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Sunday 17 December 2017

Wilde home for sale -- at a not very ideal €1.6m

The Chelsea apartment, where the playwright lived and wrote most of his seminal works, is on the market after being refurbished, says Shane Hickey in London

IT was once the red and yellow study where one of literature's most celebrated minds created defining works before his controversial imprisonment.

Over 110 years after his death, the ground-floor London workspace where Oscar Wilde wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray and A Woman of No Importance is for sale with a hefty price tag of €1.6m (£1.3m).

The apartment, at 34 Tite Street in Chelsea, was the office of Wilde between 1885 and 1895, a period during which he created some of his most seminal works -- at a time when his personal life was increasingly being dogged with scandal.

Then numbered 16, Wilde and his wife moved into the terraced redbrick when Chelsea was known as a hub for artists, picking the area so that he was close to his mother.

After years of preaching to his contemporaries about style, Wilde spent seven months renovating the home, which he moved into in January 1885. The prominent architect and designer, Edward William Godwin, was employed to design original works for the house.

However, it was in the ground-floor study where his creativity flourished. Sitting while facing the street, Wilde wrote The Happy Prince and Other Tales, An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest among others.

This all ended in 1895 with his arrest. When Wilde dropped a libel case he took against the Marquess of Queensbury, who was angry about his affair with his son Lord Alfred Douglas, he found himself charged with allegations of gross indecency with other men.

After a case that became a sensation at the time, the artist was found guilty and was sentenced to two years' hard labour.

When he emerged from prison, Wilde had lost everything -- his wife Constance, his sons and the house on Tite Street, which was auctioned off. A short time later, in 1900, and suffering from meningitis, Wilde died in Paris.

In an ironic twist, the judge at the trial that sealed his fate was also a resident of the street.

Passers-by to Wilde's former home are told of its place in history via a blue plaque on the outside.

The current owner, property developer Myca Lee, says she beat 26 other bidders last year to buy the ground-floor property where the artist's office was situated -- including one who wanted to buy the whole building and turn it into a museum dedicated to Wilde.

"I am a fan of Wilde. It was a draw. When I go into a home, I can feel a good energy or a bad energy, and this feels very much like a calm, creative energy. You can kind of put two and two together and relate to his presence there," she says.

Ms Lee, who refurbished the flat over the past year, says the former Wilde home still attracts a lot of interest from tourists, especially Americans and Japanese.

"Put it this way, you can't stand naked at the window. There is quite a lot of attention, but people don't knock at the door," she says.

While Chelsea was once an artists' hang-out -- a little bit similar to the Hoxton area today, with a number of studios a few doors away -- local residents are now more likely to be investment bankers rather than poets and playwrights.

However, there is still some memory paid to the famous author. Two children who live in another flat at the same address are named Oscar and Constance, says Ms Lee.

Estate agent John D Wood says there have been a number of viewings but the historic property is still on the market.

Sunday Independent

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