This tour is one of the city’s finest hidden treasures and would captivate anyone with even a passing interest in the writer, or just in the history of Dublin itself …
It’s Oscar Wilde’s birthday. He was born in Dublin in 1854, on Westland Row, moving to 1 Merrion Square when he was eight months old. If you do just one thing today – other than re-read The Picture of Dorian Grey, perhaps, or the Selfish Giant, inspired by Merrion Square, which Wilde could view from his childhood bedroom at the top of the house – then book a tour with Oscar Wilde House creative director Martin Burns. Though the landmark house – which was the first construction on Merrion Square, in 1760 – is now a liberal arts university specialising in creative writing and performing arts, it also hosts tours and events.
Last night we booked a place on Burns’ guided tour of 1 Merrion Square – and it’s quite possibly the best €20 you can spend in Dublin. As well as being a Wilde scholar, Burns is a serious raconteur and the stories come thick and fast, with both darkness and hilarity. We were all utterly transfixed for well over an hour as Burns brought Wilde and his family’s stories to vivid life, in the very rooms the events took place, which are scented by Oscar’s favourite lilies.
Gerard Byrne has been artist in residence for this birthday festival, so his oil paintings of lilies are on display, too.
What a shame this house is not preserved as a permanent museum dedicated to Wilde. But this tour is one of the city’s finest hidden treasures and would captivate anyone with even a passing interest in the writer, or just in the history of Dublin itself. It’s hard to imagine a more fascinating and evocative way to step back into the city’s past – and get to know the real Oscar Wilde.
Book for the November tour here, and keep an eye on the website for future dates: