About a year ago I read a blog ( https://oscarwildestrunk.wordpress.com/) about a trunk that may have once been possessed by my favorite writer Oscar Wilde. This was kind of mind blowing. I collect stuff from my favorites. I have a letter written by Poe, Whitman, Verne and of course Wilde. I also collect ‘relics’ like locks of hair (Poe), books from their personal library (Issac Newton and Charles Dickens). My collection is quite extensive and I enjoy each piece. I was fortunate enough to make some good money back in the day, I never married nor had any children, so my collection quickly became ‘my children’. I have traveled all over the world to buy or trade. Anyways, I digress, I live in California where the ‘Oscar Wilde Trunk’ resides. I contacted the blogger who wrote a plea to preserve this relic and got the contact information for the person who owns the trunk. I was given permission to examine the trunk for myself.
First off for those who were concerned about the status of the trunk. It is being kept at a college and is in a facility that is climate controlled. So that alleviated some of the concern about it’s preservation.
I was able to meet the owner of the trunk at the facility. He was gracious and patient with me and answered all my questions to the best of his abilities.
Well firstly I want to tell you that the trunk does not resonate with what we know about Wilde. It is wood with a a rawhide cover. The letters OW are emblazoned on the top. It looks like something that may have been used on a stagecoach sometime in the old wild west. Which got my imagination reeling.
People are sometimes surprised to learn that, as young man, Wilde, the poet, playwright and wit famous for his flamboyant and ultimately dramatic life in London and Paris, made two earlier visits to America.
This trunk just screams Oscar Wilde in America. And the owners story kinda corroborated this theory. The owner who wishes to stay anonymous, said that the trunk has been in his family since the 1930’s. He claimed that his great great uncle was in Paris in the 30’s and visited a makeshift museum that was created out of Wilde’s last address, a hotel room in Paris. When Wilde passed in his room the owner of the hotel offered Wilde’s ex wife the opportunity to pick up his belongings. This included books, clothes and a couple of trunks. Wilde’s wife refused the items and told the owner to keep or throw out the items. Instead the owner of the hotel opened his makeshift museum putting these items on display.
Around 1930 interest in Wilde was waning. The hotel owners wife and daughter decided to sell the contents of the room to a few of Wilde’s friends and patrons. This was around the time that the current trunk owners uncle arrived in Paris. He purchased the trunk for $200 and returned to the U.S.
A little research shows that Wilde was gifted many items while here in the America and they were really treasured by Wilde who loved the savagery and elegance of America It is my theory that the trunk was part of that history. I believe it was a treasure that Wilde carried with him through great times and brought back fond memories during his bad times.
As far as provenance well that is where it gets tricky. But my friend and fellow blogger has spent the last year in Paris researching the trunk. She interviewed people who were alive when the items were on display, she talked to the kin of the hotel owner, and looked over records of Wilde’s possessions at the time and has concluded without a doubt that this is the real thing. Currently she is writing her third book on Wilde with an emphasis on what happened to his personal relics. It is so sad, as with most contemporary artist we have very little that belonged to this immortal man.