Britain Honors Oscar Wilde
Associated Press, November 30, 1998
LONDON A century after Oscar Wilde was disgraced and jailed for a
homosexual affair, Britain honored the playwright today with the unveiling of a statue in
central London a monument depicting him with head in hands holding a cigarette.
"I think it is wonderful, a wonderful monument for the people of London and of
England," said actor Stephen Fry, who played the central character in the film
"Showing him smoking is yet again a big finger shoved in the face of
society," Fry added.
The statue near Trafalgar Square is the first significant monument in the capital to
Wilde, whose works, including "The Important Of Being Earnest," still draw huge
While hundreds of passersby stopped to listen, actors Dame Judi Dench and Nigel
Hawthorne read an extract from Wildes "A Woman Of No Importance."
Culture Secretary Chris Smith said Wilde "challenged prejudice, he took on the
establishment and its perceptions."
"Its due to Oscar Wilde in many ways that we today can celebrate a society
that generally appreciates diversity," added Smith, one of two openly homosexual
members of Prime Minister Tony Blairs Cabinet.
Wilde was sentenced to two years jail in 1895 for homosexual practices revealed during
a libel action against the Marquis of Queensbury, who had objected to Wildes
association with his son, Lord Alfred Douglas.
Wilde died in exile in France in 1900.
The statue by sculptor Maggi Hambling is titled "A Conversation With Oscar Wilde
1854-1900." It is inscribed with a Wilde quotation, "We are all in the gutter,
but some of us are looking at the stars."
Wildes grandson, Merlin Holland, said he felt there was still some
"discomfort" in England about Wildes homosexuality.
"But I think were reaching a point where I hope ... we will regard him as a
writer and his sexuality as his own affair," added Holland.