THE OSCHOLARS was set up following the Dresden Wilde conference in 2000 as a newsletter to keep Oscar Wilde scholars in touch with one another and with current scholarship on Wilde and his circles. It went through a number of transformations and some tribulations before settling finally into its present form as a constituent of the website www.oscholars.com. From early days, we also sought to use Oscar Wilde as a hub, or pivot, from which to explore other idioms and tropes of the fin-de-siècle, decadence, æstheticism and their related topics, gradually adding new pages and establishing new journals with varying remits.
Wilde was always conscious of how women played a part in developing culture and society of the period, and in Gwendolen Fairfax he created an example of the ‘New Woman’ of the day, just as Gwendolen’s mother, Lady Bracknell, stands for the powerful and domineering hostesses who ruled London Society – Louisa Duchess of Devonshire or Theresa Marchioness of Londonderry for example, and whose type was well depicted by V. Sackville-West in The Edwardians. In her own way, Wilde’s mother, ‘Speranza’, combined both the intellectual and the social power associated with such women, who nonetheless were regarded by conservatives as subversive of the social order – as indeed they were. Wilde himself of course worked as editor of The Woman’s World, and his direction of that magazine is only now being uncovered.
It is curious that although there has been much research and many publications on the New Woman, both in real life and as represented in literature and on the stage, no journal, even in these days of heightened feminist historical awareness and easy web publishing, has sought exclusively to report upon and extend recent and current scholarship on the subject. We now issue THE LATCHKEY, with the aim of doing exactly that, building up from a simple beginning to what I and my co-editors hope will become an important player in the field, using the resources and experience of the oscholars website to realise these aims. The New Woman, early feminist journalism, the suffrage movement, the advance of women in the professions, business, sport and the labour movement, the rôle of actresses and artists, the specific contribution of lesbian women – all these and more will be THE LATCHKEY's themes, explored in interdisciplinary and cosmopolitan fashion, and adhering to no single ideological or critical school.
THE LATCHKEY is dedicated to all women who have ever been locked in or locked out.