Wednesday, August 23, 2017

317. More Adey, Oscar Wilde's Forgotten Friend

Recently, Oscar Wilde scholar Michael Seeney published an elegantly written and knowledgeable book about one of the most elusive figures of the 1890s: More Adey, Oscar Wilde's Forgotten Friend. Published by The Rivendale Press, the 114 pages include an index, 8 illustrations and 4 colour plates. It may be the 'definitive biography', although for a life of which so little is known or can be said with absolute certainty, the author decided it is best not to mention the word 'biography' at all.

Michael Seeney, More Adey, Oscar Wilde's Forgotten Friend (2017)
In Oscar Wilde's biographies Adey (1858-1942) is only mentioned in passing; he was not one of the notorious figures of the Wilde circles, and led a private life. There are only 'snippets of material', apart from the twenty-four letters to Wilde that have survived (for Wilde's letters to Adey, see The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde, 2000). Seeney has collected all of the snippets, and, for the earliest years, added material about the family home, and the friends Adey met at college in Oxford. His whereabouts between 1881 and 1890 are a mystery. Three chapters are devoted to Oscar Wilde ('The Wilde Circle', 'Wilde in Prison', and 'Dieppe and After'). During the early nineties Adey published some translations, using the pen-name William Wilson. His greatest achievement was to sort out financial problems for Oscar Wilde during his imprisonment, and securing funds for Wilde after his release, even though Wilde called him 'the most solemn donkey that ever stepped'.

Michael Seeney, More Adey, Oscar Wilde's Forgotten Friend (2017)
After Wilde's death, Adey was involved in the Carfax Gallery and the Burlington Magazine. His friendship with Robert Ross, and Wilde's son Vyvyan Holland, are the threads that can be followed here. Holland took some photographs of Adey.

Adey's last years - from 1925 to 1942 - were spent in an asylum. Most of the Wilde material in his possession had already left his collection before the contents of his house was sold in 1926.

It is a rather sad story, and we do not get to know Adey intimately - he was an aloof character anyway, - but Seeney has made his life story as entertaining as could be hoped for. You should read it.

For sale at the Rivendale Press, its price being a mere £12,50.