Sale 588 Lot 247
* WILDE, Oscar (1854-1900). Lady Windermere's Fan. London: Elkin Mathews and John Lane, 1893.
Small 4to (214 x 150 mm). 16pp. publisher's advertisements. (Some minor marginal dust-soiling, some light browning.) Original brown-red cloth, covers with gilt designs after Charles Shannon, spine gilt-lettered, edges uncut (spine darkened, some minor soiling, edges slightly bumped); quarter brown morocco slipcase. Provenance: George Alexander (1858-1918) actor and producer (presentation inscription, bookplate).
FIRST EDITION, one of 500 copies. PRESENTATION COPY INSCRIBED BY WILDE TO GEORGE ALEXANDER: "To my friend, George Alexander, who produced my play so beautifully. Oscar Wilde Nov 93."
Wilde approached Alexander, then the newly-appointed manager of St. James's Theater, with his play Duchess of Padua in 1890; Alexander turned it down, because he thought the scenery would be too costly, but encouraged Wilde to write a play about modern life. Alexander produced the resulting play, Lady Windermere's Fan, at St. James's Theater in 1892, where he would also produce The Importance of Being Earnest in 1894. Wilde wrote to Alexander in 1894: "I shall always remember with pride and with pleasure the artistic manner in which you produced my first play [Lady Windermere's Fan], and the artistic care you showed, down to the smallest detail of production, that my work should be presented in the best manner possible."
Following Wilde's arrest and resulting bankruptcy, Alexander bought the rights to both Lady Windermere's Fan and The Importance of Being Earnest, and arranged to spread the payments over an extended period of time, while also remitting a portion of the royalties to Robert Ross, Wilde's literary executor. In a July 1900 letter to Alexander, Wilde thanks him: "With regard to your proposal to spread the payment for the plays over a certain time, I know it was dictated by sheer kindness and the thoughtfulness of an old friend." On his death, Alexander willed the rights to both plays to Wilde's surviving son Vyvyan Holland. A SUPERB ASSOCIATION COPY.
Property from the Collection of Evelyn and Eric Newman, St. Louis, Missouri