Vol.  III                                                                                                                                                         

No.  12

issue no 31: November/December 2006

Revised for removal from www.irishdiaspora.net to www.oscholars.com January 2010



A monthly page of essays, articles and authors’ responses to reviews.  This month we are fortunate to have an important article by James Gregory on Constance Wilde, an introduction to a paper by Dr Emmanuel Vernadakis (University of Angers) and an article by Brendan McWilliams originally written for The Irish Times.  Here too we publish a note from Christopher S. Nassaar (American University, Beirut), slightly amended from an original published on one of the ‘Yahoo’ Oscar Wilde discussion sites.

We also print a correction to Maxwell Siegel’s article in our last issue.


To the Table of Contents imc | To hub page imd | To THE OSCHOLARS home pageime




James Gregory: Lady Mount Temple and Her Friendship with Constance Wilde.                                     

Brendan McWilliams: The Weather and Oscar Wilde.

Christopher S. Nassaar: On Recreating Oscar.

Maxwell E. Siegel: On Losing Both One’s Parents, A Correction.

Emmanuel Vernadakis: Oscar Wilde and Tennessee Williams.




1.   Lady Mount Temple and her Friendship with Constance Wilde

Dr James Gregory


I do so wish I could always live with you and look after you.[1]

So wrote Constance Wilde to her distant cousin Georgina Cowper-Temple, Lady Mount Temple, in a letter in November 1892 in which she called Georgina, a lady of seventy years (and thirty-six years her senior), a ‘big child’.[2] The step-daughter-in-law of Lord Palmerston, and a friend of such major Victorian cultural figures as John Ruskin, Dante Gabriele Rossetti and Christina Rossetti and George MacDonald, Georgina had become renowned for her private kindness and sympathy, and her public philanthropy.  She became a public figure through her support for sanitary knowledge for women, for her anti-vivisection and vegetarianism, all causes which had also been embraced by her husband the Whig statesman and philanthropist Lord Mount Temple.  But William Francis Cowper-Temple, the ‘angel’ of her life, died in 1888, and Georgina’s widowhood was to be one of increasing invalidism, and a mounting sense of sorrows.  Yet in the final decade of her life, she continued to provide comfort and inspiration to many people.  Among those she gave comfort to, was Constance Wilde, a woman who desperately needed a maternal figure.  Although the importance of Lady Mount Temple in the drama of Oscar Wilde’s life has been recognised (as her presence in the recent film Wilde suggested) the relationship between Constance Wilde and Georgina Cowper-Temple has not been the subject of any detailed study.[3] This research note draws on the hundreds of letters Constance wrote to Georgina over the period 1890-1898 which have survived, in order to recreate, at least partially, this relationship.  A full picture of the relationship would need to study the letters, ‘sweet’ and ‘dear’ as Constance described them, which Georgina wrote (or had written for her, for she was increasingly infirm).  Unfortunately, none appear to be available.  Nevertheless, the echoes of Georgina’s letters in Constance’s reply, and the allusions to personal circumstances, are an important source for Georgina’s own life in this period, when she became unable to keep the diary which she had kept for decades.


The relationship began during 1889, a year after the death of Lord Mount Temple, when Constance, who had been married to Oscar Wilde since May 1884, saw Georgina and and was captivated by her (and ‘loved you’, she said), but as she recalled ‘could not speak to you – what a holy day in my life’.[4] How they met is unclear, though Constance’s friends included from about the same period as she became acquainted with Georgina, the dowager Lady Sandhurst (who died in 1892), another philanthropic woman who believed in magnetism and the medical power massage and who had befriended the Mount Temples in the 1880s.  In 1889 Georgina invited Constance to stay at Babbacombe Cliff (sometimes spelt ‘Babbacombecliff’), her pre-Raphaelite haven perched on the cliff at Babbacombe near Torquay.[5]

From that point, they became close friends, visiting each other, corresponding and sharing, amongst other things, a taste for philanthropy, an interest in the works of Dante Aligheri, mysticism and the occult.[6] They attended Sunday church services in London together, met at Georgina’s house at 9 Cheyne Walk in Chelsea (near to the Wildes’ own home at 16 Tite Street, so that in 1891 Constance could tell Georgina that she passed her house everyday[7]), viewed Edward Burne Jones’ paintings together and attended lectures by the unitarian minister (and noted economist and medievalist) Philip H.  Wicksteed on Dante, and talks by a Mr and Mrs Bowles on Christian Science.  Constance sent William Vernon’s book Readings on the Purgatorio of Dante, and helped arrange extracts and translations when Georgina became interested in creating copies of Dante’s Paradiso, Convito, and other works.[8] She fetched books for her from 9 Cheyne Walk, knitted her gloves, sent her photographs of her sons, a signed copy of Oscar Wilde’s second collection of fairytales, A House of Pomegranates, and pictures by George Frederick Watts (who sketched a portrait of Georgina with Constance Wilde in attendance[9]) and others.  She chatted to Georgina about the symbolism of Ibsen’s plays.[10] Georgina’s gifts to her young friend included an Italian Bible (Bibbia), and Confessions of St Augustine.[11]

Oscar Wilde was to complain that his wife had no understanding of his art, as one of his latest biographers has stated, ‘there is scarce evidence of her being especially well attuned to Oscar’s writings’.[12] What Georgina would have gathered from Constance was an inaccurate sense of Oscar’s writings.  When Constance mentioned his latest work, for instance, she quoted some suitably religious aphorisms from the play to be known as Lady Windermere’s Fan (in which, incidentally, there was a character called Mrs Cowper-Cowper), such as ‘religion is so near to us that we sometimes do not see its beauty’.[13] We do not know what Georgina thought of Oscar Wilde when she actually met him, as her surviving diaries end in 1890, and in that year, when visits from Wilde are noted, such as 16 June and (shortly after her return from an attempt to recuperate her adopted daughter Juliet in Geneva) 26 October, she recorded no comments on her feelings about her friend’s famous husband, though she noted that she was reading  the  recently published ‘Dorian Grey’ [sic] on 30 June, and reading his articles at Babbacombe in July.[14] She also visited Constance, then unwell, on Christmas Day.[15]

To what extent Georgina’s impression of Wilde’s work may have been distorted as a result of Constance is unclear, but she would have gained a clear insight, from the correspondence, into the desperately lonely life that Constance led.  For Constance, meeting Georgina gave her an enduring sense of hope, so she told her in August 1892.  This was probably the year when she started to realise the truth about her marriage, and a month after her husband had gone to a German spa town with Lord Alfred Douglas, ‘Bosie’, ostensibly to recover his health.[16] We lack the letters from the early years of their relationship, if indeed there were any.  But from 1891 a steady stream came from Constance, mostly dated, and penned in her neat hand.

Alice Oliphant, the first wife of the extraordinary Laurence Oliphant (novelist and journalist, diplomat, and mystic) had called Georgina her ‘Mother-in-God’, ‘Motherling’ and signed herself in her letters as ‘Your very own child’.[17] Constance Wilde was to echo this, calling Georgina her ‘darling mother’, ‘santissima madre’, ‘madre dolorossa’, ‘mothery’ and ‘darling Ani’, and signing herself in her frequent letters as ‘Bambina’ and ‘Bindweed Bambina’.[18] These letters came almost daily, for Constance could ‘not bear that a bit of me should not be with you every morning’.[19] Letter writing became ‘my island of refuge too for a few minutes in each day’.[20] In her letters she chatted about her family life: telling Georgina about Oscar’s work and how her sons were, finding comfort in sharing her life and thoughts.[21] She was quite explicit in her letters about the comfort she drew from her relationship with Georgina in contrast to the icy relationship with her own mother, Adelaide, who had remarried in 1878 (and who was to survive her daughter). 

