Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Aesthetic Clothing Leads to Death of Companion?

Does this look like
a man who washes
In June 1882, Oscar Wilde was lecturing in Tennessee, where he was greeted (as always) with some skepticism (that was largely the point). The Public Ledger of Memphis, Tennessee asked
How many people are soulfully intense enough to appreciate the Wilde lecture?
and a few lines later,
Is it true that Oscar Wilde once occupied the responsible position of dishwasher in a London hotel?
This was not true, of course. Still, there were those who wanted to paint Wilde as something of a phony, which was probably all to Richard D’Oyly Carte’s advantage. The same issue of the Public Ledger had a longer article which claimed that imitating Wilde could lead to serious consequences. Death.
A singular story comes from Red Bluffs, California, illustrating the evil effects that may result from the practice of aestheticism. A blossoming young idiot of that transcendent locality attired himself in the abbreviated garb affected by Oscar Wilde, and, on a wager invited Miss Emma Voller to go with him to a public entertainment. The young lady accepted, though she was quite ignorant of the ridiculous costume into which her escort had put himself until they reached the hall. On discovering the trick that had been practiced upon her, and learning the motive, Miss Voller was very much mortified, and afterward became quite morbid and mentally depressed, brooding over the indignity. Her mind became disordered, she refused food, and finally died with every symptom of mania. An aesthetic costume of simple tar, gored with feathers and ornamented by a torchlight procession, should have been bestowed upon the practical joker.
The Burra Record, an Australian newspaper, expanded on this by stating that
The aesthetic young man is by latest accounts, inconsolable, and has been three times horse whipped by Miss Voller’s relatives.
I might be reasonably inconsolable if people were to be horse whipping me should I venture out of doors. Where the Burra Record got this information, I have no idea. This article bounced about for a bit, ending up in the Australian press in October 1882, where the horse whipping is a new detail (some other newspaper may have added that previously). Still, none of the articles name the man whose clothing choices lead to the death of his companion. The article seems to have originated in the Tehema Toscin (of Red Bluff, California), where one might find more details. Unfortunately, none of the online archives where I’ve been reading old newspapers has this publication available.

I’m going to put this into the category of "just because you read it in the newspaper, doesn’t mean it’s true.
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