Wilde proclaimed the philosophy of Aesthetics (the superiority of "the science of beauty" over pragmatism), the virtues of Art, creative genius and Beauty, presenting in particular his conception of the trends of contemporary Art in Great Britain (The English Renaissance in Art) and Decorative Arts (The House Beautiful), influenced by William Morris (1834-1896), founder of the Arts & Crafts movement.
Due to his appearance, Wilde was considered an aesthete on the one hand, but at the same time he was exposed to the sarcasm of the audience. His report of a lecture bears witness to this: “He had pushed faith in his principles to the point of appearing in evening dress and short breeches, a protest against modern anti-aesthetic pants. You think if the Yankees laughed at this get-up. But on Tuesday, in Boston, the young students of serious Harvard University took the malice and sarcasm even further. About sixty of them, all seated in the first rows of the room, were dressed à la “Wilde”, a black coat, short breeches, silk stockings, and adorned with long flowing wigs to imitate the opulent hair of the young poet”. (Oscar Wilde, Nothing is true but the beautiful).
As the autograph shows, Oscar Wilde reacted in his own way to the ridicule, especially in the provinces. He himself described his appearance in New York two days later as "a brilliant success. I spoke at the Wallack Theater in the afternoon: not an empty seat and I made great progress in diction and gestures. I'm really very eloquent - sometimes. I was warmly congratulated" (Oscar Wilde, Nothing is true but the beautiful).
Wilde got the idea for this American tour from his impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte, who wanted to use it to promote the operetta "Patience" by WS Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, which he had produced. It was during this tour of the USA that Oscar Wilde first declined the phrase: “Satire is the homage which mediocrity pays to genius.” Another version: “Satire, always as sterile as it in shameful and as impotent as it is insolent, paid them that usual homage which mediocrity pays to genius.” and "Satire, always as sterile as it is shameful and as impotent as it is insolent, has paid them that usual homage which mediocrity pays to genius" (published posthumously in Essays and Lectures in 1908).
. Walter P. Chrysler Collection (1909.1988) – Gift to the Chrysler Museum.
. Chrysler Museum of Art Collection (Inv. 77.1204 – sold for the benefit of museum acquisitions)
. Pléiade, under the direction of Jean Gattégno, Gallimard, Paris, 1996.
. Oscar Wilde, Aphorisms, Arlea, 2008.
. Oscar Wilde, Nothing is True but the Beautiful, Selected Works, 2019..