Darling, if you saw how she writes, you would not wonder that I turn to you for love, and claim a mother’s love, because I need it so desperately.  Every new exhibition of how little love I can get from my other mother hurts me, though I think I am quite used to it![22]

She was quite close to ‘Speranza’, Lady Wilde, but it was Georgina who appears to have been her surrogate mother.[23]

Oscar Wilde’s absences from Tite Street made her long for Georgina’s company: ‘I can’t live in the quiet by myself, and I am much more dependent than I was on fellowship and sympathy’.[24] If only she had Oscar or Georgina with her, she told her in November 1891, London would be bearable.[25] In another letter she told Georgina that she loved her ‘beyond any earthly thing’.[26] She imagined Georgina at breakfast times (‘I feel as if that hour belonged to me’[27]) and when she was in church.  Georgina, in her eyes, was ‘entirely lovable’ and it is clear that she dearly wished Georgina to reassure her that she was loved: ‘You are a perfect Mother and should have many children- but no other babies, darling!’[28] She admitted to Georgina that she had chosen to idolize her, Georgina becoming for her the perfection of beauty and love, the nearest she had found to God’s idea of womanly perfection, and she feared that her own cross would be to lose her.  Constance was afraid that Georgina found her attentions tiresome.[29] Georgina, Constance told her in one letter, kept her ‘outside your life in London, and I never can find out how to help you in the very least’.[30] On one occasion after having expressed doubts about Georgina reading her letters she wrote contritely to be allowed into the ‘nursery’ again.[31] She admitted that her fault was jealousy, and in several letters she expressed her fears that Georgina’s friends and relations hated her, men like Georgina’s brother Augustus Tollemache (who had always doted on his sister) or the son of her close friend Georgina Sumner, the stockbroker Frank Sumner (a somewhat untrustworthy character suspected by Augustus of having designs on Georgina’s money).[32]

Their relationship was founded on a shared interest in religion (the poet Richard le Gallienne was to describe Constance as ‘evangelically religious’[33]).  They both read Thomas à Kempis, the recently discovered apocryphal ‘Gospel of St Peter’ and studied Dante in the original Italian.  The Italian poet’s work was studied for its ‘moral lessons to help us in our little struggles’ (as Georgina’s friend Emelia Gurney was to demonstrate in her published study of Dante in 1897).[34] When Georgina appeared to Constance a saintly or otherworldly character, this was in fact far from being an unusual response to her.  As Constance told her in early 1891, Lady Arabella Romilly thought her ‘like what the dwellers in the other world must have’.[35] Constance attended services with her in London, and also wrote Sunday services for her to read when she was immobile.  Georgina enthralled her young friend with her recollections of the utopian activity of Laurence and Alice Oliphant and their erstwhile prophet the American Thomas Lake Harris.  Constance told her that she would have joined such a community, but accepted Georgina’s argument that domestic virtues were the best.[36] Constance identified a shared taste for the romantic too.[37] The relationship was also deepened by their own unhappiness: Georgina’s bereavement and Constance’s loneliness.

Constance loved to be in Georgina’s company, but ‘always take the opposite side in an argument with you’, so she told Georgina, because ‘you are always delightful when you are roused’ (a playfulness which gives the lie to the idea that Constance was humourless).[38] A month later, Constance refers to another argument, hoping it made Georgina sleep well:

You should always argue: you look so lovely when you get excited, and I feel flattered at your condescending to fight with me! You always get the best of it and I feel very small at the end of the argument.[39]

It was not surprising that the nickname that Georgina used for Constance, which seems to have delighted her, was ‘Lady Cantankerary’ (presumably after Pinero’s play of 1893, the Second Mrs Tanqueray).[40]

Probably she sensed from Georgina, or from friends such as Frank Sumner, that there was unquiet about the Wildes’ married life.  She wrote defensively to Georgina in late January 1891:

Lest Mr Sumner imagine that I am neglecting Oscar, he is dining out! And in self-defence I must deny that I ever neglect him, or put him anywhere but first in my life-duties.  Oscar has, I am sure, told you what he feels that you have been to me in my life, and he would not be a true husband if he were not grateful to you, and anxious that I should give you now what I can, that can be of even small interest to your dear sorrow-laden heart.  Surely you do not think I neglect either my husband or children? … If I had a mother who cared for me (an earth-mother) I should most certainly go and see her every day, and why therefore should I not come and see my spiritual mother?[41]

In Easter 1891 Constance was with Georgina at Babbacombe, and able to feel nearer to her at church than when Georgina had other company at 9 Cheyne Walk.[42] She frequently almost begged Georgina to let her come to her at Babbacombe and read to her and listen to her.[43] She longed for Georgina’s ‘nursing arms’.[44] Georgina explained to Constance in person something of the life of the utopian Oliphants: ‘Perhaps you are right, and simple domestic virtues are the best,’ Constance told her.[45] The three weeks which she was allowed to spend with Georgina in the ‘blessed gabled house’ at Babbacombe in 1891, perfect weeks when Georgina promised to love and spoil her, and (having been a longstanding advocate of medical massage) had even rubbed Constance’s neck for rheumatism, were thereafter frequently returned to in her letters to Georgina.  Constance preferred to have Georgina’s company to herself, telling her friend that she hated gay visitors and expeditions.[46] She pined for Georgina’s company especially whilst Oscar was away in Paris, telling her friend that ‘London is unnatural without you’.[47] Oscar wasn’t coming back, she told Georgina in mid-November, for he was writing a one act play in French ‘and enjoys Paris and French people who are very kind to him’.[48] Almost a week later she promised to send Georgina a signed copy of The House of Pomegranates, and asked her if she could promote the book as a Christmas gift amongst her friends, ‘poor Oscar’s books never seem to sell properly!’[49]

Missing Georgina’s company, letters continued to be an important way of keeping in touch with her ‘darling friend with the ethereal eyes and the ear of Michel Angelo’.[50] ‘Hearts live by being wounded’, she quoted from Oscar’s play A Woman of No Importance, in August 1892, telling Georgina that this would be graven on her tomb when she died.[51] She was delighted at witnessing Georgina’s acquaintance with the artist George Frederick Watts (whose portrait of Georgina was in his gallery of modern worthies):

I think it is the most touchingly beautiful thing that ever happened, and what I shall remember to the end - that sacrifice of love from him to you and from you to him.  You don’t know what it has been to sit by and see you both giving reverential homage from soul to soul.[52]


If ever you are together long enough, Mr Watts is going to paint you, and I prophecy that it will be his most beautiful work.  God keep you both safe for this consummation of a life-time’s work in the cause of beauty and goodness.  He said that you always presented to him the impression of a ‘perfume’ …[53]

In the absence of Georgina’s company Constance also had the comfort of photographs, as well as her own portrait of the ‘Mothery’ which she commissioned from Henriette Corkran, and which was made to look ‘mystical and dreamful’.[54] She also treasured a ring and a daisy brooch which Georgina gave her.

