Mark Samuels Lasner has long been recognized as an authority on the literature and art of the late Victorian era. He is also a collector, bibliographer, typographer, and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Delaware Library.
To those offices he can now add the honorific of benefactor.
For recently Mark donated his private library, the extensive Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, to the University of Delaware. It has been housed since 2004 in the Morris Library, and now becomes largest and most important gift of its kind in the university’s history.
Declaring nothing apropos (except astonishment) I send from America footage I recently discovered of Oscar Wilde’s son Vyvyan Holland.
It is in the form of a TV interview alongside Brian Reade, curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, during a segment on the CBS TV arts program Camera Three about a V&A Aubrey Beardsley exhibition which had transferred to New York’s (then-named) Gallery of Modern Art.
The rare TV showing was a opportunity for Vyvyan to rival his more media savvy wife, Dorothy, who had made her latest appearance on American TV earlier in the month discussing fashion on the ABC show Girl Talk.
It provides a chance to see Vyvyan’s unassuming manner as he reveals personal experiences such as shooting moose and witnessing a bedridden bearded Beardsley.
I recall learning the word polyonymous from this Word-a-Day web site—it means having many names. It resonates because I always suspected Oscar of being a confirmed and secret polyonymist, freely dispensing with at least three of his five birth names which he considered too much ballast for the heights he soared, and then changing his name altogether when he came back down to earth.
The item is a note sent by Wilde to Anne Lynch Botta, the 19th century doyenne of New York literary society, in which he expresses regret at not being able to attend a reception owing to his impending departure for Canada.
Aided by the letter’s evident authenticity and the fact that the consignor is a direct family descendant, it sold at auction for $5,500.
No longer a theater, it may have been just another empty converted office building symbolic of a Midwest hollowed out by recession, but it was still there. Unlike so many of the Wilde’s lecture venues which were lost to fire in gaslit days, surely, one thought, this building had survived that fate.
But no, and here’s what makes the loss a little more personal.
Just a day earlier I had been discussing which city from Wilde’s lecture tour that I would most like to visit. No kidding. I said St Joseph, Missouri. One reason was that both Wilde’s hotel and lecture theater were extant, and very few cities that can boast that—although there is one fewer now.