At the fin de siècle ancient Egyptian jewellery was all the rage, but some believed that these objects plundered from the tombs of the dead might confer bad luck upon their modern owners. First examining an often-overlooked trinket belonging to the celebrated literary luminary Oscar Wilde, this illustrated lecture examines the adornments of the Victorian and Edwardian elite, and the spiritual encounters with the ancient Egyptian past they called forth. Narratives where Egyptian jewels bring misfortune and death, including one tale by Bram Stoker, suggest that Wilde - along with those who met similar fates - should have treated their antiquities with greater caution. Might Wilde's downfall be attributed to his extravagant sporting of this ancient relic, while his friends kept their own antiquities safely under lock and key?
Eleanor Dobson is a doctoral researcher at the University of Birmingham. Currently, her work investigates representations Egyptology, literature and culture from the late nineteenth century to the 1920s in the wake of the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb.