The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Monday, April 23, 2018

The Importance of Being Earnest given by Oscar Wilde to the Governor of Reading Gaol sells at Bonhams
Wilde on Major Nelson: “The most Christlike man I ever met”. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams.

LONDON.- A specially printed copy of The Importance of Being Earnest inscribed by Oscar Wilde to Major James Nelson, the Governor of Reading Gaol during the writer’s term of imprisonment there sold for £55,000 at Bonhams Books, Atlases, Manuscripts and Photographs sale in London on June 18. It had been estimated at £40,000 – 60,000

The copy, numbered 13 out of a presentation edition of 100, is inscribed “To Major Nelson: from the author. A trivial recognition of a great and noble kindness. Feb, 99.” Elsewhere, Wilde was to describe Nelson as: “The most Christlike man I ever met.”

Bonhams Head of Books, Matthew Haley, said: “I am delighted that this highly evocative edition of The Importance of Being Earnest sold so well. Wilde suffered greatly in prison and the inscription is a testament to the enormous difference which Major Nelson’s acts of common humanity made to his morale and health.”

Oscar Wilde was found guilty of gross indecency in May 1895 and transferred from Wandsworth prison to Reading Gaol in November of that year. There, the draconian regime of the then Governor, Henry Isaacson – a man with “ the soul of a rat” according to Wilde - had a drastic effect on his mental and physical health. Isaacson was replaced in July 1896 by Major James Nelson who immediately gave his most famous prisoner access to books – his first words are said to have been: “The Home Office has allowed you some books. Perhaps you would like to read this one. I have just been reading it myself.”

Crucially, Nelson also allowed Wilde to begin writing creatively again. The result was one of his last major works - De Profundis - an extended letter to his lover and the main author of his misfortune, Lord Alfred Douglas - which Wilde wrote over a period of three months. Under the prison rules, all written material had to be handed over each evening and retained by the authorities but Nelson permitted Wilde to consult previous work to help him keep his thread. On Wilde’s release in May 1897 Nelson gave him back the entire manuscript.

The Importance of Being Earnest, which opened on Valentine’s Day 1895, was Wilde’s biggest success as a playwright and the last work he wrote before scandal engulfed him. Despite its instant success the play closed after 56 performances when Wilde was convicted and was not seen again in the West End until 1902. It was not published until 1899, the year before Wilde’s death. 100 special copies of the play were published on large paper and it is one of these – number 13 – that Wilde inscribed to Major Nelson.

The previous year the playwright had sent Nelson a copy of The Ballad of Reading Gaol with the inscription: “Major Nelson from the Author. In recognition of many acts of kindness and gentleness

Feb.98”. Wilde wrote the Ballad shortly after his release in May 1879 when he was living in exile in France. On its publication in 1898, it was attributed to “c.3.3” - a reference to the block, landing and cell in Reading Gaol in which Wilde had lived while a prisoner. It was considered too risky commercially to identify the author by name though the real identity of c.3.3. was an open secret in literary circles.

Today's News

June 23, 2014

Christie's sale in London to offer important group of works by Alberto Giacometti

Art Basel: Outstanding quality attracts private collectors and museum groups from around the world

Whitechapel Gallery and Tate Modern announce a major collaboration celebrating artist Richard Tuttle

Tens of thousands gather at Britain's Stonehenge for solstice at dawn on Saturday

French cave home to earliest drawings wins UN cultural agency UNESCO's World Heritage status

Smithsonian team of digital imaging specialists scans President Obama in 3-D for presidential portrait

In new exhibtion at National Centre for Stage Costumes, high cost of Shakespeare costumes reflects vanity

'Looted' Nigerian art returned to traditional ruler Uku Akpolokpolo Erediauwa I

First comprehensive exhibition of Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies' collections opens

"Cries in the Night: German Expressionist Prints around World War I" opens at the Cincinnati Art Museum

Taiwan's first lady postpones Japan visit over wording of posters promoting exhibition row

Sun Stroke: Miles Ladin's first solo exhibition with Station Independent Projects opens in New York

National Gallery Singapore announces first-ever docudrama on Georgette Chen

Exhibition of new photographs, sculptures and installations by Awol Erizku opens at Hasted Kraeutler

The Unreliable Narrator: Karen Mirza and Brad Butler exhibit at waterside contemporary

Eduardo Momeñe: "Photographies in a certain Space" (1978-2014) on view at Espaciofoto Gallery, Madrid

Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions announces July Interiors Sale

Exhibition of works by Su Xiaobai on view at Almine Rech Gallery, Paris

Art Gallery of Ontario celebrates WorldPride 2014 Toronto with exhibition of queer photography

Elmhurst Art Museum presents "Lifeloggers: Chronicling the Everyday"

The Importance of Being Earnest given by Oscar Wilde to the Governor of Reading Gaol sells at Bonhams

Voyeur: A group show curated by Dina Brodsky opens at Lyons Wier Gallery

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- Boy and an amateur archaeologist unearth legendary Danish king's trove in Germany

2.- Exhibition at The Met illustrates what visitors encountered at The palace of Versailles

3.- Philadelphia Museum of Art opens "Modern Times: American Art 1910-1950"

4.- Exhibition at Michael Hoppen Gallery presents a cross-section of works from Thomas Mailaender's career

5.- New York's Chelsea Hotel celebrity door auction raises $400,000

6.- Stevie Ray Vaughan's first guitar drives Entertainment & Music Memorabilia Auction to nearly $2.9 million

7.- Lichtenstein's Nude with Blue Hair tops $2.4 million sale of Modern & Contemporary Prints & Multiples

8.- $6.7 million Fancy Intense Blue Diamond sets auction record at Sotheby's New York

9.- Mexico court blocks sales of controversial Frida Kahlo Barbie doll

10.- Dutch museums to conduct new research on the paintings of Pieter de Hooch

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful