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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Kissing poets' graves

Today, the inimitable Jacqueline Church Simonds, Small Press World blogger, posts an intriguingly Wilde item of gossip.

People are kissing Oscar Wilde's grave.  Goodness knows why (because the grave -- pictured -- is really rather intimidating), but they are.

Here is the background, from another intriguing site, devoted to poets' graves

Whilst in Reading Gaol Wilde received an ear injury which was not properly treated. Late in 1900 he developed further infections which led to meningitis, and his subsequent death at the age of 46.

He died penniless and alone in a Paris hotel.

On his deathbed he converted to Catholicism. By becoming a catholic he enacted one of his well known witticisms: The Church of England is the best to live in, but the Catholic Church is the best to die in.

He is also reputed to have said, on being presented with an expensive medical bill, ' I suppose that I will have to die beyond my means'.

(Well, I love those quotes, but if he died alone, who was there to write them down?)

He was originally buried in the Bagneaux Cemetery but his remains were moved to Père Lachaise - the French National Cemetery - on July 19, 1909. However, the famous tomb, sculpted by Jacob Epstein was not added until 1914. It is now visited by hundreds of thousands of visitors each year - many of whom are gay men who come to pay their respects. The tomb is covered in lipstick kisses.

The ashes of Robert Ross (a former lover) are also buried in the tomb.

Comment from me:  This indicates that the kissing marks were made by gay men (wearing lipstick?), but google images show a lot of young women kissing the tomb, too.

People are also writing little messages.  I asked JCS what she would write, once she was in Paris with an old lipstick.  A quote from the man himself, of course! Morality, like art, means drawing a line someplace.

I then wondered what poet's grave I would kiss, in the unlikely eventuality that I got the irresistible urge.  Accordingly, I had a quick skim through the list of poets (dead poets, of course) on the poets' grave site.  I guess, at a push, it would have to be John Masefield.

He is buried in Westminster Abbey (the last poet to get there), so the surroundings would be great. 

And which tombstone, dear reader, would you choose to kiss?

1 comment:

Shayne Parkinson said...

Ted Hughes now has a plaque in Westminster, though that's not quite the same, of course.

Hm, kissing cold stone doesn't really appeal, especially stone covered with other people's lipstick. But if I had to choose, it would be a sisterly kiss for Jane Austen. If we're to stick with poets, perhaps Christina Rossetti.