‘We are all in the gutter…’ Oscar Wilde memorial near The Strand

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

Missing something: The head and shoulders of Oscar Wilde is missing a cigarette

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

Take a seat: A Conversation With Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was one of the greatest poets and authors of the 19th century. Although born and raised an Irishman, he spent a lot of his life in London and, of course, many of his plays were first staged here, and continue to be staged in the capital over 100 years after his death.

Given his huge contribution to London’s West End with his masterpieces such as The Importance Of Being Earnest and An Ideal Husband, it is only fitting there should be a memorial to him in the city. Unbelievably, it took until 1998 for the great talent to finally be honoured in his former home.

‘A Conversation With Oscar Wilde’ by Maggi Hambling is a bit more interactive than most memorials. I have often walked past it to see people sitting on it eating their lunch, perhaps completely oblivious to what they are resting their posterior on… but they could also be having a quiet moment with Oscar. Unveiled by actor Stephen Fry on the 98th anniversary of his death on 30 November 1998, the piece consists of a granite block, which looks rather coffin-shaped, with the bronze head and shoulders of Oscar peering out. Oscar’s hand originally held a cigarette, but is currently absent, despite being replaced several times. Describing the piece, Hambling has said in the past: ‘The idea is that he is rising, talking, laughing, smoking from this sarcophagus and the passerby, should he or she choose to, can sit on the sarcophagus and have a conversation with him.’

At the tail end of the piece is a quote from his 1892 play Lady Windermere’s Fan (first performed at St James’s Theatre), which is probably one of his most memorable and apt quotes. ‘We are all – in the gutter – but some of us – are looking at – the stars.’

  • A Conversation With Oscar Wilde is located on Adelaide Street, WC2, just near the junction of The Strand and Duncannon Street and around the back of St Martin-in-the-Fields Church. Nearest tube: Charing Cross.
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

A quote from Lady Windermere’s Fan


For Metro Girl’s blog post on the memorial to composer Arthur Sullivan, a short walk away, read Arthur Sullivan memorial in Embankment Gardens: A racy tribute to a legendary composer

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About LondonMetroGirl

Media professional who was born, brought up and now works in London. My blog is a guide to London - what's on, festivals, history, restaurant reviews and attractions, as well as the odd travel piece. All images on my blog are © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl, unless otherwise specified. Do not use without seeking permission first.

Posted on 4 July 2014, in Art, History, London, Tourist Attractions and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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