Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde
Photograph taken in 1882 by Napoleon Sarony
Photograph taken in 1882 by Napoleon Sarony
BornOscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde
(1854-10-16)16 October 1854
Dublin, Ireland
Died30 November 1900(1900-11-30) (aged 46)
Paris, France
Resting placePère Lachaise Cemetery
Occupation
  • Author
  • poet
  • playwright
LanguageEnglish, French
NationalityIrish
EducationPortora Royal School
Alma mater
PeriodVictorian era
Genre
  • Drama
  • short story
  • criticism
  • dialogue
  • journalism
Literary movementAestheticism
Notable works
Spouse
Constance Lloyd
(m. 1884; died 1898)
Children
Relatives

Signature

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irish poet and playwright. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s. He is best remembered for his epigrams and plays, his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the circumstances of his imprisonment and early death.

Wilde's parents were successful Anglo-Irish intellectuals in Dublin. Their son became fluent in French and German early in life. At university, Wilde read Greats; he proved himself to be an outstanding classicist, first at Dublin, then at Oxford. He became known for his involvement in the rising philosophy of aestheticism, led by two of his tutors, Walter Pater and John Ruskin. After university, Wilde moved to London into fashionable cultural and social circles.

As a spokesman for aestheticism, he tried his hand at various literary activities: he published a book of poems, lectured in the United States and Canada on the new "English Renaissance in Art" and interior decoration, and then returned to London where he worked prolifically as a journalist. Known for his biting wit, flamboyant dress and glittering conversational skill, Wilde became one of the best-known personalities of his day. At the turn of the 1890s, he refined his ideas about the supremacy of art in a series of dialogues and essays, and incorporated themes of decadence, duplicity, and beauty into what would be his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). The opportunity to construct aesthetic details precisely, and combine them with larger social themes, drew Wilde to write drama. He wrote Salome (1891) in French while in Paris but it was refused a licence for England due to an absolute prohibition on the portrayal of Biblical subjects on the English stage. Unperturbed, Wilde produced four society comedies in the early 1890s, which made him one of the most successful playwrights of late-Victorian London.

At the height of his fame and success, while The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) was still being performed in London, Wilde had the Marquess of Queensberry prosecuted for criminal libel. The Marquess was the father of Wilde's lover, Lord Alfred Douglas. The libel trial unearthed evidence that caused Wilde to drop his charges and led to his own arrest and trial for gross indecency with men. After two more trials he was convicted and sentenced to two years' hard labour, the maximum penalty, and was jailed from 1895 to 1897. During his last year in prison, he wrote De Profundis (published posthumously in 1905), a long letter which discusses his spiritual journey through his trials, forming a dark counterpoint to his earlier philosophy of pleasure. On his release, he left immediately for France, never to return to Ireland or Britain. There he wrote his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), a long poem commemorating the harsh rhythms of prison life. He died destitute in Paris at the age of 46.

Early life

Wilde Family home in Merrion Square

Oscar Wilde was born at 21 Westland Row, Dublin (now home of the Oscar Wilde Centre, Trinity College), the second of three children born to Sir William Wilde and Jane Wilde, two years behind William ("Willie"). Wilde's mother had distant Italian ancestry,[1] and under the pseudonym "Speranza" (the Italian word for 'hope'), wrote poetry for the revolutionary Young Irelanders in 1848; she was a lifelong Irish nationalist.[2] She read the Young Irelanders' poetry to Oscar and Willie, inculcating a love of these poets in her sons.[3] Lady Wilde's interest in the neo-classical revival showed in the paintings and busts of ancient Greece and Rome in her home.[3]

William Wilde was Ireland's leading oto-ophthalmologic (ear and eye) surgeon and was knighted in 1864 for his services as medical adviser and assistant commissioner to the censuses of Ireland.[4] He also wrote books about Irish archaeology and peasant folklore. A renowned philanthropist, his dispensary for the care of the city's poor at the rear of Trinity College, Dublin, was the forerunner of the Dublin Eye and Ear Hospital, now located at Adelaide Road.[4] On his father's side Wilde was descended from a Dutchman, Colonel de Wilde, who went to Ireland with King William of Orange's invading army in 1690. On his mother's side Wilde's ancestors included a bricklayer from County Durham who emigrated to Ireland sometime in the 1770s.[5][6]

