Oscar Wilde is famous not just for his writings, but also his tomb. The legendary writer who died of meningitis in a Paris hotel, was buried outside of Paris in a beautiful tomb designed by modernist sculptor Jacob Epstein, decorated with a flying Assyrian-style angel.
The monument, undoubtedly beautiful, was a major attraction for women to plant their kisses on. Indeed, the tomb that had long been victim to increasing graffiti, had a new, pressing issue since 1999 when someone had the idea to plant a big, lipsticked kiss on it. This became the rage for many of Wilde’s admirers visiting Paris. The grease from people’s lips was slowly starting to sink into the stone, causing it great damage.
Now, thanks to the efforts of Wilde’s only surviving grandson, Merlin Holland, the tomb has been saved. The renovated tomb was recently unveiled, with a new glass barrier to prevent people from planting their admiring kisses on it. With Wilde having died penniless and the royalties on his works having ceased long ago, Holland had little money with which to protect his grandfather’s tomb. He tried hard to get it listed as a historical monument, but in vain. Finally, he has seen some success in his attempts to protect the tomb, with help from Irish and French officials.
According to Holland, his grandfather would have loved all the attention. Some admirers refuse to give up the tradition and kisses have been planted on a nearby tree.