F. Holland Day on Oscar Wilde

Of all men who have consented to adorn the present age, at least within the realm of that Power upon whose domain the sun never sets, none have been the recipients of adulation so profound, intermingled with opprobium so venomous as that bestowed upon Oscar Wilde. That the philosophy for which Mr. Wilde stood, upon his advent into Letters, was, to the Philistine, a new and somewhat startling one, needs no argument; but to prove his sincerity and absoluteness of belief, in its principles, to those congregations of Canaille that he has addressed from time to time with his unique suavity, will undoubtedly fall to the good fortune of a future generation.

F. Holland Day reviewing Oscar Wilde’s A House Of Pomegranates in the first issue of The Knight Errant journal, published be Francis Watts Lee’s Elzevir Press, Boston, 1892.

British writer Oscar Wilde, who toured the US in 1882, was a hero of young F. Holland Day, and later an acquaintance.  Day’s publishing firm Copeland and Day were the American publishers of Wilde’s play Salomé.  Text from archive.org/JSTOR Early Journal Content.


Above: Portrait of Oscar Wilde taken during his 1882 US tour by Napoleon Sarony.  Print in the Library of Congress.

Against an epoch

Men against an epoch; is it not that after all? One by one in this last night, the beautiful things have disappeared, until at last, in a world grown old and ugly, men, forced to find some excuse for the peculiarity of their environment, have discredited even beauty itself, finding it childish, unworthy, and unscientific: not only beauty in Art, but beauty in thought and motive, beauty in life and death, until the word has become but a memory and a reproach. This is the condition that demands the new chivalry. The fight against Paynims and dragons was the work of a carpet knight compared with this ; yet in this fact is there any cause for discouragement? God forbid! But whatever the issue, the Quest lies clear in sight, and he would be craven knight indeed, who would shrink from this new ‘siege perilous.’

From the editors’ introduction to the first issue of the journal The Knight Errant, published by Elsevir Press, 1892.

According to Ralph Adams Cram’s autobiography, the editors included Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, Francis Watts Lee, F. Holland Day, Herbert Copeland, and Cram.  “Paynims” means “pagans” in the medieval European sense. Text from Archive.org/JSTOR Early Journal Content.


Above: “The Knight Errant” by British Pre-Raphelite painter John Everett Millais, 1870.  Oil painting at the Tate Britain.  The Pre-Raphaelites were favorites of the Visionists.

A short life in the saddle, Lord!

Spirits of old that bore me,

And set me, meek of mind,

Between great dreams before me

And deeds as great behind,

Knowing humanity my star

As first abroad 1 ride,

Shall help me wear, with every scar,

Honour at eventide.

Let claws of lightning clutch me,

From summer s groaning cloud,

Or ever malice touch me

And glory make me proud.

O give my faith, my youth, my sword,

Choice of the hearts desire:

A short life in the saddle, Lord!

Not long life by the fire.
Forethought and recollection

Rivet mine armour gay!

The passion of perfection

Redeem my faulty way!

The outer fray in the sun shall be

The inner beneath the moon ;

And may Our Lady lend to me

Sight of the Dragon soon!

“The Knight Errant” by Louise Imogen Guiney, from vol. 1 of The Knight Errant journal published by Elsevir Press 1892.


Above: Detail from the cover art by Bertram Goodhue of The Knight Errant journal, published by Elsevir Press beginning 1892.