Oscar Wilde (1854 to 1900) was an Irish-born writer and wit, best remembered today for his novel "The Picture of Dorian Gray" (1891) and the play "The Importance of Being Earnest" (1895). He was also a chief proponent of the Aesthetic Movement based on the principle of art for art's sake. Wilde conducted a coast-to-coast lecture tour which started on January 9, 1882, in New York City, got as far west as San Francisco, and concluded in Bangor, Maine on October 3, 1882. Wilde's next to last stop was in North Attleborough. The Evening Chronicle of September 30, 1882, observed:
"What's coming? Oscar Wilde, to be sure. Coming? He is here in fact and will deliver his lecture on 'Decorative Arts' in (the) Wamsutta Opera House this evening... Whatever we may think of the character of Mr. Wilde, this fact stands: He has drawn better than any English celebrity ever in this country, excepting, perhaps, Charles Dickens. He has unquestionably succeeded in making himself famous. Go tonight and see how he does it."
The Wamsutta Opera House where Wilde delivered his lecture was located at the corner of Elm and North Washington Streets. It later became the Emerson House and was destroyed by fire in 1918. The Evening Chronicle of October 7, 1882, provided further details of Wilde's visit:
"After the lecture, Oscar Wilde visited Barden's clothing store, Draper and Etsy's paper store, and the Wamsutta Pharmacy. He expressed himself as much pleased with them all, but the object he admired most in North Attleborough was the Barrows Block. He complimented it very highly."
Oscar Wilde died in Paris, from meningitis, on November 30, 1900. The setting was a dingy hotel room with really hideous wallpaper. Witty to the very end, Wilde's last words were: "Either that wallpaper goes, or I do."