The Final Hours of Oscar Wilde: “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death”

Wednesday, February 21, 2024
4:00 pm PST – 5:30 pm PST

William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
2520 Cimarron Street

“Photo taken by Robert Ross of Oscar Wilde two hours after death by flash light,” 3:50pm, Friday, November 30, 1900

William Andrews Clark Oscar Wilde Lecture

Lecture by Joseph Bristow, Distinguished Professor of English, University of California, Los Angeles

This lecture sheds fresh light on the forty-six-year-old Oscar Wilde’s early death from encephalomeningitis at the shabby Hôtel d’Alsace on Friday, November 30, 1900, in the Latin Quarter of Paris. By drawing on documents held at the Clark Library that have seldom been consulted before, Professor Bristow will look closely at the rapid turns of events that impacted Wilde’s final hours. The Clark Library has recently catalogued the extensive papers of the Irish Passionist priest Father Cuthbert Dunne, who converted Wilde on his deathbed to the Church of Rome. The library also houses many letters by Reginald Turner, the loyal friend who remained at the incapacitated Wilde’s bedside for several weeks. These items reveal the urgent financial, legal, and religious matters that attended Wilde’s demise. The talk will also discuss Wilde’s indebtedness to the hotel proprietor Jean Dupoirier, who soon after Wilde’s death turned his former guest’s insalubrious bedroom into a shrine for the writer’s most devoted acolytes.

Joseph Bristow is Distinguished Professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. His most recent books are Oscar Wilde on Trial: The Criminal Proceedings, from Arrest to Imprisonment (Yale University Press, 2022) and an edited collection, Extraordinary Aesthetes: Decadents, New Women, and Fin-de-Siècle Culture (University of Toronto Press, 2023). He is currently co-editing (with Yvonne Ivory and Rebecca N. Mitchell) the Oxford English Texts edition of Wilde’s uncollected, unfinished, and miscellaneous writings. His current book project is “Queer Blackmail: English Cultures of Extortion, 1776–1967.”

Image: “Photo taken by Robert Ross of Oscar Wilde two hours after death by flash light,” 3:50pm, Friday, November 30, 1900

Inscription, in ink, on verso: “Photo taken by Robert Ross of Oscar Wilde 2 hours after death, by flashlight. Nov 30th 1900.” Stamped, in ink, on verso: “To the appointment to T.M. The King and Queen, William E. Gray, 92, Queen’s Rd., Bayswater, W. Fine Art Photographer.” With envelope from “Harrison Hale Schaff, Attorney at Law, 31 Beacon Street, Boston” that is inscribed in ink: “Photo of Oscar Wilde taken by Robert Ross, his endorsement on the back.” The photograph was taken by Maurice Gilbert, likely with Wilde’s Kodak camera. William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, Box Wildeiana 20, Folder 4