Trinity College’s Long Room library is one of the most iconic literary venues in Ireland, but it will receive a fresh injection of cultural prestige with the arrival of ‘From Decadence to Despair’: a new Oscar Wilde exhibit.
The exhibit is the first of its kind, exploring the life and work of the legendary writer, poet, playwright and gay icon. An array of artifacts from Trinity’s archive have been included in the project, with 30 items on display and an accompanying online exhibition meticulously curated by Caoimhe Ní Ghormáin with the assistance of Merlin Holland, one of Wilde’s grandchildren, accessible at tcd.ie/library/exhibitions/wilde.
Wilde was born in 1854 on Westland Row, adjacent to the Trinity campus, and attended the college as a student, making the Long Room the perfect location for this celebration. He went on to become a seminal figure of Irish culture, penning the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, children’s stories such as The Star Child and, for stage, The Importance of Being Earnest, which is set to be performed as DCU Drama’s semester one play.
The exhibition’s launch was marked on October 12 with a public interview with the actor Rupert Everett, hosted by Carlo Gébler. Everett has written, directed and will star as Wilde in the upcoming film The Happy Prince, co-starring Colin Firth. In the interview, Everett discussed his lifelong fascination with Wilde’s public and private lives, and its influence on his own work on stage, screen and as a writer.
The collection of 30 items in the Long Room focuses on his later years; from his arrest under accusation of ‘sodomy’ to his imprisonment in England and his tragic death in 1900. It includes, among other relics, a letter penned to his five-year old son before their estrangement, a set of illustrated cards bearing his likeness and the receipt for a £25 loan he received after leaving prison.
The exhibition will run until January 3rd next year.
Lucien Waugh Daly