Special Collections would like to highlight the productive relationship that the university has had with independent Oscar Wilde scholar, Merlin Holland. The grandson of Oscar Wilde, Mr. Holland has written extensively about his grandfather and frequently gives lectures about Wilde. He is the author of a number of books devoted to Wilde, including The Wilde Album (1998), Oscar Wilde: A Life in Letters (2003), and The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde (2003). Mr. Holland also edited The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde (2000) with Rupert Hart-Davis.
The University of Tulsa first became acquainted with Merlin Holland in 2009 when he selected Special Collections as a recipient for a limited edition facsimile entitled A Portrait of Oscar Wilde : from the Moreira Salles Collection of Literary Manuscripts. The University of Tulsa was chosen as a recipient because Mr. Holland was aware of the significant Wilde holdings that we already possessed in the Richard Ellmann and Rupert Hart-Davis collections.The facsimile was privately printed by Lucia Moreira Salles before she donated the original collection of letters to the Morgan Library; Holland worked closely with Mrs. Moreira Salles, offering advice about the edition and composing an introduction.The letters reproduced in A Portrait of Oscar Wilde were not available to the public prior to this printing and range in date from early in Wilde’s life to six months before his trial. However, this facsimile is not only significant in terms of content, but also as a work of art and a masterpiece of fine printing. Each of the letters featured have been reproduced to match the originals exactly, including even the embossing on Wilde’s personal stationary. A Portrait of Oscar Wilde is bound in Tyrian purple, chosen because it was the color Wilde himself selected for the first edition printing of Salomé.
On April 12, 2011, Merlin Holland returned to the University of Tulsa as the distinguished guest speaker for the McFarlin Fellows dinner. During this event, Mr. Holland surprised the university by gifting Special Collections with a facsimile of Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, which was published by the British Library on the centenary of Wilde’s death.
Our particular copy is from a special edition limited printing and features Mr. Holland’s signature. De Profundis, Latin for “from the depths,” is a letter addressed to Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas that Wilde composed during his time in prison, detailing the spiritual journey that he experienced while incarcerated. De Profundis is serious and contemplative in tone, differing greatly from Wilde’s earlier works.
In the summer of 2011, Merlin Holland donated an additional gift to the university: Peter Forster’s color prints and masks of the image “Awful Brevity” used in the 1991 Folio Society edition of Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis. The prints serve as an illustrative example of the printmaking process and demonstrate the degree of craftsmanship that was required to produce the illustrations for this edition of De Profundis.
In addition to the material gifts that he has presented to the university, Merlin Holland has also added to the intellectual life of the students and faculty, since he generously agreed to meet with members of the English department each time he visited. The University of Tulsa has benefited enormously from our interactions with Mr. Holland and we hope this productive relationship continues in the future.