit and precipice. (CCW 463) Preminger and his three screenwriters erase Lord Windermere entirely from this scene. The climactic conversation of the film occurs instead between Mrs. Erlynne and Lady Windermere (who does not know that she is speaking to her own mother). Their dialogue turns not on questions of sexual conduct (or even on the gendered issues raised by Wilde’s play, which center on what it means in larger terms to be a “good woman”), but on the broader matter of needing to recognize the commonality among all people. When Mrs. Erlynne says, “We belong to different worlds, you know,” Lady Windermere replies, simply and powerfully, “I used to think that. Now I know better. There’s the same world for all of us” (The Fan). Plainly, this was a statement meant to resonate beyond any comedy of manners of the 1890s, aimed directly at postwar audiences and their own understanding of their “world.” It was also a message that had special significance for filmmakers like Otto Preminger, who were determined to counter the prevailing “inability to conceive Jews as being an integral part of the local world” (Kushner 261). If Oscar Wilde—who, thanks to his criminal conviction in 1895 for gross indecency, lived on in the public imagination as the very embodiment of unspeakable degeneracy—could be made welcome in mid-­ twentieth-century transatlantic popular culture, then, it seemed, anything might be possible, especially in terms of the social acceptance of other so-called undesirable minorities. At the end of the 1940s, in the wake of both Nazi genocide and continuing anti-Semitism, this project

The Other Love That Dared Not Speak Its Name  281 assumed great urgency. Thus, in London and Hollywood alike, Jewish filmmakers and those sympathetic to their aims turned to Wilde, whose name was shorthand for persecution and exile, and enlisted his works to make a social argument. Through their screen adaptations, they not only dared to speak his name with reverence and with love, but to use it to advance the spread of love in other directions—to employ the world of cinema as a means to reshape the social world. And, to paraphrase Wilde, who can blame them for not resisting that temptation?

Works Cited Abrams, Nathan. “Hidden: Jewish Film in the United Kingdom, Past and Present.” Journal of European Popular Culture, vol. 1, no. 2, 2010, pp. 53–68. Anolik, Ruth B. “The Scandal of the Jew: Reflexive Transgressiveness in Du Maurier’s Trilby.” Partial Answers: Journal of Literature and the History of Ideas, vol. 3, no. 2, 2005, pp. 99–127. Baer, Elizabeth R. The Golem Redux: From Prague to Post-Holocaust Fiction. Wayne State UP, 2012. Bryant, Charles and [Alla Nazimova], dir. Salome. Allied Producers, 1923. Bynum, Matt. “The Motion Picture Production Production Code of 1930 (Hays Code).” www.artsreformation.com/a001/hays-code.html. Accessed 19 Nov. 2017. Cheyette, Brian. “On Being a Jewish Critic.” Anglophone Jewish Literature, edited by Axel Stähler, Routledge, 2007, pp. 33–48. Cobb, Shelley. “Adaptation, Fidelity, and Gendered Discourses.” Adaptation, vol. 4, no. 1, 2010, pp. 28–37. Dassin, Jules, dir. The Canterville Ghost. MGM, 1944. Dierkes-Thrun, Petra. Salome’s Modernity: Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetics of Transgression. U of Michigan P, 2011. Drazin, Charles. Korda: Britain’s Movie Mogul. 2002. I. B. Tauris, 2011. Duvivier, Julien, dir. Flesh and Fantasy. Universal Pictures, 1943. Eyman, Scott. Ernst Lubitsch: Laughter in Paradise. 1993. Johns Hopkins UP, 2000. Fellerman, Susan. Botticelli in Hollywood: The Films of Albert Lewin. Twayne/ Prentice Hall, 1997. Fujiwara, Chris. The World and Its Double: The Life and Work of Otto Preminger. Faber and Faber, 2008. Gracombe, Sarah. “Converting Trilby: Du Maurier on Englishness, Jewishness, and Culture.” Nineteenth-Century Literature, vol. 58, no. 1, 2003, pp. 75–108. Hirsch, Foster. Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would Be King. Alfred A. Knopf, 2007. Ivory, Yvonne. “The Trouble with Oskar: Wilde’s Legacy for the Early Homosexual Rights Movement in Germany.” Oscar Wilde and Modern Culture, edited by Joseph Bristow, Ohio UP, 2008, pp. 133–53. Jackson, Russell. “An Ideal Husband. Oscar Wilde, Two Society Comedies: A Woman of No Importance.” Ed. Ian Small; An Ideal Husband, edited by Russell Jackson, Ernest Benn, 1983, pp. 121–294. Kennedy, Margaret S. “Wilde’s Cosmopolitanism: The Importance of Being Worldly.” Wilde’s Wiles: Studies of the Influences on Oscar Wilde and His

282  Margaret D. Stetz Enduring Influences in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Annette M. Magid, Cambridge Scholars, 2013, pp. 90–113. Korda, Alexander, dir. An Ideal Husband. London Film/British Lion Film, 1947. Kushner, Tony. Anglo-Jewry Since 1066: Place, Locality and Memory. ­Manchester UP, 2009. Lambert, Gavin. Nazimova: A Biography. Alfred A. Knopf, 1997. Leitch, Thomas. “Adaptation, the Genre.” Adaptation, vol. 1, no. 2, 2008, pp. 106–20. Lewin, Albert, dir. The Picture of Dorian Gray. MGM, 1945. Lubitsch, Ernst. Lady Windermere’s Fan. Warner Brothers, 1925. Marcus, Jane. “Salomé: The Jewish Princess Was a New Woman.” Art and Anger: Reading Like a Woman, Ohio State UP, 1988, pp. 3–19. Patai, Raphael. The Jews of Hungary: History, Culture, Psychology. Wayne State UP, 1996. Prawer, Siegbert S. Between Two Worlds: The Jewish Presence in German and Austrian Film, 1910–1933. Berghahn, 2005. Preminger, Otto, dir. The Fan. Twentieth-Century Fox, 1949. Sanders, Julie. Adaptation and Appropriation. 2006. Routledge, 2008. Shelley, Peter. Jules Dassin: The Life and Films. McFarland, 2011. Stetz, Margaret D. “To defend the Undefendable: Oscar Wilde and the Davis Family.” Oscholars Special Issue: Oscar Wilde, Jews, and the Fin-de-Siècle, 2010, www.oscholars.com/TO/Specials/Wilde/Stetz.htm. ———. “The Hate That Dared Not Speak Its Name: Svengali, Anti-Semitism and Post-War British Heritage Cinema.” Journal of European Popular Culture, vol. 3, no. 2, 2012, pp. 155–67. Stilling, Robert. “An Image of Europe: Yinka Shonibare’s Postcolonial Decadence.” PMLA, vol. 128, no. 1, 2013, pp. 299–321. Vilain, Robert. “Tragedy and the Apostle of Beauty: The Early Literary Reception of Oscar Wilde in Germany and Austria.” The Reception of Oscar Wilde in Europe, edited by Stefano Evangelista, Continuum, 2010, pp. 173–88. Wilde, Oscar. The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. 5th ed., introduced by Merlin Holland, Collins, 2003, pp. 420–61. ———. The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Edited by Ian Small et al., vol. 4, Oxford UP, 2000–, 7 vols.

14 Hospitality Divorced from the Home The Cosmopolitan Idea(l) from Oscar Wilde to Satyajit Ray Julia Prewitt Brown Hospitality is culture itself and not simply one ethic amongst others. —Jacques Derrida, “On Cosmopolitanism” And therefore as a stranger give it welcome. —Shakespeare, Hamlet

Oscar Wilde’s personality, as reflected in the story of his life and record of his wit, is so bewitching that it tends to overshadow the cultural importance of his cosmopolitanism. This is a paradox, given that Wilde’s personality was itself cosmopolitan. The famous tour of America was only the beginning of Wilde’s cosmopolitan way of life. He was so at home in France and in the French language, according to André Gide, that he would occasionally pretend to hesitate for a word on which he wanted to call his listeners’ attention. Well-traveled on the continent and thoroughly acquainted with classical literature from his youth, he developed a theory of cosmopolitanism, rooted in the Cynics and Stoics and in early Christianity that is scattered throughout his prose from The ­Oxford Notebooks to De Profundis. Some years ago I attempted to describe Wilde’s concept of cosmopolitanism in Cosmopolitan Criticism: Oscar Wilde’s Philosophy of Art (1997), especially as it related to his belief in the centrality of art. To Wilde, citizenship of the world was contingent on knowledge of the art of nations, not one’s own. In these pages, I hope to develop a different emphasis by bringing Wilde’s personality and thought into closer relation. At the conclusion of the chapter, I will consider the third corner of the triangle, place, since at the end of his life Wilde took refuge in Paris, the most cosmopolitan city in Europe. I will begin by attempting to define the word cosmopolitan because its use today seems to have become even more uncertain than when I researched the subject in the late 1990s. The current confusion is not surprising, given that cosmopolitanism, however we define it, is predicated on some notion of what the relations among nations and territories and the individuals who inhabit them are or might become, and at our moment in history, these relations are constantly being debated. Yet, if

284  Julia Prewitt Brown properly understood, the historic concept of cosmopolitanism allows us to conceive of the global situation, and the place of writers, intellectuals, or artists within it, in a fresh way. As Jacques Derrida made clear in an address on cosmopolitanism given in 2001 that I will discuss at the end of the chapter, the increasing number of artists, scholars, journalists, and writers who find themselves under threat of censorship and repression is closely related to changing laws of hospitality within sovereign states. In so far as international law operates in terms of agreements and treaties between sovereign states and neglects to advance a charter of human rights above the sphere of the nation, on what might be called a “cosmopolitical” level, the life of the mind or culture itself is far from secure. As an idea and an ideal, then, cosmopolitanism may matter to us today even more than it did to those of Wilde’s generation. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Rabindranath Tagore, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Henry James, Satyajit Ray, Gore Vidal, and many other artists figure importantly in the history of cosmopolitanism, a fact that has been overlooked—one may say, scandalously overlooked—when one considers the explosion of writing on cosmopolitanism in the last two decades. One of the aims of this chapter is to make clear how much can be gained in our understanding of cosmopolitanism if we reconsider this limitation.

