We are very pleased to publish by kind permission of the author the scenario and Part 1 of Wilde in America, a play written for television by Walter J. Walker.

Wilde in America is ©Copyright 1999 Walter W. J. Walker





Travels with Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde -1882

 “To get into the best society nowadays one has either to feed people, amuse people, or shock people.” Oscar Wilde- in conversation.


merica was Oscar Wilde’s stage in 1882. In parlors from New York to San Francisco he received both standing ovations and catcalls. Long before any of Oscar Wilde’s plays had graced the boards, Ireland’s most flamboyant man of letters took America by storm. WILDE IN AMERICA is a six-part television mini-series starring the world’s most infamous playwright. 

As remarkable as it now seems, the young Oscar Wilde, a novice poet and struggling playwright, toured more than 150 venues in North America from January to December 1882.   The whys and wherefores of Oscar’s Tour are as follows:  

1.       His official mission: to bring culture to the masses via a series of lectures on aestheticism.

2.       His sponsors’ objective: to excite audiences about the new Gilbert & Sullivan production of “Patience,” which spoofs Wilde and the aesthetic movement.

3.       His personal ambition: to engage producers for “Vera: Or the Nihilists,” Oscar’s first –ever theatrical piece.

4.       His accomplishment: with his signature wit and charm, Oscar Wilde leaves a lasting impression on a frontier American society. He also earned a small fortune for his lectures.

 “I believe a most serious problem for American people to consider is the cultivation of better manners. It is the most noticeable, the most principal, defect in American civilization.”  Oscar Wilde - in conversation


WILDE IN AMERICA chronicles an extraordinary odyssey for Oscar Wilde. What starts out as a 20-city lecture tour expands to 150-plus cities and townships. The 27-year-old aesthete bears witness to the dawn of a new America. It is the advent of the Gilded Age as culture, fashion and social etiquette under-go a reformation. 

The Americans are certainly great hero-worshippers, and always take heroes from the criminal classes.
Oscar Wilde
- letter

 In the face of all that is peaceful and civilized, the America of the1880s continues its social contract with violence and guns. On July 2nd 1881, President James Garfield is senselessly gunned down in Potomac-Baltimore railway station by a lunatic fundamentalist. Wilde will encounter a Washington DC consumed with the trail of Charles Guiteau, Garfield’s accused assassin. Within weeks of the Garfield shooting, Pat Garrett dispatches Billy the Kid in Fort Sumner Texas. While Oscar is touring and preaching the precepts of the English Renaissance and modern home decoration, Pat Garrett has embarked on one of the first-ever national book tours promoting his biography, The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid. The outlaw Jesse James was gunned down by fellow gang member Robert Ford, in the summer while Wilde was on tour.

 Wilde in knee breeches, velvet jackets and billowing cravats was a startling contrast to the rough and tumble characters, who populated the small settlements and townships throughout the West.   Although his carriage and mannerisms were beyond effeminate, it would have been a mistake to dismiss Wilde as a limp-wristed push-over.  At 6 foot 3 inches, the young aesthete was every bit as big as any Texas Ranger.  He surprised many of his American hosts and acquaintances with his bottomless capacity for alcohol. More than one young tough, thought it would be fun to ply the Irish dandy with whiskey and watch him fall over. The roles were invariably reversed, leaving even resilient Colorado miners with a manly respect for this “nancy boy.”

 WILDE IN AMERICA is both a coming age for its hero and the host nation.  In Wilde’s case he will return to London with a draft of The Duchess of Padua, his first successful stage play. He will gain professional confidence as a result of the commercial rewards of his lecture tour. Receipts for the tour totaled more than $18,000 of which Wilde’s share was $11,000 and change. He will gain creative strength and self-assurance through his experience as a public lecturer.

