It was 112 years ago today that, in room 16 of the original hip Parisian hotel – the Hotel d’Alsace, a penniless Oscar Wilde uttered his last words: “Ah well, then I suppose I shall have to die beyond my means.”
Although Wilde died with very little, he left a rich literary legacy behind him; a legacy which is testament to an unusually heterogeneous talent: his works include a scintillating gothic novel, numerous plays, confessional and aesthetically charged poetry, much-loved children’s fiction, literary criticism and political polemic.
These texts, however, are not merely valuable for their content, but also as artefacts. In June of this year, the 39th of 99 signed copies of The Ballad of Reading Gaol sold at Christie’s for £5,625, while an 1899 gilt publisher’s copy of The Importance of Being Ernest was sold at Sotheby’s New York in April for $362,50o.
Here at Paul Fraser Collectibles, we have our own propitious Oscar Wilde anecdote: having bought an Oscar Wilde signed photograph from us for £8,000, a client went on to sell the photograph at Bonhams twelve months later for £20,400 – giving him a return of 155%.
And it’s not just the books: the first floor of Wilde’s Tite Street home is currently being marketed by Savilles for £1,510,000. The one bedroom flat is thought to comprise areas Wilde used for writing, including his library and study, and is situated in the heart Chelsea – which (somewhat unbelievably) was London’s bohemian quarter during the early nineteenth century. Tom Wilson of Savilles observes: “The link with Oscar Wilde makes [the property] a very special property, especially as you would get to sleep in the very same room where he wrote some of his famous books and plays.”