On November 30, 1900, in Room 16 of the Hôtel d’Alsace in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris, Oscar Wilde died at age 46. His death was not sudden. The poet, novelist, and playwright had been in declining health for some time. While there is still debate over the exact nature of his final illness, it appears to have been some form of ear disease. Despite his diminished state, Wilde’s famous wit never left him. As he slipped away in his dingy room, he is said to have joked, “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us must go.”
Wilde had been among the most celebrated figures of the 19th century. Works like The Importance of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Gray sealed his reputation as a popular entertainer. His humor and charisma made him, for a time, the toast of high society. Yet in just a few short years, he fell from his position of influence into the poor health that would kill him.