Calendar in Progress 2020
Oscar Wilde Calendar 2020
Texts chosen, written and edited
by Jörg W. Rademacher (Leer)
by Ulrich Hoepfner (Leipzig)
1895: Annus terribilis Wildensis:
Brief Chronology of an announced social Death: Decline and Fall of an Icon of Aestheticism
To commemorate the 125th anniversary of Oscar Wilde’s Fall in 1895, it is necessary to deviate from the course pursued so far in this series of calendars: to return to the trodden paths of chronology, that is. It is only then that people born long after Wilde’s death can still feel connected directly to his day and age. At least this is what I felt when I received the marriage certificate and the death notice of Constance Wilde – precisely, as scans made by Merlin Holland, Wilde’s only grandson reached me via the Internet. Suddenly doing these calendars took on quite a different meaning for me. Now I feel quite close to the events of Wilde’s life.
While chronology rules all calendars, this time it also rules the choice of quotations to represent the life Wilde had in 1895 – his annus terribilis. The term means that it could not have been worse, and there are even today fans of Oscar Wilde of whom there are many from all walks of life who might not want to face the music of his downfall 125 years later. I can assure them facing the music in a crisis of one’s life is always better than trying to keep the skeleton hidden in the cupboard as Wilde himself did until it was too late.
So unlike some of its predecessors, this calendar does not include an explicit comment of mine. I prefer to suggest my reading of the events through the choice of quotations and the compilation of facts. One thing, however, is clear. Except for Wilde’s immediate family, almost everyone else mentioned here survived him well into the twentieth century. One exception are his two sons whom he never saw again after early 1895. Many of his friends were loyal and remained so, keeping their silence after Wilde had died on 30th November 1900. Among them, many may also have felt ashamed for having been his correspondent, so the mere facts of his life, as far as they had been recorded on paper, remained in the dark for the best part of the twentieth century.
The form of this calendar, unusual though it is with English as the principal language facing German in the first and last term, while it is faced with French and Italian texts in the second and third term, is something Wilde even in prison might have appreciated given that he asked for books in as many as six languages to be sent to him: in English, French, German, Greek, Italian, and Latin. Beating the treadmill of prison by reading in as many languages as he had ever learned was perhaps not the worst tonic for this solitary and lonely man in Reading Gaol. His survival, if only just, by reading and eventually also writing may have inspired many later detainees, not least Anne Frank in her Amsterdam hideout during the Second World War or Bobby Sands on Hunger Strike in Long Kesh in Northern Ireland in 1981 whose poem “Trilogy” is based on Wilde's own prison poem “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” to be taken up in another future calendar. Finally, we might also recall that Wilde's bibliographer, Stuart Mason, issued The Oscar Wilde Calendar. A Quotation from the Works of Oscar Wilde For Every Day in the Year in 1910 that ends with the photograph taken of Oscar Wilde in Rome in 1900 – the last one taken when he was still alive. (JWR)
On the people and events selected for commemoration in this calendar:
First, it is people linked to Oscar Wilde who are mentioned, many of whom remained hidden from the public eye. Second, it is Irish writers and events such as as St Patrick’s Day and Bloomsday which are recalled. Third, the editor sought to establish links in this calendar between Irish, German and, broadly speaking, European events, such as the French Revolution, the Shoah, and German partition and re-unification, or Notre-Dame de Paris on fire, all of which having had repercussions not dissimilar to, individually speaking, the life and works of Oscar Wilde on a rather individual level. Finally, Christian and other holidays are highlighted to show the diversity in one, the European continent. Thanks are tendered to André Ughetto (Marseilles) for his precise criticism and appropriate proposals.
16th December 1896: Re the books Wilde can procure from outside he tells More Adey (1858-1942) that “even Ollendorff” is “priceless: I find that to study a language one had forgotten is a good mental tonic: the mere mechanical side having its value.” Wilde refers to the manual German Method by Heinrich Gottfried Ollendorff (1803-1865) who had revolutionized the method of learning French and then other languages. (Complete Letters, pp. 672/673).
Ulrich Hoepfner, born in Leipzig in 1959, has been working in Leipzig as a free-lance designer since 1988. Often asked to prepare the poster, invitation, and ticket for the Nuremberg Bloomsday celebrations run by Maria Eger, he has since 2016 also agreed to devote time to Oscar Wilde.
The editor and translator into German
Jörg W. Rademacher, born in Kamen (Westphalia) in 1962, has been working as a free-lance editor and translator since 1996. First attached to Ireland through James Joyce as well as a guest speaker at the Nuremberg Bloomsday celebrations in 2001 and 2004, he has since 1998 also been working on Oscar Wilde. This is his fifth Oscar Wilde calendar since 2014. Since 2018, he has also been running his own website: www.oscar-wilde-blog.de