L’Hôtel, Paris


The London broadsheets have been in a ferment for the past few days over a forthcoming exhibition at the V&A, The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860–1900 which opens on April 2nd. The Guardian‘s Jonathan Jones wrote a piece pointing out the French associations of the British Aesthetes in which he mentions the Hôtel d’Alsace at 13 Rue des Beaux-Arts, Paris, the place where Oscar Wilde spent his last few months in 1900 prior to expiring in room no. 16. By coincidence I’d been looking at my own photos of the hotel only the day before so here they are, little more than snapshots but they give an idea of the building at least.


The hotel is now merely L’Hôtel, and I had a couple of surprises when I went to find the place the last time I was in Paris. The first is that the Rue des Beaux-Arts is some distance away from any main thoroughfares, although this perhaps isn’t so surprising given Wilde’s straitened circumstances. The second was seeing a plaque to Jorge Luis Borges (see below) on the wall opposite the one for Oscar Wilde with its incorrect year of birth. Borges had a lifelong fascination with Wilde, the first piece he had published was a translation into Spanish of The Happy Prince (and The Modern Word has a short essay by Borges about Wilde). I knew that Borges had stayed in the hotel (there’s a famous photo of him standing in the atrium) but didn’t expect his patronage to be commemorated in this way; once again, Paris has a respect for writers that puts many other cities to shame. Wilde is celebrated with two plaques—there’s another beside the door which can be seen here—but what these pictures don’t show is the atrium itself, a small space in the centre of the building which gives the hotel a distinction Wilde might have appreciated even if he would have preferred to spend his final hours in one of the more luxurious establishments.

There are more views of the narrow Rue des Beaux-Arts at Google Maps while the hotel has a website here.






Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Oscar Wilde archive

8 thoughts on “L’Hôtel, Paris”

  1. Once again thank you, I know of the hotel as per Wilde, but I have never seen it before. I appreciate the image to place.

    As always, respectfully,

  2. I know you don’t like Dave Sim but he did do justice in his portrayal of the death of Oscar Wilde

    ” there still really was a man called Oscar Wilde, he really did die in a manner something like the drawings in this book, and as the book makes clear, it wasn’t romantic, it wasn’t poetic, it was a lonely man rotting away from the inside. And it’s a tribute to the book’s strength that for all its cleverness, its fictional setting, its deliberate lies and misreported facts, and its larger point, that truth still comes through and makes us care for a man who died more than a hundred years ago, represented by a few ink lines.”


  3. Gabriel: I’m a firm believer in ignoring the opinions/politics of any artist and judging their work separately from their opinions where possible. Even Wilde isn’t immune if you start looking for ways to be offended, Dorian Gray, for example, has a very poor Jewish caricature in the description of Sybil Vane’s theatre manager. More of a stumbling block is my having lost the habit of reading comics in recent years.

    Leo: That head over the door was another pleasant surprise.

  4. Thanks, and no, 49 doesn’t have much significance for me. ‘Tis but a number, etc.

    Yes, HPL is a familiar example. Wilde wasn’t as bad, I think in that case he was being lazy and reaching for a stock stereotype. Most of the time he was a lot more generous towards people than Lovecraft ever was.

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