Signed and dedicated Importance of Being Earnest in Sotheby's sale
On Friday (20 April) auction house Sotheby's New York are offering a first edition Japanese vellum edition of Oscar Wilde's greatest work.
In the sale of the library of Jacques Levy, The Importance of Being Earnest: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People, inscribed to Wilde's friend and lover, Robert Ross, is expected to reach $80,000-$120,000.
Ross was an important figure in Wilde’s personal and professional life – first as a lover, then as a close friend, ardent supporter and finally as literary executor. On the half-title page the author dedicated this copy to his companion: “To the Mirror of Perfect Friendship: Robbie: whose name I have written on the portal of this little play. Oscar. Feb '99". This edition has been in the collection of Jacques Levy since he acquired it in 1946. It is one of only twelve printed on Japanese vellum, and the first to come to auction in thirty years.
Wilde first met Ross, a Canadian from a wealthy family, in Oxford in 1886. They developed a close bond with Ross moving into Wilde’s Tite Street home the following year. Both men later acknowledged that their first gay sexual experience was with each other. While Wilde and Ross were not lovers for long, they formed a lasting and intense friendship that saw the Canadian act as an emotional and financial bulwark throughout Wilde’s life.
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