Part of the Headingley LitFest 2015*
A Vagabond with a Mission gives a vivid picture of Oscar Wilde lecturing throughout Britain and Ireland on his way to becoming one of the most famous writers of the time. This is the first study of Wilde’s lecture tours of Britain and Ireland. Using letters, memoirs, biographies, previously unpublished information and thousands of contemporary newspaper accounts, Geoff Dibb gives us a portrait of Wilde which we have never seen before.
Wilde lectured on important artistic and social topics of the day and he drew audiences of thousands of people. These lectures had significant implications for his artistic development and they also gave him an opportunity to re-enter the world of journalism. This book shows how Wilde began to distance himself from John Ruskin, promulgated the ideas of Walter Pater and William Morris, and famously fell out with James Whistler.
These were very important years for Wilde: he became engaged and married Constance Lloyd, he took a new home in Chelsea, became a father to two sons and was an increasingly active homosexual. Wilde travelled from Cornwall to Scotland, and from Norfolk to the west coast of Ireland, visiting almost every town of any significance in between. In particular, the book looks in detail at Wilde’s visits to West Yorkshire, the North East of England, the Lake District, Scotland, Ireland and the West Midlands. “I have been,” said Wilde, “civilising the provinces by my remarkable lectures…lecturing and wandering – a vagabond with a mission!”