Illustration for Oscar Wilde’s “The Canterville Ghost” — James Hill

Canterville

James Hill’s illustration for The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde. From The Short Stories of Oscar Wilde, Heritage Press, 1968.


The Canterville Ghost

by

Oscar Wilde

When Mr. Hiram B. Otis, the American Minister, bought Canterville Chase, every one told him he was doing a very foolish thing, as there was no doubt at all that the place was haunted. Indeed, Lord Canterville himself, who was a man of the most punctilious honour, had felt it his duty to mention the fact to Mr. Otis when they came to discuss terms.

“We have not cared to live in the place ourselves,” said Lord Canterville, “since my grandaunt, the Dowager Duchess of Bolton, was frightened into a fit, from which she never really recovered, by two skeleton hands being placed on her shoulders as she was dressing for dinner, and I feel bound to tell you, Mr. Otis, that the ghost has been seen by several living members of my family, as well as by the rector of the parish, the Rev. Augustus Dampier, who is a Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. After the unfortunate accident to the Duchess, none of our younger servants would stay with us, and Lady Canterville often got very little sleep at night, in consequence of the mysterious noises that came from the corridor and the library.”

“My Lord,” answered the Minister, “I will take the furniture and the ghost at a valuation. I have come from a modern country, where we have everything that money can buy; and with all our spry young fellows painting the Old World red, and carrying off your best actors and prima-donnas, I reckon that if there were such a thing as a ghost in Europe, we’d have it at home in a very short time in one of our public museums, or on the road as a show.”

“I fear that the ghost exists,” said Lord Canterville, smiling, “though it may have resisted the overtures of your enterprising impresarios. It has been well known for three centuries, since 1584 in fact, and always makes its appearance before the death of any member of our family.”

“Well, so does the family doctor for that matter, Lord Canterville. But there is no such thing, sir, as a ghost, and I guess the laws of Nature are not going to be suspended for the British aristocracy.”

“You are certainly very natural in America,” answered Lord Canterville, who did not quite understand Mr. Otis’s last observation, “and if you don’t mind a ghost in the house, it is all right. Only you must remember I warned you.”

Read the rest of The Canterville Ghost at Project Gutenberg.

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Illustration for Oscar Wilde’s “The Model Millionaire” — James Hill (…and full text of the story)

model millionaire

James Hill’s illustration for “The Model Millionaire” by Oscar Wilde. From The Short Stories of Oscar Wilde, Heritage Press, 1968.


“The Model Millionaire”

by

Oscar Wilde


 

Unless one is wealthy there is no use in being a charming fellow. Romance is the privilege of the rich, not the profession of the unemployed. The poor should be practical and prosaic. It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating. These are the great truths of modern life which Hughie Erskine never realised. Poor Hughie! Intellectually, we must admit, he was not of much importance. He never said a brilliant or even an ill-natured thing in his life. But then he was wonderfully good-looking, with his crisp brown hair, his clear-cut profile, and his grey eyes. He was as popular with men as he was with women, and he had every accomplishment except that of making money. His father had bequeathed him his cavalry sword, and a History of the Peninsular War in fifteen volumes. Hughie hung the first over his looking-glass, put the second on a shelf between Ruff’s Guide and Bailey’sMagazine, and lived on two hundred a year that an old aunt allowed him. He had tried everything. He had gone on the Stock Exchange for six months; but what was a butterfly to do among bulls and bears? He had been a tea-merchant for a little longer, but had soon tired of pekoe and souchong. Then he had tried selling dry sherry. That did not answer; the sherry was a little too dry. Ultimately he became nothing, a delightful, ineffectual young man with a perfect profile and no profession.

To make matters worse, he was in love. The girl he loved was Laura Merton, the daughter of a retired Colonel who had lost his temper and his digestion in India, and had never found either of them again. Laura adored him, and he was ready to kiss her shoe-strings. They were the handsomest couple in London, and had not a penny-piece between them. The Colonel was very fond of Hughie, but would not hear of any engagement.

