Oscar Wilde in America: The Interviews
Edited by Matthew Hofer and Gary Scharnhorst
University of Illinois Press
188 pages, $40.
“I HAVE NOTHING to declare—except my genius,” he pronounced famously on arriving in the U.S. Or did he? There’s no sign of Oscar Wilde’s notorious response to a routine Customs inquiry in any of these 48 interviews with the Irish playwright, who was then known only for his poetry, and scarcely for that. The 26-year old standard-bearer of the Aestheticist creed undertook perhaps twice that many interviews on American soil in the course of his 1882 lecture tour. The editors of this volume have collated the most significant, presenting each in its entirety, replete with fulsome notes.
E. H. Mikhail’s Oscar Wilde: Interviews and Recollections (1979) had previously offered some nineteen of these interviews, though some were altered or edited in obscure ways. Consequently, Hofer and Scharnhorst can legitimately claim to have recovered yet another substantial archive of material relating to Wilde, one largely familiar only to the authors of a handful of doctoral theses. Wilde’s many biographers, however, have drawn substantially on the richest material here. Whenever repetition is rife—in both the questions put to the author and the answers evinced—one wonders whether publishing selections from all 98 known interviews (helpfully listed in an appendix) might have resulted in a volume with a stronger narrative sweep, and one more consistently compelling, especially for the lay reader.