Defining Cosmopolitanism In the early nineties while researching the aforementioned book, I found that the word cosmopolitanism was often used rather loosely, as if it were easily synonymous with, say, the nomadism of Nietzsche, as Giles Deleuze described it in his well-known essay “Nomad Thought,” or the internationalism of Marx and Trotsky, or the multiculturalism of liberal social thought, or the bohemianism that persists in pockets of cities throughout the world, or even the apolitical individualism of many academics. In recent years, these confusions have faded in the face of an urgent inquiry into cosmopolitanism’s specific relations to what is called global society. But this inquiry, which is being carried on largely among historians, sociologists, and philosophers, and to a lesser extent among literary critics, has often led to another confusion: the confounding of cosmopolitanism with globalization. A typical example may be found in a recent issue of the Stanford-based journal Telos in which Jörg Friedrichs characterizes “cosmopolitan world society” as a “widely shared political project” (7) promoted by the social thinkers of global capitalism dating back to the nineteenth century, a “regulative ideal under which late-modern global capitalist society operates” (11). I suggest that the best word for this drive to organize and regulate human relations across the globe according to a set of political and economic principles is not cosmopolitanism. It is globalization, our

Hospitality Divorced from the Home  285 current term for the idealization of Western power. We need to save the word and concept of cosmopolitanism for other phenomena. The phenomenon of Oscar Wilde, for example. When one considers the unregulatable creative force of Wilde’s personality, his argument in favor of a world-changing, peace-promoting “cosmopolitan criticism,” and the radical political originality of “The Soul of Man Under Socialism,” an essay that may only just now be entering the period of its widest influence if we are to judge from the work of Slavoj Zizek, it would be difficult to find a concept less suited to Wilde’s personality and thought than this “regulative ideal” under which global capitalism aims to operate. There are at least two reasons for the confusing multiple uses of the word cosmopolitanism. The first arises from the relative lack of dialogue between the humanities and social sciences, the two branches of university research most likely to concern themselves with cosmopolitanism. In the recent rise of interest in cosmopolitanism, several anthologies have appeared; I shall focus here on two very impressive ones. The first is edited by transnational anthropologist Steven Vertovec and sociologist Robin Cohen; entitled Conceiving Cosmopolitanism: Theory Context and Practice, it was published by Oxford University Press in 2002 and reprinted in 2008. The second is edited by political scientists Garrett ­Wallace Brown and David Held; entitled The Cosmopolitan Reader, it was published by Polity Press in 2010 and reprinted in 2013. Both of these excellent collections draw on the writings of a wide range of eminent social scientists. They might be compared to literary critic Bruce Robbins’s Perpetual War: Cosmopolitanism from the Viewpoint of Violence, published in 2012.1 The subjects of Robbins’s opening ­chapters—Chapter 1 focuses on the work of Anthony Appiah, Chapter 2 on Edward Said, and Chapter 3 on Noam Chomsky—suggest that the book is as much about individual political differences in the humanities as it is about cosmopolitanism. No essays by Robbins, Appiah, Said, or Chomsky—all highly influential thinkers in the humanities— are included in the anthologies referred to earlier, and only Appiah’s name appears in the index of ­Vertovec and Cohen. Although references to a few well-known philosophers (Immanuel Kant, Hannah Arendt, and ­Martha Nussbaum) appear in all three of these works, considered together, these volumes suggest that humanistic and social scientific perspectives on cosmopolitanism overlap very little. The second reason for the confusion surrounding the word cosmopolitanism arises from the fact that the concept itself has an equivocal history. It would be impossible to fully unfold so complex a history in a single essay, but a few points about it can be made. As Wilde well knew, the concept originated in ancient Greece in the writings of the cynics and the stoics. 2 The stoic Zeno argued that all people are capable of divine reason; the cynic Diogenes “suggested that ‘all wise men’ constituted a

286  Julia Prewitt Brown single moral community” (Fine and Cohen 138). In an illuminating essay by Robin Cohen and the transnational anthropologist Robert Fine, the authors suggest that in Diogenes and Zeno “we have the first intimations of a universal humanism, a notion of trans-state community” together with “ideas of equal citizenship for women” (138–9). Although these ideas radically challenged the conventional idea that Greeks were different from and superior to all barbarians, they did not significantly change social practice. According to Fine and Cohen, however, the influence of their thinking on Roman jurisprudence was decisive because, using Zeno’s principles, Cicero insisted that all men (that is to say, male citizens) were equal, not in respect of their property or education but in terms of their possession of reason (139). The Roman idea of equality under the law, then, served to establish an essential ingredient of any historically informed definition of cosmopolitanism: the rejection of property as a qualifier of citizenship. Centuries later Wilde would write that by “insisting on the unity of the human mind in the variety of its forms” cosmopolitanism had the potential to eradicate race prejudice, which, as we know, was closely allied to identifications with property in the late nineteenth century in that prejudice was perpetrated by means of territorial aggression (CW, vol. 6, 202–3). The odd thing is that this territorial aggression, part of the imperialist projects of European countries, is also ideologically rooted in an idea of cosmopolitanism. I refer now to the other use of the word cosmopolitan in history. Alexander the Great famously made use of the cosmopolitan idea of a world polis to build an empire, uniting the Persian and Macedonian people through force. The “pan” movements and imperial projects of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the globalization movement today, then, are linked to the cosmopolitan idea, however distant these movements were or may seem to be from ideas of equality. Today, debates continue apace as to whether or not cosmopolitanism is a new form of colonization, in which Western cultural norms rooted in capitalism and Christianity are being imposed on non-Western societies. 3 The discussion of cosmopolitanism as a universalist humanist ideal, however, continued to receive the attention of a range of Western philosophers, from Kant, writing against the evils of war in the eighteenth century and in favor of the “perpetual peace” made possible by the cosmopolitan ideal, to the work of Hannah Arendt and Karl Jaspers on the Nuremberg Charter after the Holocaust with its insistence on the existence of a universal “humanity” against which crimes could be committed and for which the perpetrators should be held accountable, to, more recently, Martha Nussbaum’s essay “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism,” originally published in 1994, in which she sets world citizenship significantly above national citizenship, an essay that ignited a controversy that may have led her to shift her position later, in favor of what she called a “globally sensitive patriotism” (78).4 In considering

Hospitality Divorced from the Home  287 this selective philosophical history, as it is outlined in Fine and Cohen (137–64), I have found almost no references to works of art that relate to cosmopolitanism or to the lives of the many artists who may be said to have led cosmopolitan lives. 5 In elaborating comprehensive doctrines that neglect what literature and the lives of artists can teach us about life in society, these philosophers lose the opportunity both to exemplify and refine their arguments. One such lost opportunity may be found in Nussbaum’s “Toward a Globally Sensitive Patriotism,” published in 2008 and, as I have said, written to revise an earlier statement that placed cosmopolitanism above patriotism as an ideal. Here she criticizes cosmopolitanism as a comprehensive doctrine for its “denial of particular attachments.” Such denial “leaves life empty of meaning for most of us, with the human psychology and the developmental history we have.” Instead, ethical life should be an “oscillation within ourselves, as we accept the constraints of some strong duties to humanity, and then ask ourselves how far we are entitled to devote ourselves to the particular people and places whom we love” (Nussbaum, “Toward” 78–93). When we consider the lives of the great cosmopolitan artists, however, we see neither a “denial of particular attachments” nor an “oscillation” between immediate ties and larger obligations. Instead, we see paradox, a dialectical embrace of both one’s roots and one’s sense of the world. Take the example of James Joyce. Joyce went into self-imposed exile from his native country in 1904, at the age 22, taking up residence in a variety of cities—Zurich, Trieste, Rome, and Paris—until his death in 1941. Although he never visited Ireland after 1912, he became the greatest imaginative historian of his country, one who, like Stephen Dedalus, may be said to have “forge[d] in the smithy of [his] soul the uncreated conscience of [his] race” (Joyce 253). It wasn’t cosmopolitan Joyce who rejected Ireland; it was Ireland that rejected Joyce. After his burial in Zurich, the Irish government declined his wife Nora’s offer to permit the repatriation of his remains. It is part of the paradoxical existential condition of the cosmopolitan artist, then, that he has roots but chooses to exile himself from them in order to grasp them on another level. Only by distancing himself from Ireland could Joyce come near to it. In contrast to the self-exile of the cosmopolitan, the nomad cannot be “exiled” since he has no roots; his wandering is a condition of his being rather than something he has willed or chosen. The ethnic element is essential to any authentic cosmopolitanism. Like that of Joyce, Wilde’s cosmopolitanism is dialectical in nature, in a sense in which Wilde, as a reader of Hegel, would most likely appreciate, even though he himself did not take up that term (Brown xiv). In an early review on the revival of a native Irish school of architecture, Wilde cautions that while Irish artistic genius is not likely to find its greatest expression in these imitations, “the modern artist would do

288  Julia Prewitt Brown well to study [them]” (CW, vol. 7, 39). Like his contemporary Nietzsche, Wilde realized in his aphorisms the tension of opposites, flaunting paradox in a calculated refusal to solve contradictions by traditional means. Cosmopolitanism, as Wilde understood it, offered a far more effective obstacle to war and imperialism than vague systems of ethics or theories of the “brotherhood of man” inspired by the so-called economic advantages of peace, which were as popular in his day as they are in ours. “The Manchester School tried to make men realize the brotherhood of humanity, by pointing out the commercial advantages of peace,” wrote Wilde in “The Critic as Artist.” “War followed upon war, and the tradesman’s creed did not prevent France and Germany from clashing in blood-stained battle” (CW, vol. 6, 202). Wilde insisted that if “we are tempted to make war upon another nation,” we might control our aggression if we “remember that we are seeking to destroy an element of our own culture.” He gives the example of Goethe, who could not bring himself to hate France even when Napoleon invaded his homeland, because he said he owed too great a part of his own cultivation to French culture (CW, vol. 6, 203). The examples of Goethe, Wilde, and Joyce show how the artistic genius of a country is a function of both rootedness and uprootedness; its flowering, the emergence of national character in general, depends on extraction, in both senses of the term. In “The Critic as Artist,” Wilde writes that “it is only by contact with the art of foreign nations that the art of a country gains that individual and separate life that we call nationality” (CW, vol. 6, 164). Like Gore Vidal, the cosmopolitan can be a patriot in exile who embraces other cultures while refining his own. This is the situation of the cosmopolitan in Western-educated Satyajit Ray’s last film, “The Stranger,” which appeared in 1992. The literary genealogy connecting Ray and Wilde is not as unlikely as it may first appear. Ray’s great friend and teacher, Rabindranath Tagore, lived during Wilde’s epoch and shared his preference and that of other writers—E.M. Forster comes to mind—for a humane cosmopolitanism as opposed to ethnocentrism and nationalism. Ray is the grandchild of the idealistic cosmopolitanism of Wilde’s generation.