Wilde was baptised as an infant in St. Mark's Church, Dublin, the local Church of Ireland (Anglican) church. When the church was closed, the records were moved to the nearby St. Ann's Church, Dawson Street.[7] Davis Coakley references a second baptism by a Catholic priest, Father Prideaux Fox, who befriended Oscar's mother circa 1859. According to Fox's own testimony written by him years later in Donahoe's Magazine in 1905, Jane Wilde would visit his chapel in Glencree, County Wicklow for Mass and would take her sons with her. She then asked Father Fox to baptise her sons.[8] Fox described it in this way:

"I am not sure if she ever became a Catholic herself but it was not long before she asked me to instruct two of her children, one of them being the future erratic genius, Oscar Wilde. After a few weeks I baptized these two children, Lady Wilde herself being present on the occasion."

In addition to his children with his wife, Sir William Wilde was the father of three children born out of wedlock before his marriage: Henry Wilson, born in 1838, and Emily and Mary Wilde, born in 1847 and 1849, respectively, of different maternity to Henry. Sir William acknowledged paternity of his illegitimate children and provided for their education, but they were reared by his relatives rather than by his wife or with his legitimate children.[9]

In 1855, the family moved to No. 1 Merrion Square, where Wilde's sister, Isola, was born in 1857. The Wildes' new home was larger and, with both his parents' sociality and success, it soon became a "unique medical and cultural milieu". Guests at their salon included Sheridan Le Fanu, Charles Lever, George Petrie, Isaac Butt, William Rowan Hamilton and Samuel Ferguson.[3]

Until he was nine, Oscar Wilde was educated at home, where a French bonne and a German governess taught him their languages.[10] He then attended Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh from 1864 to 1871.[11] Until his early twenties, Wilde summered at the villa, Moytura House, his father built in Cong, County Mayo.[12] There the young Wilde and his brother Willie played with George Moore.

Isola died aged nine of meningitis. Wilde's poem "Requiescat" is written to her memory.[13]

"Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow

Speak gently, she can hear

the daisies grow"

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Oscar Wilde
العربية: أوسكار وايلد
aragonés: Oscar Wilde
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Aymar aru: Oscar Wilde
azərbaycanca: Oskar Uayld
تۆرکجه: اسکار وایلد
Bân-lâm-gú: Oscar Wilde
башҡортса: Оскар Уайльд
беларуская: Оскар Уайльд
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Оскар Ўайлд
Bikol Central: Oscar Wilde
български: Оскар Уайлд
bosanski: Oscar Wilde
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Cymraeg: Oscar Wilde
Deutsch: Oscar Wilde
Ελληνικά: Όσκαρ Ουάιλντ
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español: Oscar Wilde
Esperanto: Oscar Wilde
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Bahasa Indonesia: Oscar Wilde
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қазақша: Оскар Уайльд
kurdî: Oscar Wilde
Кыргызча: Оскар Уайлд
latviešu: Oskars Vailds
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Nederlands: Oscar Wilde
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occitan: Oscar Wilde
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Oscar Wilde
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਔਸਕਰ ਵਾਈਲਡ
پنجابی: آسکر وائلڈ
Piemontèis: Oscar Wilde
polski: Oscar Wilde
português: Oscar Wilde
română: Oscar Wilde
Runa Simi: Oscar Wilde
русский: Уайльд, Оскар
sicilianu: Oscar Wilde
Simple English: Oscar Wilde
slovenčina: Oscar Wilde
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српски / srpski: Оскар Вајлд
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Oscar Wilde
svenska: Oscar Wilde
Tagalog: Oscar Wilde
татарча/tatarça: Оскар Уайлд
Türkçe: Oscar Wilde
Türkmençe: Oskar Waýld
українська: Оскар Уайльд
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Winaray: Oscar Wilde
粵語: 王爾德
Zazaki: Oscar Wilde