Oscar Wilde Begins Lecture Tour of the United States and Canada

I have nothing to declare except my genius.”

— Oscar Wilde, upon arriving in the United States of America

In December 1881, Oscar sailed for New York to travel across the United States and deliver a series of lectures on aesthetics. The 50-lecture tour was originally scheduled to last four months, but stretched to nearly a year, with over 140 lectures given in 260 days. In between lectures he made time to meet with Henry Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Walt Whitman.

In 1882 Wilde, again short of funds, embarked on a lecture tour of the United States. At each stop, he preached the "Cult of the Artificial" which rejected the social conception of the natural for the reasons discussed in the Introduction. Fully playing the role of the Aesthete, he dressed the dandy to a tee and was heard by an astonished America when, queried by Customs he said: "I have nothing to declare… except my genius." He appears to have valued the stories that he gained from his journey more than the experience itself, and his last statement to an American reporter, "They say that when good Americans die they go to Paris. I would add that when bad Americans die, they stay in America," seems to sum up his feelings.