The Cosmopolitan Idea(l) in Ray’s “The Stranger” and Wilde’s “The Canterville Ghost” Set in the modern-day Calcutta of the early nineties, “The Stranger” opens with a scene in which a well-to-do couple, members of the bhadralok “center” or Bengali middle-class, receive a letter from a man claiming to be Manomohan Mitra, the wife’s long-lost uncle, sending word that he will be coming to stay with them after years of travel abroad. It is clear that Manomohan feels he has a right to visit, an idea I shall return to later. Although the wife Anila is slightly more open to the letter than her

Hospitality Divorced from the Home  289 husband Sudhendu, both are skeptical and fear he may be an imposter, seeking to lay claim to an inheritance not his own. Reluctantly obeying the traditions of hospitality, however, they receive him.6 In preparation, they lock away precious antique figures, objects that are, to them, not artifacts of their culture, but commodities that might be stolen. In this and in many other details, we see that the Anglicized bourgeois couple has a much shallower sense of their native culture than the cosmopolitan who has been away from home for thirty-five years. Noting that “his Bengali is better than our own,” as the wife observes, they ask the uncle how he has managed to retain his native language. He replies, “Unless you wish to forget your mother tongue you don’t forget it.” Manomohan is an anthropologist and his cosmopolitan way of life has served both to free him from colonial ideologies and to strengthen his sense of his country’s origins. He tells the couple’s son Satyaki he will teach him “all the one hundred and eight names of Krishna” and is delighted when the boy proves to be a quick study of symbols. Moreover, as he, the “stranger,” becomes familiar, the parents too become aware of the true symbolic meaning of the customs they perform out of habit rather than feeling. The first time he meets Sudhendu, Manomohan urges the husband not to perform the traditional practice of touching a familial elder’s feet: “Don’t touch my feet until you are free of doubt,” he says (Cooper 223). The couple’s suspicion, which is based on a determination to protect their property, further undermines even their sense of identification with family. The husband remarks that even if the man is the uncle, he still may be “up to no good.” And so there is more than one level of distrust in this gentle comedy, as Ray seems to be exploring the moral havoc that can be wreaked by private property. “In the interests of the rich we must get rid of it,” declared Wilde in “The Soul of Man under Socialism” (CW, vol. 6, 234). Although the couple’s son Satyaki, too young to think in terms of bourgeois property rights, trusts the uncle, the couple continues to suspect him, to the point where they invite a lawyer friend to the house to grill him. Offended by such treatment, the uncle departs suddenly for the country to visit first his grandfather’s friend and, from there, the tribal village of Baner Pukar where the dance of the “oldest tribe in India” is to be performed. In an arresting, low-angle shot, we see Manomohan seated on the ground under an enormous tree—the cosmopolitan is placed closest to the earth. In the tribal Kol tongue, which Manomohan speaks fluently, he asks a native girl to bring a bench, a hospitable gesture to his relatives, who he seems to know will follow him (Cooper 232). When they arrive, nervous and contrite, he graciously receives them and together they watch the tribal celebration. Stimulated by what she sees, the wife joins in the dance of the native women. Only after witnessing her participate in the dance does Manomohan say that until that moment he had doubts that she was his niece. And so all along

290  Julia Prewitt Brown it was Manomohan who had needed to recognize them, rather than the reverse. Ray suggests that it is the bourgeois couple that are the true strangers in the film, dissociated from one another, from the earth, and from their native history—not the cosmopolitan. At the very end of the film, after Manomohan has departed, the couple opens an envelope he left for them. It not only contains the rights to his material inheritance but a letter that states: “I know I set a serious problem for you.” The problem or task was for them to see themselves, to see again or to recognize, their relations to one another and to ­I ndia’s past. Only contact with the cosmopolitan makes this possible. The transfer of money acts as an ironic reminder of what the couple used to value so dearly, and Manomohan goes off carrying a “civilized” suitcase full of notebooks in which he had documented his tribal experiences, suggesting that civilization is something more than the most technologically advanced society or the highest social class but a precious body of knowledge containing the wealth of human history. As Wilde suggests in “The Critic as Artist,” Manomohan’s “WorldSpirit” arises from his “Critical Spirit” or the wide knowledge of cultures that he possesses. Ray places the accent on this breadth of knowledge by making Manomohan a cultural anthropologist who has not only traveled widely but made extensive study of dozens of cultures. By the end of the film, the family has come to recognize that to deeply experience one’s own culture, one must be aware of what lies outside it, of all that may at first seem “strange.” Ray’s film is based on one of his short stories, “Atithi” or “The Guest,” in which hospitality is a central theme. It’s useful to note that the words host and guest derive from the same Latin and Indo-European word roots, an etymology that is consistent with the play on host and guest in both the film and an early story by Wilde with which I will compare it: “The Canterville Ghost.” In each work, the ancient value of hospitality is delicately explored in terms of this ambiguity: who finally is the host and who the guest? Set in a haunted house in England, “The Canterville Ghost” is about an American family whose stalwart rationality drives the ghost that lives there to distraction. Wilde establishes on the first page of the story a perfect ambiguity concerning the host/guest relationship. The Americans are, and always will be in one sense, guests in England, because they are foreign-born. However, at the opening of the story, they purchase Canterville Chase, making them property owners and now hosts to Sir Simon, the ghost haunting the estate. Having inhabited the house centuries before the arrival of the Americans, however, the ghost considers himself the rightful host of Canterville Chase. And he is a bad host. Instead of putting the American guests at ease and making them feel at home, he attempts to terrorize them. He symbolizes the hostility of English tradition to American modernity and also

Hospitality Divorced from the Home  291 the comical inauthenticity of what goes by the name of tradition. What Sir Simon calls his “celebrated performances” (CCW 188), such as a magnificent, blood-curdling shriek, fall flat with the obtuse Americans. Only at the end of the story, when the ghost is laid to rest, does tradition lose its toxicity. The American daughter, Virginia, risks her life to save the ghost of tradition, and so tradition blooms again with her marriage to an Englishman. The first inkling of any real hospitality springing up among the various inhabitants of Canterville Chase occurs when the American father begins to realize that by refusing to countenance the ghost, a symbol of the past made present, he is not being particularly friendly or hospitable. Similarly, the ghost finally begins to warm to the family as a result of the daughter Virginia’s sympathy for his ancient and continued suffering. The English lord who sells Canterville Chase to the Americans is thoroughly unsentimental about his ancestral property and even refuses to claim the ancient jewels the ghost gives to Virginia at the end of the story: “As for their being heirlooms,” he states, “nothing is an heirloom that is not so mentioned in a…legal document” (CCW 203). If tradition does not exist for the Americans until the end of the story, to Lord Canterville it is solely a matter of material inheritance and unredeemed suffering. All of the stories Sir Simon tells of frightening the many inhabitants of Canterville Chase over the centuries are narratives of disaster whose lack of meaning renders them comic. When Virginia orders the ghost to behave himself and stop trying to frighten her family, he replies, “I must rattle my chains, and groan through keyholes, and walk about at night, if that is what you mean. It is my only reason for existing.” She staunchly replies, “It is no reason at all for existing” (206). Only Virginia, the American foreigner, is able to shatter the brittle surface of English tradition, grasp the spiritual significance of the ghost’s suffering, and therefore give tradition new meaning. In both Wilde’s story and Ray’s film, true hospitality arises from the deep human connection established between unlikely personalities rather than from a welcoming home space or property. In the film, connection takes place in what Darius Cooper calls “authentic moments” in Ray’s narrative (224), and in Wilde’s story, a steadily maintained comedy is punctured by such moments. The curiosity, candor, and power of empathy that Virginia shows at these moments win over the ghost, but the decisive encounter between them transcends conventions of sincerity and remains a mystery, just as the most “authentic moment” in Ray’s film occurs in an eruption of silence after Anila sings an old Bengali song. “The Canterville Ghost” concludes outside the Canterville property, in the churchyard where Sir Simon is buried and in the ruined chancel of an old abbey. Likewise, Ray’s film ends outside the home on land where the so-called “guest,” Manomohan, assumes the role of host, which makes it possible for Anila to realize herself in his presence by joining

