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Oscar Wilde's memorial gets glass barrier

Nov. 29, 2011 at 8:43 PM   |   Comments

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PARIS, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Oscar Wilde's tombstone will be surrounded by a glass barrier to prevent tourists at Paris' Pere Lachaise cemetery from kissing the monument, officials said.

The Irish-born author of "The Importance of Being Earnest," "An Ideal Husband" and "The Picture of Dorian Gray" died in Paris Nov. 30, 1900, at age 46.

For years, visitors to Pere Lachaise cemetery -- which is also the final resting place of composer Frederic Chopin and rock star Jim Morrison -- have left lipstick marks on Wilde's monument as expressions of their esteem.

The Guardian newspaper said the custom is to end because the tombstone will have a glass smooch-guard when it is unveiled Wednesday after an extensive cleaning and restoration.

Wilde's grandson, Merlin Holland, told the newspaper the lipstick had become a "serious problem."

"Every cleaning was causing a bit more stone to wear away," he said. "No amount of appeals to the public did any good at all. Kissing Oscar's tomb on the Paris tourist circuit has become a cult pastime, which is proving impossible to break. Even if one could catch someone in flagrante delicto -- there is a $12,000 fine -- most perpetrators are probably tourists, so they would be home before the French authorities could bring them to court. From a technical point of view, the tomb is close to being irreparably damaged. Each cleaning has rendered the stone more porous necessitating a yet more drastic cleaning."

Representatives from the Irish and French departments of culture, as well as Rupert Everett, an actor who has starred in film adaptations of Wilde's works, are expected to attend Wednesday's unveiling of the monument on the anniversary of Wilde's death, the Guardian said.

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