Literary lovers and travellers alike will have a whole new reason to flock to Paris with the unveiling of the new Oscar Wilde gravesite.
The gravestone, designed by renowned modernist sculptor Jacob Epstein, has been restored on the Irish Republic’s dime. Work was carried out to restore it to its original state, and the tombstone sculpture now has a glass barrier from the public to ensure that it is “kiss-proof.”
The precautions were made necessary by the millions of tourists who have come by his grave and kissed it, leaving intentional lipstick marks in what became a popular part of the experience of visiting the gravesite.
Though the tomb remained almost in perfect condition until 1985, the kissing tradition meant that lipstick had been slowly eating away at the tombstone since then.
Though the glass barrier prevents visitors from touching the newly reworked stone, tourists have started leaving their lipstick marks on a nearby tree in order to keep what is now a tradition alive.
The ceremony was attended by Merlin Holland, Oscar Wilde’s grandson, along with the social elite of Paris.
Holland said that he was grateful that the Irish government took it upon itself to restore the tomb. Since the royalties on Wilde’s works have long since run out, Holland said “there’s no way” he could have funded a project of this magnitude himself.
Also in attendance was film star Rupert Everett, who starred in the 2002 film adaptation of Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.” He has also written a screenplay about the irreverent writer known for his caustic wit and scandalous personal life.
In 1895, Wilde was sentenced to two years in prison. His love affair with Lord Alfred Douglas landed him there, along with a sentence of “gross indecency” for his “immoral” behaviour.
Rupert Everett said that Wilde was “inspiring and touching,” while Wilde’s grandson said simply, “If my grandfather had been here he would have loved the attention.”