‘Come to me, my boy, when you have got ten thousand pounds of your own, and we will see about it,’ he used to say; and Hughie looked very glum on those days, and had to go to Laura for consolation. Continue reading “Illustration for Oscar Wilde’s “The Model Millionaire” — James Hill (…and full text of the story)”

Illustration for Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince” — James Hill

The Happy Prince

James Hill’s illustration for “The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde. From The Short Stories of Oscar Wilde, Heritage Press, 1968.


“The Happy Prince”

by

Oscar Wilde


High above the city, on a tall column, stood the statue of the Happy Prince. He was gilded all over with thin leaves of fine gold, for eyes he had two bright sapphires, and a large red ruby glowed on his sword-hilt.

He was very much admired indeed. “He is as beautiful as a weathercock,” remarked one of the Town Councillors who wished to gain a reputation for having artistic tastes; “only not quite so useful,” he added, fearing lest people should think him unpractical, which he really was not.

“Why can’t you be like the Happy Prince?” asked a sensible mother of her little boy who was crying for the moon. “The Happy Prince never dreams of crying for anything.”

“I am glad there is some one in the world who is quite happy,” muttered a disappointed man as he gazed at the wonderful statue.

“He looks just like an angel,” said the Charity Children as they came out of the cathedral in their bright scarlet cloaks and their clean white pinafores.

“How do you know?” said the Mathematical Master, “you have never seen one.”

“Ah! but we have, in our dreams,” answered the children; and the Mathematical Master frowned and looked very severe, for he did not approve of children dreaming.

One night there flew over the city a little Swallow. His friends had gone away to Egypt six weeks before, but he had stayed behind, for he was in love with the most beautiful Reed. He had met her early in the spring as he was flying down the river after a big yellow moth, and had been so attracted by her slender waist that he had stopped to talk to her.
Continue reading “Illustration for Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince” — James Hill”

Illustration for Oscar Wilde’s “The Birthday of the Infanta” — James Hill

Birthday Infanta

James Hill’s illustration for “The Birthday of the Infanta” by Oscar Wilde. From The Short Stories of Oscar Wilde, Heritage Press, 1968.


“The Birthday of the Infanta”

by

Oscar Wilde


It was the birthday of the Infanta.  She was just twelve years of age, and the sun was shining brightly in the gardens of the palace.

Although she was a real Princess and the Infanta of Spain, she had only one birthday every year, just like the children of quite poor people, so it was naturally a matter of great importance to the whole country that she should have a really fine day for the occasion.  And a really fine day it certainly was.  The tall striped tulips stood straight up upon their stalks, like long rows of soldiers, and looked defiantly across the grass at the roses, and said: ‘We are quite as splendid as you are now.’  The purple butterflies fluttered about with gold dust on their wings, visiting each flower in turn; the little lizards crept out of the crevices of the wall, and lay basking in the white glare; and the pomegranates split and cracked with the heat, and showed their bleeding red hearts.  Even the pale yellow lemons, that hung in such profusion from the mouldering trellis and along the dim arcades, seemed to have caught a richer colour from the wonderful sunlight, and the magnolia trees opened their great globe-like blossoms of folded ivory, and filled the air with a sweet heavy perfume.

The little Princess herself walked up and down the terrace with her companions, and played at hide and seek round the stone vases and the old moss-grown statues.  On ordinary days she was only allowed to play with children of her own rank, so she had always to play alone, but her birthday was an exception, and the King had given orders that she was to invite any of her young friends whom she liked to come and amuse themselves with her.  There was a stately grace about these slim Spanish children as they glided about, the boys with their large-plumed hats and short fluttering cloaks, the girls holding up the trains of their long brocaded gowns, and shielding the sun from their eyes with huge fans of black and silver.  But the Infanta was the most graceful of all, and the most tastefully attired, after the somewhat cumbrous fashion of the day.  Her robe was of grey satin, the skirt and the wide puffed sleeves heavily embroidered with silver, and the stiff corset studded with rows of fine pearls.  Two tiny slippers with big pink rosettes peeped out beneath her dress as she walked.  Pink and pearl was her great gauze fan, and in her hair, which like an aureole of faded gold stood out stiffly round her pale little face, she had a beautiful white rose.

