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Letter To Joaquin Miller
by [?]

Written to Mr. Joaquin Miller in reply to a letter, dated February 9, 1882, in reference to the behaviour of a section of the audience at Wilde’s lecture on the English Renaissance at the Grand Opera House, Rochester, New York State, on February 7. It was first published in a volume called Decorative Art in America, containing unauthorised reprints of certain reviews and letters contributed by Wilde to English newspapers. (New York: Brentano’s, 1906.)

St. Louis, February 28, 1882.

MY DEAR JOAQUIN MILLER,–I thank you for your chivalrous and courteous letter. Believe me, I would as lief judge of the strength and splendour of sun and sea by the dust that dances in the beam and the bubble that breaks on the wave, as take the petty and profitless vulgarity of one or two insignificant towns as any test or standard of the real spirit of a sane, strong and simple people, or allow it to affect my respect for the many noble men or women whom it has been my privilege in this great country to know.

For myself and the cause which I represent I have no fears as regards the future. Slander and folly have their way for a season, but for a season only; while, as touching the few provincial newspapers which have so vainly assailed me, or that ignorant and itinerant libeller of New England who goes lecturing from village to village in such open and ostentatious isolation, be sure I have no time to waste on them. Youth being so glorious, art so godlike, and the very world about us so full of beautiful things, and things worthy of reverence, and things honourable, how should one stop to listen to the lucubrations of a literary gamin, to the brawling and mouthing of a man whose praise would be as insolent as his slander is impotent, or to the irresponsible and irrepressible chatter of the professionally unproductive?

It is a great advantage, I admit, to have done nothing, but one must not abuse even that advantage.

Who, after all, that I should write of him, is this scribbling anonymuncule in grand old Massachusetts who scrawls and screams so glibly about what he cannot understand? This apostle of inhospitality, who delights to defile, to desecrate, and to defame the gracious courtesies he is unworthy to enjoy? Who are these scribes who, passing with purposeless alacrity from the Police News to the Parthenon, and from crime to criticism, sway with such serene incapacity the office which they so lately swept? ‘Narcissuses of imbecility,’ what should they see in the clear waters of Beauty and in the well undefiled of Truth but the shifting and shadowy image of their own substantial stupidity? Secure of that oblivion for which they toil so laboriously and, I must acknowledge, with such success, let them peer at us through their telescopes and report what they like of us. But, my dear Joaquin, should we put them under the microscope there would be really nothing to be seen.

I look forward to passing another delightful evening with you on my return to New York, and I need not tell you that whenever you visit England you will be received with that courtesy with which it is our pleasure to welcome all Americans, and that honour with which it is our privilege to greet all poets.–Most sincerely and affectionately yours,