292  Julia Prewitt Brown the dancers. Cosmopolitanism finally emerges as a form of hospitality divorced from home—or from private property, but not divorced from the past, as the tribal dance in Ray and the churchyard and old abbey in Wilde’s story suggest. Both works then remind us of the rejection of property ownership that is at the basis of true citizenliness. An important difference between the two works relates to scale. From Wilde’s vantage point in history, the main contrast between the characters centers on the differences between English and American culture. To Ray, living a century later, the world is conceived of as larger and more diverse, and travel within it is so common that even a member of one’s family can in time become a stranger. The thematic similarities between the two stories, however, are intriguing. Wilde’s story is a charming allegory of cosmopolitan reconciliation, with the marriage ending functioning as something more than a classic comic resolution. The American family is initially associated with a simple-minded ­nationalism—the eldest son is named Washington, while the younger twins are nicknamed “the stars and stripes”—but by the end of the tale they have become wiser and more cosmopolitan. At the beginning of Ray’s film, the ­B engali couple is complacent and suspicious of others, but by the end they are as open-minded and curious in their attitude toward the world as their small son. Both works steadily insist on the limits of rationality if the human meaning of even the smallest exchange between strangers is to be grasped. True hospitality always involves what ­Shakespeare’s Hamlet calls welcoming the strange. As ancient mythologies famously warn in stories of gods arriving at one’s door in the guise of beggars, we turn away the stranger at our peril. Once the host/guest relationship in these works is appreciated for its historic ambiguity, grander questions related to each author’s view of ­Europe’s relations to other cultures may be seen in a new light. Both “The Canterville Ghost” and “The Stranger” cast suspicion on technology and call into question the progressive view of civilization that has traditionally gotten in the way of any egalitarian cosmopolitanism. Commentary on “The Stranger” emphasizes how in his later career Ray abandoned his “self-definition as a chosen carrier of the European ­Enlightenment in India” by showcasing an anthropologist “who rejects all progressive definitions of civilization and gracefully lives out his faith” (qtd. in Cooper ­ anomohan outlines 214). In a chilling conversation with the lawyer, M the disasters that technology has brought to the modern world: “Man’s civilization has acquired such an arrogance that he can destroy the very world in which he has ushered in so much progress.” In a comic but similar vein, Wilde ridicules the Americans’ obsession with technological progress, when they imagine that Pinkerton’s Champion Stain Remover and Paragon Detergent can erase the blood of history, which takes the form of a bloodstain left in the parlor by the ghost. The humor of each of these works is, of course, essential to their intellectual power as expressions of a humane cosmopolitanism. We can

Hospitality Divorced from the Home  293 accept the difficulties and ambiguities of the host/guest, resident/visitor, or native/foreigner relationship because the comic genre characteristically presents these relations with an ironic wisdom that our own amusement makes it impossible to resist. In encountering comedy, we are disarmed in a way we are not when reading a sociological or political essay that lays bare a polemical argument. “Trying to reform others,” Wilde insisted, quoting from Chuang-tzu, is “as silly an occupation as ‘beating a drum in the forest in order to find a fugitive’” (CW, vol. 7, 238). The comedies of Wilde and Ray overtake us by undermining our rational defenses, allowing us to experience the wider perspective cosmopolitanism offers.

The Cosmopolitan Personality The roots of the word cosmopolitan are the Greek kosmos, world order, and polites, citizen, from polis or city. In turn, the Indo-European root of polis, pele, suggests a citadel or fortified place. The cosmopolitan says, “the cosmos is my polis,” the world is my home. Yet, how can anyone feel at home in the vastness of the world, let alone “fortified” by such an expanse? One may as well be born in a handbag in the cloakroom of Victoria station, “the Brighton line” (Brown 23). The railway taken by Jack and Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest shuttles between country and city, the one a symbol of the past and of tradition, the other of the urban future. That is the spiritual railway all Victorians traveled on, whether they liked it or not. Many did not like it. Matthew Arnold, for one, one of the most cosmopolitan minds of the mid-nineteenth century, was never at ease under the strain of connecting the old and the new—a situation that is made all the more poignant by the fact that he worked for seventeen years as a government school inspector, traveling on unheated trains and staying at provincial hotels, in order to further the cause of education. If we are to judge from the Oxford lectures, which Wilde’s notebooks suggest that he had read, it was a more cosmopolitan education that Arnold was working for. Few Victorians before Wilde’s generation were as well read in continental writers or delighted in European cultural life more than Arnold. Yet Arnold’s letters to his beloved sister Jane suggest that he was made miserable by the existential condition of the cosmopolitan. “[T]he worldly element enters so much more largely into my composition,” he complains in 1851, “that as I become formed there seems to grow a gulf between us…” (Arnold 549). Two years later comes the confession: “I am fragments while you are whole” (547). Having grown up in the lap of the establishment, son of the broad church headmaster of Rugby, Arnold was understandably shaken to his core by the breakdown of national traditions, begun with the demise of the principle of “One Church, One State” that took place with the legislative changes of the late 1820s. In a letter to Arthur Clough of the late 1840s he warns that Keats and

294  Julia Prewitt Brown Browning “must begin with an Idea of the world in order not to be prevailed over by the world’s multitudinousness” (546)—something he must have feared for himself. In contrast, Irish Wilde, whose cosmopolitanism may be said to have freed him from both regional and colonial partisanships, taught later generations to appreciate, indeed to relish, the very thing that caused Arnold distress: the multiple perspective of the cosmopolitan. We see his mastery of several points of view in the powerful strain of paradox and contradiction running through his writing, from “The Decay of Lying,” published in 1889, to De Profundis, where he would write that to be “entirely free, and at the same time entirely dominated by law, is the eternal paradox of human life that we realize every moment” (CW, vol. 2, 62). Wilde uses the word realize here to mean not only recognize but live out or make actual. Is not this living out or making actual of a paradox the cosmopolitan way of life in a nutshell? For Wilde personally, it yielded benefits to the bitter end. After his release from prison, he sought refuge in the great cosmopolitan city of Paris. Yet the English tourists who frequented the cafés on the Left Bank persisted in seeing him as an unwanted guest and snubbed him repeatedly, as if they themselves were hosts ruling over the social turf of the foreign capital. A few months before his death, he encountered an old friend of his mother’s, who had felt it necessary to cut him because of the crowd she was with at a café. When, to her relief, she ran in to him the next morning on a passenger steamer on the Seine, it was Wilde who now assumed the role of host, receiving her with the forgiving words, “Life held to my lips a full-flavored cup…and I drank it to the dregs…don’t sorrow for me” (Ellmann 578).

Jacques Derrida and the Kantian Right of Visitation In an address on cosmopolitanism given in 2001, over a century after Wilde’s death in Paris, Jacques Derrida considers questions of hospitality, of guest and host and visitor and resident, in terms that are not far from those I have been discussing. Derrida places these questions in an international political context, focusing on debates concerning how and when nations grant, or choose not to grant, asylum status to those seeking it. Unlike so many of the philosophical essays on cosmopolitanism mentioned at the beginning of the chapter, this one is directly concerned with the place of the writer in world society. The address was delivered before the International Parliament of Writers, an organization established in 1993 in the wake of the Salman Rushdie fatwa. At the beginning of his address, Derrida points to the increasing number of intellectuals and writers who seek asylum from persecution. He is responding to the organization’s call for the opening of cities of refuge around the world, and he draws on the proposals of Hannah Arendt made after World War II for an international charter of the right to asylum.7

Hospitality Divorced from the Home  295 Derrida points to some of the internal contradictions within the philosophical language of cosmopolitanism, contradictions that find an analogue both in the equivocal use of the word cosmopolitanism alluded to at the beginning of this chapter and in the embrace of paradox that informed Wilde’s cosmopolitan view of experience. For example, ­Derrida discusses the contradiction between Kant’s universalist idea of cosmopolitan law, by which everyone has the right to travel the world, and the actual legal conditions Kant assigns to that law in practice—specifically, the restrictions placed on the right of residence, a right that must be made the object of a particular treaty between states. Instead, Kant identifies the right of visitation as the right that belongs, unconditionally, to mankind. In the context of such philosophical contradictions, Derrida draws attention to the “considerable gap between the generous principles of the right to asylum inherited from the Enlightenment thinkers…and the historical reality or the effective implementation of these principles.” The many examples of inhumanity to those seeking asylum are proof enough of Derrida’s statement that “the unconditional law of hospitality” is perpetually in danger of “remaining a pious and irresponsible desire, without form and without potency, and of even being perverted at any moment” (421) unless the conditional laws of a right to hospitality are transformed and improved. Wilde gives an example of the perversion of the ideal in the passage quoted earlier about the Manchester School, which lay claim to universal brotherhood within a context of nationalist aggression. While Derrida draws attention to the perils of an unquestioning confidence in the cosmopolitan ideal, he does not abandon the idea behind this ideal. The distinction in Kant that he points to—that between the right of residence and the right of visitation, according to which the right of visitation is the universal right—is intriguing because it tallies with cosmopolitanism’s historic rejection of property ownership as a qualifier of citizenly status. The beauty of the two works of art I have discussed here—Ray’s “The Stranger” and “The Canterville Ghost”—is their mixing up of the roles of visitor and resident, guest and host, to the point where it becomes clear that all the characters are merely guests on the planet anyway. Attention to the earth in both works—where Mitra is seen seated on the ground at authentic moments of communication with others and where Sir Simon finally finds rest in burial—produces a beautiful paradox. The human spirit has a claim to the surface of the earth, but is also “deterritorialized,” as it were, in the interests of a greater unity. As Kant writes, [man] has a right of visitation. This right to present themselves to society belongs to all mankind in virtue of our common right of possession on the surface of the earth on which, as it is a globe, we cannot be infinitely scattered, and must in the end reconcile ourselves to existence side by side…. (qtd. in Derrida 421)

296  Julia Prewitt Brown When Derrida places the Parliament of Writers’ call for the opening of cities of refuge in the context of a discussion of the long philosophical history of cosmopolitanism, we are reminded of the great importance of cities in opening their doors to writers like Wilde—and in therefore preserving the cosmopolitan idea as an active principle. Paris was ­Wilde’s city of refuge. To his originality of thought and personality, then, we can add the distinction of his having joined a tradition of writers who found sanctuary in Paris, a tradition that goes back at least as far as Heinrich Heine, who left Germany for France in 1831 to escape German censorship. As Hannah Arendt pointed out, from the mid-nineteenth century onward, Paris “offered itself to all homeless people as a second home” (170). It comes as no surprise then that Paris would become the center of cosmopolitanism in the early twentieth century—and we owe it to Wilde, a cosmopolitan in thought and personality, that his presence there would help to define and embellish the distinctively cosmopolitan character of Paris for decades to come. In a paradox worthy of the author of The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde’s victimization by English law freed him to step into the current of history. Wilde began and ended his career as a cosmopolitan wanderer who was forever graciously extending himself in the roles of host and guest. The record of his wit on the youthful tour of America is so captivating that we sometimes forget what his encounters there accomplished. In Leadville, Colorado, in the high Rockies, he read to the miners passages from the autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini. He had supper at the bottom of the mine and recorded the “amazement of the miners that art and appetite could go hand in hand.” When a mine was renamed “The O ­ scar” in his honor, he parodied his own condescension: “I had hoped that in their grand, simple way they would have offered me shares in ‘The Oscar’, but ­ llmann’s description in their artless untutored fashion they did not.” E of the tour as “an achievement in courage and grace” (204–5) holds for Wilde’s final years in Paris as well and may give us the best description we have of the character of the true cosmopolitan.

