“I think the Sunday Times quite admirable.”

In the middle of January 1888, Oscar Wilde wrote to Phil Robinson, editor of The Sunday Times advising him to publish an article by Haddon Chambers. The letter concluded with the as yet unused marketing catchphrase quoted above.

Oscar Wilde’s letter to Phil Robinson.
The envelope to Wilde’s letter which gives a franking date of January 16, 1888.

Phil Robinson had only been the paper’s editor for a couple of months when he received the letter. He took Wilde’s advice and the article was published on January 29, 1888. The feuilleton, a portion of a page marked off from the rest and appropriated to light literature or criticism, was a new feature in the paper, introduced by Robinson on December 18, 1887.

Haddon Chambers’ feuilleton (The Sunday Times, January 29, 1888).

When the letter was written Wilde was on the cusp of the period of literary activity which would make his name. His most famous works, such as The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Ernest, would all be published over the next decade.

Charles Haddon Chambers (1860–1921) was born in Australia of Irish parents. He had come to London aged 22 to work as a journalist and story-writer. Later in 1888 he achieved his breakthrough as a playwright with the production by Beerbohm Tree of Captain Swift at the Haymarket, becoming the first Australian achieve this feat in a West End theatre.

The Sunday Times had been bought by Robinson’s lover, Alice Cornwell, in November 1887 for him to edit. Cornwell was born in Essex and had emigrated to Australia where she acquired her nickname “Princess Midas” as the result of discovering one of the richest alluvial gold mines in Australia, the Midas Mine at Sulky Gully, Ballarat. Their relationship with The Sunday Times was shortlived. By March 1891 Robinson was no longer the editor and Cornwell had sold the title.

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