Continue reading “Illustration for Oscar Wilde’s “The Birthday of the Infanta” — James Hill”

Illustration for Oscar Wilde’s “The Remarkable Rocket” — James Hill

the remarkable rocket

James Hill’s illustration for “The Remarkable Rocket” by Oscar Wilde. From The Short Stories of Oscar Wilde, Heritage Press, 1968.


“The Remarkable Rocket”

by

Oscar Wilde


The King’s son was going to be married, so there were general rejoicings. He had waited a whole year for his bride, and at last she had arrived. She was a Russian Princess, and had driven all the way from Finland in a sledge drawn by six reindeer. The sledge was shaped like a great golden swan, and between the swan’s wings lay the little Princess herself. Her long ermine cloak reached right down to her feet, on her head was a tiny cap of silver tissue, and she was as pale as the Snow Palace in which she had always lived. So pale was she that as she drove through the streets all the people wondered. ‘She is like a white rose!’ they cried, and they threw down flowers on her from the balconies.

At the gate of the Castle the Prince was waiting to receive her. He had dreamy violet eyes, and his hair was like fine gold. When he saw her he sank upon one knee, and kissed her hand.

‘Your picture was beautiful,’ he murmured, ‘but you are more beautiful than your picture;’ and the little Princess blushed.

‘She was like a white rose before,’ said a young Page to his neighbour, ‘but she is like a red rose now;’ and the whole Court was delighted.

For the next three days everybody went about saying, ‘White rose, Red rose, Red rose, White rose;’ and the King gave orders that the Page’s salary was to be doubled. As he received no salary at all this was not of much use to him, but it was considered a great honour, and was duly published in the Court Gazette.

When the three days were over the marriage was celebrated. It was a magnificent ceremony, and the bride and bridegroom walked hand in hand under a canopy of purple velvet embroidered with little pearls. Then there was a State Banquet, which lasted for five hours. The Prince and Princess sat at the top of the Great Hall and drank out of a cup of clear crystal. Only true lovers could drink out of this cup, for if false lips touched it, it grew grey and dull and cloudy.

 

Continue reading “Illustration for Oscar Wilde’s “The Remarkable Rocket” — James Hill”

Illustration for Oscar Wilde’s “The Fisherman and His Soul” — James Hill

fisherman and his soul
James Hill’s illustration for “The Fisherman and His Soul” by Oscar Wilde. From The Short Stories of Oscar Wilde, Heritage Press, 1968. 

“The Fisherman and His Soul”

by

Oscar Wilde


Every evening the young Fisherman went out upon the sea, and threw his nets into the water.

When the wind blew from the land he caught nothing, or but little at best, for it was a bitter and black-winged wind, and rough waves rose up to meet it.  But when the wind blew to the shore, the fish came in from the deep, and swam into the meshes of his nets, and he took them to the market-place and sold them.

Every evening he went out upon the sea, and one evening the net was so heavy that hardly could he draw it into the boat.  And he laughed, and said to himself, ‘Surely I have caught all the fish that swim, or snared some dull monster that will be a marvel to men, or some thing of horror that the great Queen will desire,’ and putting forth all his strength, he tugged at the coarse ropes till, like lines of blue enamel round a vase of bronze, the long veins rose up on his arms.  He tugged at the thin ropes, and nearer and nearer came the circle of flat corks, and the net rose at last to the top of the water.

But no fish at all was in it, nor any monster or thing of horror, but only a little Mermaid lying fast asleep.

Her hair was as a wet fleece of gold, and each separate hair as a thread of fine gold in a cup of glass.  Her body was as white ivory, and her tail was of silver and pearl.  Silver and pearl was her tail, and the green weeds of the sea coiled round it; and like sea-shells were her ears, and her lips were like sea-coral.  The cold waves dashed over her cold breasts, and the salt glistened upon her eyelids.

