Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), the influential Anglo-Irish playwright, is one of Trinity’s most famous and celebrated historical alumni. The Oscar Wilde Collection (TCD MS 11437), an important resource held in the Manuscripts & Archives Research Library, has recently been catalogued and conserved. Wilde continues to inspire interest and excitement among researchers and the general public, and it is hoped that a schedule of events to promote this fascinating archive will take place in the Library of Trinity College in 2017.
The Oscar Wilde Collection (TCD MS 11437) was amassed by Julia Rosenthal, a London-based rare book dealer, with a passion for Wildeana. Rosenthal purchased her first autographed Wilde letter in 1976 and she continued to collect over the following decades, gathering over 150 items, creating what is thought to have been one of the largest, privately owned Oscar Wilde collections in the world. It was acquired by the Library of Trinity College Dublin in 2011. As a collector’s collection, it comprises items of symbolic significance for Wilde’s biography, such as a receipt for a loan of money he received on leaving Reading Gaol in 1897, or the only known letter written to his son, Cyril.
The Oscar Wilde Collection contains both manuscript and print materials, as well as some items of memorabilia. Obvious highlights include: first and early Wilde editions (some autographed); thirty-four letters, both to, and from, Wilde (seven of which are unpublished); photographs and portraits (including some famous portrait photographs by Napolean Sarony taken during Wilde’s lecture tour in the States, 1882); the original theatre programmes for his four successful social comedies; memorabilia, such as Wilde’s silver calling card case, a gift from his dear friend the writer Ada Leverson, engraved ‘for Sebastian Melmoth from Sphinx’ (1897); and a set of thirty-nine trade cards inspired by Wilde’s ‘aesthetic tour’ of America in 1882. There is a complimentary collection of print material in the Department of Early Printed Books.
Oscar Wilde’s life and work continues to attract a devoted following among academic researchers, and the wider public. As noted in an earlier post, there are currently three items from the Oscar Wilde Collection on loan to the Petit Palais Museum, Paris. Also, happily coinciding with the launch of the Oscar Wilde online catalogue, a performance of Mícheál Mac Liammoír’s The Importance of Being Oscar was hosted by the Trinity College Senior Common Room on Thursday, 3rd of November. Performed by Michael Judd, the one-man show intersperses excerpts from Wilde’s plays and other writings with biographical highlights of his life. It was introduced by Dr Ian Sansom, the newly appointed Director of the TCD Oscar Wilde Centre for Irish Writing, and there were some in attendance in the audience who had been at the first Dublin performance at the Gate Theatre in 1960, making for a truly memorable evening. The Library has further Wilde events planned for 2017, to include an exhibition in the Long Room and an online exhibition, and we are looking forward to further research opportunities, as well as a possible collaboration with the TCD Oscar Wilde Centre for Irish Writing.
Caoimhe Ní Ghormáin