“Yes, death. Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forget life, to be at peace. You can help me. You can open for me the portals of death’s house, for love is always with you, and love is stronger than death is.”
― Oscar Wilde, The Canterville Ghost
Today marks the anniversary of the death of play-write, author and poet, Oscar Wilde. He died, aged 46 in France on November 30th 1900.
He died in poverty, a broken man who’s health had not survived the conditions of his imprisonment during his two years of hard labour first in Pentonville Prison, then Wandsworth. Later, he was transferred to Reading Gaol about which he wrote his famous piece, ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’
It was in Reading that Wilde collapsed from hunger and exhaustion while at chapel. He spent two months in the prison infirmary. One can only imagine the terrible conditions he was forced to endure whilst in prison. A man who was used to the best of everything, who dined regularly at The Cafè Royal and stayed at the finest hotels. It must have been a horrific shock both physically and mentally to this man of wit and massive intellect.
After his release from prison, on the 19th May 1897 he went straight to France where he was reunited with his former lover, Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas in August of that year. They lived together near Naples for two months until they were separated by their respective families under the threat of the cutting off of funds.
Wilde’s final address was a dingy run down hotel in Paris where he died of cerebral meningitis on
November 30th 1900 after being baptised in to the Roman Catholic Church.
He was initially buried in the Cimetière de Bagneux but was later moved to the Père Lachaise Cemetery in 1909. His tomb stone (below) was commissioned by his friend, Robbie Ross.
In the 1997 film Wilde starring Stephen Fry, Wilde says that his plays will never be remembered. Whether he did actually say that we will never know. But if he did believe that..well, how wrong he was. His plays are still shown in theatres around the world, they have been made into films, and adapted for radio; and he is probably one of the most quoted writers ever.
His legacy lives on.