Notes 1 Robbins’s book is cited here because of its wide perspective and because of the author’s reputation as one of the most influential literary writers on cosmopolitanism, but there have been many other treatments of cosmopolitanism by literary critics. For a recent example, see Margaret S. Kennedy’s essay on Wilde, “Wilde’s Cosmopolitanism: The Importance of Being Worldly,” which attempts to put Wilde’s thought in a contemporary political context. See also the essays collected in Cheah and Robbins (1998). 2 See, for example, Mahmood Mamdani’s Good Muslim, Bad Muslim and Cheah and Robbins, ed., Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation. 3 In his early twenties, writing in his notebook at Oxford, Wilde wrote: “It is rem. that with the rise of philosophy of History in Greece was a feeling of

Hospitality Divorced from the Home  297 cosmopolitanism chiefly among the Cynics [.] [T]he same thing occured [sic] in Germany at the time of the German Illlumination in such men as Goethe, Frederick, Lessing, Fichte” (Smith and Helfand 167). 4 The debate concerning particular attachment versus world citizenship is ongoing. See, for example, the work of Kwame Anthony Appiah and Bruce Robbins and the collection edited by Cheah and Robbins, Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation. 5 A notable exception may be found in Nussbaum’s essay “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism” where she briefly discusses Rabindranath Tagore’s novel The Home and the World (155–6). Satyajit Ray adapted the novel to film in 1985. 6 The film’s redefinition of hospitality partly involves Manomohan’s rejection of certain class-associated dishes. Food is given particular importance in Indian households and in traditions of Indian hospitality. See Cooper 230. 7 Quoting Arendt, Derrida refers to the “sacred history” of a right to asylum in cities that goes back to the Middle Ages (Derrida 414).

Works Cited Appiah, Kwame A. Ethics in a World of Strangers. W.W. Norton & Co., 2007. Arendt, Hannah. Men in Dark Times. Penguin, 1973. Arnold, Matthew. “Selections from Matthew Arnold’s Letters.” Victorian Poetry and Poetics, edited by Walter E. Houghton and G. Robert Stange. ­Wadsworth Publishing, 1972, pp. 544–54. Brown, Garrett W. and David Held, eds. The Cosmopolitan Reader. Polity Press, 2010. Brown, Julia P. Cosmopolitan Criticism: Oscar Wilde’s Philosophy of Art. U of Virginia P, 1997. Cheah, Pheng and Bruce Robbins, eds. Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation. U of Minnesota P, 1998. Cooper, Darius. The Cinema of Satyajit Ray: Between Tradition and Modernity. Cambridge UP, 2000. Deleuze, Giles. “Nomad Thought.” The New Nietzsche, edited by David B. ­A llison. Delta, 1977, pp. 142–49. Derrida, Jacques. “On Cosmopolitanism.” The Cosmopolitan Reader, edited by Garrett W. Brown and David Held, Polity, 2010, pp. 413–22. Ellmann, Richard. Oscar Wilde. Alfred A. Knopf, 1988. Friedrichs, Jörg. “Global Islamism and World Society.” Telos, vol. 163, Summer 2013, pp. 7–38. Fine, Robert and Robin Cohen. “Four Cosmopolitan Moments.” Conceiving Cosmopolitanism: Theory, Context, and Practice, edited by Steven Vertovec and Robin Cohen, Oxford UP, 2002, pp. 137–62. Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Viking, 1969. Kennedy, Margaret S. “Wilde’s Cosmopolitanism: The Importance of Being Worldly.” Wilde’s Wiles: Studies of the Influences on Oscar Wilde and His Enduring Influences in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Annette M. Magid, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013, pp. 90–113. Mamdani, Mahmood. Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and The Roots of Terror. Harmony, 2005. Nussbaum, Martha. “Toward a Globally Sensitive Patriotism.” Daedalus, vol. 137, no. 3, 2008, pp. 78–93.

298  Julia Prewitt Brown ———. “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism.” The Cosmopolitan Reader, edited by Garrett W. Brown and David Held, Polity, 2010, pp. 155–62. Smith, Philip E. II and Michael S. Helfand, eds. Oscar Wilde’s Oxford Notebooks: The Portrait of as Mind in the Making. Oxford UP, 1989. The Stranger [Agantuk]. Directed by Satyajit Ray. Bengali with English subtitles. Mr. Bongo Films, 2009. Vertovec, Steven and Robin Cohen. “Four Cosmopolitan Moments.” Conceiving Cosmopolitanism: Theory, Context, and Practice, edited by Steven Vertovec and Robin Cohen, Oxford UP, 2002, pp. 137–62. Wilde, Oscar. Reviews. The First Collected Edition of the Works of Oscar Wilde. Edited by Robert Ross, vol. 13. 1908. Vol. 13, Dawsons of Pall Mall, 1969. ———The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, edited by Merlin Holland. Harper Collins, 1994. ———. The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Edited by Ian Small, et al., ­Oxford UP, 2000–, 7 vols.


absolution 187–9 Acton, Harold: Indian Ass 164–5 actress, modern 245, 248–53 Adey, More 227 Adonis 157, 164–9 aesthetic communities 5, 14, 91 aesthetic criticism 89, 90, 92, 95–7, 107n8, 108n11 aestheticism 7, 21–2, 36, 40, 41, 98–9, 104, 112, 113–15, 120, 166, 255 Aesthetic Movement in England, The (Hamilton) 159 aesthetics 87–9, 99–100, 105, 120; art and 7, 10, 111–19; ethics and 92, 96 agalmatophilia 159, 170 agency 19–20, 22–3 Aguétant, Marie 65 Allan, Maud 233–4 allegory 61, 62–3, 65, 66; apparitional 61–5 Alma-Tadema, Lawrence 64 alterity 3, 6, 9 anamnesis 24 Anglicanism 201–3, 208 Annunciation 205–6 anti-Catholicism 202, 210, 215–16 anti-essentialism 33 Antinous: A Poem (Pessoa) 157, 169–75 Antinous and Other Poems (Summers) 170 anti-Semitism 269, 272, 274, 277, 280–1 apparitional allegories 61–5 À rebours (Huysmans) 222 Arendt, Hannah 286, 294 Aria, Eliza Davis 269 Aristotle 31, 89, 90, 100, 161 Arnold, Matthew 293

art: aesthetics and 7, 10, 111–19; affinity with revelation 45; cosmetics and 87–8, 99; criticism of 89–93, 111, 113–15; high over low art 114; responsiveness to 31; world and 91–2 artist 26, 43–50, 89–92, 98–101, 119–24; as a critic 114–15; degeneracy of 100–3; as a man of the world 1–2 Aurevilly, Barbey d’ 221 automatons 72–3 automourning 163, 165, 173 “Ave Maria Gratia Plena” (Wilde) 205–6 Bacchae, The (Euripides) 167 Bachelard, Gaston 162 Bagehot, Walter 25 “Ballad of Reading Gaol, The” (Wilde) 12, 179, 187, 190–1, 208, 229–30, 232 Barrès, Maurice 221, 228 Baudelaire, Charles 9, 70, 94, 99, 157, 179, 186; Les Fleurs du Mal 60, 62; man of the world 1–3; The Painter of Modern Life 1, 61, 62, 66 Bauër, Henri 230 Bayreuth festival 178 Beale, Lionel 75–6 Beardsley, Aubrey 231, 255, 260, 262; “Platonic Lament” 141, 157–9 beauty 21–2 Beerbohm, Max 99; “Be It Cosiness” 175 “Be It Cosiness” (Beerbohm) 175 Bejard, Maurice 262 Berkoff, Steven 262 Bernhardt, Sarah 225, 269 Bildungsroman 54 Binney, Thomas 19

