Notes: Oscar Wilde's first successful play, written and produced in 1892 and published a year later. This was Wilde's first play produced in Great Britain. His previous major play, Salome, was banned because works with biblical themes were not permitted on the London stage, and two 1880s plays (Vera and The Duchess of Padua), had brief runs only in New York.
Lady Windermere, a society comedy about adultery, was a success, ushering in a brief period before his trial and imprisonment where Wilde was the most successful English playwright of the 1890s. Despite this popularity and Wilde's fame as a lecturer throughout Great Britain and the United States, his success as an author was not established and the first edition of this play was just 500 copies (there were also 50 signed copies on large paper).
In 2018, the copy inscribed to the play's producer sold for $40,000 at auction. In 2004, Sotheby's sold a presentation copy to Arthur Clifton, an art dealer and friend of Wilde, for $39,000. In 2018, a somewhat rough copy inscribed to an American play agent sold for $27,500 at auction.
Edition + Condition: First edition (first printing). A very near fine copy in delicate paper-covered boards, somewhat darkened at the spine. This is the well-known Henry W. Poor–A. Edward Newton copy, with their bookplates, and a nice inscription by Wilde, "To my friend Byron Webber, in recognition and with thanks. Oscar Wilde. '93."
Webber was the manager of the Royalty Theatre (see The Wildean, No. 8, January 1996), where the play Mr. and Mrs. Daventry, written by Frank Harris based on an idea of Wilde's, premiered. Webber and Wilde turn up together in London press accounts of parties and gatherings, too.
A. Edward Newton, who devoted a chapter of his popular book The Amenities of Book Collecting to Oscar Wilde, probably acquired this copy at the Poor auction in 1909. Newton's library was sold in 1941. The book is housed in an attractive half-morocco slipcase with a custom folding chemise.
Publication: London: Elkin Mathews and John Lane, 1893.
Item No: #297581