Oscar Wilde pp 161-162 | Cite as

A Golden Evening

  • Arthur Conan Doyle


Now for the second time I was in London on literary business. Stoddart,1 the American, proved to be an excellent fellow, and had two others to dinner. They were Gill,2 a very entertaining Irish M.P., and Oscar Wilde, who was already famous as the champion of aestheticism. It was indeed a golden evening for me. Wilde to my surprise had read `Micah Clarke’3 and was enthusiastic about it, so that I did not feel a complete outsider. His conversation left an indelible impression upon my mind. He towered above us all, and yet had the art of seeming to be interested in all that we could say. He had delicacy of fec::ng and tad, for the monologue man, however clever, can never be a gentleman at heart. He took as well as gave, but what he gave was unique. He had a curious precision of statement, a delicate flavour of humour, and a trick of small gestures to illustrate his meaning, which were peculiar to himself. The effect cannot be reproduced, but I remember how in discussing the wars of the future he said: ‘A chemist on each side will approach the frontier with a bottle’ — his upraised hand and precise face conjuring up a vivid and grotesque picture. His anecdotes, too, were happy and curious. We were discussing the cynical maxim that the good fortune of our friends made us discontented. ‘The devil,’ said Wilde, ‘was once crossing the Libyan Desert, and he came upon a spot where a number of small fiends were tormenting a holy hermit. The sainted man easily shook off their evil suggestions. The devil watched their failure and then he stepped forward to give them a lesson. “What you do is too crude,” said he. “Permit me for one moment.” With that he whispered to the holy man, “Your brother has just been made Bishop of Alexandria.” A scowl of malignant jealousy at once clouded the serene face of the hermit. “That,” said the devil to his imps, “is the sort of thing which I should recommend”.’


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  1. 2.
    Henry J. Gill (1836–1903), M.P. for Westmeath and Limerick.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1979

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  • Arthur Conan Doyle

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