Wild Wilde Life

Due to the limitations of space, one of the things I was unable to do with 18 Tiny Deaths was to include more about the Glessner family hanging out with famous people of their era.

Celebrated landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted not only worked on gardens and paths at the Glessner’s The Rocks estate, but the Olmsteds were close friends of long standing. Their sons — George Glessner and Frederick, Jr. — attended Harvard together. The Olmsteds were often hosted at the Glessner home. George had a key to the Olmsted house and was welcomed as family.

The Glessners were friends with Daniel Burnham, H.H. Richardson, and other prominent architects of the time. In letters to his family while they were away for the summer, John Jacob Glessner described meeting Booker T. Washington and Eadweard Muybridge.

Personally, I enjoyed these little parenthetical diversions. But they detracted from the central story and had to go.

One of my favorite anecdotes was the account by Frances Macbeth Glessner — FGL’s mother — when she met the Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde. In an entry in her journal dated February 14, 1882, Glessner wrote about attending a board meeting of the Decorative Arts Society. After the meeting, one of the board members introduced Wilde to the ladies. Frances Macbeth Glessner apparently didn’t think much of him.

I was impressed but with one thing about him and that was that he is a great fool and humbug – he wore gray rough cloth baggy trousers, a grey velvet jacket and vest, patent leather shoes, a gend’arme blue silk necktie and hdkcf, a dark green over coat with heavy fur collar and cuffs, a brown hat of peculiar shape, lemon colored kid gloves – stitched with black, carried an ivory cane, had his over coat thrown back, his long hair parted in the middle and falling about his ears – he sat quite a while and talked – but said nothing that we all knew. He shook hands with us all when he came and when he left – he told us we should not wear artificial flowers.

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