Saturday, June 7, 2014

It's a Good Thing He Didn't Read Oscar's Thoughts

Mr. Wilde! There are ladies here!
When I stumbled on Washington Irving Bishop, the nineteenth-century mind reader who came to such a sorry end, I found myself wondering if he had ever crossed paths with Oscar Wilde. Bishop had spent some in London at a time when Wilde was one of its notable inhabitants. Still, even in that time, it was a big city.

They met in early June, 1881. It was reported in the Salt Lake Herald of June 7, 1881. If I understand the dateline properly, it might be that they met on June 4. Articles on the same page start with "New York, 6" and "Rockland Me., 5," so I conclude that "London, 4" means "London, June 4." No number is larger than 6; some articles on other pages explicitly say they occurred in late May.

Wilde is counted among the "well-known persons" who attended Bishop's private performance; not bad for someone whose accomplishments consist of a volume of poems. His tour of the United States and everything you might know Wilde for was yet to come.

Bishop is described as "the sensation of the hour," and part of that is probably by not allowing "scientific men" to observe too closely how he worked. I suppose if they explained how he did it, the fun would have been over.
An American Mind-Reader
London, 4. — W. Irving Bishop, an American thought-reader, is causing some sensation in private circles in London. Scientific men are completely at a loss to account for the phenomena. Last night he gave a private entertainment at which the Prince of Wales, Lady Mandeville, the Earl of Donough More, Edwin Booth, Irving, Mrs. Langtry, Whistler, Oscar Wilde, and many other well-known persons were present. The prince expressed himself much astonished and gratified. Bishop, who is now the sensation of the hour, proposes to read Evarts' thought for nothing, at Langham, where the ex-secretary arrived from Paris yesterday. Great curiosity is felt as to the result of this daring experiment.
It's quite an impressive crowd. After all, you've got the thirty-nine-year-old Prince of Wales, still nearly twenty years away from the throne. "Lady Mandeville took some searching; she was Consuelo Montagu, whose husband held the title Viscount Mandeville (on his father's death, he became the Duke of Manchester). The "Earl of Donough More" is John Hely-Hutchinson, the Fifth Earl of Donoughmore, an Irish peer and an advocate of Home Rule for Ireland. Edwin Booth is John Wilkes Booth's brother (but famous as an actor in his own right, indeed, famous only for acting and his brother). "Irving" is likely Henry Irving, the actor and manager. Mrs. Langtry is the actress Lilly Langtry name (quite a theater crowd; no surprise for the Prince of Wales). Whistler is the American artist James MacNeill Whistler.
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