Although its been the fashion to kiss Oscar Wilde’s grave at Paris' famous Père Lachaise cemetery for the past 20 years, smooching will be forbidden as the restored tomb of the Irish dramatist is revealed.
On Wednesday, November 30th, the anniversary of Wilde’s death, representatives of the Irish and French departments of culture, will join his family and admirers to witness the unveiling of the monument, including a protective glass shield.
The unveiling of the monument will take place on Wednesday, the anniversary of Wilde's death. It will be attended by representatives from the Irish and French departments of culture, as well as Rupert Everett, whose films include ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’.
The much loved writer and playwright died in 1900, aged 46. During the late 1900s it become en vogue to leave a lipstick kiss on his tomb. Since then a rash of graffiti, expressing love, has joined these little kisses.
However, Merlin Holland, Wilde’s grandson, told the Guardian that these displays of affection have become a big problem as the grease from the lipstick seeps into the stone.
He explained that even “cleaning was causing a bit more stone to wear away”.
"No amount of appeals to the public did any good at all. Kissing Oscar's tomb on the Paris tourist circuit has become a cult pastime, which is proving impossible to break. Even if one could catch someone in flagrante delicto – there is a €9,000 (£7,700) fine – most perpetrators are probably tourists, so they would be home before the French authorities could bring them to court.
"From a technical point of view, the tomb is close to being irreparably damaged. Each cleaning has rendered the stone more porous, necessitating a yet more drastic cleaning."
The Irish Office of Public Works (OPW) forked out a great deal of the money to have the monument preserved, along with the Paris authorities. So far they have paid for an extensive cleaning as well as a glass barrier to keep the overzealous crowd at bay.
The story of Wilde’s tomb is itself a story of love. When Wilde died he was bankrupt and all that his friends could afford for him was a “sixth-class burial, at Bagneux, outside Paris.
Over the years, his friend and literary executor, Robert Ross, managed to have Wilde’s bankruptcy annulled and purchase a burial plot at Père Lachaise. This was achieved through the sale of Wilde’s works, including “De Profundis” along with a letter from Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie). The next year another friend of Wilde’s, Helen Carew, donated £2,000 to erect a monument by the young sculptor Jacob Epstein.