The two women planned to renew their uplifting reading together in late 1892, reading the Bible, Plato and Browning in the morning and Ruskin and novels in the afternoon and evening.[55] But when Constance met Georgina in Babbacombe in September it proved to be a cause for worry, for Constance was told that ‘I depressed and worried you’.[56] She assured Georgina as she returned to London that she was happy.  Then in October 1892 Georgina had a serious accident when she fell, after attending a lecture on Plato with Constance.[57] The next month Georgina let Babbacombe to Constance for three months and Constance brought her sons to Torquay to improve their health.[58] Oscar Wilde wrote to Georgina to thank her for letting them stay at a place which Constance ‘so much loves, and where so much love has been given to her’.[59] But she found the place sad without Georgina, and avoided the sacred space of the ‘Wonderland’, a room notable for its pictures reproduced from Blake, Burne-Jones and others, until the 7th December when Oscar, who joined her, wanted her to be there, ‘so I am going to sit here once a week to please him!’ Medical experts had advised Oscar to avoid London life for his health.  Oscar, she told Georgina, ‘is so enchanted with the house, and wants to live here always’ and a few days later, she wrote that he ‘loves this place more than ever’.[60] Oscar and the children enjoyed feeding the pigeons and other birds, and Oscar also enjoyed exploring Torquay.  Constance, although she could hardly afford it, hired a piano, and arranged the texts in the ‘Convito’ book.  She sent letters of comfort to a depressed Georgina in London, who was troubled by Juliet’s illnesses.[61]

On the 10th December 1892 Constance told Georgina,

Oscar had yesterday such a beautiful letter from the brother of a young man who has died lately in Australia, beautiful to me I mean because it is so full of this boy’s love for Oscar.  I will write a copy of it and send you.  I should like you to see how good Oscar’s influence is on young men …[62]

A few days later Constance wrote:

I am afraid that Oscar is breaking the tenth commandment here every day, and he is quite angry with me for not taking the cottage, but you so snubbed me about it that I thought you must have some personal objection to me as a tenant, or perhaps thought that I would not pay my rent, or had some private reason that I knew nothing of!!![63]

The next day she asked Georgina:

Why do you haunt me so at night that I cannot sleep, and when I do sleep have dreadful dreams about you, either that you are ill, or that you are angry with me, or- worse than all- that you take no notice of me?[64]

Georgina was irritated by her young friend’s attentions when Constance telegraphed in anxiety to inquire about her in January 1893.[65]

Going over to Paris to see her husband briefly, Constance learned that Oscar wanted to stay at Babbacombe again, until March, ‘and write his play for Mr Hare, and I know that you would like him to do this’.[66] Georgina gave her permission, for Oscar Wilde stayed at Babbacombe Cliff until March 1893, looking after his sons but also entertaining his lover Bosie and Bosie’s tutor, the scholar Campbell Dodgson (subsequently Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum).  Oscar was working on a play, the future A Woman of No Importance.  The dissonance between the decadent life Wilde was living there with Bosie, and the high-mindedness of Babbacombe and its absent hostess needs no stressing![67]

Whilst this was happening Constance was in Italy on a holiday with an aunt.  From Italy she sent frequent letters back to Georgina in London, and she wrote a diary and took photographs with her Kodak so that she could tell her friend about her holiday.  Constance enjoyed Italy but was troubled by neuralgia of the back.  She sent her sympathies to Georgina (whose photograph was always with her), anxious about the state of her sister-in-law’s health and then commiserating when Marguerite Tollemache died.[68] They sent flowers to each other.  When she returned she visited Georgina in London, and kept her informed about her daily life: attending talks by William Morris, the services at Philip Wicksteed’s chapel, meetings of theosophists, the lectures of the reformer Miss Henrietta Frances Lord’s ‘Bond of Union’, and the literary critic John Churton Collins.  Then in August, Georgina learnt from Constance that her husband was ‘so cold to me and so nice to others’ at Grossmith’s (the actor) at Goring on Thames.[69] His butler knew more about his plans than she did, she told Georgina; ‘Darling, what am I to do? I ought not to trouble you, but I must ask, and you need not answer!’ Kind words came back to her from Georgina.[70] In September she was briefly at Babbacombe with Georgina, attempting to work on the books (cataloguing them), and evidently telling Georgina something about her troubles, ‘I cannot say, my small troubles’.[71] She was delighted that Georgina – increasingly immobilised – came up to her room to wish her good morning. 

She sent a letter at the start of October telling Georgina that Oscar was so much better ‘in every way’.[72] The solution appeared to be for him to have a couple of rooms of his own in London where he could write, which would bring him home so much more.[73] If her husband’s problems were seemingly being addressed, Lady Wilde was ill, and in Constance’s opinion, acquiescing in ‘such dreadful things’ by Willie, Oscar’s brother.  With her oldest son Cyril, Constance stayed briefly with a friend of Georgina’s in October, the homoeopathist and medium, Eliza Wagstaff, in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire.[74] Letters came daily from Fryth in Northumberland to Babbacombe when the Wildes stayed there in November.

Georgina was confiding in Constance about her fears about her adopted daughter Juliet – probably about her health, but possibly about Juliet’s unsuitable engagement – and her young friend told her not to harm herself or her adopted daughter by her anxiety.[75] Constance was also keen to find out about a new acquaintance of Georgina’s, the Catholic priest Father Kenelm Vaughan, the brother of Cardinal Vaughan, for she was herself attracted to Catholicism.  But she told Georgina that Oscar, though he was surprising his wife by revealing that he went to benediction at the Brompton Oratory (which Georgina and she had visited in late May 1890[76]), thought it would be ‘ruin to the boys if I became a “Cat”.  No Catholic boy is allowed to go to Eton or to take a scholarship at the University’.  This was by now a rare occasion when Oscar was talking to her:

Remember that I can never broach these subjects to him myself and it may be years before he speaks to me again like this, but I shall not forget that he these moods, and last evening he said a great deal to me.  [77]

A day later, visiting the Burnes-Joneses, who agreed to look after Vyvyan, she was struck by the beauty of their family life, ‘There I am going off again into dreams of what might be, wrong and foolish of me’.[78]

In October 1893 Oscar returned from a quick trip to Calais, without seeing Constance, and, so she told Georgina, ‘all my old misery over again and another fiasco – my own fault this time, I am afraid’.[79] Constance wanted to visit Babbacombe again, to finish her work on the books, and also to allay her fears that Georgina was ‘always angry with me’, something she was feeling in her dreams, so she told Georgina.[80] This appeal to Georgina, and the clear allusions to marital unhappiness, must have touched Georgina.  Georgina invited Constance to stay in November 1893 and she sent pathetic letters of joy, and a worried note after hearing from Juliet about Georgina braving the North East wind.[81]

On All Saints Day in 1893 Constance was suggesting making it a ‘Tennysonian winter’.[82] Constance seems to have stayed in Juliet’s old room at 9 Cheyne Walk in early January, something Juliet was pleased about: ‘I am so delighted you were pleased with Con: I thought you must be.  She is such a fascinating person’.[83]

