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Oscar Wilde Letters

A description of his letters at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: KM
Date: Feb 1997

Biographical History

Oscar Wilde was born October 16, 1854 in Dublin, Ireland. Throughout his career, he wrote poetry, plays, essays, short stories, and novels, including his most famous work, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Wilde was known for his wit and public speaking, as well as his flamboyant and notorious lifestyle.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Spanning 1880 to 1898, the Oscar Wilde Letters consists of one series, Letters. This series contains four outgoing letters written by the Irish wit and dramatist.

The first letter is written to the painter Lawrence Alma-Tadema. The date of this letter is unknown, but Wilde's use of the address "Keats House, Title Street," suggests it is from late 1880 or early 1881. This estimate is confirmed by Wilde's interest in Greek culture during that time period. The letter appears to answer a previous question from Alma-Tadema about the rendering of Greek names that appeared in his picture Sappho and Alcaeus.

The second letter is written to John Knowles, editor of The Nineteenth Century, regarding the first publication of Wilde's essay "The True Function and Value of Criticism." It is the missing item in a series of letters to Knowles detailing the publication of Wilde's dialogue in two parts. The letter in the Syracuse collection refers to Wilde's discovery that Knowles had omitted his long account of Dante.

The third letter finds Wilde thanking Frank Harris for an unspecified act of generosity (probably a gift of money).

The recipient of the final letter is unknown. The letter is undated, but the address suggests the summer (June-September) of 1893, when Wilde was staying in Goring.

(Adapted from "Some Unpublished Oscar Wilde Letters," published by Ian Small, chair in English literature, the University of Birmingham, England, in the Syracuse University Library Associates Courier, Vol. XXXIII, 1998-2001.)

Arrangement of the Collection

No order.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Wilde, Oscar, 1854-1900.


Authors, Irish -- 19th century.

Genres and Forms




Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Oscar Wilde Letters,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Sol Feinstone

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