This Wallpaper Is Killing Me; One of Us Must Go

Oscar Wilde? Claire de Pratz? Léon Guillot de Saix? Lady Gregory? William Butler Yeats? Hesketh Pearson? Philippe Jullian? Violet Wyndham? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Near the end of Oscar Wilde’s life he was debt-ridden and ill. His shabby accommodations in Paris did not meet his aesthetic standards. According to legend he said something similar to the following while on his deathbed. Here are three versions:

(1) Either this wallpaper goes or I do.
(2) This wallpaper is killing me. Decidedly one of us will have to go.
(3) My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One of us must go.

In this anecdote accurate? Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Journalist and novelist Claire de Pratz became friends with Oscar Wilde during his final period in Paris. Wilde died in 1900. Writer Léon Guillot de Saix interviewed Pratz and others for an article titled “Souvenirs Inédits Sur Oscar Wilde” (“Unpublished Memories About Oscar Wilde”) which he published in the weekly periodical “L’Européen” of Paris in 1929. 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. Boldface added to excepts by QI: 1

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. »

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. ”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading This Wallpaper Is Killing Me; One of Us Must Go

Notes:

  1. 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