Sending her one note playfully signed Constanza Cantankerary, Constance observed, ‘Oscar thinks that a very wicked name for me, and he laughed immensely over it!’[84] She spent a few ‘sweet minutes’ with her Mothery before travelling with Vivian to Torre Mount in Torquay, where, bored by the absence of intellectual and uplifting thoughts, she sent a typically impassioned note: ‘I loved you this morning and you were sweet to me my beloved linking me to your heart nearer than ever … Never forget that I love you intensely’.[85] She felt terribly lonely, missing Cyril, mother and husband: ‘I hear nothing from Oscar and don’t know whether he is in London or Paris’, and poignantly described Dean Stanley’s marriage –  she was reading his life –  as an ideal.[86]

Finances were tight, with Oscar making nothing, not letting her know where he was or writing, and school fees to pay, so she had to refuse Georgina’s offer of her London home, which Lady Mount Temple needed to lease because her own finances were straitened.[87] Her friend dreaded Georgina’s departure from London, which would make her own loneliness even more dreadful.[88] She longed as ‘always’ to keep Easter with her mothery, and was worried from hearing through the artist Henriette Corkran, that Georgina remained ill.[89] Back in London, she shared Georgina’s joy that Juliet was to be married, passing on to her the good wishes of the Wattses to her (‘the moment must be so trying’), and told her that ‘Oscar seems in better spirits and has finished the play, so I hope to find him bright and well’.[90] She resumed her evening visits to Cheyne Walk, and her regular correspondence then flowed to Georgina at Babbacombe in July, as she worked on completing her Oscariana.  This work continued to occupy her as she stayed in The Haven, No.5 Worthing, renting the house of a Miss Lord, perhaps their mutual acquaintance Henrietta Frances Lord (born 1849), a pioneer translator of Ibsen, proponent of Froebel’s educational methods and Christian Science, who was trying to recuperate in Matlock from her rheumatic gout.  Oscar was there too, writing the Importance of Being Earnest (‘Oscar has written a play here, she told Georgina, 25 August, ‘so I love this place now!’).[91]

Georgina asked Constance to find out if a print of a William Blake picture had been left at Cheyne Walk, forgetting that her friend was in Worthing most of the time, where she tried to occupy herself by reading Middlemarch (from Lord’s library) and romances such as Anthony Hope’s Prisoner of Zenda.  ‘Lord Alfred Douglas is staying with Oscar’, she noted.  Absence of news of Georgina led Constance to fear that her prophecy that her friend had ‘passed completely out of my life’ was true.[92] There followed a quick reply from her Mothery, prompting her to write ‘you shall not feel excommunicated!’ and delighting her through her sad letter, with the thought that her dull scrawls really were valued.[93]

Constance visited Georgina at Babbacombe in late September, and returned from her paradise (having spent her time losing things) to visit the weakening Lady Wilde, meet mutual friends such as Emily Gurney, Lord Mount Temple’s American sister-in-law Jessie Cowper, and the artist Emily Ford (sister of the feminist and socialist Isbaella Ford), and to screw up courage to visit Georgina’s relatives, the Tollemaches.[94] Wordsworth and socialism were, she told Georgina, her ‘present hobbies’ (she was attending the Christian Social Union), but she was also full of Christian Science.[95] She told Georgina of the death of Lord Drumlanrig, Lord Alfred Douglas’s brother, he [Bosie] ‘broke down at Paddington yesterday, and Mr Ross told me that there was a terrible scene there’ (Drumlanrig was the private secretary to the prime minister Lord Rosebery, and had died in a shooting accident, but it may well have been a suicide to protect Rosebery, for there has been speculation that they were lovers).[96]

Probably in relation to the evolving scandal (with Oscar Wilde staying in Paris to avoid the Marquess of Queensberry), Constance wrote to Georgina in November 1894: ‘I am very distraught and worried and no one can help me.  I can only pray to help from God’, and ended by asking Georgina to destroy the letter.[97] Constance hoped to stay with Georgina at Babbacombe in December 1894.  Oscar’s play was coming out in the new year and she wished, so she told her friend, that he would then go to Tangier for his health as he had been very ill (he went with Bosie), so that she hoped she could also stay with her ‘Mothery’ in the new year.[98] As Lady Wilde remained in ill health too, and had not left her room for months, Georgina even extended an invitation to her to come to Babbacombe through Constance.[99]

Georgina’s portrait by Watts, which Constance liked so much, was photographed by Frederick Hollyer and sent by Georgina as a Christmas gift to Constance in 1894.  She was ecstatic and Oscar thought it ‘beautiful as I do’.[100] Following an accident at 16 Tite Street when she fell down the stairs and damaged her back Constance’s health was poor: electric treatment proved unsuccessful, and she found it difficult to walk.  But she had her lectures and services to attend still: the Christian Socialist Union branch at Chelsea and the friendship she developed with one of the ‘fashionable’ Canon Richard Eyton’s curates, Reverend Lilley (Georgina sent the curate a gift of money through Constance).  Oscar’s new play (An Ideal Husband), she told Georgina, 5 January 1895, was ‘the most tremendous success … the most beautiful play that he has written’.[101] A week later she sent news of Lilley’s wedding, and Lady Wilde’s improving health.


This was the last letter that Constance wrote to Georgina before 12 June 1895 to survive in the Broadlands archive, and now housed at the University of Southampton.  Between those dates Constance’s married life was destroyed.  In February 1895 Constance Wilde was at the gabled haven of Babbacombe, where she celebrated the birthday of Georgina’s old, and now mentally incapacitated friend, John Ruskin.[102] But her continuing back pain meant she was in poor health.  The next time she was in Babbacombe it provided her with a haven from scandal after her husband’s arrest, the contents of 16 Tite Street being sold by auction at the end of April (Babbacombe was to provide a haven during the trials, and after Oscar had been sentenced in 1897.  Georgina even offered her home to Oscar as a place of refuge between his trials). 

In April 1895 Georgina’s old friend the American Quakeress Hannah Smith wrote to Georgina and urged her to be sympathetic to Constance Wilde in the ‘terrible affair of her husband’s … I cannot help hoping that thee will let her go to thee for a little while when you can.’ Hannah hoped that Georgina would encourage Constance to divorce and return to her maiden name for the sake of her boys.[103]  In that month Constance stayed at Babbacombe.[104] The next letter to survive in the Broadlands Records was written in June 1895.  Writing from The Grange, the home of Mrs Frederick Roller at Clapham Common, Constance told Georgina about the need to divorce Oscar in order to ensure her sons would have an inheritance, and of her plans to go to Switzerland.[105]

She wrote to Georgina from Switzerland, sad letters which touched on her immobility, her loneliness, the adoption of ‘Holland’ as her new surname.  Sweet letters from her darling Mothery made her long to be in Babbacombe.[106] The horror of visiting Oscar in prison in September was ‘more awful than anything I have ever been through, and worse even for him I suppose’, she told Georgina.  The meeting had been conducted across the barrier of grating and passage, and she told Georgina she could not go through the experience again, or at least, not without the face to face meeting that had been denied.[107]

