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Wilde's wallpaper replaced after 100 years

Oscar Wilde
Wilde said he was fighting a duel with the wallpaper  

PARIS, France -- Hotel wallpaper that riled famed Irish writer Oscar Wilde in his death bed has finally been replaced -- 100 years after his death.

Shortly before he died in Paris, Wilde quipped to a female friend: "My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go."

The shabby flowered wallpaper in the hotel room where he died on November 30, 1900 has been replaced by vibrant blue-green frescos as part of a refurbishment of the former Hotel d'Alsace pension house on the Left Bank.

A small plaque outside the hotel, now the plush four-star L'Hotel, on the rue des Beaux-Arts mentions Wilde's name, but the building otherwise gives few hints about the final weeks of its most famous guest.

The first-floor room, a mix of greens, reds and gold, has been redecorated in the style of Wilde's London apartment and the walls are based on designs by Wilde's contemporary Aubrey Beardsley, who illustrated some of his work.

Period furniture adds to the fin-de-siecle touch.

"The furniture is unlikely to be what was in the room when he died because this was -- how shall I say -- a poor people's hotel," hotel manager Fabienne Capelli said.

Among details of the writer's last weeks are the bill that Wilde left unpaid on his death, and the expenses incurred when a Catholic priest administered the last rites before Wilde died.

It had long been thought he died of meningitis caused by venereal disease, but recent medical evidence suggests he died of an ear infection that had spread to his brain.

"It is rather macabre to see all the details. There's even the candles that were used at the services of the priest before he died," said Capelli.

London-based media broker Robert Palmer booked the room three years ago to be sure to occupy it for the centenary.

"I realized it was going to be 100 years since Wilde died and I thought it would be nice to commemorate his death," said Palmer, who describes himself simply as "a great fan."

Staff rushed to complete a nine-month renovation of the hotel and Wilde's room was finally ready on Thursday, although other parts of the hotel would not be habitable for some time.

Commemorations of Wilde's death included music and readings from Wilde's work for some 60 guests.

Reuters contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
'Ear infection' killed Oscar Wilde
November 23, 2000
The return of Oscar Wilde
May 8, 1998

RELATED SITES:
Oscar Wilde Homepage
L'Hotel

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