300 Index Bion of Smyrna: Lament for Adonis (Epitaphios Adonidis) 164, 165, 172, 174, 175 Biró, Lajos 274 “Birthday of the Infanta, The” (Wilde) 10, 110, 121–30 blacklisting 139, 272 Blindness and Insight (de Man) 61 Blitz 277 Bonnard, Pierre 87 Boulton, Thomas 67 Bourget, Paul 228 Bradley, Katharine see Field, Michael Breen, Joseph 273 British cinema 268–70, 272, 274 brothels 65–7, 69–70 Brown, Garrett Wallace 285 Bryant, Charles 270 “Burden of Itys, The” (Wilde) 175n7 Burke, Edmund 19 Cahun, Claude 234 Calvinism 32 “The Canterville Ghost (film)” 13, 271 “Canterville Ghost, The” (Wilde) 7, 14, 271, 290–3 castration 111, 123–4, 126–9 Catholicism 6, 11, 139–46, 201–17 censorship 139; in cinema 270 Century Guild Hobby Horse, The 164 Chan-Toon, Mrs.: For Love of the King Charmides (Plato) 159 “Charmides” (Wilde) 112, 157, 159–70 Choreutoscope 75–6 Christ 157, 166–8, 174, 187–8 Christianity 11, 187 Christòs Páschon 167 Chrysostom, John 167 Cicero 286 citizen of the world 6, 7, 93–6 Cleveland Street Scandal 67 Cohen, Robin 285 Coleridge, Samuel Taylor 61 communism in film 272 Conceiving Cosmopolitanism: Theory, Context and Practice (Vertovec and Cohen) 285 Conqueror Worm, The (Poe) 61, 62, 72 Considine, Daniel 68 Cooper, Edith see Field, Michael Coppée, François 228 cosmesis 10

cosmetic 106 cosmetic aesthetic 91–2 cosmetics and art 87–90, 99 cosmopolitanism 91–8, 107n7, 276–7, 283–96; defining 283–8 cosmopolitan personality 293–4 Cosmopolitan Reader, The (Brown and Held) 285 cosmopolitan subject 6, 7, 10, 14 cosmos 91–106 Craik, Dinah Mulock 19 crinoline dress motif in Velásquez’ Las Meninas 111, 116–18, 120, 122, 124, 126 “Critic as Artist, The” (Wilde) 8, 20, 21, 22, 26–7, 36, 65, 88, 90–2, 95, 97, 104, 159, 161, 202, 268, 288 criticism 101–2, 121–2; aesthetic 89, 90, 92, 95–7, 107n8, 108n11 cross-dressing 67–8 Crowley, Aleister: The Rites of Eleusis 148 culture, inheriting 25, 28 curiosity 1–5 dancing and projecting praxinoscope 74–6 dandy 276 D’Annunzio, Gabriele 12, 138, 140, 143, 147, 148, 150–52 Danse de la Mort, La (Holbein) 76 danse macabre 60, 61, 62, 63, 72, 75, 79 Dassin, Jules 13, 271–2 Daurelle, Jacques 223 David Golder (film) 271 Davray, Henry 228, 230–2; presence at Wilde’s death bed and funeral 232–3; publishes Oscar Wilde, La tragédie finale 235; translation of The Ballad of Reading Gaol 229–32 death in precinematic representations 75 Decadence 40, 41, 93, 94–5 Décadent, Le (journal) 221 “Decay of Lying, The” (Wilde) 8, 88, 96, 99, 101–2, 201, 294 degeneracy of artists 100–3 Degeneration (Nordau) 100 de Man, Paul 61 De Profundis (Wilde) 2, 12, 32, 34, 37, 96, 168, 191, 211, 234, 254, 283, 294

Index  301 Der fliegende Holländer (Wagner) 180, 181, 183 Derrida, Jacques 60, 75, 284, 294–6 Der Ring des Nibelungen (Wagner) 183 determinism 19, 22, 28 “Devoted Friend” (Wilde) 246n16 Dickens, Charles 19 didacticism 50, 51 Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Wagner) 178, 183 “Dimoetes” (Parthenius of Nicaea) 160 dissident desire 143–4 Doll’s House, A (Ibsen) 249–50 “Dolores” (Swinburne) 168 dominance 34–5 Doppelgänger 45, 69, 71 double 45–6, 51; see also Doppelgänger Douglas, Alfred 189, 228, 230, 233–4; “Two Loves” 174 Dowson, Ernest: “To a Little Girl” 207 drag balls 65, 68–9 dramatic sympathy 31 Dublin Castle Scandal 67–8 Dubliners (Joyce) 4 Dupond, Patrick 262 Duvivier, Julien 271 “Easter Day” (Wilde) 213 Edo Era 247 Edward Randolph’s Portrait (Hawthorne) 41, 44–5, 50–1 Eliot, T. S. 29–30 Ellmann, Richard 117–18, 126, 220, 232 English Poems I-II (Pessoa) 169 Epistola in carcere et vinculis (Wilde) 187, 190 Epithalamium (Pessoa) 170 eros 12, 158–9, 160, 162, 163, 166, 169, 170 essentialism 20–1 Estoc, Estelle d’ 221 ethics and aesthetics 92, 96 Eucharist 203, 208, 210–11 eugenics 20 Euripides: Bacchae, The 167 Evans, Ross 277 evolution 20, 25 experience as a passing procession 29 experimentalism 148–9 expression of impression 104–5

fallenness 22 Fall of the House of Usher, The (Poe) 61, 63 Fan, The (film) 13, 268, 277, 279–80 Fantoscope 74 fascination 31, 128 Faust, Séverin see Mauclair, Camille fearlessness, loss of 31–2 female impersonator in Salomè 246, 251–3, 256–60, 262 femme fatale 143, 250 Féneon, Félix 222, 225 fetishism 143–4 Field, Michael: “A Pietà: Carlo Crivelli” 168; “The Song of Aphrodítê” 157 Figaro, Le (newspaper) 223 Fisch, Harold 137–8 “Fisherman and His Soul, The” (Wilde) 157, 162, 187, 191, 208, 211, 255 Five Senses, The (Serres) 87–8 flâneur 4, 5, 31, 66, 70, 73 Flesh and Fantasy (film) 271 Fleurs du Mal, Les (Baudelaire) 60, 62 focalization 55 forgiveness 187–8 Fort, Paul 229, 232 Foucault, Michel 110, 111, 125, 129 Fowler, Robert 68 framing, narrative 50–3, 57 Frankau, Julia Davis 269 freedom: heredity and 23; sense of 34–7 free indirect discourse 55–6 French culture 150–2 French Decadents 221 Freud, Sigmund 33, 69, 72, 73; “On Narcissism” 159 Friedrichs, Jörg 284 Gaiety Theatre 246–7 Galton, Francis 20 Gautier, Théophile 157 Geijutsu-za 248–50, 255, 261 geishas 253–4 gender 12, 14; Japanese theater and 13 gender subversion 143–4 Gentleman’s Agreement (film) 277 Gentleman’s Agreement (Hobson) 272 Gesamtkunstwerk (Wagner) 11, 12, 149–50 ghost-effect 61 Gibbings, Amos Westrop 68

302 Index Gide, André 222, 225, 228, 234 Gilbert, W.S. 112 Gioconda, La (Leonardo da Vinci) 24, 26, 29 globalization 284–5 Goddard, Paulette 276 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 90, 98, 288 Golem, Le (film) 271 Goncourt, Edmond de 224 Gothic horror 54 “Grave of Keats, The” (Wilde) 157, 165 “Grave of Shelley, The” (Wilde) 165 Greeks 88–9 Greek tragedy and heredity 30–1 Grein, J.T. 233–4 Guys, Constantin 1 Gyles, Althea 60, 72, 76–80 Hadrian 170–4 Hall, Edward 262 Hamilton, Walter: The Aesthetic Movement in England 159 “Happy Prince, The” (Wilde) 254 Hard Times (Dickens) 19 harlot as a term 67, 70 “Harlot’s House, The” (Wilde) 10, 60–80; apparitional allegories 61–5; spectral technologies 71–80; uncanny sexualities 65–71 Harris, Clement 183–4, 192 Harris, Frank 231, 235 Haunted Palace, The (Poe) 61, 63 Haweis, Hugh Reginald 181–2 Hawthorne, Nathaniel 42, 43, 50 Hays Code 270 Held, David 285 Hereditary Genius (Galton) 20 heredity 9, 26–8, 30–6; fascination of 19–37; incorporating characteristics of lineage 23 Heyl, Henry Renno 74, 75 hierophilia 159 history 25, 27 Hobson, Laura Z. 272 Holbein, Hans 76 Hollywood 268, 270–3, 277–8 Holocaust 269 Homer 14; Iliad 158 homoerotic / homoeroticism 53–5, 158–60, 165, 170 homosexuality 30, 53–5, 66–9, 70, 140–3, 187, 221, 225, 226, 228; see also sexuality

Hopkins, Gerard Manley 217 hospitality 290, 291–2, 295 Hueffer, Franz 181–2 humans as puppets 72 Huret, Jules 226 Huysmans, Joris-Karl 40, 98, 179, 185, 186; À rebours 222 hyperdulia 204, 206 Ibsen, Henrik: A Doll’s House 249–50 Ideal Husband, An (film) 13, 268, 274, 275, 276 Ideal Husband, An (Wilde) 30, 247 Idyll 15 (Theocritus) 167 Iliad (Homer) 158 Importance of Being Earnest, The (Wilde) 3, 180, 186, 245, 293 Indian Ass (Acton) 164–5 individualism 32, 104 influence 34–6 inheritance: power of 19–20; sin and 32–3 interart poetics 147–8, 150 “In the Gold Room” (Wilde) 210 “Isabella, or the Pot of Basil” (Keats) 165 Italian culture 150 Iwano Homei 246 James, Henry 41, 47, 52 Japan and sexual transfiguration of Wilde’s Salomè 245–65 Japanese theater 13, 246, 261–2 Jarry, Alfred 222, 229, 231 Jaspers, Karl 286 Jewish artists adapting Wilde’s plays 13 Jews as cinema fans of Oscar Wilde 268–81 John Halifax, Gentleman (Craik) 19 Johnston, Malcolm 68 Jongleuse, La (Rachilde) 229, 235 Joyce, James 4, 14, 287 kabuki 246, 250–2, 258, 262 kana 256 Kant, Immanuel 286, 295 Kawakami Sadayakko 245, 251–3, 255 Keats, John: “Isabella, or the Pot of Basil” 165 Kirkup, James: “The Love That Dares to Speak Its Name” 174 Kobayashi Aiyu 246

