Wilde's play was inspired by a passage from A Rebours (translated as
Against the Grain, available from Dover Publications) by Joris-Karl
Huysmans (1884), master of the Decadent Movement. The passage is an
elaborate and fanciful description by the neurasthenic protagonist Des
Esseintes of two paintings by Gustave Moreau (1876).
Huysmans describes the aftermath of the dance as shown in the
water-color "The Apparition". In part, it reads in translation, "She
[Salome] is almost naked; in the ardour of the dance the veils have
unwound themselves, the brocaded draperies of her robes have slipped
Aesthetes and Decadents of 1890's, ed. Beckson, Karl, Vintage (Random
House), NY, 1966, Appendix, Joris-Karl Huysmans, pp. 274-280.
Wilde was not inspired by Louys, but merely sent it to him (among
others) for correction of his French. Wilde wrote the play in October
and November, 1891.
Letter to Louys from Wilde, ca. December, 1891
The Letters of Oscar Wilde, ed. Rupert Hart-Davis, Harcourt Brace, New
York, 1962., pp. 305-306, n.1
Clarification of Answer by
11 Jan 2003 21:46 PST
As an addendum, Wilde is known to have read A Rebours prior to 1890,
because he confirmed his knowledge of it in 1895.
In his libel trial against the Marquess of Queensberry, Wilde was
cross-examined by Edward Carson. Carson introduced several passages
from The Picture of Dorian Gray, (Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, July,
1890) as part of the defense. Wilde's reply is after the dashes.
"In another passage Dorian Gray receives a book. Was the book to which
you refer a moral book? -- Not well written, but it gave me an idea...
[Witness admitted that the book in question was a French work, A
Rebours, by J.K. Huysmans...]"
The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, Hyde, H. Montgomery, University
Books, New York, 1956
The passage to which Carson refers occurs at the end of Chapter X in
The Picture of Dorian Gray.
It can be seen, therefore, that Wilde had already been influenced by A
Rebours more than a year before he wrote Salome.
By the way, the manuscript (third of three drafts) bearing the
corrections by Louys is in the Rosenbach Foundation in Philadelphia,