Oscar Wilde's blue plaque turns Worthing's gentlefolk red

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Oscar Wilde's links with the genteel south coast town of Worthing should be severed because he was a child abuser, say campaigners.

In 1894 he lived in the resort, penning The Importance of Being Ernest there and naming character Jack Worthing in its honour.

For years a blue plaque has boasted of his time at Esplanade Court on the seafront, but now some want to rid the town of the honour.

Feelings have become heated since Chris Hare, a local historian, raised the question of Wilde's relationships with teenage boys in a new book, Worthing, a History: Riots and Respectability in a Seaside Town.

He said there was documented evidence that Wilde seduced boys there. A 14-year-old, called Alphonso, had to leave the town as a result.

Mr Hare said:"People often think of Wilde as a martyr, but it's a bit unsavoury cruising around looking for sexual favours from young boys, isn't it? Even today people would not find that acceptable. It reminds me of Gary Glitter."

He did not personally think that the plaque should be taken down, because"his talents in literature stand aside from his personal behaviour".

But after years of embarrassment about its link with the man, Mr Hare believed Worthing now celebrated Wilde too enthusiastically.

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