Oscar Wilde
 

 

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Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde 1854-1900

wilde o2.jpg (144360 bytes)

Born in Dublin. He was a poet, playwright, wit and writer of fairy stories. At Oxford he graduated with first class honours in classics. His aestheticism, style of dress and his ready wit attracted huge attention. His relationship with Alfred Lord Douglas was his downfall. Goaded by Douglas to sue his father, Lord Queensbury, Wilde lost the case and following this he was tried for homosexual offences and found guilty. In 1895, he was sentenced to two years penal servitude in Reading Jail. Shortly after, he was declared bankrupt. After his release he went to Paris where he died. His works include The Happy Prince, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband, The Importance of Being Earnest, Salomé, The Ballad of Reading Gaol and De Profundis.

        He was initially buried at Bagneux Cemetery, eleventh grave, seventh row, seventeenth section.  A photograph of this grave appears in Merlin Holland’s The Wilde Album.

            In 1909, in July, his remains were transferred to their present position in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. At the time of the death Ross had been advised that Wilde should be buried in quicklime so that only the bones would remain making it easier for the skeleton to be removed. However when they opened the coffin, it was discovered that instead it had preserved the body. The face was readily identifiable and the hair and beard appeared to have grown long. Perhaps if Oscar had been more religious he may have been declared a saint!

             The monument over the grave is by Jacob Epstein and was paid for by Mrs Carew, mother of Sir Coleridge Kennard. The monument was commissioned in 1909 and in 1912, when it was nearly finished it was positioned over the grave. The sculpture depicts a winged messenger which some see as Wilde himself though Epstein denied this. However a certain part of the sculpture was considered indecent by the cemetery officials. Some time later it was covered with a tarpaulin and a gendarme was placed to guard it and prevent further work on it. This situation continued for a while and a large plaque was attached to the figure, acting as a fig leaf. The tarpaulin eventually came down at the start of the First World War.

            In 1922 it attracted further attention from local students, and the plaque and what was underneath were broken off. It was rumoured that the offending part was later used as a paperweight by the curateur of the cemetery. Even today the tomb attracts hordes of visitors many of whom kiss the surface and leave a red lipstick impression.

            The inscription on the back of the tomb includes a list of his academic achievements, the verse on the first gravestone and the following lines from The Ballad of Reading Gaol: And Alien Tears Will Fill For Him/ Pity’s Long Broken Urn/ For His Mourners Will Be Outcast Men/ And Outcasts Always Mourn.

   wilde constance.jpg (41668 bytes)         Constance Wilde 1858-1898 was the daughter of Horace Lloyd, a wealthy Cork Barrister. She married Oscar when she was 26 and he was already an established writer and public figure. After Oscar’s trial and conviction she fled England and went to live abroad, ending up in a villa on the coast outside Genoa. She changed her name to Holland. She died unexpectedly after surgery on her spine and was buried in Staglieno Cemetery, Genoa. The funeral was simple and neither of her sons, nor Oscar, were in attendance.

       In early 1899 Oscar stopped off in Nice and made thewilde constance2.jpg (35422 bytes) journey down the coast to Genoa. He wept bitter tears of remorse and covered her grave with red roses. He was disappointed to find no mention of him on the gravestone. Eventually “Wife of Oscar Wilde” was added to the memorial in 1963. On the centenary of her death, Merlin Holland, the grandson of Constance and Oscar, and members of the Oscar Wilde Society re-dedicated the restored grave of Constance.

        Her second son, Vyvyan Holland, became a writer whose works include Oscar Wilde and His World. His remains were cremated at Golders Green, London. The first-born son, Cyril Holland, who served as a captain in the Royal Field Artillery, was killed by a sniper in May in 1915. He is buried in grave number 1.A.1 in St Vaast Post Military Cemetery, Richebourg-L’Avoue Pas de Calais, France.

            Robert Ross 1869-1918 was a son of the Attorney General of Canada and after his father’s early death the family came to live in London. Both he and Wilde acknowledged that Ross was Wilde’s first homosexual partner. He remained friendly with Wilde and became his literary executor. He was cremated at Golders Green, London and his ashes placed in a specially created niche in Wilde’s tomb in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. He had asked Jacob Epstein to put in such a niche when he was making the memorial. Ross anticipated the difficulties he might have with the authorities and the ashes were only placed there on the 50th anniversary of Wilde’s death on November 30th 1950.

 

Further information, location and directions to the grave are to be found in "The End - An Illustrated Guide to the Graves of Irish Writers".  Click here to order a copy of this book