Index  303 kommòs 161, 162, 163, 165, 167, 171, 174 Korda, Alexander 13, 269, 274–6; An Ideal Husband 268 Krafft-Ebing, Richard von: Psychopathia Sexualis 139 Lacan, Jacques 110, 111, 123, 125, 129 Lady Windermere’s Fan (film) 268, 269 Lady Windermere’s Fan (Wilde) 247, 269–70, 277, 278, 279 lament 161–3, 165; see also mourning Lament for Adonis (Epitaphios Adonidis) (Bion of Smyrna) 164, 165, 172, 174, 175 L’Araignée de cristal (Rachilde) 229, 235 Laughton, Charles 271 L’Echo de Paris (newspaper) 223–4 Leonard, H.C. 215 Leverson, Ada 269 Lewin, Albert 13, 272–3, 274 Liar, The (James) 41, 47, 48–9, 52 Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine (periodical) 41, 222 literary antecedents 40–57 liturgy 210–12 Livro do Desassossego (The Book of Disquiet) (Pessoa) 174 Lohengrin (Wagner) 179–80, 183, 186 “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime” (Wilde) 225, 271 Lord de Tabley: Poems Dramatic and Lyrical 164 Lorrain, Jean 222, 225, 226 “Lotos-Garland of Antinous, The” (Symonds) 170 Louÿs, Pierre 178, 183, 225; maintains silence on Wilde’s trials 226; Wilde’s Salomé dedicated to him 224 Love and the Maiden (Stanhope) 111–12 “Love That Dares to Speak Its Name, The” (Kirkup) 174 Lubitsch, Ernst 270 Lugné-Poë, Aurélien 229 “Madonna Mia” (Wilde) 206–7 magic portrait tradition in literature 40–50 Mallarmé, Stéphane 183, 220, 225 Mallock, W.H. 112 Man of the Crowd, The (Poe) 2, 61, 66

man of the world see Baudelaire, Charles Margin for Error (film) 277 mariolatry 204 marionettes 72 Marquise de Sade, La (Rachilde) 221 Martyre de Saint Sébastien, Le (D’Annunzio) 12, 138–52; experimentalism 148–9; fetishism 144; homosexuality in 140–3; paganism 144–7; as Symbolist theater 147–8 masks and unmasking 62–5 Masque of the Red Death, The (Poe) 61, 62, 72 Masqueray, Paul 161 Masua Tonosuke 246 materiality 102–3 “Mater Liliarum” (Symons) 207 Matsui Sumako 245, 248–50, 252–5 Mauclair, Camille 227 Maudsley, Henry 25 medieval theatre 147–8 Meiji Era 246 Meister, The (periodical) 184, 185 Mendès, Catulle 222, 226 Meninas, Las (Velásquez) 10–11, 110, 118–21 Merchant of Venice, The (Shakespeare) 265n27 Mercure de France 11, 225, 228, 233, 234–5; book publishing business 223, 230–2; journal 220, 221; literary salons 222, 224–5 Merrill, Stuart 183, 222, 225, 227 Metamorphoses (Ovid) 167 Meyerfeld, Max (Moses) 269 Midsummer Night’s Dream, A (Shakespeare) 265n27 Mill, John Stuart 32 mimesis 113 mimetic 106 mimetic assumption 107n3 mimetic theory of art 89 Mirbeau, Octave 230, 237n12 Mishima Yukio 254 “Mitleid” 190 modern actress 245, 248–53 Modernist theater 147–8 modern myths 137–9, 152 Mona Lisa see also La Gioconda 103, 104, 105 Monsieur Vénus (Rachilde) 176n16, 220, 221

304 Index morality 25–6, 41–2, 44–5, 47–8, 50–1, 53–7, 100 Moréas, Jean 222 Mori Ogai 246 Morley, Robert 271 Morris, William 223 Moschus 164 mourning 157, 159; see also lament “Mr Whistler’s Ten O’Clock” (Wilde) 116–18 Nakamura Kichizo 247 narcissism / naracissistic 165 narrator, first-person 50–7 Nazimova, Alla 270 Nazis 277, 280 necrophilia 157–75 Nemirovsky, Irène 271 New Drama movement 246, 248 Newman, John Henry 204 New Republic, The (Mallock) 112 New Woman 249–50, 262 “Nightingale and the Rose, The” (Wilde) 246n16 Nihil humani 27 Nordau, Max 98, 100–6 Nude in the Mirror (Bonnard) 87 Nussbaum, Martha 286–7 Oates, Joyce Carol 40 onnagata 251–2, 259–60 “On Narcissism” (Freud) 159 Ophelia complex 162 Osanai Kaoru 247 O’Sullivan, Vincent 235 otherness see alterity Oval Portrait, The (Poe) 41, 45, 46–7, 52 Ovid: Metamorphoses 167 paganism 144–7, 214, 215–16 pagan mystery plays 148 Painter of Modern Life, The (Baudelaire) 1, 61, 62, 66 papal infallibility 212–13 Park, Frederick 67 Parker, Dorothy 277 Parsifal (Wagner) 178, 179, 185, 188–91 Parthenius of Nicaea: “Dimoetes” 160 Pater, Walter 8, 23, 24, 26–7, 29, 34, 40, 41, 94, 96–8, 103–5, 111, 112, 175 pathos 162

Patience (Gilbert and Sullivan) 112, 131n5, 182 patriotism 286–7 Patti, Adelina 182 Pemberton-Billing Trial 233–4 “Pen, Pencil and Poison: A Study in Green” (Wilde) 65, 101, 165, 225 Perfect Wagnerite (Shaw) 192 Pessoa, Fernando 12; Antinous 157, 169–75; English Poems I-II 169; Epithalamium 170; Livro do Desassossego (The Book of Disquiet) 174 Phantasmascope 74 pharmakon 31 Phasmatrope 74, 75 phenomenology 88 “Philosophy of Dress, The” (Wilde) 111, 116 Picture of Dorian Gray, The (film) 13, 269, 272 Picture of Dorian Gray, The (Wilde) 7–9, 12–23, 65, 100, 171, 183, 188, 201, 209, 211, 222, 227, 254, 269, 272, 273; literary sources of 40–57; sexuality in 20–1, 29–31, 34–6, 40 Pied Piper, The (film) 277 Pietà 167 pity 12, 179, 189–90 Pius IX, pope 213 plagiarism 52, 106 Plateau, Joseph 74 Plato 27, 72, 89, 90, 99; Charmides 159 “Platonic Lament” (Beardsley) 141, 157–9 Poe, Edgar Allan 41, 45–7, 50–2, 54, 60, 61–2, 72, 157; The Conqueror Worm 61, 62, 72; The Fall of the House of Usher 61, 63; The Haunted Palace 61, 63; The Man of the Crowd 2, 61, 66; The Masque of the Red Death 61, 62, 72; Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque 62 Poe, Edgar Allen 9 Poems (Wilde) 157 Poems Dramatic and Lyrical (Lord de Tabley) 164 Poetics (Aristotle) 89, 90, 100 point of view 55 pope 203, 212–17 “Portrait of Mr W.H., The” (Wilde) 170 portraits, magic in literature 40–50 Praxinoscope Theatre 74–9 Praz, Mario 98–9

Index  305 Preminger, Otto 13, 268, 269, 277–8, 280 private property 289, 292 projecting praxinoscope 74–9 projection 61, 62, 64 prophetic pictures see magic portrait tradition in literature Prophetic Pictures, The (Hawthorne) 41, 43–4, 50 prostitution 65, 67–8, 69, 70, 73, 79 Protestantism 11, 201, 204, 208, 217 psychic topography 33 puppets 72 Queen v. Cornwall and Others, The 67 queerness 61, 66, 69, 70 queer uncanny 65–71 “Quia Multum Amavi” (Wilde) 210 Rachilde 11; cross-dressing and 221; editor of Mercure de France 221–2; hostess of Mercure de France literary salons 224–5; La Jongleuse 229, 235; La Marquise de Sade 221; La Mort 236n4; L’Araignée de cristal 229, 235; Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie) and 228, 233–4; Monsieur Vénus 117n16, 220, 221; Monsieur Vénus obscenity trial in Belgium 222; nicknamed “Mademoiselle Baudelaire” 221; “Oscar Wilde et lui” (Mercure essay) 233; Pourquoi je ne suis pas feministe (pamphlet) 228; publishes favorable essays and reviews of Wilde’s work in Mercure 225; “Questions brûlantes” 228; recounts anecdote of Wilde attending her salon 225; Symbolist theater 222, 229 Raffalovich, André 222 Rambova, Natacha 270 Ray, Satyajit 14; “The Stranger” 288–90 Rebell, Hugues: “La Défense d’Oscar Wilde” (Mercure article) 226–7 redemption 12, 179, 185 Reflections on the Revolution in France (Burke) 19 Reinach, Jacques 275 Reisch, Walter 277 religion: as an aesthetic experience 144–7; feminizing 204 Renan, Ernest: Vie de Jésus 168

representation 111, 113, 119–20, 129 Republic (Plato) 89, 99 Republic of Letters 94–5 Retté, Adolphe 225 revelation and art 45 Revue blanche, La (periodical) 228 Revue bleue, La (periodical) 224 Revue wagnérienne, La (periodical) 179, 185, 186, 224 Reynaud, Charles-Émile 74, 76 right of residence 295 right of visitation 14, 288–9, 294–6 Rites of Eleusis, The (Crowley) 148 ritual / ritualistic 159 Robert, Étienne-Gaspard 74 Robinson, Edward G. 271 Roman Catholicism see Catholicism Romanos the Melodist: Thrênos Theotókou 167 Romantic 171 Rome 11, 203, 214–16 “Rome Unvisited” (Wilde) 214–15 Rosi, Giovanni Vittorio 249 Ross, Robert 112, 187, 189, 190, 191, 216, 230, 235 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques 26 Royal Scandal, A (film) 278 Ruskin, John 102–3, 111 Russell, Ken 264n22 sacrament 208–10, 211 sadomasochism 139–40 “Sainte Courtisane, La” (Wilde) 148, 175n7 Saint Sebastian 12, 137; sadomasochist 139 Salomé (film) 269 Salomé (Wilde) 8, 12, 157, 223–5, 228, 234; development of Japanese modern actresses 248–53; early translations and premiere in Japan 246–8; enthusiasm in Japan for 260–2; expansion of reception in Japan 253–6; experimentalism 148–9; fetishism 143–4; paganism 144–5; sexual transfiguration of the Japanese 245–65; similarity to Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien 137–41; starring female impersonator 256–60 salons in French literary history and culture 224 same-sex desire 5, 6, 12, 111–12, 187; see also sexuality “San Miniato” (Wilde) 204

