The importance of being Edgar
Oscar Wilde was not to know it, but the plot for the play that both climaxed his literary career and brought about his downfall exactly mirrored the fame, notoriety and occasional scandal endured by Edgar Jessop through much of his adolescent and adult life.
Just as seemingly everyone wished to be known as Earnest in Wilde’s farce, so it became seriously fashionable to name offspring Edgar some decades later. It was a natural enough phenomenon, for Jessop’s deeds of heroism, deering-do and libertinism, his capacity for fine food and alcohol and his magnetic attraction to members of the opposite sex (indeed, on occasions, to both sexes) is the stuff of legend. Epitomised in everything from children’s primers to feature films, Edgar’s every movement was public property, fiendishly exploited by journalists, clandestine photographers, perverts, eavesdroppers, and the notoriously prurient members of Britain’s upper class and royalty. Following the famous and well recorded incident at the Isle of Man when Edgar was forced to start in the Senior TT wearing plimsolls* instead of leather boots, sales of the footwear rocketed to such an extent that a world-wide shortage of canvas occurred. The shoe company Converse purchased a special licence to produce a replica of Edgar’s plimsolls, which they wished to market under the name of Jesso-sneaker, but when this was refused, they called the shoe the All-Star – the largest selling single style of footwear ever made. In their latter lives, both Edgar Allan Poe and Edgar Rice Burroughs claimed to be related to Edgar Jessop, and J. Edgar Hoover ceased using his first name of John to closer associate himself with his hero. It was not uncommon for parents, expecting a male offspring but receiving a daughter, to name the child Edwina, which sounds like Edgar if you say it quickly.
*a full recount of the TT plimsolls incident will appear in next issue.
ABOVE Edgar’s heroism in the 1924 Grand Prix of Burgundy earned him the Cross du Bakelite. LEFT The audience sits spellbound as Edgar delivers a speech to the Satyr Society.