The editor of More Letters of Oscar Wilde writes of Georgina being ‘unfailingly kind to her and her children’.  This was true.  Vyvyan Holland recalled Babbacombe as a place of happiness, and visited it on several occasions in later life, such was the attraction the memory of the ‘very tall and stately lady’ and her house was for him.[108] But Georgina must have been horrified by the scandal.[109] Her association with Constance was a brave gesture since personally, as Georgina wrote to Juliet: ‘I do not think there could be a greater trial with such disgusting shame … one cannot bear even to allude to it.  Can one touch pitch and not be defiled? You are quite right in keeping aloof – so would I if I did not feel called upon to shelter her’.[110] Though she dreaded meeting Constance and Cyril, she hoped though that ‘Bab’ would be an ‘ark of refuge’ (waterproofed with the ‘pitch’, as Noah’s ark was) to the wounded Dove.[111] She even had a message to pass on to Oscar when he was in prison, through Constance.[112]

Georgina continued to correspond with Constance in 1896, sending her photographs, books and gifts for her boys at Christmas, and sending her news about Ruskin.  Constance wrote to her frequently, desperately unhappy and lonely, recalling the time in Chelsea when she could see Georgina or pass her house every day, and looking forward to being at Babbacombe again.  The medical treatment in Italy proved unsuccessful but she hoped to return to England in the spring, and see Georgina, as well as pay another ‘pilgrimage to that dreary prison’ (Wandsworth, Oscar Wilde was to be transferred to Reading in November).[113] Oscar, Georgina learnt from her, was ‘longing to be friends with me again but on the other hand he is seeing again the friends that brought upon him all this disgrace and I should indeed be a fool if I put myself into the clutches of them all.  God help me if there is a God’.[114] She tried to view her unhappiness as a purifying experience, and to draw comfort from her brother, boys and Georgina, ‘a real Mother full of sympathy’.  Though her hand was very feeble Georgina sent her friend messages at Christmas, as Constance was operated on at the ‘Clinica del Professore Bossi’ in Genoa.[115]

She told Georgina about the revived plans to divorce Oscar in order to safeguard her little money for Vyvyan and Cyril, with fears that ‘Mr Wilde … wants my wretched money’.[116] She still hoped to return to England and visit Babbacombe in February 1896, when she recalled their joint celebration of Ruskin’s birthday.  Shortly afterwards she  intended to visit Oscar in Reading Gaol to break the news of Lady Wilde’s death (feeling it would be worse for him to ‘hear it from unsympathetic lips’), but could find no one to look after the boys and allow her to fly to Georgina and be ‘at peace’ in Torquay.[117] She wrote about the upsetting of plans which forced her to take the boys to Germany in April 1896, her resolution to learn the horrible German language, and her nights of desperation when only the thought of her sons saved her from ‘anything too desperate … Life does seem awful’.[118]

The comfort she derived from writing to Georgina, and the photograph she had with her always, was something, but she had an unbearable longing to be at Babbacombe, not having seen Georgina for over a year (‘Poor Lady Cantankerary! She is in a bad way without her beautiful friend to shew her the ways of Love’[119]).  What desperation she must have brought Georgina, feeling the loss of close friends such as her sister-in-law, the mystically-inclined Marguerite Tollemache, and longing to be reunited with William her husband when she read the following:

You once said to me that Love with you was synonymous with anguish but indeed Tennyson was right, although I used not to think so, when he said, “ ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved”, and to have one’s love crushed and maimed is almost as if one had never loved at all, and I am utterly cold now and care not much for anything or anybody excepting of course for my boys … [120]

Georgina sent her Christmas presents but could not write, and Constance asked her to communicate her news through Miss Fawcett, her nurse.  For over ten months (during which time Constance may have glimpsed Oscar once, secretly, in prison, before his release, which took place 18 May 1897) there is a hiatus in the surviving correspondence, until two letters in Constance’s weakening hand came.  In the first she wrote to Juliet Deschamps, who was at Babbacombe following the death of her husband (Constance did not know this was why Juliet was ‘homeless’, and was afraid that Monsieur Eugene Deschamps, an unsuccessful stockbroker in Paris had been behaving badly) about Oscar’s return to Lord Alfred Douglas in October 1897: ‘Mine [i.e., her husband] has gone back to Naples to live near Lord A, and says it is my fault as I did not let him see his children’.[121] In December she sent a typed letter of thanks for Christmas books to Georgina. 

Constance did not survive her ‘mothery’, as she had often dreaded, dying in Genoa on the 7 April 1898, after an operation (again by Bossi) on her spine, which an aunt and medical expert in England had strongly advised against.  Georgina received the news shortly afterwards from Otho Holland-Lloyd, Constance’s brother, who had arrived at Genoa too late, and from her old friend Lady Simon (wife of the surgeon Sir John Simon).[122] How much ‘true charm and pleasure you brought into Constance’s life, as well as spiritual help’, Otho Holland-Lloyd told her.[123] Constance’s ‘Mothery’ was to live for another three years.


The letters of Constance Wilde to Georgina Lady Mount Temple, which must originally have been many hundreds, given the almost daily letters she wrote to her, are a neglected source in the history of the Wildes.  The relationship between the two women may only be glimpsed incompletely, for we lack most of the letters Georgina wrote to Constance, though given her increasing frailty it is unlikely that they were as many letters from her as those written by Constance.  But they still provide a glimpse of the magnetic personality of Lady Mount Temple, attracting the devotion of Constance and her acquaintances, even in her old age.[124] As her brother told Georgina after Constance’s death, she had been the most spiritually near of all her friends.[125] Constance herself said to Georgina that she would never have another friend like her.[126] The relationship with Constance echoed Georgina’s friendships with Emelia Gurney (a fellow patron of reform, and Dante enthusiast) and Hannah Whittall Smith, who were able to develop intimate friendships sustained by frequent correspondence.  Georgina was a supremely loveable character, whose temperament was interpreted by her devoted friends as something akin to saintliness, although, as Constance noted, she hated the idea of saints.  Such admirers found in Georgina a sympathetic ear, an engaging personality which, with its share of the Tollemache temper, did not lack fire, and a heart which was always prepared to carry out little or large acts of kindness.  Constance gave Georgina a connection with metropolitan moral reform and religious investigation when she was no longer able to participate herself, and also gave another link to friends such as G.F.  Watts.  Both were lonely women, although in Georgina’s case it was the loneliness of widowhood rather than the actual absence of friends and families, for Constance was one of many who gave her companionship in her final years.[127]

Dr James Gregory,

Department of Languages and European Studies, The University of Bradford,

November 2006


I am most grateful to Merlin Holland, the Executor of the Estate of Constance Holland, and the Trustees of the Broadlands Papers, Broadlands Records, for their permission to make quotations from the correspondence of Constance Wilde to Georgina Cowper-Temple in this article. I am also grateful to Mr Holland for his comments and advice on earlier drafts.

·         James Gregory has taught Modern British and European History at the Universities of Durham and Southampton, and is currently Lecturer at the University of Bradford (Department of Languages and European Studies). His doctoral research was on the British vegetarian movement, and a book, 'Of Victorians and Vegetarians', is to be published in February 2007 by I.B. Tauris. He has published articles and biographical studies on this topic. His recent research has focused on 'eccentricity' in nineteenth-century British culture, with several monographs published on the place of the 'eccentric' or 'character'. His ongoing research on Victorian moral and social reform is organised around a study of the public careers and private lives of William Cowper-Temple - Lord Mount Temple - and his second wife Georgina.

