On 3 January 1882, Oscar Wilde, a twenty-seven-year-old “genius”-by his own reckoning-arrived in New York.
The Dublin-born Oxford man had made a spectacle of himself in London with his fashion sense, acerbic wit, and passion for art and design, and was hired to go to America to lecture on interior decorating. But Wilde had his own business plan: he would promote himself. And he did, creating a template for fame creation that still works today. Wilde presented himself as a “star”, taking the stage in satin breeches and a velvet coat with lace trim as he sang the praises of sconces, embroidered pillows and himself. What he so presciently understood is that fame could launch a career as well as cap one.
An enchanting tale of travel and transformation, comedy and capitalism, Wilde in America teaches us about our present as well as our past.