OSCAR WILDE TOURS
The founder of Oscar Wilde Tours, Andrew Lear, knows his stuff. Professor Lear holds a B.A. from Harvard and a Ph.D. from UCLA and has a storied history as a professor of classics at world renowned institutions like NYU and Harvard. His love of teaching, history, literature, and travel have all found a home in his new com- pany, and his indefatigable excitement permeates the discussions throughout the tours. He sits down with us to share some things about his tour company, Oscar, and, of course, Dublin.
Why is there a need for a tour company like Oscar Wilde? Do you think a historical lens is missing from modern-day gay travel?
Yes! There are a lot of gay tours available, including many cultural tours, but aside from a few walking tours in certain cities, there are no tours that focus on gay history. It’s as if gay people were only interested in going to discos, or as if homosexuality didn’t really exist before 1975. But, we all know that something gay was going on in ancient Greece, and that there have been all kinds of important gay artists etc. throughout history (e.g. Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci). At least every- one knows about Oscar Wilde, and aside from being charmed by him, that’s why we chose him as our patron spirit.
What’s one thing you hope that your guests will take away from your tours? From Dublin?
I think the thing I want people to take away from my tours is a sense of how rich the past of same-sex love is. Many famous people you know about loved people of their own sex; many famous places (including castles and palaces) are associated with these loves; many famous artworks were inspired by them. Because our culture, despite some improvement, is still profoundly hetero-normative, this gay history is still hid- den, but I hope that people will see that it’s amazingly rich and present in our lives and thoughts, closer than you think. At the same time, of course, I want the tours to be fun, full of amusements and pleasures—beautiful places, great food, etc.
From Dublin, I hope they will take away an impression of an Ire- land that’s more urbane, arty, and gay than they would expect. Ire- land is not all lawn leprechauns and pints of Guinness. An astonishing number of the heroes of the 1916 Rising were gay, and a number of key figures in Ireland’s fabulous literary history were (or are) gay as well. I’d also like them to take away a slightly changed sense of Oscar Wilde. People mostly think of Wilde as an English writer, and that’s partly because they associate his aesthetic, decadent (i.e. gay) sides with London. But he was very Irish, witty and chatty in a particularly Irish way, and had a whole host of important Irish associations (starting with his amazing family). Also, I think I’d like people to know how pretty a city Dublin is, what a great theater city it is (with some very gay sides in that regard), and what a great foodie city it is!
Do you think Oscar and Lady Wilde would be impressed with modern-day Dublin?
I think Oscar and Lady Wilde would both be thrilled by Dublin today. Lady Wilde was a famous Irish patriot, and Wilde himself, although he didn’t talk about it much, was always for what was then called ‘home rule.’ They would be thrilled to see Ireland a free country and Dublin so lively. One should also remember that both of them died at the most depressing possible moment, when Wilde was in dis- grace, his works not performed, etc. How happy they would be to see a statue of Wilde in front of their house, and to know that Oscar is one of the most famous and admired historical figures in our culture—seen as a martyr, not a disgrace. And although Wilde wasn’t 100% out of the closet, in the modern sense, I think he would be thrilled to see how free people are about homosexuality now. Neither the UK nor Ireland has sodomy laws any more, and it seems as if Ire- land may have gay marriage pretty soon (knock on wood). Attitudes toward homosexuality have changed a LOT since Wilde’s time, and I’m sure if he came back to life, it would take him a moment to understand what people think nowadays, but he was always for personal freedom, so I’m sure he would be very happy about it, and to learn that his own tragedy contributed to the change that has taken place in our society.
The next Oscar Wilde Tour will take place October 25-November 3 and will follow Oscar Wilde’s complete life from Dublin and London to Paris. www.oscarwildetours.com
WILDE DUBLIN RESOURCES
The Dylan, Eastmoreland Pl. Tel: +353-1-660-3000. This Preferred Pride Hotel is located in one of the most fashionable districts in Dublin, and you’ll feel right at home in their contemporary-chic boutique-style rooms. Rooms from $240. www.thedylan.ie
The Merrion Hotel Dublin, Upper Merrion St. Tel: +353-1-603-0600. Another prestigious hotel that has a world-renowned art collection and an artful high tea. Rooms from $375. www.merrionhotel.com
The Shelbourne Dublin, a Marriott Hotel, 27 St Stephen’s Green. Tel: +353-1-663-4500. This grand dame hotel is where Oscar Wilde and famous writers have stayed for over a century. Rooms from $481. www.marriott.com
SEE AND DO
Dublin Writers Museum, 18 Parnell Square. Tel: +353-1-872-2077. This fascinating look at Ireland’s rich creative spirit has plenty of information to help create a full picture of the country’s immense literary contributions. www.writersmuseum.com
International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival is an annual event that invites theatre troupes from all over the world to put on gay-themed performances with Oscar Wilde serving as its main muse. 2015 dates to be announced. www.gaytheatre.ir
Café en Seine, 40 Dawson S. Tel: +353-1-677-4567. A Parisian-style café with a location that can’t be beat near Stephen’s Green that offers scrumptious French bistro-style bites. www.cafeenseine.ie
Lemon Jelly Café, Millennium Walkway. Tel: +353-1-873-5161. Gay-owned restaurant in the Italian Quarter that offers quick bites and smooth drinks. www.lemonjellycafe.ie
by Joseph Pedro