[The Notes are to be found at the very end of this section]



2.  Brendan McWilliams: Oscar Wilde and the Weather

[Editor’s Note.  Mr McWilliams writes a regular column called ‘Weather Eye’ in The Irish Times.  The article ‘Oscar Wilde and the Weather’ appeared on the anniversary of Wilde’s birthday, 16th October 2006, in a version slightly cut from Mr McWilliams’ original.  We are very pleased that, thanks to our Associate Editor for Ireland, Dr Maureen O’Connor, Mr McWilliams has given us permission to publish the original text.  This we do, just as received.]



EDITORIAL NOTES: [I]=Begin Italics; [EI]=End Italics


   "Pray don't talk about the weather, Mr. Worthing," implores Gwendolen in [I]The Importance of Being Earnest [EI]. "Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else. And that makes me so nervous."

   Today is the 152nd anniversary of the birth of the exquisitely talented and magnificently named Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde on October 16th 1854. Celebrated for his barbed and clever wit, Oscar Wilde was perhaps the most successful playwright of his day and one of the most colourful characters of late Victorian London. But he suffered, as we know, a tragic downfall culminating in a two-year period of imprisonment, and he spent his final days in the inelegant Hotel d'Alsace in Paris. He died there in November, 1900.

   Gwendolen's entreaty is one of only a few reference to weather in the plays of Oscar Wilde, and this is scarcely surprising since the weather intrudes little into the genteel drawing-rooms of the privileged classes he portrayed on stage. When he does attempt a more robust approach to meteorology, as, for example, at the beginning of Act III of [I]The Duchess of Padua [EI], it never quite comes off; here Guido treats us to what might be a poor parody of Lear's storm, or an inept alternative to Shakespeare's night before the Ides in [I]Julius Caesar:

             The wind is rising: how my ladder shook!

             I thought that every gust would break the cords!

             Christ! What a night:

             Great thunder in the heavens, and wild lightnings

             Striking from pinnacle to pinnacle

             Across the city, till the dim houses seem

             To shudder and to shake as each new glare

             Dashes adown the street. [EI]

   But Wilde, strangely enough, handles the weather very sensitively in his children's stories. This is particularly so in [I]The Selfish Giant [EI], based almost entirely on a weather theme, in which the eponymous anti-hero is annoyed at happy children enjoying themselves in his beautiful garden. He banishes them, but with disastrous consequences some months later:

   "Then the Spring came, and all over the country there were little blossoms and little birds. Only in the garden of the Selfish Giant was it still winter. The birds did not care to sing in it, and the trees forgot to blossom. The only people who were pleased were the Snow and the Frost, and they invited the North Wind to stay with them, and he came. He was wrapped in furs, and he roared all day about the garden, blowing down the chimney-pots. And Hail came, and every day for three hours he rattled on the roof of the castle till he broke the slates."

   This unfortunate change of climate continues until the Giant lets the happy children back into his garden; then winter disappears, and summer returns to last forever. It is a simple tale - but beautifully told.




3.  Emmanuel Vernadakis: Oscar Wilde, Tennessee Williams and the Palimpsest of the Courtesan

[Editor’s Note: This is the introduction to a paper read at the Colloquium ‘La reprise en littérature’ at the Université Lumière Lyon 2, 13th & 14th October.  It is expected that the full text of Dr Vernadakis’ paper will be published in the Proceedings of the Colloquium.]

According to the Grand Dictionnaire universelle Larousse du XIXe siècle, a courtesan is a woman who ‘sets a reserve price on her favours but whose distinction and good manners make her stand out from the others.’  The term derives from the Italian cortegiana, an educated young woman hired by the Senate to entertain the (male) Venetian nobility with her skills, both intellectual and physical. From the Renaissance on, the courtesan came to be a standard character in literature.

In the present paper I examine a string of courtesans from the works of Oscar Wilde and Tennessee Williams. These are Wilde’s Salomé and Myrrhina and Williams’s Alma.   Salomé is the title character in a drama published in 1893 (wriiten in French in 1891) and Myrrhina, the protagonist of La Sainte Courtisane or The Woman Covered With Jewels, a 1894 fragment. Alma, whose story Williams wrote three times over, is the heroine of the ‘The Yellow Bird’ (1947), Summer and Smoke (1947), and  The Eccentricities of a Nightingale (1971). The aim of the paper is to look into the structure of the courtesan who is emblematic for rewriting in  the above works, and into their structures, all five being ‘reprises’. Salomé is a rewriting of a Biblical section, La Sainte Courtisane a rewriting of Anatole France’s novel  Thaïs, ‘The Yellow Bird,’ of La Sainte Courtisane, Summer and Smoke of ‘The Yellow Bird,’ and the Eccentricities of a Nightingale of Summer and Smoke.

For the full abstract, click here.



3.  Christopher S. Nassaar: On Recreating Oscar.

The opinion has been expressed that it is very irritating to tamper with perfection and that great literary works should remained untouched by future generations. In many cases this is probably true, but Oscar--I would like to suggest--is an exception. A couple of years ago, it occurred to me that much of Oscar's wit from elsewhere can be woven into the dialogue of The Importance of Being Earnest, and that the result would be a delightful lark. At first the idea of doing this frightened me, but I soon gathered enough courage and actually went ahead with the project. The result was a short novel almost twice the length of the original play, and full of Wildean wit not found in the original.  Since Oscar often borrowed wit from his earlier works, I felt I had a distinguished precedent.

The novel has not been out for long and not too many people have read it yet, but it can be accessed at the following weblink:


[Editor’s Note:  The above link takes one to the publishing details and publisher’s note.   The book has been reviewed for THE OSCHOLARS by Emmanuel Vernadakis and we are also pleased to say that we have been given permission by Professor Nassaar to republish one of the chapters on our website: click here.]



4.  Maxwell E. Siegel: On Losing Both One's Parents:  Carelessness or Tampering?

Mr Siegel asks us to make the following point about his article that appeared under this title in our last issue and also in The Wildean.

Specifically, I implied that the line about ‘putting postage stamps with the baby’ was in Wilde's original four-act ‘Importance.’  It wasn't, but shows up in the earliest known version of the three-act – the text filed with the Lord Chancellor.  Apparently, while Wilde was cutting for Alexander, he was also adding – which is probably why Alexander finally sent him away.  The ‘postage stamp’ line was then cut before performance.  So The Wildean text differs slightly from The Oscholars.  I discovered an error in it before The Wildean printed it, and Don Mead (the editor) made the change.  

We apologise to Mr Siegel for having published his article with the slip uncorrected.


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[1]             B[roadlands] R[ecords] 57/17/ 8, 15 November 1892.  This research note is based on a study of Constance Wilde’s correspondence, in the Broadlands Records, University of Southampton Special Collections, and is part of a larger project to study the lives and careers of William Cowper-Temple and his second wife, who was born Georgina Tollemache.  Previous published works on the Cowper-Temples include the following: Georgina’s own biography of William Cowper-Temple and their married life, Mount Temple Memorials (privately published), Van Akin Burd, Ruskin, Lady Mount-Temple and the Spiritualists.  An Episode in Broadlands History (Brentham Press/Guild of St George, 1982), and Burd, Christmas Story: John Ruskin’s Venetian Letters, 1876-77 (Newark and London: University of Delaware Press, 1990), and P.  Hoare, England’s Lost Eden (London: Fourth Estate, 2004).

