Oscar Wilde's renovated Paris tomb was unveiled today, complete with a new glass barrier to shield the monument from admiring kisses.

The Dublin-born playwright died penniless aged 46 in a Paris hotel room on this date in 1900.

Thousands of kisses had worn down the elegant tomb in Pere Lachaise cemetery, as grease from tourist lips sank into the stonework.

Wilde's only grandson Merlin Holland and British actor Rupert Everett accompanied French and Irish officials at the ceremony.

The tomb, designed by modernist sculptor Jacob Epstein with a flying Assyrian-style angel, survived almost unscathed until 1985, except for the angel's prominent genitals being hacked off.

The expense of cleaning operations to deal with increasing graffiti on the tomb led the descendants of Wilde and of his friend Robert Ross to try, successfully, to get it listed as a historic monument.

The hope was that fines of thousands of euros for defacing the tomb would deter fans of the author of "The Importance of Being Earnest".

But in 1999 the graffiti was replaced by another phenomenon when someone had the idea of planting a large, lipsticked kiss on the tomb, sparking a craze for Wilde's many admirers visiting Paris.

The glass should now shield the tomb, with wellwishers already having planted rosy red kisses on a nearby tree.

Mr Holland, whose grandmother changed the family name to avoid public scorn after Wilde was jailed by a London court for homosexuality, said he would have loved all the fuss.

He said: "I cannot express in words my gratitude to the Irish government and the people of Ireland for what they've done.

"The royalties on Oscar Wilde's works disappeared many many years ago, and there's no way I could possibly have raised the money to do this myself.

"If my grandfather had been here he would have loved the attention. The attention has always been given over the last 30 years with notes and then lipstick but now art has to triumph over what the French call 'degradation'.

"Maybe one day we can take it down when the memory of kissing Oscar is gone."

Mr Everett, who came out as gay in the 1980s and starred in the 2002 film version of "The Importance of Being Earnest", described Wilde as his "patron saint" and "one of the last great vagabonds" of the 19th century.

"I find him very inspiring and touching, not just for his genius, also for his stupidity, in a way. He was a human being, and made mistakes like everyone else," Mr Everett said.