Arriving at the port of New York in 1882, a 27-year-old Oscar Wilde quipped he had "nothing to declare but my genius." But as this sparkling narrative reveals, Wilde was, rarely for him, underselling himself. A chronicle of his sensational eleven-month speaking tour of America, Declaring His Genius offers an indelible portrait of both Oscar Wilde and the Gilded Age. Neither Wilde nor America would ever be the same.
Brilliant book, brilliant narration. This history is full of character and facts about Oscar Wilde's tour of the U.S. early in his career. It is extraordinarily full of anecdotes and descriptions of encounters Oscar Wilde had with the luminaries of his day, such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Ward Beecher, Walt Whitman, Jefferson Davis, and many others. Also revealing was that Wilde, far from being a mere aesthete prancing about in knickers and dancing slippers, was a man of substance, who knew how to navigate the waters of class (the Miners of Leadville, CO come to mind), and treat even those who were contemptuous of him with dignity and respect. The force of this book is in the visceral way the reader is allowed to understand how the American Tour changed Wilde for the better, which gave him a backbone of iron, and changed his sensibilities. There was one Oscar Wilde before America, and a different Oscar Wilde after. This book reveals how that happened, with a joyful wit worthy of its estimable subject. Christa Lewis narrates with a gentle touch, and a wry sense of humor at moments that increase ones appreciation of the ironical positions Wilde finds himself in throughout his experiences. Brilliant narration. Only scant mentions are made of the scandal which looms in Oscar's future. And these are done only to serve the narrative, and not because of any salacious intent. I recommend the book to everyone. 7 hours in the contemplation of beauty and the beautiful is a treat for the soul.
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