Tartu talisman

  • 2005-11-09
On my recent visit to Estonia I was startled to come across two bronze statues of Wildes outside the Caf? Wilde in Tartu.

The play on words which accounts for this was amusing, but in truth I believe the Irish dramatist, Oscar Wilde, only ever met one student of this university, and this was Count Eric Stenbock, whose heart in preserved in the church of Kuusalu close to the Kolga manor, and whose further remains are buried in the Brighton cemetery here. The meeting took place in Stenbock's London residence in Sloane Terrace in the late 1880s, after his stay at Kolga on inheriting the property in 1885.

It seems regrettable that Stenbock's days of study at Tartu, then Dorpat, were cut short by the ridicule he received from others on account of his dandy habits, for much later in 1936 W.B. Yeats considered him the "synedoche" or talisman of the writers and poets of the "nineties," so that he and Oscar would have more to contemplate than Oscar with Eduard. An Estonian as talisman of the London world of the 1890s: Perhaps it is time for Tartu students to make up for the boorish behavior of their forebears?


Brighton, England


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