An Irish playwright, novelist and poet, Oscar Wilde was a phenomenon in 19th century England, but, in 1895, was imprisoned for gross indecency. For the first time ever, the key to Wilde’s cell at Reading Gaol, as well as a letter that he wrote to a newspaper at the time, will be on display in Malta this May.
The Storm Petrel Foundation
The Storm Petrel Foundation is a new non-profit voluntary organization that was set up in 2013 specifically to display significant items relating to popular culture. The group spent the last few years carrying out painstaking renovations to a traditional Maltese townhouse, in order to transform so that it could meet their needs. Now, for the very first time, the Storm Petrel Foundation will be opening their doors to the public to showcase one-of-a-kind, never-seen-before items.
The Oscar Wilde Collection
One of the focal points of the Oscar Wilde Collection is a handwritten letter that Wilde himself wrote to the Pall Mall Gazette, a popular newspaper at the time. The letter is dated October 2nd 1894, and shows Wilde denying the reports that he was the anonymous author of The Green Carnation, a book that was deemed to be extremely controversial. The reason that the authorities suspected Wilde to be the author was due to the fact that the main characters in the book closely resembled that of Wilde and his partner. A first edition of the book will also be featured as part of the collection, because, even though it was later revealed that Wilde did not write the book, he was still sentenced to two years of hard labor for it.
The Reading Gaol Key to Wilde’s Cell
In addition to the handwritten letter mentioned above, the Oscar Wilde Collection being displayed in Malta is also home to the key to Wilde’s jail cell at the Reading Gaol in England, where he spent his time in incarceration. This key is extremely relevant at the moment, as the Tate Britain museum has recently acquired the door from Wilde’s cell at Reading Gaol, and this will be going on display in England in April.
Another of the highlights of the collection are the 120 original lithographs that will be featured, each one depicting an individual that is somehow linked to Oscar Wilde. These lithographs were carefully amassed by Wilde over a period of more than 30 years, and really paint a fascinating picture of his life, as well as of those who influenced him in some way. From British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli to Victorian poet Alfred Tennyson, each of these lithographs will also be featured in an upcoming publication titled Oscar Wilde: Vanities.
The Oscar Wilde Collection will be on display in Malta, in the quiet town of Attard, until the end of May. Whether you are an avid admirer of Wilde, or have only read a couple of his pieces of work, this exhibition will no doubt leave you with a whole new appreciation for Oscar Wilde and his extraordinary talents.