Did Oscar Wilde Steal the Baby from the Cradle?

I’ve been immersing myself in the work of George Egerton for weeks now. She’s one of Wilde’s Women and I’ve written about her before but this weekend I’m presenting a paper at a conference on Nietzsche, Psychoanalysis and Feminism at Kingston University (it’s a big deal, Luce Irigaray is speaking & I’m quite scared). Although Egerton was often categorized as a New Woman writer, she doesn’t fit neatly with this group for various reasons. Her stories were influenced by Nietzsche’s philosophy, which she read in the original German ten years before he was translated into English. She was also interested in Wilde’s work and his commitment to individualism.

For this reason I was not at all surprised when I read of how a book replaces a baby in her intriguing story ‘The Spell of the White Elf’, which is included in her hugely popular collection Keynotes.

and then a valuable book – indeed, it is really a case of Mss., and almost unique – I had borrowed for reference, with some trouble, could not be found, and my husband roared with laughter when it turned up in the cradle.

It struck me that she must have been influenced by Wilde’s hugely significant reversal in The Importance of being Earnest, when Miss Prism admits:

In a moment of mental abstraction, for which I never can forgive myself, I deposited the manuscript in the bassinette, and placed the baby in the hand-bag.

And then I remembered that Keynotes was published in 1893, while Wilde wrote The Importance of Being Earnest during the summer of 1894, and it was first performed on 14 February 1895.

Oh Oscar!



Filed under Essay

2 responses to “Did Oscar Wilde Steal the Baby from the Cradle?

  1. This is truly remarkable! (And so I shall remark…)

    Isn’t it amazing to make connections like that one? What synchronicity.

    It’s so nice to have access to new and interesting Oscar related information on a regular basis. Both your book and blog posts are now an integral part of my Wildean time machine. Always glad to have a new adventure, so thanks.

    Good luck on your presentation. I’m sure you will be fantastic.

    • Eleanor Fitzsimons

      Thanks so much Digital Dorkette! What a lovely comment – responses like yours make it all worthwhile and spur me on to keep digging for more and more gems. I was so proud to speak about George Egerton and her importance to an audience of philosophers and psychoanalysts. She is part of their history and many had not heard of her. It was a challenging conference as I don’t have the language or depth of knowledge they do but it was a privilege to participate.

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