Author Oscar Wilde consulted a fortune teller who predicted his early death, according to an Italian interview overlooked by biographers until now.
In that account, published in 1908, the wit, poet and playwright spoke of dying aged 44, according to the destiny "inscribed here in the palm of my hand". He died in 1900, aged 46.
The literary genius who created The Importance of Being Earnest and Lady Windermere's Fan spoke frankly to his Italian interviewer.
"My life is drawing to a close," he told him. "I accomplished all that I set to undertake in the world.
"My destiny required that I write five plays and I wrote them; a novel and I published it; some short stories and verses, and of both of those I've reached the predetermined number. I enjoyed all the exceptional part of happiness that had been granted to me, and I suffered all the sufferings that I had to, and could suffer. Now there is nothing left for me to do but wait for death, which will come to visit me in three years, since I must die at the age of 44."
He continued: "I have an absolutely psychic hand, the fortune teller told me, and we must believe in fortune telling. It is the most exact and the most useful of all sciences... Every man is predestined to carry out a certain existence: we are nothing more than simple puppets in a grotesque rat trap."
His comments appeared in an article by Giuseppe Garibaldi Rocco, published a century ago by the Societa Editrice Partenopea.
It is among Italian publications whose reports on Wilde have been translated into English for the first time in a book, Oscar Wilde's Italian Dream 1875-1900 by Renato Miracco, available from April 27.
Wilde moved to Naples to seek out "masterpieces of marble and flesh", having been hounded from England after his notorious relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas. He died in poverty in Paris, three years after his release from prison.
Merlin Holland, Wilde's only grandson, told reporters: "As far as I'm aware, these things have not been published before."
Referring to the prediction of death at 44, he spoke of "slight doubts about the exactitude" of the interview.
"After Oscar's death there were a fair number of sources which gave his birth date wrongly as 1856 - so I can imagine Rocco 'creating' some of the interview posthumously and basing this statement of Oscar's on false information."
But even allowing for this, Holland said: "There's something in the record of those conversations which rings true.
"The colour of Oscar's language and his life seems to be there... it's an interesting light on Oscar's life in Naples between September 1897 and January 1898."
Merlin Holland also noted that the reference to the fortune teller was in accord with Wilde's belief in the paranormal.
Biographers have referred to visits to a palmist and to a fortune teller, who told him: "I see a very brilliant life for you up to a certain point. Then I see a wall. Beyond the wall I see nothing."
In another passage, Rocco wrote: "You could not be with Wilde for five minutes without him telling you plots for stories, novels, dramas, romances - and all very original."