[Ads-l] This wallpaper is killing me; one of us must go - attributed to Oscar Wilde

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Oct 22 13:04:51 UTC 2021

Oscar Wilde on his deathbed in a shabby hotel room supposedly made a
remark similar to the statement in the subject line. The Quote
Investigator website now has an article on this topic.


The earliest published evidence known to me appeared in the weekly
periodical "L'Européen" of Paris in 1929 within an article by writer
Léon Guillot de Saix. The piece presented the testimony of journalist
and novelist Claire de Pratz who became friends with Oscar Wilde
during his final period in Paris. Pratz told Saix about the hotel room
that Wilde stayed in during his last days. The original French text is
followed by one possible English translation.

[ref] 1929 May 8, L'Européen: Hebdomadaire économique, artistique et
littéraire, (Economic, artistic and literary weekly), Souvenirs
Inédits Sur Oscar Wilde recueillis par Guillot de Saix (Unpublished
Memories About Oscar Wilde collected by Guillot de Saix), Quote Page
2, Column 1, Paris, France. (Gallica BNF Bibliothèque nationale de
France) link [/ref]


[Begin excerpt]
Il vivait dans une misérable chambre meublée, à l’hôtel d’Alsace, rue
des Beaux-Arts. Et lui qui avait été l’esthète de la gentry
londonienne, souffrait horriblement de cette misère symbolisée pour
lui dans l’épouvantable papier « modern-style » à fleurs chocolat sur
fond bleu.

« — Voyez-vous, ma chère enfant, me disait-il, il y a un duel à mort
entre moi et mon papier de tenture. L’un de nous deux doit y rester.
Ce sera lui ou ce sera moi. »
[End excerpt]

[Begin translation of excerpt]
He lived in a miserable furnished room at the Hotel d'Alsace on rue
des Beaux-Arts. And he who had been the aesthete of the London gentry,
suffered horribly from this misery symbolized for him by the appalling
"modern-style" wallpaper with chocolate flowers on a blue background.

“ — You see, my dear child, he said to me, there is a duel to the
death between me and my wallpaper.  One or the other of us has to go.
It will be my wallpaper or me.”
[End translation of excerpt]

The QI article also includes the pertinent passage from "Lady
Gregory's Journals" which refers to a 1908 letter from William Butler
Yeats. This important citation was listed in Fred Shapiro's "The Yale
Book of Quotations" (and the new edition).

Many other citations are included in the QI article.

Feedback welcome,
Garson O'Toole

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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