The Halifax Literary Walking Tour

Academy of Music
Academy of Music, (Aliant Building) 1505 Barrington St.

3. Oscar Wilde

“I have nothing to declare except my genius” announced Oscar Wilde to customs officials in New York City. Thus began his North American Tour in 1882 to promote the English Aesthetic movement and a new Gilbert and Sullivan Show, Patience. Born in Ireland in 1854, Wilde was widely known in London literary circles for his flamboyant personality and sharp witticisms.

Wilde arrived in Halifax on October 8th, 1882 and took to the stage, the next night, at the Academy of Music, which once stood on this site (Maritime Centre). Over 1500 Haligonians attended his lecture The Decorative Arts and 400 attended a lecture the next evening on The House Beautiful. His presence in Halifax sparked a war of words between the editors of The Morning Chronicle and The Presbyterian Witness newspapers over the value of the Aesthetic Movement and, of course, about the author himself. The most stinging criticism came from one member of the public, writing in a letter to the editor, describing Wilde as “narrow-headed, pindled-shanked, shakey, ungraceful specimen of manhood”. Many came to Wilde’s defense, and it was quite a few days later before the whole visit finally faded from public memory.

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