So beautiful was she that when the young Fisherman saw her he was filled with wonder, and he put out his hand and drew the net close to him, and leaning over the side he clasped her in his arms.  And when he touched her, she gave a cry like a startled sea-gull, and woke, and looked at him in terror with her mauve-amethyst eyes, and struggled that she might escape.  But he held her tightly to him, and would not suffer her to depart.

And when she saw that she could in no way escape from him, she began to weep, and said, ‘I pray thee let me go, for I am the only daughter of a King, and my father is aged and alone.’

But the young Fisherman answered, ‘I will not let thee go save thou makest me a promise that whenever I call thee, thou wilt come and sing to me, for the fish delight to listen to the song of the Sea-folk, and so shall my nets be full.’

‘Wilt thou in very truth let me go, if I promise thee this?’ cried the Mermaid.

‘In very truth I will let thee go,’ said the young Fisherman.

So she made him the promise he desired, and sware it by the oath of the Sea-folk.  And he loosened his arms from about her, and she sank down into the water, trembling with a strange fear.

Read the rest of Wilde’s “The Fisherman and His Soul” at Project Gutenberg.

The Short Stories of Oscar Wilde, featuring Illustrations from Paintings by James Hill (Book acquired, 3.25.2016)

oscar1

The Heritage Press collection The Short Stories of Oscar Wilde (1968), featuring paintings by James Hill.

Illustration for Oscar Wilde’s “The Star-Child” — James Hill

img_1927

From The Heritage Press collection The Short Stories of Oscar Wilde (1968), featuring paintings by James Hill.


 

“The Star-Child”

by

Oscar Wilde


 

Once upon a time two poor Woodcutters were making their way home through a great pine-forest.  It was winter, and a night of bitter cold.  The snow lay thick upon the ground, and upon the branches of the trees: the frost kept snapping the little twigs on either side of them, as they passed: and when they came to the Mountain-Torrent she was hanging motionless in air, for the Ice-King had kissed her.

So cold was it that even the animals and the birds did not know what to make of it.

‘Ugh!’ snarled the Wolf, as he limped through the brushwood with his tail between his legs, ‘this is perfectly monstrous weather.  Why doesn’t the Government look to it?’

‘Weet! weet! weet!’ twittered the green Linnets, ‘the old Earth is dead and they have laid her out in her white shroud.’

‘The Earth is going to be married, and this is her bridal dress,’ whispered the Turtle-doves to each other.  Their little pink feet were quite frost-bitten, but they felt that it was their duty to take a romantic view of the situation. Continue reading “Illustration for Oscar Wilde’s “The Star-Child” — James Hill”

Reading backwards (Oscar Wilde)

There is a great deal to be said in favour of reading a novel backwards.  The last page is, as a rule, the most interesting, and when one begins with the catastrophe or the dénoûment one feels on pleasant terms of equality with the author.  It is like going behind the scenes of a theatre.  One is no longer taken in, and the hairbreadth escapes of the hero and the wild agonies of the heroine leave one absolutely unmoved.

From the “Sententiae” section of A Critic in Pall Mall.

“The Disciple” — Oscar Wilde

“The Disciple”

by

Oscar Wilde

When Narcissus died the pool of his pleasure changed from a cup of sweet waters into a cup of salt tears, and the Oreads came weeping through the woodland that they might sing to the pool and give it comfort.

And when they saw that the pool had changed from a cup of sweet waters into a cup of salt tears, they loosened the green tresses of their hair and cried to the pool and said, ‘We do not wonder that you should mourn in this manner for Narcissus, so beautiful was he.’

‘But was Narcissus beautiful?’ said the pool.

‘Who should know that better than you?’ answered the Oreads.  ‘Us did he ever pass by, but you he sought for, and would lie on your banks and look down at you, and in the mirror of your waters he would mirror his own beauty.’

And the pool answered, ‘But I loved Narcissus because, as he lay on my banks and looked down at me, in the mirror of his eyes I saw ever my own beauty mirrored.’

