Friday, October 16, 2009

Please Don’t Shoot the Pianist

According to Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac, today would have been author and playwright Oscar Wilde’s 155th birthday.
His mom wrote Irish Nationalist poetry under an Italian pseudonym meaning “Hope,” and his dad was a prestigious ear and eye surgeon who served Dublin’s poor population. Oscar Wilde studied classics at Trinity College Dublin and got a scholarship to Oxford, where he became involved in the Aesthetic Movement. He grew his hair long and dressed unconventionally. He displayed peacock feathers and sunflowers in his dorm room. He professed a belief in art for art's sake. And he began to say a lot of witty things.
Among the witty Wildeisms that Writer’s Almanac shares, is an incident from his great North American tour of 1882:
Twenty-seven-year-old Oscar Wilde arrived in New York in January 1882. He went to Pennsylvania, where he drank elderberry wine with Walt Whitman. He lectured to coal miners in Leadville, Colorado, where he saw a sign on a saloon that said, “Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best,” and called it “the only rational method of art criticism I have ever come across.”
Wilde died of cerebral meningitis on November 30th 1900.


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