History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

24 July 2009

Writers I wish I could have known . . .

Like millions of other people, I wish I could known Oscar Wilde. I would have been a devoted fan even then, following his exploits. Imagine my surprise to learn his gravesite is considered one of the "germiest" tourist attractions on the planet. He would have snorted at this, no doubt, and laughed.

Wilde, who died in 1900 from cerebral meningitis after a botched operation for an ear problem, continues to be a celebrated literary figure today famous for his tabooed sexuality at the time and his novels such as "The Picture of Dorian Gray."

Oscar Wilde is buried is in Paris. His body rests in a tomb speckled with lipstick marks from visitors from all over the world showing their literary appreciation. The kisses display a rainbow of colors -- so much so that travel experts say Oscar Wilde's name on the tomb can be hard to discern. One traveler wrote after visiting the grave, "The tombstone of Oscar Wilde is ... well, wild, excuse the pun."
Someday, I will visit Paris and his tomb, and I plan to leave my lipstick marks right there with all the others, germs and all.
Have any of you kissed Oscar's tombstone? What other great literary figures would have like to have met?

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Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

I'm with you on Oscar Wilde, Kathrynn. At least about admiring him -- when I was a teenager, I had one of his maxims on my wall: ALL ART IS QUITE USELESS. I think I might have been terrified to meet him, though.

6:16 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I've kissed the tomb . . . the thing I thought most fasinating is that one of the watchmen chipped off the figure's penis because he considered it obscene!

Every year on the anniversary of Wilde's birthday and/or his death there are a slew of "green carnation" parties (the green carnation in the lapel being period code for homosexual).

10:57 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

I visited Oscar's tomb many years ago, but don't remember lipstick marks. The most marked-up grave at the time was the internationally grafitti'd tomb of Jim Morrison of "Doors" fame. When I visited Père Lachaise cemetary in Paris and saw his tomb, Wilde's, and of course Sarah Bernhardt's, there were a bunch of drunken German tourists sharing a bottle of wine on Morrison's grave.

I didn't kiss Wilde's tomb, but I left two notes stuck into the carving (an actress's version of the Western Wall in Jerusalem). One was from myself (who had performed and would perform some of the wonderful roles Wilde wrote for women) and one was written on behalf of my maternal grandmother who introduced me to Oscar Wilde when I was a little girl -- not through his crackling comedies, but through his heartbreaking short stories, "The Happy Prince" in particular.

He has always remained one of my favorite writers. I've visited his home (well, the facade) in Chelsea as well.

1:07 PM  
Anonymous kathrynn dennis said...

How awful to have destroyed a portion of the statue. Poor Oscar, harrassed from the grave.

He died a pauper...and I think I read a friend paid for the tomb and had his body moved from somewhere else to Paris. Am I right there?

1:41 PM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

I thought he died in Paris. Anyone know for sure?

And I thought I'd add a plug, of interest to SF Bay Area hoydens and readers: The Marin Shakespeare Company is doing "The Importance of Being Earnest," with my very talented next-door neighbor Cat Thompson as Gwendolyn, this month and next.

2:55 PM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

He positively died in Paris -- November 30, 1900, at the Hotel d'Alsace on the rue des Beaux-Arts.

Ever the aesthete, his last words were reputedly "My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us will have to go."

3:46 PM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

As a matter of fact I have kissed Oscar Wilde's tombstone. I read The Portrait of Dorian Gray when I was around ten and I have loved his work ever since. I also left a small bouquet of gardenias.

I would love to have met him and Edgar Allan Poe. Truman Capote too.

A couple that many people might not want to meet but who I find endlessly fascinating are the Marquis de Sade and John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. If you haven't read Wilmot's poetry you have missed a keenly decadent and passionate look at life.

Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, the Bronte Sisters, Georgette Heyer, Daphne du Maurier all come to mind. As I can't meet them I think I would like to visit each of their graves, just to say thank you for making the world a much richer and more interesting place.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

And by the way, Pam, I have been trying for a week to post my CONGRATULATIONS on your well-deserved RITA !! I LOVED The Edge of Impropriety!

4:19 PM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

Thanks so much, Louisa.

And I'm absolutely with you on the Earl of Rochester. I've only begun reading him (at my husband's urging) and find him strange, sexy, unnerving. Quite unique.

4:57 PM  
Anonymous kathrynn dennis said...

I gotta read the Earl of Rochester, now!

5:21 PM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

You really do, Kathrynn ! I will very interested to hear your opinion of his work. Pam's description is most appropriate. His poetry is compelling, sexy, boldly honest and at times raw. Fascinating verses and fascinating man.

5:47 PM  

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