Cowboy Oscar Wilde — Michael Kupperman

cowboy oscar

Pain wears no mask (Oscar Wilde)

I now see that sorrow, being the supreme emotion of which man is capable, is at once the type and test of all great art. What the artist is always looking for is the mode of existence in which soul and body are one and indivisible: in which the outward is expressive of the inward: in which form reveals. Of such modes of existence there are not a few: youth and the arts preoccupied with youth may serve as a model for us at one moment: at another we may like to think that, in its subtlety and sensitiveness of impression, its suggestion of a spirit dwelling in external things and making its raiment of earth and air, of mist and city alike, and in its morbid sympathy of its moods, and tones, and colours, modern landscape art is realising for us pictorially what was realised in such plastic perfection by the Greeks. Music, in which all subject is absorbed in expression and cannot be separated from it, is a complex example, and a flower or a child a simple example, of what I mean; but sorrow is the ultimate type both in life and art.

Behind joy and laughter there may be a temperament, coarse, hard and callous. But behind sorrow there is always sorrow. Pain, unlike pleasure, wears no mask. Truth in art is not any correspondence between the essential idea and the accidental existence; it is not the resemblance of shape to shadow, or of the form mirrored in the crystal to the form itself; it is no echo coming from a hollow hill, any more than it is a silver well of water in the valley that shows the moon to the moon and Narcissus to Narcissus. Truth in art is the unity of a thing with itself: the outward rendered expressive of the inward: the soul made incarnate: the body instinct with spirit. For this reason there is no truth comparable to sorrow. There are times when sorrow seems to me to be the only truth. Other things may be illusions of the eye or the appetite, made to blind the one and cloy the other, but out of sorrow have the worlds been built, and at the birth of a child or a star there is pain.

More than this, there is about sorrow an intense, an extraordinary reality. I have said of myself that I was one who stood in symbolic relations to the art and culture of my age. There is not a single wretched man in this wretched place along with me who does not stand in symbolic relation to the very secret of life. For the secret of life is suffering. It is what is hidden behind everything. When we begin to live, what is sweet is so sweet to us, and what is bitter so bitter, that we inevitably direct all our desires towards pleasures, and seek not merely for a ‘month or twain to feed on honeycomb,’ but for all our years to taste no other food, ignorant all the while that we may really be starving the soul.

From Oscar Wilde’s essay De Profundis.

My first meeting with Oscar Wilde was an astonishment (W.B. Yeats)

My first meeting with Oscar Wilde was an astonishment. I never before heard a man talking with perfect sentences, as if he had written them all over night with labour and yet all spontaneous. There was present that night at Henley’s, by right of propinquity or of accident, a man full of the secret spite of dulness, who interrupted from time to time, and always to check or disorder thought; and I noticed with what mastery he was foiled and thrown. I noticed, too, that the impression of artificiality that I think all Wilde’s listeners have recorded came from the perfect rounding of the sentences and from the deliberation that made it possible. That very impression helped him, as the effect of metre, or of the antithetical prose of the seventeenth century, which is itself a true metre, helped its writers, for he could pass without incongruity from some unforeseen, swift stroke of wit to elaborate reverie. I heard him say a few nights later: “Give me The Winter’s Tale, ‘Daffodils that come before the swallow dare’ but not King Lear. What is King Lear but poor life staggering in the fog?” and the slow, carefully modulated cadence sounded natural to my ears. That first night he praised Walter Pater’s Studies in the History of the Renaissance: “It is my golden book; I never travel anywhere without it; but it is the very flower of decadence: the last trumpet should have sounded the moment it was written.” “But,” said the dull man, “would you not have given us time to read it?” “Oh no,” was the retort, “there would have been plenty of time afterwards—in either world.” I think he seemed to us, baffled as we were by youth, or by infirmity, a triumphant figure, and to some of us a figure from another age, an audacious Italian fifteenth century figure. A few weeks before I had heard one of my father’s friends, an official in a publishing firm that had employed both Wilde and Henley as editors, blaming Henley who was “no use except under control” and praising Wilde, “so indolent but such a genius”; and now the firm became the topic of our talk. “How often do you go to the office?” said Henley. “I used to go three times a week,” said Wilde, “for an hour a day but I have since struck off one of the days.” “My God,” said Henley, “I went five times a week for five hours a day and when I wanted to strike off a day they had a special committee meeting.” “Furthermore,” was Wilde’s answer, “I never answered their letters. I have known men come to London full of bright prospects and seen themcomplete wrecks in a few months through a habit of answering letters.” He too knew how to keep our elders in their place, and his method was plainly the more successful, for Henley had been dismissed. “No he is not an aesthete,” Henley commented later, being somewhat embarrassed by Wilde’s Pre-Raphaelite entanglement; “one soon finds that he is a scholar and a gentleman.” And when I dined with Wilde a few days afterwards he began at once, “I had to strain every nerve to equal that man at all”; and I was too loyal to speak my thought: “You and not he said all the brilliant things.” He like the rest of us had felt the strain of an intensity that seemed to hold life at the point of drama. He had said on that first meeting “The basis of literary friendship is mixing the poisoned bowl”; and for a few weeks Henley and he became close friends till, the astonishment of their meeting over, diversity of character and ambition pushed them apart, and, with half the cavern helping, Henley began mixing the poisoned bowl for Wilde. Yet Henley never wholly lost that first admiration, for after Wilde’s downfall he said to me: “Why did he do it? I told my lads to attack him and yet we might have fought under his banner.”

