Tag Archives: Constance Lloyd

May 1883: Oscar Wilde Returns to London

To mark 1 May, here’s a tiny May-related excerpt from Wilde’s Women. Oscar, aged 28, returns from Paris to London. He has not been there for some time since he spent 1882 touring America before heading to Paris, where he wrote The Duchess of Padua for Mary Anderson:

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Oscar with curls. Not a great look tbh.

In May 1883, Oscar returned to London with a head full of curls and an empty wallet. He stayed with Jane before taking furnished rooms, ‘for single men of distinction’ on nearby Charles Street in Mayfair. Frank Harris claimed that Jane had suggested Charles Street. She felt he should live at a suitably impressive address since she ‘never doubted his ultimate triumph’ and ‘knew all his poems by heart’.* These lodgings were managed by a retired butler, and his wife, an excellent cook, both of whom were devoted to their brilliant young tenant; they ‘could not speak too highly of his cleverness, kindness and consideration’ and overlooked his tardiness in settling his account.**

Sherard, who shared these lodgings for a time, tells us that ‘the rooms on the third floor that Oscar Wilde occupied were panelled in oak and there were old engravings in heavy black frames on the walls’. he adds: ‘The fact was that, in despite of an address which implied opulence, we were both very poor. It was while they were both staying in this house on Charles Street that Oscar woke Shepard early one morning to tell him that he had become engaged to Constance Lloyd; ‘At breakfast, he spoke of his bride and seemed much in love and very joyous,’ Sherard wrote.

As for the curls, they put Violet Hunt right off him for one.

For more, read Wilde’s Women:

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*Frank Harris, Oscar Wilde; his Life and Confessions, Vol. I, p.82

**Robert Sherard, The Real Oscar Wilde, pp.282-3

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Happy Anniversary Oscar & Constance!

Oscance

Photo taken by Vanessa Heron

Happy 133rd wedding anniversary to Oscar and Constance, who married on 29 May 1884. Last year, to mark the occasion, members of the Oscar Wilde Society attended the unveiling of an OSCANCE memorial at St. James’s Church, Paddington by the couple’s grandson and honorary patron of the society, Merlin Holland.

St_James'_Paddington

St. James’s Church, Paddington

Although Oscar was in the public eye by then, the uncertain health of Constance’s grandfather, John Horatio Lloyd, ensured that their wedding was an unexpectedly low-key event. Admittance, by invitation only, was restricted to family and close friends. Nevertheless, the event was covered extensively by the press of the day.

According to the Edinburgh Evening News, Oscar ‘bore himself with calm dignity’. He deprived the gossip columnists of copy by wearing a perfectly ordinary blue morning frock-coat with grey trousers, although he did display ‘a touch of pink in his neck tie’.

The ceremony may have been subdued, but the bride and groom were jubilant. The Lady’s Pictorial reported that:

The newly-married pair, as they came down the long aisle arm-in-arm, looked as hundreds of newly-married people have looked before – the bridegroom happy and exultant; the bride with a tender flush on her face, and a happy hopeful light in her soft brown eyes.

Constance

Constance’s lovely dress was described in society magazine Queen as a:

…rich creamy satin dress…of a delicate cowslip tint; the bodice, cut square and somewhat low in front, was finished with a high Medici collar; the ample sleeves were puffed; the skirt, made plain, was gathered by a silver girdle of beautiful workmanship, the gift of Mr. Oscar Wilde; the veil of saffron-coloured Indian silk gauze was embroidered with pearls and worn in Marie Stuart fashion; a thick wreath of myrtle leaves crowned her frizzed hair; the dress was ornamented with clusters of myrtle leaves; the large bouquet had as much green in it as white.

Lady Jane Wilde, Oscar’s mother, looked resplendent in grey satin, trimmed with a chenille fringe and topped off with a high crowned hat adorned with ostrich feathers. It was reported in the Lancaster Gazette that she:

‘“snatched” her new daughter to her heart with some effusion’.

After a modest reception at the Lancaster Gate home of John Horatio Lloyd, the newlyweds boarded the boat-train to Dover and travelled on to Paris; ‘few married couples ever carried better wishes with them,’ gushed the Aberdeen Evening Express.

Lovely to think of them sharing such happiness. Read Wilde’s Women for a full account of their marriage.

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Oscar & Constance: a love story

On this day in 1884, Oscar Wilde wrote a letter to his good friend Thomas Waldo Story – sculptor, art critic, poet and literary editor – from the Royal Victoria Hotel in Sheffield, where he was lecturing at the time.

In this letter, he described in glowing and playful terms the young woman to whom he had become engaged weeks earlier:

Her name is Constance and she is quite young, very grave, and mystical, with wonderful eyes, and dark brown coils of hair: quite perfect except that she does not think Jimmy [Whistler] the only painter that ever really existed: she would like to bring Titian or somebody in by the back door: however, she knows I am the greatest poet, so in literature she is all right: and I have explained to her that you are the greatest sculptor: art instruction cannot go further.

We are, of course, desperately in love.

Constance Lloyd before her marriage to Oscar Wilde (Merlin Holland Picture Archive)

Constance Lloyd before her marriage to Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde married Constance Lloyd on May 29, 1884. This letter is reproduced in Holland, Merlin and Rupert Hart-Davis (Eds). The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde (London, Fourth Estate, 2000), pp.225-6

Read more about their marriage in Wilde’s Women

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