 It is the noisiest country that ever existed. Such continual turmoil must ultimately lead to the destruction of the musical faculty. - Oscar Wilde: in conversation


 For America, 1882 represents a watershed year. The country will soon rid itself of the painful memories of the Civil War and turn its undivided attention to the marvels of new technology, a new social order and cultural improvements. Large urban centers such as New York, Washington and San Francisco open their doors to the artistic and cultural influences of Europe. And America begins to fulfill its destiny as a leader among nations. The industrial revolution has taken hold and new technologies are rapidly deployed. Thomas Edison has just introduced the electric light bulb. And Wilde will be startled by the glow of primitive electric lights, illuminating the dreary street corners of south Manhattan. Alexander Graham Bell’s invention has created a web of aesthetically unappealing telephone wires in the nation’s largest city. The stanchions of the Brooklyn Bridge rise to breath-taking heights, as the world’s largest suspension bridge takes shape. Three years from completion, the Brooklyn Bridge offers pedestrians a temporary passage via a precarious suspension path. The Brooklyn Bridge plays a symbolic role in WILDE IN AMERICA. A symbol of hope and promise for the new era, and the nation as a whole, is under construction in New York Harbor.  A gift from France, the Statue of Liberty commemorates the nation’s centenary. But fully six years after the anniversary, the statue is only partially finished. Wilde will discover Lady Liberty’s disembodied arm, bearing her famous torch, in Madison Square Park where it awaits final assembly. 

“One should never give a woman anything she can’t wear in the evening.”  -Oscar Wilde: An Ideal Husband 

In matters of love and romance Wilde is an enigma. He is a bachelor. The nature of his sexual orientation, at this time, is not entirely clear---certainly not to the public and, perhaps, not to Wilde himself.  In the summer of 1881 Wilde took an interest in Constance Lloyd (future wife and mother of his two sons). Richard Ellmann (Wilde biographer) speculates that he was under-going a treatment (mercury dosages) for syphilis and, under doctor’s orders, was not permitted to marry. He leaves for America without asking Constance for her hand. In spite of his gay leanings, Wilde was a favorite with the ladies and he adored the companionship of attractive women.  In WILDE IN AMERICA, the young aesthete exercises his charm and wit on an enthusiastic cadre of beautiful damsels.

 “Would you like to know the great drama of my life? It is that I have put my genius into my life  --- I have put only my talent into my work.” - Oscar Wilde: in conversation

 Upon arriving at a New York customs office January 2, 1882, Oscar Wilde is asked if he has anything to declare. He responds with “Nothing but my genius.” Part of Wilde’s genius most certainly lay in his remarkable talent for self-promotion and sociability. Throughout his travels Wilde met many US personalities among them: Louisa May Alcott, Walt Whitman, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Jefferson Davis, General George McClellan, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry James, Lily Langtry (English actress has NY debut), Richard Doyle Carte (Theatrical producer –see Mike Leigh’s Topsy Turvy) Col. Morse (Carte’s employee and Oscar’s tour manager) Mrs. Frank Leslie (publisher/proprietor Leslie’s Illustrated Papers), Robert Lincoln (Secretary of War and son of the assassinated President), Sam Ward (noted Washington lobbyist and entrepreneur), Napoleon Sarony (NYC photographer of the stars), Steele MacKaye (Broadway theatre producer) Baby Doe McCourt and Horace Tabor (Colorado millionaires), Joaquin Miller (the Frontier Poet), Eugene Field (Managing Ed. Denver Tribune) and Clara Morris (Actress).

WILDE IN AMERICA further speculates and fictionalizes probable encounters with:  Jay Gould (railroad tycoon and publisher, The World), Andrew Carnegie (industrialist), J.P. Morgan (financier), William Henry Vanderbilt (Railroad tycoon), Ned Harrigan & Tony Hart (Broadway theatrical duo), Lillian Russell (Broadway actress), “Diamond” Jim Brady (promoter, entrepreneur, playboy), Robert Ingersoll (renowned orator: the “Great Agnostic”), Dr. T. DeWit Talmage (Brooklyn Presbyterian Preacher, rival to Henry Ward Beecher), John B. Drake (Chicago Hotelier)  Rose Loevjoy & Matte Silk (Denver prostitutes), Johnny L. Sullivan (Heavyweight Champion of 1882), Josh Billings (comic firebrand orator) and Davenport (Wilde’s would-be African American valet)

WILDE IN AMERICA opens with Oscar’s funeral in Paris, 1900. The story of his American tour is told as a flashback on the part of Maggie Hayle, fictional society reporter for the Washington Post in 1882.



·         Episode 1:  Declaration of Genius

·         Episode 2: “Patience”

·         Episode 3:  Shoot First and Vote Later

·         Episode 4: Throwing Down The Gauntlet

·         Episode 5:  A Three-bottle Man

·         Episode 6:  A Bridge to Cross

© copyright 2003 Walter W. J. Walker

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