From W.B. Yeats’s autobiography, The Trembling of the Veil.

Lying is the proper aim of Art (Oscar Wilde)

CYRIL.  …I want you to tell me briefly the doctrines of the new aesthetics.

VIVIAN.  Briefly, then, they are these.  Art never expresses anything but itself.  It has an independent life, just as Thought has, and develops purely on its own lines.  It is not necessarily realistic in an age of realism, nor spiritual in an age of faith.  So far from being the creation of its time, it is usually in direct opposition to it, and the only history that it preserves for us is the history of its own progress.  Sometimes it returns upon its footsteps, and revives some antique form, as happened in the archaistic movement of late Greek Art, and in the pre-Raphaelite movement of our own day.  At other times it entirely anticipates its age, and produces in one century work that it takes another century to understand, to appreciate and to enjoy.  In no case does it reproduce its age.  To pass from the art of a time to the time itself is the great mistake that all historians commit.

The second doctrine is this.  All bad art comes from returning to Life and Nature, and elevating them into ideals.  Life and Nature may sometimes be used as part of Art’s rough material, but before they are of any real service to art they must be translated into artistic conventions.  The moment Art surrenders its imaginative medium it surrenders everything.  As a method Realism is a complete failure, and the two things that every artist should avoid are modernity of form and modernity of subject-matter.  To us, who live in the nineteenth century, any century is a suitable subject for art except our own.  The only beautiful things are the things that do not concern us.  It is, to have the pleasure of quoting myself, exactly because Hecuba is nothing to us that her sorrows are so suitable a motive for a tragedy.  Besides, it is only the modern that ever becomes old-fashioned.  M. Zola sits down to give us a picture of the Second Empire.  Who cares for the Second Empire now?  It is out of date.  Life goes faster than Realism, but Romanticism is always in front of Life.

The third doctrine is that Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.  This results not merely from Life’s imitative instinct, but from the fact that the self-conscious aim of Life is to find expression, and that Art offers it certain beautiful forms through which it may realise that energy.  It is a theory that has never been put forward before, but it is extremely fruitful, and throws an entirely new light upon the history of Art.

It follows, as a corollary from this, that external Nature also imitates Art.  The only effects that she can show us are effects that we have already seen through poetry, or in paintings.  This is the secret of Nature’s charm, as well as the explanation of Nature’s weakness.

The final revelation is that Lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of Art.  But of this I think I have spoken at sufficient length.  And now let us go out on the terrace, where ‘droops the milk-white peacock like a ghost,’ while the evening star ‘washes the dusk with silver.’  At twilight nature becomes a wonderfully suggestive effect, and is not without loveliness, though perhaps its chief use is to illustrate quotations from the poets.  Come!  We have talked long enough.

From “The Decay of Lying” by Oscar Wilde.

