The London blue plaque scheme began in 1866. There are over 850 plaques extant, of nearly a thousand total (the rest were on buildings since lost or demolished.) The first one commemorated Lord Byron’s birthplace in Holles Street. In order to be eligible to have a blue plaque put on the building in which you strove, suffered, were born or died, you must either have been dead for twenty years, or have passed the centenary of your birth, “whichever is earlier.” Then there is a long process, involving the submission of a complicated proposal to the Blue Plaques Team, then another hurdle in the panel review, a final detailed review by a historian, and finally, if you make the cut, consents are sought and granted by the building owner. Nine or so new plaques go up each year. So this whole procedure had been set in motion for Oscar Wilde’s famous house in Tite Street, in honor of the centenary of Wilde’s birth (1854), and Vyvyan Holland had written to Beerbohm in Italy in 1953 asking him to preside over the traditional plaque-unveiling ceremony, to take place the following year. Since Beerbohm couldn’t travel, in his response to Holland he suggested an alternate.
more from Maria Bustillos at The Awl here.