306 Index Sasai Eisuke 245, 256–60 Schwob, Lucy see Cahun, Claude Schwob, Marcel 222, 225, 226, 234; dedicates “Le Pays bleu” to Wilde 224; translates Wilde’s “The Selfish Giant” into French 223 Sebastian, Saint 12 Second World War see World War II seduction 22 “seizing the moment” 33–4 self-determination 19 self-exile 287 “Selfish Giant, The” (Wilde) 223, 254 Seller, Coleman 74 sense of freedom 34–7 Serres, Michel 87–8 sexuality 5, 10, 12–14, 31, 111–12, 114, 120, 124; see also homosexuality; same-sex desire; in Diego Velásquez’ Las Meninas 122– 30; in The Picture of Dorian Gray 20–1, 29–31, 34–6, 40; uncanny 65–71; vaginal sexuality 122–3 shadow puppets 72 Shakespeare, William: The Merchant of Venice 265n27; A Midsummer Night’s Dream 265n27; Venus and Adonis 165 Sherard, Robert 62, 65, 228 Sheridan, Richard 247 Shimamura Hogetsu 249, 254 Shingeki Undo 246 sin and heredity 32–3 skeleton dance 76 Smithers, Leonard 229, 232 Socrates 89, 99, 159 sodomy 67–8 “Song of Aphrodítê, The” (Field) 157 “Songs to Elizabeth” (Wratislawa) 207 “Soul of Man Under Socialism, The” (Wilde) 246, 285 sourcing of The Picture of Dorian Gray 40–57 spectrality 60–3, 65; technologies of 71–80 Spencer, Herbert 25 Sphinx, The (Wilde) 168–70, 172, 273 “stage of the world” 24 Stalag 17 (film) 277 Stanhope, Spencer 111–12 “Star-Child, The” (Wilde) 246n16 Statesman’s Manual (Coleridge) 61 Stirling, William 118–19, 121 Stoddart, J.M. 41

Stokes, Leslie 271 Stokes, Sewell 271 Story of a Masterpiece, The (James) 41, 47–8, 52 “Stranger, The” (film) 14, 288–90 Strauss, Richard 149, 245, 256 Studies of the Greek Poets (Symonds) 158 subjectivity 5, 7, 10–11 Success in Life (Binney) 19 Sullivan, Arthur 112 Summers, Montague: Antinous and Other Poems 170 Suzuki Katsuhide 256, 258 Swinburne, Algernon Charles 157; “Dolores” 168 symbolic imagination 61 Symbolist theatre 147–8 Symonds, John Addington 164–6; Studies of the Greek Poets 158; “The Lotos-Garland of Antinous” 170 Symons, Arthur 185; “Mater Liliarum” 207 sympathetic identification 30 sympathy, dramatic 31 Tagore, Rabindranath 288 Taisho Era 246, 253, 261 Takarazuka Revue 262 Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (Poe) 62 Tanizaki Junichiro 255, 261 Tannhäuser (Wagner) 178, 179, 180, 186–7, 190, 191 technology 292 Teikoku Gekijo 246, 248 temporality 32 “Ten O’Clock Lecture” (Whistler) 110, 113 territorial aggression 286 Thalberg, Irving 272 Thammuz 165, 167, 168 That Lady in Ermine (film) 278 Théâtre d’Art (Paris) 229 Théâtre de l’Oeuvre (Paris) 229 Theocritus: Idyll 15, 167 The Oxford Notebooks (Wilde) 283 They Got Me Covered (film) 277 Thirty-Nine Articles 203, 208 threnos 12, 158–9, 160, 162, 166, 169, 170 Thrênos Theotókou (Romanos the Melodist) 167 “To a Little Girl” (Dowson) 207

Index  307 transubstantiation 208–10 Tristan and Isolde (Wagner) 178, 183, 186 “Truth of Masks, The” (Wilde) 64 Turner, Reggie 229, 231 Turn of the Screw, The (James) 41 Twice-Told Tales (Hawthorne) 43, 44 “Two Loves” (Douglas) 174 Ubu Roi 229 uncanny 60, 73 uncanny sexualities 65–71 Universalgeschichte 25 unmasking and masks 62–5 unreliable narrator 50–2, 55–7, 63 “Urbs Sacra Aeterna” (Wilde) 214 use-inheritance 25–6 Vallette, Alfred 221, 229 Velásquez, Diego 117; Las Meninas 10–11, 110, 118–121 Venus and Adonis (Shakespeare) 165 Verlaine, Paul 225 Vertovec, Steven 285 Vidal, Gore 288 Vie de Jésus (Renan) 168 Virgil 160 Virgin Mary 167–8, 203, 204–8 Wagner, Richard 11, 12; Der fliegende Holländer 180, 181, 183; Der Ring des Nibelungen 183; Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg 178, 183; Lohengrin 179–80, 183, 186; Oscar Wilde and 178–92; Parsifal 178, 179, 185, 188–91; Tannhäuser 178, 179, 180, 186–7, 190, 191; Tristan and Isolde 178, 183, 186 Wagner, Siegfried 178, 184 Wainewright, Thomas Griffiths 101 Whistler, James Abbott McNeill 110; imitating Diego Velásquez 119–20; “Ten O’Clock Lecture” 110, 113–19 Whitman, Walt 5 Wilde, Oscar: affinity with Jewish artists 13; An Ideal Husband 30, 247; appeal to T. S. Eliot 29–30; attacked by James McNeil Whistler 110, 113–19; “Ave Maria Gratia Plena” 176n10, 205–6; The Canterville Ghost 7, 14, 271, 290–3; “Charmides” 112, 157,

159–70; as citizen of the world 6, 7, 93–6; cosmopolitanism 283–96; De Profundis 2, 12, 32, 34, 37, 96, 168, 191, 211, 234, 254, 283, 294; “Devoted Friend” 264n16; “Easter Day” 213; engagement with Richard Wagner 178–92; Epistola in carcere et vinculis 187, 190; fascination of heredity 19–37; first mention in the Mercure de France (August 1892) 223; first visit to Paris in 1879, 222; “Helena in Troas” 182; honeymoon in Paris in 1884, 222; impact on Paris literary scene in 1891–92, 223–4; The Importance of Being Earnest 3, 180, 186, 245, 293; interest in mythologies 11–12; “In the Gold Room” 210; Jewish cinema fans 268–81; Lady Windermere’s Fan 247, 269–70, 277, 278, 279; “La Sainte Courtisane” 148, 175n7; “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime” 225, 271; “Madonna Mia” 206–7; as a man of the world 2–5; “Mr. Whistler’s Ten O’Clock” 116–18; necrophilia 157–75; Oxford Notebooks, The 283; Paris and London petitions for Wilde’s release from prison 227–8; “Pen, Pencil and Poison: A Study in Green” 65, 101, 165, 225; philosophical 92–4; The Picture of Dorian Gray 7–9, 12, 20–3, 34, 40–57, 65, 100, 171, 183, 186, 201, 209, 221, 222, 227, 254, 269, 272, 273; Poems 157; preoccupation with agency 20, 22–3; presentation copy of The Ballad of Reading Gaol inscribed to Rachilde 229–30; “Quia Multum Amavi” 210; resistance to essentialism 20–1; “Rome Unvisited” 214–15; Salomé 8, 12, 13, 137–52, 157, 223–4, 225, 228, 234, 245–65, 269–70; “San Miniato” 204; The Sphinx 168–9; “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” 12, 179, 187, 190–1, 208, 229–30, 232; “The Birthday of the Infanta” 10, 110, 121–30; “The Burden of Itys” 175n7; “The Canterville Ghost” 7, 14, 290–3; “The Critic as Artist” 8, 20, 21, 22, 26–7, 36, 65, 88, 90–2, 95, 97, 104, 159, 161, 202,

308 Index 268, 288; “The Decay of Lying” 8, 88, 96, 99, 101–2, 201, 294; “The Fisherman and His Soul” 157, 162, 187, 191, 208, 211, 255; “The Grave of Keats” 157, 165; “The Grave of Shelley” 165; “The Happy Prince” 254; “The Harlot’s House” 10, 60–80; “The Nightingale and the Rose” 246n16; theories of art 7, 10; “The Philosophy of Dress” 111, 116; “The Portrait of Mr W.H.” 170; “The Selfish Giant” 223, 254; “The Soul of Man Under Socialism” 246, 285; “The Sphinx” 170, 172, 273; “The Star-Child” 246n16; “The Truth of Masks” 64; “The Young King” 12, 170, 179, 183, 185, 188–9, 192, 264n16; Tite Street auction bankruptcy sale 192; “Urbs Sacra Aeterna” 214; use-inheritance 25–6; Wagnerian themes in works 12; A Woman of

No Importance 247; The Women of Homer 175n3 Wilde, William 126 Wilkie, Allan 246 William Wilson (Poe) 41, 45–6, 51 Woman of No Importance, A (Wilde) 247 Woman’s World 185 Women of Homer, The (Wilde) 175n3 worldliness 2, 9 World War II 269, 276 Wratislaw, Theodore: “Songs to Elizabeth” 207 Wyzewa, Téodor de 224 Yosano Akiko 254 “Young King, The” (Wilde) 12, 170, 179, 183, 185, 188–9, 192, 246n16 Zanuck, Darryl F. 277 Zeno 285–6