More colour is wanted (Oscar Wilde)

You have too many white walls.  More colour is wanted.  You should have such men as Whistler among you to teach you the beauty and joy of colour.  Take Mr. Whistler’s ‘Symphony in White,’ which you no doubt have imagined to be something quite bizarre.  It is nothing of the sort.  Think of a cool grey sky flecked here and there with white clouds, a grey ocean and three wonderfully beautiful figures robed in white, leaning over the water and dropping white flowers from their fingers.  Here is no extensive intellectual scheme to trouble you, and no metaphysics of which we have had quite enough in art.  But if the simple and unaided colour strike the right key-note, the whole conception is made clear.  I regard Mr. Whistler’s famous Peacock Room as the finest thing in colour and art decoration which the world has known since Correggio painted that wonderful room in Italy where the little children are dancing on the walls.  Mr. Whistler finished another room just before I came away—a breakfast room in blue and yellow.  The ceiling was a light blue, the cabinet-work and the furniture were of a yellow wood, the curtains at the windows were white and worked in yellow, and when the table was set for breakfast with dainty blue china nothing can be conceived at once so simple and so joyous.

The fault which I have observed in most of your rooms is that there is apparent no definite scheme of colour.  Everything is not attuned to a key-note as it should be.  The apartments are crowded with pretty things which have no relation to one another.  Again, your artists must decorate what is more simply useful.  In your art schools I found no attempt to decorate such things as the vessels for water.  I know of nothing uglier than the ordinary jug or pitcher.  A museum could be filled with the different kinds of water vessels which are used in hot countries.  Yet we continue to submit to the depressing jug with the handle all on one side.  I do not see the wisdom of decorating dinner-plates with sunsets and soup-plates with moonlight scenes.  I do not think it adds anything to the pleasure of the canvas-back duck to take it out of such glories.  Besides, we do not want a soup-plate whose bottom seems to vanish in the distance.  One feels neither safe nor comfortable under such conditions.  In fact, I did not find in the art schools of the country that the difference was explained between decorative and imaginative art.

From “House Decoration,” a lecture delivered by Oscar Wilde on his 1882 American tour.

Oscar Wilde’s Cigarette Case

This silver cigarette case was presented by Bosie Douglas to his disgraced lover, Oscar Wilde. To launch Gilbert and Sullivan’s latest operetta Patience in America – a satire on Aestheticism – the impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte paid Wilde to undertake an extensive lecture tour of the United States in 1882. To everyone’s surprise (including his own), the flamboyant author and professional aesthete won over America – and the West – to such an extent that his lecture tour had to be extended into the following year.

Via.

“Art does not address herself to the specialist” (Oscar Wilde)

The appeal of all Art is simply to the artistic temperament.  Art does not address herself to the specialist.  Her claim is that she is universal, and that in all her manifestations she is one.  Indeed, so far from its being true that the artist is the best judge of art, a really great artist can never judge of other people’s work at all, and can hardly, in fact, judge of his own.  That very concentration of vision that makes a man an artist, limits by its sheer intensity his faculty of fine appreciation.  The energy of creation hurries him blindly on to his own goal.  The wheels of his chariot raise the dust as a cloud around him.  The gods are hidden from each other.  They can recognise their worshippers.  That is all . . . Wordsworth saw in Endymion merely a pretty piece of Paganism, and Shelley, with his dislike of actuality, was deaf to Wordsworth’s message, being repelled by its form, and Byron, that great passionate human incomplete creature, could appreciate neither the poet of the cloud nor the poet of the lake, and the wonder of Keats was hidden from him.  The realism of Euripides was hateful to Sophokles.  Those droppings of warm tears had no music for him.  Milton, with his sense of the grand style, could not understand the method of Shakespeare, any more than could Sir Joshua the method of Gainsborough.  Bad artists always admire each other’s work.  They call it being large-minded and free from prejudice.  But a truly great artist cannot conceive of life being shown, or beauty fashioned, under any conditions other than those that he has selected.  Creation employs all its critical faculty within its own sphere.  It may not use it in the sphere that belongs to others.  It is exactly because a man cannot do a thing that he is the proper judge of it.

From Oscar Wilde’s The Critic as Artist.