A letter from Oscar Wilde to Lillie Langtry

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Oscar Wilde is the right of centre in this group with Lillie Langtry next to him in a white dress

Letter to Lilly Langtry, 16 December 1883.

"I am really delighted at your immense success; the most brilliant telegrams have appeared in the papers here on your performance in 'Peril'. You have done what no other artist of your day has done, invaded America a second time and carried off new victories. But then, you are made for victory. It has always flashed in your eyes and rung in your voice.
"And so I write to tell you how glad I am at your triumphs – you, Venus Victrix of our age – and the other half to tell you that I am going to be married to a beautiful girl called Constance Lloyd, a grave, slight, violet-eyed little Artemis, with great coils of heavy brown hair wich make her flower-like head droop like a blossom, and wonderful ivory hands wich draw music from the piano so sweet that the birds stop singing to listen to her. We are to be married in April. I hope so much that you will be over then. I am so anxious for you to know and to like her.
"I am hard at work lecturing and getting rich, though it is horrid being so much away from her, but we telegraph to each other twice a day, and I rush back suddenly from the uttermost parts of the earth to see her for an hour, and do all the foolish things that wise lovers do. Will you write me and wish me all happiness, and believe me, ever your devoted and affectionate."

Oscar Wilde

Poem

Oscar Wilde had stronger sexual feelings for Lily Langtry than for his other actress friends, but it is debatable whether she had any great desire for him. He celebrated her supreme beauty in The New Helen and in later poem To L L described a passionate encounter on a park bench during which she rejected his advances. Perhaps this incident happened, but as in so many of Wilde’s writings about his emotional life, there is something false about the verses. Lily’s description of their relationship in her autobiography does not mention any romantic attachment. While nobody can blame Oscar for identifying himself with the most glamorous woman in England, his passion for Lily probably remained muted. Certainly it did not merit the doggerel of To L L.

Oscar’s vain pursuit of the Jersey Lily contributed to his growing notoriety. The Apostle of Aestheticism was attracting attention everywhere, through his outlandish clothes, scintillating wit and challenging views on the importance of Art.

At Lilly’s villa in Monaco in the 1920s she kept an empty seat at her dining table, in memory of dear Oscar. When one of her guests remonstrated with her, pointing out that he was a convicted homosexual, she snapped back at him: "You fool, you don’t understand. Oscar was a very versatile man".

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