Deborah Ellis

Deborah Ellis
Coming to Thunder Bay

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Grave of Oscar Wilde with lipstick kisses and messages.

Statue by Jacob Epstein, Commissioned by Robert Ross

On November 30, 1900, in a seedy Parisian hotel, Oscar Wilde, the acclaimed poet, novelist, playwright and great wit died.  His last years were tragic. He had spent two years in English prisons convicted of “gross indecency with a male.” The harsh conditions he experienced damaged his health.

Robert Ross, a Canadian, grandson of Canadian statesman Robert Baldwin and Wilde’s first male lover, was with him when he died. Ross who was openly gay at a time when homosexuality was illegal, helped Wilde with both financial and emotional support when he was in exile.

After Wilde’s death, Ross took on the task of literary executor which included purchasing all the rights to Wilde’s work which had been sold off during Wilde’s bankruptcy. Ross turned over all monies to Wilde’s two sons.

Ross also commissioned the sculptor, Jacob Epstein, to design Wilde’s tomb in Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris. After much controversy,  the monument was unveiled in 1914. A tradition grew up of leaving lipstick kisses on the monument but a glass barrier was erected to make the monument kiss proof. But the kisses and messages are still there

Kisses and messages written on the plexiglass surrounding Wilde's tomb

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