Chattanooga Author Roy Morris Jr. Releases New Book On Oscar Wilde’s Year-Long Tour Of America

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Chattanooga author Roy Morris Jr. has published his seventh book, Declaring His
Genius: Oscar Wilde in North America. The book follows the adventures of Irish-born
writer Oscar Wilde, who came to the United States in January 1882 and spent nearly a
year traveling the width and breadth of the country, lecturing on what he termed “the
science of the beautiful.” During the 11 months he spent in the U.S. and Canada, Wilde
traveled more than 15,000 miles and delivered some 140 lectures, from Boston to San
Francisco, from Montreal to the Rio Grande.

He appeared before an estimated 200,000
people in all.

The 27-year-old Wilde had not yet written such literary masterpieces as The Importance
of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Gray, but he was already famous for his
brilliant wit and outrageous sense of style. His tour was sponsored by London theatrical
impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte to promote the Gilbert and Sullivan musical, Patience,
in which Wilde was caricatured as the foppish poet Bunthorne. But Wilde, with his larger
than life personality, quickly became the focus of the tour. He announced on the voyage
over that he was “somewhat disappointed in the Atlantic Ocean,” and his first words
upon landing in America were that he “had nothing to declare except my genius.”

Americans, with their innate liking for rugged individualism, quickly took to the
flamboyant Wilde. During his travels, he met fellow writers Walt Whitman, Henry
Wadsworth Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Henry
James, among others. He was guided around New Orleans by former Confederate
General P. G. T. Beauregard, and he spent a night at the Biloxi, Mississippi, estate of
Confederate president Jefferson Davis. Perhaps the most memorable part of his trip was
his visit to the Wild West boomtown of Leadville, Colorado, where he lectured miners in
the pit of a silver mine they had decorated with flowers and renamed “the Oscar” in his
honor.

Wilde’s time in America was a great success, extending his fame and broadening his
horizons. “The American man may not be humorous, but he is certainly humane,” Wilde
told his fellow-countrymen after his return to England. “He tries to be pleasant to every
stranger who lands on his shores and makes every chance visitor feel that he is the
favored guest of a great nation.” Of course, being Wilde, he felt compelled to add: “We
have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.”

Morris, a former newspaper reporter for the Chattanooga Times and the Chattanooga
News-Free Press, is the editor of Military Heritage magazine. He has published six
previous books on the Civil War and post-Civil War eras, including Sheridan: The Life
and Wars of General Phil Sheridan; Ambrose Bierce: Alone in Bad Company; The Better
Angel: Walt Whitman in the Civil War; Fraud of the Century: Rutherford B. Hayes,
Samuel Tilden, and the Stolen Election of 1876; The Long Pursuit: Abraham Lincoln’s
Thirty-Year Struggle with Stephen Douglas for the Heart and Soul of America; and
Lighting Out for the Territory: How Samuel Clemens Headed West and Became Mark
Twain.

Morris resides in North Chattanooga with his wife, Leslie, the director of Northside
Learning Center. Their son, Phil, is a graduate of McCallie School and UTC, and their
daughter, Lucy (GPS, ’09) is a senior at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Declaring His Genius: Oscar Wilde in North America is published by Harvard University
Press and is available locally at Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million and online at
Amazon.com.



Stay Safe Amid Eclipse Excitement

As the Tennessee Valley gears up for the solar eclipse on Monday, it’s important to stay safe amid all the excitement. If you are planning to view the eclipse from TVA public lands, keep the following safety points in mind.  Expect traffic jams. The Valley is expecting thousands of tourists, so roads will be crowded.  Plan to get to your viewing location a few hours ... (click for more)

SCWN Presents "Where To From Here: Creating A Strategic Plan" Webinar

Scenic City Women's Network presents "Where To From Here: Creating A Strategic Plan," a free webinar on discovering a strategy for success with Linda Bullard of LSMB Business Solutions. The webinar will held next Wednesday at noon.   Attendees will need to register by this Sunday.  To register, email your name, phone number, and email address to admin@scwn.org, ... (click for more)

Walker County Residents May Face Special Levy To Deal With Erlanger Debt, Penny SPLOST Transportation Tax On Top Of 2 Mil Property Tax Rise

Walker County, Ga., residents may face a special levy to deal with the Erlanger Health System debt as well as a new penny SPLOST transportation tax - on top of a planned two mil property tax rise. The two mil would equal to $80 on a $100,000 home. Sole Commissioner Shannon Whitfield said all of that is to take care of mountains of debt he said he inherited from the Bebe Heiskell ... (click for more)

State Plays Tape Of Prior Testimony Of Shooting Victim After He Refuses To Come To Court; No Video Was Collected Along Shooting Route

The state on Thursday played a preliminary hearing tape of shooting victim Kadarius Johnson after he refused to come to the Criminal Court trial of the man accused of shooting him in the back of the head. Witnesses said the car chase led through the downtown Tourist District near the Riverfront with a man in a white SUV firing shots at the driver of a Buick sedan. Prosecutor ... (click for more)

Shame On Anyone Planning A Protest At Coolidge Park Thursday Evening - And Response (7)

Whether you're Alt-Left or Alt-Right, Coolidge Park isn't the place to showcase your hate and indifference with one another. Just because it's your right, that doesn't necessarily mean that you should do it. Many have this misconception that this park is named after a President, Nope. It's named after a great man, a true patriot, and Medal of Honor recipient from right ... (click for more)

A Tale Of 3 Properties

Here in Lookout Valley on the far southwest edge of Chattanooga and Hamilton County, trees and rocks are plentiful but sidewalks are as rare as unicorns. It’s a land the governments forget – until tax collection time.  The recent county reappraisal spoke about ‘comps,’ recent sale prices of comparable local properties. But the assessors defined ‘comparable’ to suit themselves, ... (click for more)