Oscar Wilde’s trunk owes its survival to Jean Dupoirier!

Oscar Wilde’s trunk owes its survival to Jean Dupoirier!

Had it not been, his close friend and literary executor, Robert Ross, would almost certainly have disposed of it, as he did Oscar’s other personal possessions of no monetary or sentimental value. It survived thanks to the Dupoirier family, who owned the Hôtel d’Alsace, where Wilde was a long-term resident. A few items that had belonged to Oscar surfaced later, and Jean Dupoirier kept them as mementos. There were the shirt, a pile of rough jottings that Dupoirier burned, an umbrella that he subsequently lost,  a set of false teeth and finally, two trunks of books and magazines!


Jean Dupoirier                     Robert Harborough Sherard

“In Twenty Years in Paris (1905), Oscar Wilde’s first biographer, Robert Harborough Sherard, describes his visit to the Hôtel d’Alsace on the rue des Beaux-Arts, where Wilde had died in penury on November 30, 1900. In July 1904, Sherard discovered that the landlord, Jean Dupoirier, had left Wilde’s shabby bedroom much as it was when the disgraced author had passed away. As Sherard observes, he was hardly the only one wanting to peek inside the tawdry chamber, with “its soiled curtains of the colour of lees of wine”. Soon after Wilde’s death, Dupoirier made a small profit by turning the room into a site of pilgrimage. Not only could devotees inspect the “leathern case” containing the “Privaz syringe” that Dupoirier had used to inject Wilde with morphine. They could also view the “the two  trunks” in which were stored “the books which he had collected during his stay in the hotel”. “He was a great reader was Monsieur Melmoth”, Sherard recalls Dupoirier remarking of the debt-ridden guest who lived quietly under this imaginative alias. “One rarely saw him without a volume in his hand.”

Robert Harborough Sherard, describes the two trunks. One was a large leather trunk that carried the bulk of Wilde’s books and belongings.

The other one was  “a small hide-covered dome-top trunk.”


Oscar Wilde’s Trunk

 Now this is the one we are interested in. Read Sherard’s description and see what you think.

“…The trunk had metal hinges, brass swing handle and lock, bordered with scallop-edged leather strips applied with ornamental brass tacks, the center of the lid with “O.W.” monogram…”

This is exactly the trunk I have been investigating now for Months. Atlas the mystery of the “O.W. Trunk”, in my humble opinion, has been solved!


Story of the “o.w. Trunk” belonging to Oscar Wilde


About a week ago I received an e-mail from an anonymous collector who asked me to investigate a trunk in his possession. Another researcher passed my name on to this collector when he realized that the trunk may have been owned by none other than Oscar Wilde!

I was intrigued by the box and I am currently investigating it thoroughly. I must confess in my years of running the society I have never been in the proximity of an artifact other than an autograph or manuscripts.

Many personal possessions belonging to Oscar Wilde were sold by his wife in order to support herself and her children during Wilde’s term of in Reading Gaol. However, as a leading ‘personality’ of the day, many items now considered collectable are in the public domain, having been given as presents by Wilde to friends and lovers. Other items were considered unsaleable due to the scandal later attached to his name, and these have been preserved by friends.

Of course my initial reaction was skepticism. Again things like this do not pop up every day. And all the collector had really was a document/coach box with the initials “O.W.” on it.

But in running this organization for nearly 40 years I had the opportunity to interview a few people who had had family members who regaled them with stories to them about Mr. Wilde’s visit to California in 1882. At the time Wilde’s visit was kin to the Beatles arriving.

I have been combing through the information and low and behold I do have a interview with E.W. Sherman of Sacramento that may involve the trunk.  Ms. Sherman was a niece of William Blasedale a lawyer working in San Francisco who attended Oscar Wilde’s lecture. Mr. Blasedale was fairly influential at the time and was part of a group of ‘patrons’ who were allowed to visit Wilde after the lecture. Wilde had a document trunk described as a “miniature library” with several books on various subjects. The trunk was described merely as ‘a monogrammed trunk that was unusually masculine for a man like Wilde’.

Now as you know there can be no proof that this is the trunk. But I thought it interesting enough to pass on the story since the picture that was sent to me of the trunk seems ‘unusually masculine’.

I will take this venture very seriously and hope to share more on the subject. In meantime I hope there is chance that I can see the trunk first hand.

Is this Oscar Wilde's Trunk?