[2]             V.  Holland, Son of Oscar Wilde (Penguin Books, 1954) states they were distant cousins, but I have been unable to locate the connection.  Constance Wilde was related to several aristocratic families, and the second son of the ninth Baron Napier was a great uncle through marriage.  Nowhere in the correspondence can one find a reference to this relationship.  Lady Mount Temple’s first name is spelt ‘Georgina’ here, which was the spelling used by her (see her letter to Emelia Gurney, BR57/24/7; the signature to her will dated 12 April 1879, BR52/7; the printed signature to her In Memoriam of Emelia Gurney, Guardian, 4 November 1896), and by various friends and relations, see for instance letters from Marguerite Tollemache, BR56/8, 8 October 1847; John Tollemache, BR56/25, 17 November 1848; letters from George MacDonald, BR56/3, and letters of Jessy Ryle (Mrs J.C.  Ryle), BR56/7.  Her name is also recorded this way in the 1901 census, Marriage and Death indices, and Mormon IGI database.  The preferred spelling among scholars (for instance, Van Akin Burd), and in the Library of Congress catalogue, is Georgina, but the spelling ‘Georgiana’ has also been used, as it was used by some of her relations, such as Lord Shaftesbury and Lord Palmerston.  For the history of the Tollemache family, see E.D.H.  Tollemache, The Tollemaches of Helmingham and Ham (Ipswich: W.S.  Cowell, 1949).

[3]             R.  Ellmann’s Oscar Wilde (1987) and G.  Schmidgall’s study The Stranger Wilde (London: Abacus, 1994) do not draw on the material in the Broadlands Records; nor does A.C.  Amor, Mrs Oscar Wilde.  A Woman of Some Importance (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1983). 

[4]             BR57/50/9.  27 September 1893.

[5]             A.C.  Amor, Mrs Oscar Wilde, p.  114.  Jane Simon wrote that she was glad Georgina liked Constance, in October 1889.  The earliest letter in the Broadlands collection from Constance is to Juliet Temple, Georgina’s adopted daughter, and is dated 19/6/1889.  A friend of a ‘H.  Ward’ had also been ‘recently’ introduced to Georgina by Oscar Wilde in 1889, according to a letter dated 30 December 1889, see BR56/19.

[6]             Constance Wilde’s involvement in the Rational Dress movement is well-known; she also became involved in the Women’s Liberal Association, international peace and arbitration, and philanthropic responses to London poverty.  See Amor, Mrs Oscar Wilde, p.  75, ‘Constance was more at home in a relationship in which she was a mixture of daughter and disciple’.  Both the Wildes believed in fortune-telling.  Constance was interested in theosophy and joined the Order of the Golden Dawn.  But this was only one aspect to their shared interests, c.f., P.  Jullian, Oscar Wilde (1969), writes of the ‘real bond’ being their following of H.P.  Blavatsky.  In fact the correspondence has very little on theosophy.

[7]             BR57/45/1, 22 January 1891.

[8]             See BR57/11/3, for an early letter from Constance, 27 November 1890, referring to a lecture by Wicksteed and his discussion of socialism.  Some of this work was to be placed on walls as inspiring decoration.

[9]             BR57/45/12, 22 November 1892: according to Constance, ‘I think that was a time of perfect peace and harmony to me’.

[10]           BR57/14/5, dated Palm Sunday [1891?].  Note this letter is misclassified BR57/13/5.

[11]           BR57/13/16, 23 October 1891.

[12]           Schmidgall, The Stranger Wilde, p.  113.

[13]            BR57/15/11, 16 August 1892.  In February 1892 Juliet Latour Temple, Georgina’s adopted daughter, hoped that ‘Mr Oscar Wilde’s play is a great success’, BR59/22, (11 February).

[14]           BR58/16, diary of Georgina Cowper-Temple.  She was therefore reading the version that had appeared in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, 20 June 1890, and which was to be amended and expanded when published as a book in 1891.

[15]           BR57/11/4, 26 December 1890. 

[16]           BR57/15/17, 22 August 1892.  For 1892 as the year that realisation dawned, see Schmidgall, The Stranger Wilde, p.  115.

[17]           See the various letters in BR50/20.

[18]           BR57/46/9, 3 January 1893: ‘I want you to put Bambina in it for me; I must be always that to you, and it implies motherhood from you to me!’

[19]           BR57/13/2, 5 October 1891.

[20]           BR57/15/3.

[21]           She noted that one letter was penned at 11.30 pm, 13 November 1891, see BR57/12/11.

[22]           BR57/12/4, 2 November 1891.

[23]           A.C.  Amor, Mrs Oscar Wilde, pp.65-66, for the ‘companionable’ relationship with her mother-in-law.  Amor drew on the letters of Constance to ‘Speranza’ which were available in typescript copies in the Library of the University of Reading.

[24]           BR57/12/1, 26 October 1891.

[25]           BR57/12/14.

[26]           BR57/13/2, 7 October 1891.  See, similarly, BR57/48/3, 11 October 1893.

[27]           BR57/13/11, 14 October 1891.

[28]           BR57/11/4, 26 December 1890.

[29]           BR57/11/11.

[30]           BR57/12/12, 13 November 1891.

[31]           BR57/13/14, 21 October 1891.

[32]           BR57/45/2, 23 January 1891.  On fearing that she has teased and been contrary with Frank Sumner, see BR57/45/6, 5 March 1891 (who had just given her some advice on her brother’s business affairs, see BR57/45/2, 23 January 1891).  On her sense that Augustus hated her, see BR57/5014, 3 October 1893

[33]           R.  le Gallienne, The Romantic 90s (1925; London: Putnam, 1926).

[34]           BR57/45/12.

[35]           BR57/45/5, 3 March 1891.  Romilly wrote a ghost story published in the Lady’s Realm in the late Victorian period.

[36]           BR57/11/9, 30 May 1891.

[37]           BR57/45/9, 6 October 1892, in attempting to encourage Georgina to read Peter Ibbetson.

[38]           BR57/18/14, 12 January 1893.

[39]           BR57/49/8.  27 March 1893.

[40]           BR57/22/17, 11 January 1896, ‘as you used to love to call me’.

[41]           BR57/45/3, 28 January 1891.

[42]           BR57/11/8, 27 May 1891.

[43]           BR57/11/17, 15 August 1891; BR57/11/19.

[44]           BR57/11/20.

[45]           BR57/11/9, 30 May 1890.

[46]           BR57/16/1.  24 August 1892.

[47]           BR57/12/1, 26 October 1891.

[48]           BR57/12/13, 15 November 1891. 

[49]           BR57/12/17, 21 November 1891.

[50]           BR57/14/15, n.d.

[51]           BR57/15/13, 18 August 1892.

[52]           BR57/15/11, 16 August 1892.

[53]           BR57/15/11, 16 August 1892.

[54]           On the portrait, see BR57/48/12.  22 October 1893.  A noted artist in pastels, Corkran attended Lady Wilde’s salon and knew various celebrities of the period, including Anna Kingsford, the noted mystic, and another acquaintance of Georgina’s. 

[55]           BR57/16/12, 9 September 1892.

[56]           BR57/16/14, 2 October 1892.  On this occasion she may have met the psychical researcher and friend of Georgina’s, F.W.  H.  Myers, see BR57/48/15, letter dated 28 October [1893].

[57]           BR57/48/8, letter dated 17 October 1893, ‘a year ago today’.

