How the son of a Swiss peasant became a synonym for luxury

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Hail, César!

Ritz and Escoffier: The Hotelier, the Chef and the Rise of the Leisure Class. By Luke Barr.Clarkson Potter; 320 pages; $26 and £16.99.

ON MAY 25th 1895 the scandal of the century drew to its courtroom close. Oscar Wilde was convicted of “gross indecency” and sentenced to two years’ hard labour. In London gossip swirled around the case’s three most glamorous characters: Wilde himself; his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas—and the Savoy hotel. For it was in the Savoy that Wilde and Douglas had stayed for a whole month.

The details were enticing. They had, it was murmured, dined like kings, eating turtle soup and ortolans, washed down with bottle upon bottle of champagne. They had left stains on those expensive sheets. César Ritz, the Savoy’s manager, was mortified—not at the flouting of morals, but at the breach of trust by the hotel. A hotelier should, he said, “keep his own counsel”. Not…Continue reading

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