Wednesday, January 20, 2010
FOLLOWING IN OSCAR'S FOOTSTEPS
Visited Babbacombe Cliffs a few weeks ago. Friends have an apartment in this fabulous place linked to the writer Oscar Wilde and his wife Constance. Way back in 1892 Oscar had accepted an invitation to stay there. The Wildes were happy to borrow Babbacombe Cliff from Lady Mount-Temple, Constance's distant cousin. Lady Mount-Temple was a wealthy patron of the arts and a close friend of John Ruskin. A well known literary lover she knew all the Pre-Raphaelites, and the house reflects Morris's daring new decor schemes. I loved it there.
The original villa was extended in the late 1870s to an exuberant design by W E Nesfield. The Mount-Temples lavished exquisite furniture and fittings on the house. They gave interesting flowery sobriquets to the rooms, so there was the Marigold Room, the Lily Room and so on. Lady Mount-Temple's bedroom was called Wonderland. Oscar lived - and loved - there in her absence. It was here that Oscar wrote his next play (a Woman of No Importance) to huge acclaim when it was premiered in London the following year.
As I picked my way down the rather steep path to Babbacombe beach, I couldn’t help thinking this was the trail used by poor old Oscar.