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.
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 .
|Lady Wilde at home.|
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.