So, we at Madeleine’s love this Oscar Wilde quote that “We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars”. And we’ve included this into “Madeleine goes to London”.
But Oscar, Oscar, where can we find you in London? Flamboyant and witty, the playwright, poet and critic was born in Dublin and died in Paris.
Well, Oscar’s London is actually quite easy. Oscar hung out very much in the upmarket St James and Mayfair areas, right in the centre of London. One of the easiest places to find him and his ghosts is Hatchard’s on Piccadilly – London’s oldest bookshop (founded in 1797) and once a favourite hangout of Wilde’s. It is still a great hangout place of the quiet type and it doesn’t require (or allow) cigar-smoking, by the way. (You may also enjoy Rare books, Charing Cross Road, Foyles 107, and perfume for the booklover?)
Not far from here, one can find the Royal Arcades, one of London’s most stylish, historic shopping centres. Dating from 1879, it was at the corner shop that now reads Paul Smith (then “Goodyear the Florist”) that Wilde famously purchased his iconic green carnations (he had one of the actors in Lady Windermere’s Fan wear one of these flowers on opening night) and, though the shop itself has disappeared, a wander through the halls will certainly evoke Wilde’s inimitable fashion flare with its many high-society shops.
The Ritz Hotel, as well as the Cafe Royal and the Savoy … these are nearby London landmarks that Wilde frequented during Victorian times.
Slightly outside of Mayfair, we can encounter Wilde in 2 memorable places: at Poets Corner in Westminster Abbey, and behind St-Martin-in-the-Field near Trafalgar Square where one can find a witty memorial with a bronze sculpture of his head and hand (yes, with a cigarette!) arising from a plinth – A Conversation with Oscar Wilde. (Its exact location is Adelaide Street, near the junction of The Strand and Duncannon Street).
Perhaps even more memorably, one can stay in room 118 at the handsome Cadogan Hotel on Sloane Street (a very nice hotel, we may add!), which is where in 1895 Wilde was arrested and taken to prison!
Slightly north of all of these haunts is the imposing Langham hotel in Portland Place (another good London hotel), which is worth visiting as it was here that the first meeting between Arthur Conan Doyle took place where the seeds were sown for the Picture of Dorian Gray.
We will conclude that Wilde certainly did not live in the gutters (and yes the quote is from “Lady Windermere’s Fan”)!
We may also add that, like Madeleine has, Wilde travelled extensively throughout Africa, Europe, and the United States.
But our ponder upon our Oscar cannot be complete without mentioning that he was buried in Père Lachaise in Paris; his tomb has an unusual design with a strong Egyptian theme, and was created by sculptor Jacob Epstein. We at Madeleine wandered around the Père Lachaise while in Paris and you can read some of our thoughts at Proust, Molière, Piaf, Chopin and Picasso.
Or, bring Madeleine goes to London with you on your next trip!