The Oscar Wilde of Your Dreams



Katherine Mansfield.

In a November 1920 letter to her husband, John Middleton Murry, Katherine Mansfield describes a dream in which she met Oscar Wilde. Read more of her correspondence in The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield.

In a café, Gertler met me. “Katherine you must come to my table. I’ve got Oscar Wilde there. He’s the most marvelous man I ever met. He’s splendid!” Gertler was flushed. When he spoke of Wilde he began to cry—tears hung on his lashes but he smiled. 

Oscar Wilde was very shabby. He wore a green overcoat. He kept tossing & tossing back his long greasy hair with the whitest hand. When he met me he said, “Oh Katherine!”—very affected. But I did find him a fascinating talker. So much so I asked him to come to my home. He said would 12.30 tonight do? When I arrived home it seemed madness to have asked him. Father & Mother were in bed. What if Father came down & found that chap Wilde in one of the chintz armchairs? Too late now. I waited by the door. He came with Lady Ottoline. I saw he was disgustingly pleased to have brought her. Dear Lady Ottoline & Ottoline in a red hat on her rust hair “hounyhming” along. He said “Katherine’s hand—the same gentle hand!” as he took mine. But again when we sat down—I couldn’t help it. He was attractive—as a curiosity. He was fatuous & brilliant!

“You know Katherine when I was in that dreadful place I was haunted by the memory of a cake. It used to float in the air before me—a little delicate thing stuffed with cream and with the cream there was something scarlet. It was made of pastry and I used to call it my little Arabian Nights cake. But I couldn’t remember it by name. Oh, Katherine it was torture. It used to hang in the air and smile at me, and every time I resolved that next time they let some one come and see me I would ask them to tell me what it was but every time, Katherine, I was ashamed. Even now … ”

I said “milles feuilles à la creme?” At that he turned round in the armchair and began to sob, and Ottoline who carried a parasol opened it and put it over him …