The 5 greatest pieces of Oscar Wilde memorabilia ever sold



2016-12-12 13:03:46

The key that opened Oscar Wilde's cell at Reading Gaol comes to auction this week with a £5,000 ($7,500) estimate.

To mark the event, and to celebrate the writer's extraordinary life, here are five more fascinating pieces of Wilde history that have sold at auction. 

5. Amor Intellectualis manuscript

Amor Intellectualis Amor Intellectualis featured in an 1890 collection of poems titled Rosa Mystica

This Wilde handwritten poem first appeared in Rosa Mystica, a collection of poems published in 1890 - around the time Wilde's career as a playwright was beginning to take off.

Although it's not signed or dated by the author, it realised $16,500 at Dirk Soulis Auction in London in 2011.

4. Signed photograph

In 1882, Wilde embarked on a tour of the US, where he held lectures on aestheticism.

Oscar Wilde picWilde travelled to America in 1882

The tour had initially been planned to last four months, but ended up continuing for a year due to popular demand.

This photograph was taken by Napoleon Sarony in New York and shows Wilde dressed in a suitably outlandish outfit.

Wilde has signed and inscribed it "rien n'est vrai, que le beau" (only the beautiful is true). It made £10,000 ($15,927) at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury in London in 2012.

3. Letter to Mr Morgan

Wilde wrote this letter to a Mr Morgan - an aspiring writer who had sent a manuscript to Wilde in the hope of receiving some pointers. Wilde gives Mr Morgan plenty of encouragement across these 13 pages, but warns that writing isn't a profitable livelihood and that Mr Morgan should ensure he has a "day job". 

Oscar Wilde magazine "Make some sacrifice for your art and you will be repaid"

It reads in part: "It is better than many magazine articles, though if you will allow me to say so it is rather belligerent in tone.

"The best work in literature is always done by those who do not depend on it for their daily bread - and the highest form of literature, Poetry, brings no wealth to the singer.

"Make some sacrifice for your art and you will be repaid - but ask of art to sacrifice herself for you and a bitter disappointment may come to you."

The lot sold for 22,000 ($35,041) at Dreweatts in 2013.

2. Signed copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) is Wilde's only novel and one of his best-known works, having been adapted into various films over the years.

Oscar Dorian The Picture of Dorian Gray proved controversial on publication

It proved hugely controversial on its release and was condemned by many critics as immoral, to which Wilde responded: "Leave my book, I beg you, to the immortality that it deserves."

This copy is numbered 52 of 250 and features Wilde's signature on the title page. It sold for $23,000 at Heritage Auctions in 2010.

1. Signed copy of The Importance of Being Earnest

Of all Wilde's plays, The Importance of Being Earnest has proved his most enduring.

Wilde Earnest signed Wilde spent two years in prison between 1895 and 1897

In 2014, a rare signed copy Wilde gave to his prison governor realised £55,000 ($93,266) in a sale at Bonhams London.

Wilde wrote: "To Major Nelson: from the author. A trivial recognition of a great and noble kindness. Feb, 99".

Wilde was imprisoned for his homosexuality in 1895 and was treated particularly badly by governor Henry Isaacson. In 1896 Isaacson left and replaced by Major James Nelson - who allowed Wilde access to pen, paper and reading materials.

JustCollecting's head writer, Dan Wade, comments: "The five strong auction prices above indicate the collecting public's enduring fascination with Wilde. When world class Wilde items appear for auction, they sell well. It's why I'm anticipating the Reading Gaol key to sell for far beyond its estimate on December 13."


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