Oscar Wilde, His Life and Confessions, by Frank Harris

The Dedication of “An Ideal Husband”

I received the following letter from Oscar early in 1899 I imagine. It was written in the spring after the winter we spent in La Napoule.

MY DEAR FRANK:

I am, as you see from above, in Switzerland with M——: a rather dreadful combination: the villa is pretty, and on the borders of the lake with pretty pines about: on the other side are the mountains of Savoy and Mont Blanc: we are an hour, by a slow train, from Geneva. But M—— is tedious, and lacks conversation: also he gives me Swiss wine to drink: it is horrible: he occupies himself with small economies, and mean domestic interests, so I suffer very much. Ennui is the enemy.

I want to know if you will allow me to dedicate to you my next play, “The Ideal Husband”— which Smithers is bringing out for me in the same form as the others, of which I hope you received your copy. I should so much like to write your name and a few words on the dedicatory page.

I look back with joy and regret to the lovely sunlight of the Riviera, and the charming winter you so generously and kindly gave me: it was most good of you: how can it ever be forgotten by me.

Next week a petroleum launch is to arrive here, so that will console me a little, as I love to be on the water: and the Savoy side is starred with pretty villages and green valleys.

Of course we won our bet — the phrase on Shelley is in Arnold’s preface to Byron: but M—— won’t pay me! He suffers agony over a franc. It is very annoying as I have had no money since my arrival here. However I regard the place as a Swiss Pension — where there is no weekly bill. . . .

Ever yours,

OSCAR.

I believe I answered; but am not sure. I was naturally delighted to have just “An Ideal Husband” dedicated to me, because I had suggested the plot of it to Oscar — not that the plot was in any true sense mine. An interesting and clever American in Cairo, a Mr. Cope Whitehouse, had given it to me as I tell in this book. The story Whitehouse told may not be true; but my mind jumped at once to the thought of a story where an English Minister would be confronted with some early sin of that sort. I had hardly bettered the story given to me when I related it to Oscar who used it almost immediately with great effect. Dedicatory words are usually as flattering as epitaphs; those of “An Ideal Husband” run:

TO

FRANK HARRIS

A SLIGHT TRIBUTE TO

HIS POWER AND DISTINCTION

AS AN ARTIST

HIS CHIVALRY AND NOBILITY

AS A FRIEND

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/wilde/oscar/harris/appendix6.html

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 12:30