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Roses & Rue Antiques

The Green Carnation by Robert Hichens, 1908

The Green Carnation by Robert Hichens, 1908

Regular price $150.00 USD
Regular price Sale price $150.00 USD
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First published anonymously in 1894, The Green Carnation is a satire of Oscar Wilde & the Aesthetic movement written by Robert Hichens, who was on the fringe of Wilde’s circle. Wilde & his friends were known to wear a green carnation in their buttonholes; the exact reason why has not been proved, although it’s become a sort of literary legend that it was a form of flagging (like the hankie code). To this day, the flower remains inextricably linked with Wilde & the scandal caused by his homosexuality, so I doubt anyone ever saw a green carnation in someone’s buttonhole and thought, “What a heterosexual thing to do.” 

Wilde thought the book was amusing until people began to suspect he wrote it as self-satire. He even wrote to Pall Mall Gazette to disavow his involved with it. “I invented that magnificent flower… The Flower is a work of Art. [Wilde’s capitals, naturally.] The book is not.” Although I fully believe Wilde was this petty regarding the quality of this book, he had every reason to distance himself from the book for safety: This was published the same year that his lover Bosie’s father, the Marquis of Queensbury, showed up at Wilde’s house unannounced with one of his prize fighters, hurling homophobic epithets & physical threats. 

This early American edition was published by Mitchell Kennerley, a lightning rod figure in early 20th century publishing with diverse tastes & a great eye for the unusual and controversial. The verso TP gives the date of the first American edition by Appleton; this particular edition is not dated but was certainly published after 1906. Vassar College’s Special Collections library holds a complete run of Kennerley’s imprint & was helpful in determining a date: They state there were at least 2 editions of this title published in 1908. This one is amusing in that it features a “key” to the real life figures that the characters represent, which never would have been printed during Wilde’s lifetime. 

Condition is excellent with just some light wear at the extremities of the spine & corners being the extent of its imperfections. 

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