The Death of Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde
October 16, 1854 – November 30, 1900
“The world was my oyster, but I used the wrong fork.”

More September 2002 in RED

Before you get worried, I am and will remain as common as dirt. I know littleabout this man, except what I have been told. I haven’t even seen the movie.Very kind friend Dominic Druce took the time to put together thisaccount of the death of Oscar Wilde for us. Thank you Dominic.

Wilde was released from prison 19 May 1897, and wandered between a small bandof friends in England, France and Italy for the next few years. Since the deathof his wife in 1898 he had been denied access to his two sons and given 150 ayear from her estate to live on. Given his extravagant tastes, this did not gofar.

August 1899 he moved from the Hotel Marsollier to the Hoteld’Alsace on the Rue des Beaux-Arts (today this isjust called L’Hotel), the owner Jean Dupoirier, having paid off Wilde’sdebts at the former hotel.

He spent the days wandering the streets of Paris, drinking with old friends andsupporters who would bump into to him and, shocked by his appearance, feed him,or being blanked by former friends.

April 2, 1900, he went to Palermo and Rome with a friend who paid for himbefore returning to Paris. A typical day began with breakfast brought up to himat 11, 2pm – a cutlet and two hard boiled eggs, 5pm – he went to the Café de laRegence, then dined at the Café de Paris until 2 or 3 in the morning. The hotelalso provided him with a ration of five bottles a week of Couvoisier. Oscar keptfat n sassy.

His former lover, Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie), inherited20,000 on the deathof his father, the Marquess of Queensbury, the cause of Wilde’s downfall.(Very long but interesting story. That much I know.) During a meal at the Café de la Paix, Wilde asked Bosie if he could have an income from his money. Bosiehad one of his idiosyncratic tantrums and announced, “I can’t afford tospend anything except on myself,” and accused Wilde of “wheedling likean old whore.” Wilde replied, “If you do not recognise my claim, thereis nothing more to be said.

Oscar suffered an illness from late 1899 which he called, “Musselpoisoning,” which gave him red splotches on his arms, chest and back, whenscratched. By September of 1900, he was bedridden. Doctor Maurice a’CourtTucker, from the Embassy, visited him often, but could only state that it wasnot syphilis, because syphilis did not itch. He also advised an operation onWilde’s ear that had been painful since prison. It had been carried out in hisroom on October 10. Over the next weeks, he recuperated, enjoying visits fromfriends during which he made many of the famous last witticisms that are oftenreported as his last words, notably, “My wallpaper and I are fighting aduel to the death. One or other of us has got to go,” “I am dyingbeyond my means,” and, “I can’t even afford to die.”

October 29th, he got out of bed and had dinner in his room beforegoing to a café with Robert Ross, one-timelover and devoted supporter. Theydrank absinthe. Warned that it was poison to him, he replied, “And whathave I to live for?”

This in from friend Scott Williams (asalways, Thank You.) – 

“Just yesterday in the news, a U.S. university unlocked the chemical secretof “Absinthe” which Oscar was imbibing prior to his decline and demise. Made from the root extract of “wormwood”, it has a property that aggravates anddisrupts the chemical coordination of brain cell communication in a big way, like, total chaos. It was said to be all the rage among artists and such inParis at the time even though the French Govt. had outlawed it in 1815. The euphoria was intense, but too often resulted in seizures and, delirium, as
noted in Oscars’ final days. Sounds like he should have stuck to the Couvoisier.”

SEPTEMBER 2002 More on Absinthe friend Steve McSomething sends usthis:  It is a translucent turquoise liquor, which at its strongest can be160 proof.  It is banned in all but three countries (the Czech Republicbeing one of those where it is available).  During World War II, everyCzech adult was rationed a half-liter of it per month.  I had a few shotsin Prague a couple of years ago.  No seizures or delirium; it tasted likecough medicine.

The next morning he had a cold and earache. Dr. Tucker diagnosed an abscessin his ear.

Through November he felt worse. Morphine was no longer working as apainkiller, so he switched to opium, chloral and champagne.

From November 27th, he began having periods of delirium, butotherwise still discussed news and literature. November 29th he wasdescribed as, “thin, his flesh livid, his breathing heavy,” and with afortnights beard.

In the evening, Ross brought Father Cuthbert Dunne and Wilde was asked if hewanted to see him. Wilde made a sign with his hands and Dunne gave himabsolution.

At 5:30 am on November 30th, a loud death rattle began “likethe turning of a crank.” Foam and blood came from his mouth. He died at1:50 pm. He had barely breathed his last breath, when his body exploded withfluids from the ear, nose, mouth and other orifices. Kablooie.

He was cleaned up and dressed in a white night shirt, and covered in a whitesheet and palm branches. Maurice Gilbert took thisphotograph.

Bosie arrived on December 2nd for the funeral on the 3rd,which was described as “cheap,” at which he was chief-mourner. FatherCuthbert Dunne said requiem mass at St. Germain-des-Pres before the hearse(bearing the number 13) made its way to Bagneux Cemetery, followed by fourcarriages, Ross and Bosie in the first. As the fourteen mourners pushed for abetter view, Bosie almost fell into the grave. Serves the bitch right.

The grave was marked, “Oscar Wilde RIP Oct 16th 1854 – Nov30th 1900.” There was a Latin quotation from Job whichtranslates as, “To my words they durst add nothing, and my speech droppedupon them.”

In 1909 his remains were moved to Pere Lachaise under Jacob Epsteins monument(with the broken off pee pee), paid for by a Mrs. Carew. Robert Ross’s asheswere placed in the tomb in 1918.

Trivia: the wallpaper is supposed to have been recreated at L’Hotel, andthere is now a plaqueto Oscar, just above the front door.

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