Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Robbie Ross at the Ritz

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 1st December, 2008

A hundred years ago today, the cream of London’s literary and artistic world (sugared with a sprinkling of aristocracy) gathered for a huge dinner at the Ritz Hotel in London to honour Robbie Ross, Oscar Wilde’s devoted friend and literary executor, who had just succeeded in clearing off the late playwright’s debts and thereby brought his bankruptcy to an end. Henceforth, Wilde’s two sons, Cyral and Vyvyan Holland, would be able to benefit from the proceeds of Wilde’s literary estate. Though the dinner was a tribute to Robbie Ross’s tireless efforts over the preceeding eight years, it also marked a milestone in Wilde’s posthumous rehabilitation. There was one notable absence from the occasion, however: Oscar’s nemesis, Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas, who boycotted the event.

Last night, a much smaller but nonetheless splendid dinner was held, also at the Ritz, to mark the centenary of that remarkable gathering, as well as to reiterate the tribute to Robbie Ross, whose biography I wrote. Organised by leading lights of the Oscar Wilde Society (of which I am a Patron), the celebration was marked by very short readings from letters of appreciation from guests at the original dinner, some of whom complained about the length and poor quality of the speeches, with the notable exception of that by Robbie Ross himself, whose words — reprinted in an elegant souvenir pamphlet given to guests last night — still bring a lump to the throat as an extraordinary testament to friendship and determination.


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