Another bit of cultural imperialism

One thing could be guaranteed: the formal colonials would obsess of this jubilee thing. Which brings us to (rapidly moving towards 200) comments on a piece in the New York Times.

Somewhere in that lot can be found rude man, posting from Phoenix:

In the ’30’s when most were impoverished, people swarmed to see movies depicting high society. They loved the kitsch. As the The Brits’ (and everyone else’s in the 99% world) economic plight continues to worsen, the increased allure of royalty may thus be understandable.

To paraphrase Tennesee Williams, when you’re in the gutter you look up at the stars.

Well, those ’30s movies were, as many remain to this day, escapist. Which, in all truth, is the other main reason for entering a darkened cinema. That’s just one objection to rude man‘s observations.

Wild(e) errors

What cannot go uncorrected, though, is the last sentence-paragraph.

“Tennesee” [sic] Williams might have repeated that old saw. His near-namesake, Tennessee (one T, four Es, two Ns and two Ss) Williams came up with many sayings, some quite snappy,  which may include (according to one’s taste in snappiness):

We all live in a house on fire, no fire department to call; no way out, just the upstairs window to look out of while the fire burns the house down with us trapped, locked in it.

That’s out of the mouth of Christopher Flanders, the creepy beatnik poet who preys on rich, elderly ladies, in The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore. That opened at the Morosco Theater, NYC, on 16th January 1963.

Seven decades earlier, on 20th February 1892, Lady Windermere’s Fan opened at London’s St James’s Theatre. In Act III, out of the mouth of Lord Darlington comes this:

No, we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Oscar Wilde was so taken by his line, he promptly has it repeated by Dumby:

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars? Upon my word, you are very romantic to-night, Darlington.

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born, a child of Queen Victoria’s United Kingdom, at 21 Westland Row, Dublin. That is now the Oscar Wilde Centre for Irish Writing, and part of Trinity College, Dublin’s pre-eminent School of English.

So, let us borrow the exchange (recounted by L.C.Ingleby in the 1907 biography):

Oscar Wilde:“I wish I had said that.”
James MacNeill Whistler:“You will, Oscar, you will.”

You didn’t, Tennes(s)ee. You didn’t.


1 Comment

Filed under Britain, Dublin., Literature, London, New York Times, social class, Theatre, Trinity College Dublin, United States

One response to “Another bit of cultural imperialism

  1. cole

    Williams SUMMER and SMOKE:
    Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) would still have been considered a highly questionable personality in the pre-war setting of Summer and Smoke due to his imprisonment at Reading Gaol after being found guilty of sodomy in 1895. This is evinced when Alma is “taken aback” after discovering that she’s quoted one of Wilde’s most famous aphorisms:

    Alma: Who was it that said that–oh, so beautiful thing!–“All of us are in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars!”

    John: Mr. Oscar Wilde.

    Alma: Well, regardless of who said it, it’s still true.

    A Wilde allusion appears in Act II when John is talking with Rosa Gonzalez on the eve of their marriage. While analyzing the depth of his dissipation, John says: “And there isn’t a sign of depravity in my face.” This immediately conjures up the image of the portrait of Dorian Gray from Wilde’s novella of that name.

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