News | December 4, 2014

Newly Discovered Works by Oscar Wilde to be Displayed in Exhibition at the Rosenbach


PHILADELPHIA, PA—Dec. 3, 2014—The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia is thrilled to announce the upcoming display of newly discovered works by Oscar Wilde (1854??1900), one of the world’s most influential and prominent cultural personalities. The materials include a notebook from around 1880, with unrecorded versions of early poems and with drawings by the inimitable Irish-born writer; a hand-corrected typescript of the play Salome; and a draft of part of his poem “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” (1898), with previously unknown variations. These will be displayed for the first time in the exhibition Everything is Going On Brilliantly: Oscar Wilde and Philadelphia, opening at the Rosenbach on January 23.

Housed in the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Rare Book Department, the materials were catalogued and available to the public, however they were unpublished and their significance was unknown. Their importance to the Wilde canon was discovered by Rosenbach consulting curators and Wilde scholars Mark Samuels Lasner and Margaret D. Stetz while conducting research for the exhibition.

In Lasner’s own words, “The poetical notebook, which is filled with drafts and versions of early verse and illustrated with sketches, is a revelation of the budding author at work. Scholars have speculated about the existence of a version of Salome that came between the original manuscript housed at the Rosenbach, and the first French edition; now we know where it is—in the Free Library. Virtually all of Wilde’s manuscripts have been published; these have not. It would be hard to overemphasize their importance.”

This ground-breaking exhibition centered upon Wilde’s continuing influence on the cultural landscape of Philadelphia will also bring together related materials from other public and private Wilde collections. As Rosenbach Curator and Director of Collections Judith Guston notes, “By presenting these works together for perhaps the very first time since their creation, we hope to share with the public a new understanding of Wilde’s meaning and process that comes to light only when we see the true relationship between and among the objects.“

This exhibition is also presented in conjunction with Opera Philadelphia’s east coast premiere production of Oscar. Chronicling Wilde’s trial and subsequent incarceration over “the love that dares not speak its name,” Oscar brings one of literature's most daring voices to operatic life.

“Everything is Going On Brilliantly”: Oscar Wilde and Philadelphia will be on view at the Rosenbach from January 23 to April 26, 2015.

About the Curators

Mark Samuels Lasner is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Delaware Library. One of the foremost collectors of work by late-Victorian writers and artists—and recipient of the Sir Thomas More medal from the University of San Francisco to honor his “private collecting, [as] a public benefit”— he is also a bibliographer and author of The Yellow Book: A Checklist and Index (1998), The Bookplates of Aubrey Beardsley (2008), and other books, despite having a visual impairment that classifies him as blind.

Margaret D. Stetz, Ph.D, is the Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women’s Studies and Professor of Humanities at the University of Delaware. She is the author of over 100 published essays, many of them on Wilde and his times—e. g., “Oscar Wilde and the New Woman” in Oscar Wilde in Context (Cambridge UP, 2013)—and of books such as British Women’s Comic Fiction, 1890-1990 (2001) and Facing the Late Victorians (2007). With Mark Samuels Lasner, she has curated numerous exhibitions, including "The Yellow Book " (at Harvard University, 1994) and "Gender and the London Theatre, 1880-1920" (at Bryn Mawr College, 2003).

About the Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia

The 61-location Free Library of Philadelphia system advances literacy, guides learning, and inspires curiosity with millions of digital and physical materials; 25,000 yearly programs and workshops; free public computers and extensive Wi-Fi; and rich special collections, including those at Parkway Central Library and at The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia. The combined holdings of these renowned collections—which include hundreds of thousands of rare books, manuscripts, and ephemera—inspire unique exhibitions and programs throughout the year. With more than 6 million in- person and 9 million online visits annually, the Free Library and the Rosenbach are among the most widely used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia and boast a worldwide impact.

Image: Poetical notebook of Oscar Wilde, ca. 1879-80. Free Library of Philadelphia Literary Manuscripts.