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November 14, 2015 @ 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm
THE author’s lunch is a feature of our programme of events. Members have been treated to post-prandial talks by the authors of many of the important books about Wilde and his milieu when they are first published.
The most recent lunch to mark the publication of a new book was on 14 November 2015 to celebrate the publication of Eleanor Fitzsimons’ new book on the women in Wilde’s life: Wilde’s Women. This enthralling and sympathetic biography illuminates extremely well the circles of artistic and literary women of the time. Oscar may have achieved notoriety for ‘living for sin’, but the women in his life knew another man. more considerate, more thoughtful, perhaps less decadent one than we are used to.
The scope and variety of these lunches is shown by this summary taken from the Society’s Anniversary Booklet.
Our first author’s lunch, at the Chelsea Arts Club, was for Julie Speedie when her biography of Ada Leverson, Wonderful Sphinx, was published in 1993.
At the next author’s lunch, in July 1994, also at the Chelsea Arts Club, Joy Melville spoke with infectious enthusiasm about the subject of her book Mother of Oscar – The Life of Jane Francesca Wilde. Subsequently she and the Irish actress and director Gerardine McDermottroe presented a dramatised reading developed from her talk at a number of venues including the Pavilion Theatre, Worthing.
Jonathan Fryer talked entertainingly and informatively about André & Oscar – Gide, Wilde and the gay art of living at his author’s lunch in June 1997. The title was too much for his publishers in America and there it became André and Oscar: The Literary Friendship of André Gide and Oscar Wilde.
In March 1998 Matthew Sturgis introduced his comprehensive and authoritative biography Aubrey Beardsley. Douglas Murray at a dinner at Kettner’s in 2000 spoke on Bosie: A Biography of Lord Alfred Douglas which won the Lambda Award for Gay Biography that year.
Jonathan Fryer’s next subject was Robbie Ross – Oscar Wilde’s True Love in 2001. In 2002 Matthew Sweet gave an amusing account of his reassessment of the Victorians, Inventing the Victorians, and Neil Titley gave us just a taste of his feast of comic pen-portraits of Wilde’s friends and enemies: The Oscar Wilde World of Gossip.
In 2003 Trevor Fisher talked on his book Oscar and Bosie – A Fatal Passion, Toni Bentley on Sisters of Salomé, and at a crowded author’s dinner at the Garrick Club Merlin Holland introduced his important, definitive account of Regina (Wilde) v. Queensberry, Oscar’s first trial: Irish Peacock & Scarlet Marquess – The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde.
In the following year Neil McKenna spoke about The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde followed, as is usual with these events, by a wide-ranging question and answer session. James Nelson after the AGM that year talked on Publisher to the Decadents – Leonard Smithers. Anya Clayworth shared her understanding of the importance of Wilde’s essays and reviews in her talk on Oscar Wilde: Selected Journalism.
In 2006, Antony Clayton introduced Decadent London, and the next year Tony Stokes, Prison Officer and archivist at Reading Prison spoke on his book Pit of Shame – The Real Ballad of Reading Gaol.
In May 2008 Gyles Brandreth gave us a dazzling talk on the influences which had brought him to start writing his series of Oscar Wilde murder mysteries. Then in December, with readings by Simon Scardifield, Thomas Wright talked on his exploration of Wilde’s personality through his reading – Oscar’s Books and, with Don Mead, on the Society’s first book publication Oscar Wilde – The Women of Homer.
In June 2011 at her author’s lunch at Greig’s Grill, Franny Moyle read extracts from her new book Constance – The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde and described how she had discovered a woman who was adventurous, shy, very left wing, enquiring, and talented, devoted to Oscar and blind and naïve about his homosexuality.
In May 2013 Linda Stratmann, introducing her new book The Marquess of Queensberry – Wilde’s Nemesis, went some way to convincing a doubtful audience that he was a well-meaning man, emotionally damaged by a series of tragedies and deserving our compassion.
In February 2014 we celebrated the launch of Geoff Dibb’s masterly and thoroughly enjoyable book Oscar Wilde, A Vagabond With a Mission. The Story of Oscar Wilde’s Lecture Tours of Britain and Ireland published by the Society, at a lunch at Greig’s Grill.
The Society has established a Memorial Fund to provide, or assist in providing, memorials to Oscar Wilde.