Jean Dupoirier One of the Unsung Heroes of the Oscar Wilde Story

Jean DuPoirier Democrat and Chronicle 1 Feb 1931In March 1898, Oscar Wilde wore out his welcome at another hotel where he had failed to pay his bill.

He moved to the Hotel D’Alsace run by Jules Dupoirier. For a debtor in disreputable exile Wilde (going by the name Sebastian Melmoth) was a proud, even arrogant man. Dupoirier, who came to like his tenant and to be a true blessing to him in his last days, described Sebastian Melmoth as “not at all pleasant.” Mr. Melmoth never spoke to the servant, Jules Patuel, only directly to the owner. He arrived with two valises, one stamped with the initials S.M. They were loaded with books and heavy and Dupoirier carried them up to the third floor himself. The playwright occupied two adjoining rooms, one was his study and the second the bedroom. The price for these rooms, which he rarely paid, was 65 francs a month.

Dupoirier was not fond of Lord Alfred Douglas either. He described him as too much of a nobleman to speak to a common fellow like himself. Robert Ross, he said, had a different character. “He was a pleasant, obliging fellow.”

Wilde was a late sleeper, and had a consistent breakfast order of a lamb chop and two hard-boiled eggs. This he took around the time most people have lunch. He usually went out with friends in the evening and would come home around 2 or 3 in the morning. He sent M Dupoirier to the Avenue de l’Opera four or five times a week to fetch him “an astounding cognac” which cost 28 francs a bottle.

Oscar gave his innkeeper the impression that he was working regularly. “He used to work all night long,” Dupoirier told Robert Sherard. He believed Wilde was producing articles, but that the person who employed him was not sending him the money he was owed. Most of his money, however, and his meals came from the many friends, mostly French and English writers, who invited him to dine with them. He dined at some of the most upscale restaurants in the area, the Regence Cafe and the Cafe de Paris.

When Wilde was on his deathbed, Julies Dupoirier, kept a vigil at his bedside. When Wilde’s eyesight failed, he would read poetry to him. When Reggie Turner left for the night, Dupoirier would sleep in an arm chair facing Wilde’s bed. And after he died, Dupoirier with the help of a Catholic sister, washed Wilde’s body and dressed him in his nicest suit.

Lord Alfred Douglas was chief mourner at Oscar’s funeral, marching first behind the hearse in the procession from the at the Church of Saint Germain-des-Pres. He was followed by Reggie Turner and then Robbie Ross in line, then Dupoirier and the servant to whom Wilde had once refused to speak, Jules Patuel. There was a low mass and then the coaches departed for the cemetery at Bagneux. The first coach was for the priest, the next was Bosie, Reggie, Robbie and Dupoirier, whose hotel bill had still not been paid.

I thought you might like to see his face.



    1. He did get interviewed in his day, and he had a little cottage industry of showing off the possessions that Oscar Wilde had left behind to curiosity seekers. I guess that is the early 20th Century version.

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