The Transfer of Oscar Wilde's Remains

oscar wilde, irish author (b.1854, d.1900) 

When Oscar Wilde was released from prison on May 19, 1897, he was a broken man. Wilde left England and died in sad circumstances in Paris on November 30, 1900. His remains were buried in the insignificant Bagneaux Cemetery. There must have been plans to transfer the body from the start, since Wilde was buried in quicklime. This was done to transfer the corpse to bone, so moving it to another location would be a 'clean' affair.  

When the great day finally came, however, the gravediggers were shocked by the sinister sight of Wilde: his body was preserved very well and his hair and beard had grown even longer. The quicklime had only served to preserve the body, instead of skeletizing it. Wilde's remains were moved to Père Lachaise on July 19, 1909.  

He had to wait for another few years before his monument was finished. Not before 1914 the famous tomb (pictured below) by Jacob Epstein was unveiled. It had taken the American three years to sculpt it. When it was almost finished is was found to be indecent by the conservateur. This was resolved by a plaque that served as a fig leaf. This plaque was hacked away in 1922 (presumably by some students). Actually, they hacked away a little more than just the plaque.

On the 50th anniversary of Wilde's death the ashes of his friend Robert Ross (who died in 1918) were placed inside the tomb.

On the back of the tomb there's a fragment of his last major work, 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 


Judie Culbertson & Tom Randall, Permanent Parisians, Robson Books, London, 1986. 

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Copyright by Androom, 1995