Saturday, December 20, 2014


The controversial   Irish  dramatist , poet  and  novelist,  Oscar  Wilde , was well scrubbed  and  dressed   with   flair.  His  parents , however , presented a  most bizarre spectacle  in  dress  and personal appearance .  This  comes  through  in  a  recently acquired  foxed , bumped , wormed and  soiled   1923 copy  of  SOME VICTORIAN WOMEN Good,  Bad and Indifferent, by  artist, illustrator  and cartoonist ,  Harry  Furniss (1854-1925), a  delightful read .
Sir William and Lady Wilde
An   unflattering  rear   end  caricature, a wormed part deleted  ,  right  ,  of  Sir  William  and Lady Wilde . The  brilliant  text  which covers   them , in part , is most unusual , entertaining   and  harsh :

Lady Wilde , described by  her son  while  she was still alive... “ A very tall woman-she looked over  six feet high-she wore a long crimson silk gown which swept the floor ...round what had been a waist  an Oriental scarf embroidered with gold was  twisted. The long, massive , handsome face was  plastered with powder . Over her  blue –black ,glossy hair was a  gilt  crown of laurels . Her throat  was bare , so were her arms , but they were covered with quaint jewellery. On her broad chest was festooned a series of large miniature brooches,evidently family portraits...this  gave her the appearance of a walking  family mausoleum. She wore  white kid gloves , held  a  scent bottle , a lace handkerchief, and a fan .”
It goes on to say that had Lady Wilde been cleaned up and plainly and rationally dressed, she would have made  a  remarkably fine model of the grande dame , but  with all her paint and tinsel  and tawdry  tragedy queen  get up was a  walking burlesque  of motherhood.
Lady Wilde at home.  
Dealing with Wilde’s daddy, it  said he “resembled a monkey, a miserable looking  little creature,who, apparently  unshorn and  unkempt, looked as if he had  been rolling in  the  dust." In those days, it continues, monkeys were  dressed up  and  accompanied organ  grinders of  the oily type . 

Wee Sir William Wilde  rebuked a  woman in a Dublin square who was   seeking alms   and  told  her  beggars were a  perfect nuisance . She replied with a  perfect  squelcher , “Beggar indade! Beggar! an’ what are y’self when out with your I-talian master wid  a  chain on ye? ” Opposite the Wilde mansion  in Dublin were Turkish baths , but  going  on the  appearance  of  Ma and Pa  Wilde  , neither of  them  went  in  for  a  dip  and  scrub.

The book , picked up at an ALP branch meeting , more literate and wide ranging than  the Tuesday Book Club on  ABC TV ,   describes  Sir William Wilde as ''a wicked  old man"  and  says there had been no  attempt to  disguise the fact he had  many  illegitimate children...Furniss  commented , With all the queer ways  of this eccentric couple , it is no wonder  that Oscar , their genius of a son, grew into an eccentric  unnatural being . 

Furniss Worked for the London Illustrated News , Punch ,  produced a series on Life In Parliament  for  The Graphic and illustrated Lewis Carroll books  . After his own humorous magazine , Lika Joko, failed, he went to America , working as a writer  and  actor in the fledgling  film industry. There he pioneered  the  first  animated cartoon   for  Thomas  Edison . His daughter Dorothy co-illustrated some of  her  father’s books . Furniss also wrote and illustrated 29 of his own books ,including  Some Victorian Men. With  his prolific output, he illustrated 34 other books  for authors , including  the complete works of Charles Dickens  and William  Makepeace Thackeray , the latter satirising  society.