Not A Joy Forever

Thing-of Beauty

A cartoon depicting Oscar Wilde at the end of his visit to America in 1882 in contrasting poses.

Oscar Wilde’s American visits resulted in mixed fortunes: he failed to make any literary advance, and although his tour met with a mixed reception critically, it was a great commercial success. We can see these fortunes reflected in the Judge cartoon.

On the left, recognizing the commercial success of his lecture tour, Oscar is shown surrounded by lilies and sunflowers (the floral emblems of the aesthetic movement), and showered with gold. On the right we see him somewhat shabbier, and with his bags packed at Castle Garden, the receiving station at New York: under his arm is Vera, the play Wilde brought with him and for which he struggled to find interest. The play was eventually staged in New York in August 1883 but was a withdrawn after a week.

The caption, A THING OF BEAUTY NOT A JOY FOREVER, is a reference to John Keats, a favorite of Wilde, whose epic poem Endymion begins “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever”.

The Judge was a weekly magazine published in the United States from 1881 to 1947. It was launched by artists who had seceded from its rival Puck. The founders included cartoonist James Albert Wales, dime novels publisher Frank Tousey and author George H. Jessop. The first printing was on October 29, 1881 and while it did well initially, it soon had trouble competing with Puck. But by the 1900s, the magazine had become successful, reaching a circulation of 100,000 by 1912. Harold Ross, editor of Judge between April 5 and August 2, 1924 used his experience on the magazine to start his own in 1925, The New Yorker. The success of The New Yorker, as well as the depression, put pressure on the magazine: it became a monthly in 1932 and ceased circulation in 1947.

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John Cooper

John Cooper is a researcher, author, blogger and documentary historian. As a long-standing member of the Oscar Wilde Society in London, a founding member of the Oscar Wilde Society of America, and a former manager of the Victorian Society In America, he has spent 30 years in the study of Oscar Wilde, having lectured on Wilde, and contributing to TV, film, and academic journals including The Wildean and Oscholars. Online he is the designer, author and editor of this noncommercial archive Oscar Wilde in America, blogger, and moderator of the Oscar Wilde Internet discussion groups at Yahoo and Google. For the last 14 years he has specialized in new and unique research into Oscar Wilde in New York, where he conducts guided walking tours based on the visits of Oscar Wilde. In 2012 John rediscovered Oscar Wilde's essay The Philosophy Of Dress that forms the centerpiece to his recent book Oscar Wilde On Dress (2013).

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