Oscar Wilde – Biography



The name of Oscar Wilde is taken with due respect among all time great litterateurs after Shakespeare. He was an Anglo-Irish novelist, dramatist, poet, critic as well as an established personality. He is regarded as one of the greatest playwrights of the Victorian Era.

His complete name was Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde . He was born on 16th October, 1858 at Dublin, the capital of Ireland. His father was a well-known surgeon and his mother was a writer and litterateur. He got his education in Trinity College of Dublin and Oxford. Wilde was a brilliant student, he was awarded the Royal School Scholarship to attend Trinity College. At the end of his first year at Trinity, he stood first in the school’s classic examination and received the college’s Foundation Scholarship, the highest honor awarded to undergraduates. After graduating from Oxford University, he lectured as a poet, art critic and a leading proponent of the principles of aestheticism.

In his lifetime he wrote nine plays, one novel, and numerous poems, short stories, and essays.  His first collection of poems was published in the year 1881. He also wrote fairy tales. Wilde’s first play, Lady Windermere’s Fan, opened in February 1892 and gained him popularity.  A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) added to his popularity in the world of literature. With recognition he got encouraged to adopt playwriting as his primary literary form, soon he was called the king of drama and tragedy.

Personal Life of Oscar Wilde

His personal life was not smooth, like his acts it was also filled with dramas and tragedies. In 1884 he married Constance Lloyd, daughter of wealthy Queen’s Counsel Horace Lloyd. They had two sons, Cyril (1885) and Vyvyan (1886). To support his family, Oscar accepted a job as the editor of Woman’s World magazine, where he worked from 1887-1889.

In 1888, he published The Happy Prince and Other Tales, fairy-stories written for his two sons. His first and only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, was published in 1891 and received quite a negative response. This had much to do with the novel’s homoerotic overtones, which caused something of a sensation amongst Victorian critics.

Reason for prison

In 1891, Wilde began an affair with Lord Alfred Douglas whose nick name was ‘Bosie’. He was the one who became both the love of his life and his downfall. During that time in Britain, homosexuality was considered as a criminal offense and serious societal taboo. On February 18, 1895, Douglas’s father, a furious homophobe got to know about their affair. He left a calling card at Wilde’s home addressed to “Oscar Wilde: Posing Somdomite,” a misspelling of sodomite.

Although Wilde’s homosexuality was something of an open secret, he was so outraged by his note that he sued him for libel. The decision ruined his life. He was arrested on the accusation of being a gay, and was sentenced to two years in prison.

Oscar had gone back and forth between hiding his sexual orientation and attempting to gain some measure of public acceptance. When the trial began, Douglas’s father and his lawyers presented evidence of Wilde’s homosexuality. Homoerotic passages from his literary works, as well as his love letters to Douglas quickly resulted in the dismissal of Wilde’s libel case and soon he got arrested on charges of “gross indecency.”

Wilde was convicted on May 25, 1895 and sentenced to two years in prison.

Wilde’s marriage ended in 1893 and his wife moved to Switzerland with children in order to evade the insult, and she changed her name to Holland.

 When Oscar was released from jail, he fell ill. His prestige had been trampled upon. He shifted to Paris and started to live an anonymous life. Wilde wrote very little during these last years; his only notable work was a poem based on his experiences in prison, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol.”

 He died in the dark of anonymity on 30th November, 1900 at Paris. At this time, he was all alone; what all he had with him at this moment were some scattered pieces of prestige and profound loneliness.

Oscar was a contemporary of Cheiro, the great foreteller. He was a great writer as well as a sensitive man. Cheiro had once looked at his palm and declared that he would earn fame as well as bad name, and that he would die at a small age in anonymity. This was what precisely happened too. In the year 1888, his book The Happy Prince and Other Tales, and his only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray got him worldwide fame; however, his imprisonment for two years made him notorious. He died at the small age of 46 years only.

Stories written by Oscar are even read today. A number of films and serials have been made on his books. He was also connected with the aesthetic movement. His works have been published in a number of languages all over the world. He once said that books are neither moral nor immoral, they are either well written or badly written. Oscar is no more among us today, but as he said a writer never dies. He continues to live today through his works and ideas, and he quenches our thirst for creativity.

Quick Facts

Birth name: Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde
Birth date: October 16, 1854
Birth place: Dublin, Ireland
Nationality: Irish

Education:

  • Trinity College (Dublin)
  • Magdalen College (Oxford)

Father: Sir William Wilde (eye doctor)
Mother: Jane Francesca Elgee (poet and journalist)
Siblings: brother William, sister Isola
Spouse: Constance Lloyd
Children: two sons – Cyril and Vyvyan

Occupation: Playwright, novelist, poet, editor, critic
Period: Victorian era (1837–1901)
Literary movement: Aestheticism

Famous Works:

  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (novel)
  • The Importance of Being Earnest (play)
  • The Ballad of Reading Gaol (poem)

Died: November 30, 1900 (aged 46) in Paris, France
Resting place: Le Pére Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France.

Chronology of Wilde’s Life

1854
Born in Dublin

1864 – 1871
Attends Portora Royal School, Enniskillen

1871 – 1874
Attends Trinity College, Dublin

1874-1879
Attends Magdalen College, Oxford

1878
Wins Newdigate Prize for Ravenna (poem)

1881
Publishes his first collection of poetry – Poems

1882
Lectures in the United States and Canada. Writes his first play – Vera, or the Nihilists (was not a success)

1883
Lectures in Britain and Ireland. Writes his second unsuccessful play, The Duchess of Padua

1884
Marries Constance Lloyd

1885
His son, Cyril, is born

1886
His son, Vyvyan, is born

1887-1889
Edits Woman’s World magazine

1888
Publishes The Happy Prince and Other Tales

1889 – 1890
Publishes several essays

1891
Publishes two collections of short stories – Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and other Stories, and A House of Pomegranates. Publishes The Picture of Dorian Gray, his first and only novel. Begins his friendship with Lord Alfred Douglas – Bosie.

1892
Writes two plays: Lady Windermere’s Fan (great success) and Salome

1893
Writes A Woman of No Importance

1894
Writes The Importance of Being Earnest

1895
Writes An ldeal Husband. At the height of his theatrical success, he sues Bosie’s father for libel, which leads to his own arrest for homosexual offenses. He is found guilty for the crime of sodomy and sentenced to two years of hard labor.

1897
While in prison, he writes De Profundis

1898
Writes his best known poem, The Ballad of Reading Gaol. His wife, Constance, dies.

1900
Dies of cerebral meningitis in Paris.

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