Oscar Wilde Collectibles And Memorabilia
Oscar Wilde (born Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde) was an Irish writer, today most famous for his plays, epigrams, and social commentary.
Born in Dublin in 1854, Wilde was the son of Dublin intellectuals and fluent in four languages. After completing his studies in Dublin and Oxford, Wilde moved to London where he published a book of poems. However, he was more famous among contemporaries for his wit and flamboyant personal style, than for his literary achievements.
Known to his close friends as a practicing homosexual, and involved in numerous intense homosexual relationships, he remained married to Constance Lloyd, who continued to profess her love for him and bore him two children. From being a leading light of the intellectual and social scene in London, Wilde became a tragic figure following his successful prosecution for indecency, his imprisonment, and subsequent early death. He had typically gambled upon being able to successfully prosecute for slander the father of his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas. However, evidence uncovered during the course of this investigation led to Wilde’s arrest and sentence to two years hard labour in Reading Gaol.
On his release, Wilde went to live in France, never returning to the British Isles again. He died there, destitute, at the age of 46, two years after publishing his final work, a narrative poem entitled The Ballad of Reading Gaol.
Types Of Memorabilia
Many personal possessions belonging to Oscar Wilde were sold by his wife in order to support herself and her children during Wilde’s term of in Reading Gaol. However, as a leading ‘personality’ of the day, many items now considered collectable are in the public domain, having been given as presents by Wilde to friends and lovers. Other items were considered unsaleable due to the scandal later attached to his name, and these have been preserved by friends.
Typical of items in these categories are a signed, large format photograph of Wilde, inscribed to his friend Arthur Fish, offered for sale by Bonhams, and reaching £5000 at auction; and a first edition of Wilde’s banned play, Salome, which was sold by Dominic Winter in 2010 for $30,000.
In October 2004, Sotheby's in London auctioned a collection of Oscar Wilde memorabilia, including rare book manuscripts and a photograph of Wilde on his death bed, for for £850,000. However, a catalogue of Wilde's belongings, which were auctioned whilst he was in jail, and a manuscript written by his former lover, remained unsold. Sotheby's had estimated them at up to £50,000 each. The highest selling item, which fetched £72,000, was a working manuscript chapter of The Picture Of Dorian Gray.
A collection of Wilde's manuscripts, first editions, presentation copies and autograph letters were sold in October 2011 at the Anderson Galleries in New York in 2011 for $46,866.
Guide for Collectors
Given the nature of the scandal surrounding Oscar Wilde’s life and downfall, some of the most important pieces of memorabilia were put into the hands of private collectors who had no need to sell and were emotionally attached to the writer. Such items as are sold are usually in immaculate condition. However, the most desirable items are rarely offered for sale, but are more likely to be lent by owners for the benefit of exhibitions.
There is, for example an (alleged) voice recording of Wilde himself, currently owned by a private collector, and Wilde’s preferred Mont Blanc fountain pen is also unlikely to be offered for sale. A group exclusively dedicated to the writer and to the acquisition of Oscar Wilde memorabilia is www.utterlywilde.com. Other groups are www.oscarwildefanclub.com and www.oscarwildesociety.co.uk.
Collectable items may be found by exchanging information with other admirers of Wilde.
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