‘I Have Asked Henry James Not to Bring his Friend Oscar Wilde’: <i>Daisy Miller, Washington Square</i> and The Politics of Transatlantic Aestheticism

Michèle Mendelssohn

in Henry James, Oscar Wilde and Aesthetic Culture

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780748623853
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651634 | DOI:
‘I Have Asked Henry James Not to Bring his Friend Oscar Wilde’: Daisy Miller, Washington Square and The Politics of Transatlantic Aestheticism

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This chapter focuses on Henry James's and Oscar Wilde's first documented meeting, in 1882. The tension between British and American culture is the most important aspect of transatlantic Aestheticism, and it is with this issue that this first chapter begins with an analysis of the politics underlying James's early stories of Americans abroad and Wilde's 1882 North American lecture tour. The chapter shows that James was deeply involved in the formulation and advancement of transatlantic Aestheticism and that he knowingly explored the movement's more popular and commercial incarnations. It examines James's early depictions of aesthetes in light of Wilde's self-presentation and George Du Maurier's illustrations for Punch and Washington Square. It shows that James developed, codified, and catalogued aesthetic modes of being long before Wilde entered on the scene, citing his novel Daisy Miller. It also reveals James's vigorous efforts to write an American narrative of Aestheticism's origins, and to create ex post facto a vibrant American prehistory for the ideas that imbued British Aestheticism.

Keywords: Henry James; Oscar Wilde; Aestheticism; Washington Square; Punch; politics; aesthetes; George Du Maurier; illustrations; Daisy Miller

Chapter.  21555 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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