Hundreds of people are expected to visit Oscar Wilde's grave in the Père Lachaise cemetary in Paris, on the centenary of his death on 30th November. It's always been popular--gathering as many regular visitors and adornments as Jim Morrison's resting spot in the same graveyard.

But Wilde's grave is in danger of permanent damage--adoring fans have taken to leaving lipstick kisses on the gravestone, and, unlike paint, marker pen or candle flame scorches, the lipstick contains fats that work their way into the stone and leave traces that can't be removed.

The standard written and painted grafitti includes such pearls of wisdom as "You are the best! You can never die!" and "Oscar forever and more smack!" along with misquoted lines from Wilde's work.

The grave, with a quotation from 'The Ballad of Reading Gaol' carved into the back, was originally paid for by an anonymous 'lady'. It has always had a rough time. The rather handsome naked angel at the tomb was extremely well hung, until the head keeper of the cemetary decided that it was so offensive he castrated the winged guard (and for many years used the testicles as a paperweight). The angel's genitals were later replaced, but were swiped during the 1960s. The grave was restored by the family of Wilde and of Robert Ross (Wilde's friend and literary executor) in the 90s, and since then there has been a sign in place reminding people that it is a historic monument and protected by law. This has done little to deter the more ardent admirers.

Though many leave handwritten notes and flowers, the latest trend for leaving lip prints on the tomb is causing offence and worry. Wilde's grandson, Merlin Holland, is furious about this:

"It's been going on for decades, but the lipstick is the final straw. Unthinking vulgar people may have defaced Wilde's tomb for ever. If these people want to honour Oscar Wilde's memory, then they should leave the bloody tomb alone. It's made me very angry."

"...people would leave notes and bits of card which were elegant and touching. Then somebody thought it would be a nice idea to kiss the tomb. Then everybody joined in. I don't know what to do now. Perhaps I should write to L'Oréal asking them to print warnings on their lipsticks. But I've got to find a way to restore the tomb, and it's going to cost money. I don't mind because he's my grandpa and I love him."

Holland plans to mark the centenary of his grandfather's death with an exhibition at the British LIbrary.

most of this information was gleaned from The Observer

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