Constance Wilde’s Autograph Book

Cover of Constance Wilde's Autograph Book






Editor: Devon Cox
Publication date: 14 October 2022
Price: £25

In 1886, just two years after her marriage to Oscar, Constance Wilde started her own autograph book. On the pages of this little volume, she gathered the ‘crème de la crème’ of the fin-de-siècle world with ‘specimens of writing’ from some of the most famous authors, artists, statesmen, actors and actresses as well as musicians, social activists and spiritualists of the age.

Having personally selected each of the sixty-four contributors, Constance Wilde curated a book that duly reflected her own passions and social priorities, but which also offers rare and revealing insights into her personal life and marriage. Following Oscar’s arrest and imprisonment in 1895, Constance fled into exile where she died in 1898. The autograph book disappeared from sight for over a century until it was bequeathed to the British Library in 2003. Thanks to the support of modern-day collector Joan Winchell, readers will now be able to enjoy their own privileged access to this ‘unique gathering of notable men and women’.

        • A facsimile reproduction of each page of Constance Wilde’s autograph book with a transcript and notes on the facing page
        • An introduction by Devon Cox explaining the significance of the book and Constance’s personal selections of contributors
        • Biographical notes about the sixty-four signatories
        • Illustrated throughout with colour and black-and-white images, some full-page
        • A table of signatories with the dates of the signatures, where known
        • Notes and bibliography
        • Index

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Sample Spreads

Oscar Wilde

James McNeill Whistler and Theodore Watts

Ellen Terry and Henry Irving

Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon

Advance Praise for Constance Wilde’s Autograph Book

‘What a marvellous, magical discovery this is. Constance Wilde, as ever, deserves our respect, attention and thanks. As you go through this remarkable book, the Victorian voices fly from the pages, bringing the Wilde household and its circle stunningly alive.’
Stephen Fry

‘This beautiful book, full of fascinating detail, opens a door to an extraordinary world and introduces us to a remarkable woman. The more we know of Constance Wilde and her circle, the more time we want to spend with them.’
Gyles Brandreth

‘A vivid snapshot of the intellectual and social world of the Oscar Wildes in their Tite Street home: a wonderful historical recovery, beautifully presented.’
Matthew Sturgis, author of Oscar: A Life

‘While explaining the significance of Constance Wilde’s autograph book and showing the centrality of its creator within the late-Victorian cultural scene, Devon Cox’s important volume does much more, for it also demonstrates brilliantly how and why to study neglected areas of nineteenth-century women’s material arts and provides a model for future work. Like other overlooked forms such as birthday books, this autograph book has a great story to tell — in this case, about the Wildes’ world — and Cox proves the perfect scholarly editor and interpreter. Readers will come away with a new appreciation of Constance as a socially and politically savvy figure who deployed the so-called feminine and domestic tools at hand as shrewdly as Oscar used epigrams.’
Margaret D. Stetz, Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women’s Studies and Professor of Humanities, University of Delaware, USA

‘What an absolute joy it is to have Constance Wilde’s fascinating autograph book available to us all in such a lovely, wonderfully curated edition. In his introductory essay, Devon Cox does a magnificent job of illuminating and contextualising Constance’s intriguing life, lifting her free of her husband’s orbit. She is revealed as a progressive woman with a keen interest in literature and music, and a curiosity about the occult. Anyone who is fascinated by Oscar Wilde will welcome this extensively annotated reproduction, which gives us a fascinating portal into the lives of this extraordinary couple and their vibrant circle. Comprehensive profiles of each signatory, and details of the circumstances in which they added their contributions, make it accessible to scholars and interested readers alike. A beautiful book, a wonderful gift, it breathes new life into Constance Wilde’s friendships, interests and accomplishments. An enthralling and valuable resource, it will be treasured for generations to come.’
Eleanor Fitzsimons, author of Wilde’s Women

‘Oscar and Constance Wilde’s home in Tite St is brought to life in this wonderful book. Voices from the past are revived, and the social gatherings and conversations that took place there are all the more clearly imagined. This important record kept by Constance is a strong reminder of her own interests, the company she sought and the affection in which he was held. It is a tribute to Mrs Oscar, as she was once known, and provides important context to our understanding of the domestic life that Oscar shared with his wife.’
Franny Moyle, author of Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde