From the Dress Circle to the Drains
I have belatedly been reading More Lives Than One by Gerard Hanberry from the Collins Press. It tells the fascinating story of Oscar Wilde, his ancestors and descendants, and the massive contradictions at the heart of the family. It is also an intriguing mapping of the Wilde west of Ireland lineage from Castlerea, Co Roscommon, through the Ballymagibbon estate at Cong, to Moytura House at Lough Corrib.
Reading the book I was reminded of feeling a certain sadness before Christmas on hearing the account of the restoration of Oscar Wilde’s tomb in Paris and realising that, due to the protective barrier at the tomb, ‘kissing Oscar’s tomb’ would now be no more. At the unveiling event for the restored tomb, the actor Rupert Everett spoke of the contradictions in Oscar Wilde’s life: ‘From the dress circle to the drains, his life was his greatest work of art and an inspiration to anyone who has ever felt outcast.’
Oscar Wilde wrote in De Profundis: ‘When first I was put into prison some people advised me to try to forget who I was. It was ruinous advice. It is only by realising what I am that I found comfort of any kind.’ More Lives Than One deepens our insight into who and what Oscar Wilde was by situating his story in the context of an intriguing family history.