[58]           BR57/17/11.  She arrived on the 17th November with Cyril and Vyvyan.  There seems to have been some difference of opinion however, with Juliet suggesting that the villa was to be available to a Mrs Best before 17 February.

[59]           Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde, p.538, letter dated  ? November 1892.

[60]           BR57/46/7, letter dated 4 December 1892; BR57/18/1, 7 December 1892, ‘From Wonderland’ as the letter said.  See also BR57/45/12, letter dated 22 November 1892.

[61]           BR57/17/14, 24 November 1892.

[62]           BR57/18/4, letter from Babbacombe dated 10 December 1892.

[63]           BR57/18/9, 14 December 1892.

[64]           BR57/18/10.  15 December 1892.

[65]           BR57/18/16, 19 January 1893.

[66]           BR57/46/10, letter dated 2 February 1893, ‘I had a delightful peep at Oscar in Paris’.

[67]           Though Oscar Wilde informed Georgina of the arrival of Bosie and his tutor, ‘so I am not lonely in the evenings’, letter dated 8-11 February 1893, M.  Holland and R.H.  Davis, eds, Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde, p.  547.

[68]           BR57/46/14, 10 February 1893.  Constance sent her a crucifix blessed by the Pope, BR57/49/4, 6 March 1893.

[69]           BR57/49/15.  14 August 1893.

[70]           BR57/49/15, letter dated 15 August from Constance in reply.

[71]           BR57/48/7.  15 October 1897: ‘at Bab three weeks ago’; BR57/50/9, 27 September 1893, on her return.

[72]           BR57/50/12.  1 October 1893.

[73]           BR57/50/14.  3 October 1893.

[74]           BR57/48/1, 9 October 1893.  The reason is unclear; Constance refers to her help about the children and others things.  She put herself into a trance and told Constance things that did not comfort her, ‘but it is best to know the truth, and I know that I of my own power can do nothing’, see BR57/48/2, letter dated 10 October 1893.

[75]           BR57/48/2, 10 October 1893.

[76]           BR58/16, diary, 26 May 1890, and also, along with Georgina’s friend Maria Consuelo, in early June.

[77]           BR57/48/4, 12 October 1893.  Constance wrote: ‘and other things that he does surprise me still more’.  Oscar wanted her to go and burn a candle for him at the Oratory.  Constance, seeking medical relief at Genoa in late 1895 and early 1896, said that the Catholic books she was reading had not appealed to her intellect, BR57/22/17, [11?] January 1896; but 11 February she told Georgina she had missed her church services so much that she thought of becoming a Catholic, it being so difficult to attend English services.

[78]           BR57/50/8.  19 October 1893.

[79]           BR57/48/9, 19 October 1893.

[80]           BR57/48/3, 12 October 1893.

[81]           BR57/47/13, 15 November 1893.

[82]           BR57/18/18.

[83]           BR59/21, 16 January 1894; see also letter dated 15 January.  The identification of ‘Con’ with Constance Wilde is not certain, in this case, however.

[84]           BR57/19/3, 17 February 1894.

[85]           BR57/19/5, 22 February 1894.

[86]           BR57/19/8, 25 February 1894; BR57/19/9, 26 February 1894.

[87]           BR57/19/10, 27 February 1894.

[88]           BR57/19/11, 28 February 1894.

[89]           BR57/19/14, 6 March 1894; BR57/20/1, 8 March 1894.

[90]           BR57/20/3, 5 April 1894.

[91]           BR57/20/14, 25 August 1894.

[92]           BR57/20/12, 17 August 1894.

[93]           BR57/20/13, 20 August 1894.

[94]           BR57/21/4, 2 October 1894; BR57/21/5, 3 October 1894.

[95]           BR57/21/9, 13 October 1894; BR57/21/10, 15 October 1894.

[96]           BR57/21/12, 20 October 1894.

[97]           BR57/21/16, 10 November 1894.

[98]           BR57/22/1, 17 November 1894; BR57/22/3, 4 December 1894.

[99]           BR57/22/5, 16 December 1894

[100]         BR57/22/5, 16 December 1894.

[101]         BR57/22/8, 5 January 1895.

[102]         BR57/22/18, 3 February 1896.  Ruskin’s birthday was 8 February.

[103]         BR57/6/16, letter to Georgina dated 11 April 1895.  See also letter from Hannah, 10 June 1895, in BR50/28.

[104]         19 February 1895.

[105]         BR57/22/10, 12 June 1895.  Mrs Roller, so ‘dear and sweet, lovely to look at’, was according to Constance’s letter, a woman Georgina had always admired, and someone else who wanted ‘so much to know about you’, having seen the Watts drawing of Lady Mount Temple at the Royal Academy.

[106]         BR57/22/12, 18 October 1895.

[107]         BR57/22/12, 18 October 1895.

[108]         Holland, Son of Oscar Wilde, pp.47-48.  Holland describes her as a great friend of the Pre-Raphaelites ‘and of my father’: there is no evidence for this friendship with Oscar.  The relationship was derived from Constance Wilde.  In the correspondence to Georgina is a letter from Vyvyan, c.  March 1894, to ‘Darling Lady Mount Temple’ thanking her for a present and signed ‘Votre petit Vivian’.

[109]         R.  Hart-Davis, ed., More Letters of Oscar Wilde (Oxford University Press, 1988), p.  114, fn.2.

[110]         Ironically Constance had told Juliet, reading Tolstoy’s Kreuzer Sonata, ‘Please don’t imagine that all men and women are like that.  I think and hope that very few are, and that very few lives are so absolutely sordid as these’.  See BR57/11/2, c.1889.

[111]         BR54/13, autograph letter to Juliet.

[112]         BR57/22/12, 18 October 1895.

[113]         BR57/22/13, 30 October 1895.

[114]         BR57/22/14, 5 December 1895.

[115]         BR57/22/10, 29 December 1895.

[116]         BR57/22/17, 11 January 1896.  In fact, she never divorced Oscar Wilde, but obtained a judicial separation.

[117]         BR57/22/19, 11 February 1896.  Constance visited Oscar to break the news of Lady Wilde’s death (which had occurred 3 January) on 19 February 1896, see Ellmann, Oscar Wilde, for an account.

[118]         BR57/22/20, 3 March 1896; BR57/22/21, April 1896.

[119]         BR57/22/22, 6 October 1896.

[120]         BR57/22/23, 14 October 1896.

[121]         BR57/22/26, 1 October 1897.

[122]         BR57/23/1, 9 April 1898; BR57/23/2, 10 April 1898.

[123]         BR57/23/6, 29 May 1898.

[124]         These included Constance’s distant cousin Adrian Hope, who became her sons’ guardian, and his wife Laura Troubridge, who was a member of the Gurney family, to which William Cowper-Temple had been connected through his tragically short first marriage to Harriet Gurney.  They lived nearby to Georgina’s Chelsea house, at More House, 34 Tite Street.  An undated letter from Laura Hope, shows that they were also guests at Babbacombe, see BR57/72/5.

[125]         BR57/23/1.

[126]         BR57/19/10, 27 February 1894.

[127]         Nor, of course, did Constance lack other female friends, and in her final year, she became a friend of the Ranee of Sarawak, who taught her photography she said (although Constance had taken some photographs of Georgina earlier, see BR57/48/10, 19 October 1893), and asked her friends Stopford Brooke and Burne Jones to look after Constance in London, see BR57/22/19.