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Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde Oscar Wilde[2†]

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde[1†][2†], known as Oscar Wilde, was born on October 16, 1854, in Dublin, Ireland[1†][2†]. He was an Irish wit, poet, and dramatist[1†]. Wilde’s reputation rests on his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), and on his comic masterpieces Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)[1†]. He was a spokesman for the late 19th-century Aesthetic movement in England, which advocated art for art’s sake[1†].

Wilde became one of the most popular playwrights in London in the early 1890s[1†][2†]. He is best remembered for his epigrams and plays, his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, and his criminal conviction for gross indecency for homosexual acts[1†][2†]. Wilde’s parents were Anglo-Irish intellectuals in Dublin[1†][2†]. In his youth Wilde learned to speak fluent French and German[1†][2†]. He became associated with the emerging philosophy of aestheticism, led by two of his tutors, Walter Pater and John Ruskin[1†][2†].

After university, Wilde moved to London into fashionable cultural and social circles[1†][2†]. He tried his hand at various literary activities: he wrote a play, 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 lectured on his American travels and wrote reviews for various periodicals[1†][2†]. Known for his biting wit, flamboyant dress and glittering conversational skill, Wilde became one of the best-known personalities of his day[1†][2†].

Early Years and Education

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland, on October 16, 1854[1†][2†]. His parents were Anglo-Irish intellectuals[1†][2†]. His father, Sir William Wilde, was Ireland’s leading ear and eye surgeon, who also published books on archaeology, folklore, and the satirist Jonathan Swift[1†]. His mother, who wrote under the name Speranza, was a revolutionary poet and an authority on Celtic myth and folklore[1†].

Wilde was educated at Trinity College, Dublin (1871–74), and Magdalen College, Oxford (1874–78), which awarded him a degree with honors[1†]. During these four years, he distinguished himself not only as a Classical scholar, a poseur, and a wit but also as a poet by winning the coveted Newdigate Prize in 1878 with a long poem, Ravenna[1†]. He was deeply impressed by the teachings of the English writers John Ruskin and Walter Pater on the central importance of art in life and particularly by the latter’s stress on the aesthetic intensity by which life should be lived[1†].

In his youth, Wilde learned to speak fluent French and German[1†][2†]. He became associated with the emerging philosophy of aestheticism, led by two of his tutors, Walter Pater and John Ruskin[1†][2†]. After attending Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, Ireland, Wilde moved on to study the classics at Trinity College, Dublin, from 1871 to 1874[1†][3†].

Career Development and Achievements

After graduating from Magdalen College, Oxford, Oscar Wilde moved to London to pursue a literary career[2†][4†]. His output was diverse[2†][4†] and he tried his hand at various literary activities[2†]. He wrote a play, 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 lectured on his American travels and wrote reviews for various periodicals[2†].

Known for his biting wit, flamboyant dress, and glittering conversational skill, Wilde became one of the best-known personalities of his day[2†]. 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)[2†].

Wilde produced four society comedies in the early 1890s, which made him one of the most successful playwrights of late-Victorian London[2†]. His reputation rests on his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), and on his comic masterpieces Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)[2†][1†][2†]. He was a spokesman for the late 19th-century Aesthetic movement in England, which advocated art for art’s sake[2†][1†].

At the height of his fame and success, while An Ideal Husband (1895) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) were still being performed in London, Wilde issued a civil writ against John Sholto Douglas, the 9th Marquess of Queensberry for criminal libel[2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Oscar Wilde’s literary output was diverse, and he made significant contributions across various forms, including plays, essays, and a novel[5†]. Here are some of his main works:

Analysis and Evaluation

Oscar Wilde emerged in late nineteenth-century London as the living embodiment of the Aesthetic movement[6†]. He won fame as a dramatist, poet, and novelist whose ideas on art, beauty, and personal freedom formed a formidable challenge to Victorian puritanicalism[6†].

Wilde’s name is routinely linked with Théophile Gautier’s famous maxim “Arte per amore dell’ Arte” (art for art’s sake)[6†]. Guided by this maxim, Wilde did more than any other to cultivate the modern idea that art, as a pure product of the senses, could "prevent the death of the human soul"[6†]. Wilde used the Aesthetic doctrine to promote the cult of beauty and pleasure and, as the physical embodiment of that ideal, he promoted hedonism as the way out of repressive Victorian culture and society[6†].

By liberating English literature from its Victorian preconceptions, he helped align British culture with the modernist values emerging on the European continent[6†]. Wilde found a way to marry the role of rebel and dandy[6†]. The rebel belonged to the realm of the bohemian while the dandy sat closer to aristocratic culture[6†]. Wilde plotted his own path; a dandy whose sartorial elegance was a symbol of his superiority of spirit and personal freedom rather than a symbol of his wealth and status[6†].

In his play “The Importance of Being Earnest”, Wilde mocks and satirizes Victorian’s views of having to live an earnest life, the reality that many live double lives, and their hypocritical societal mores[6†][7†]. By doing so, he exposes the breakdown of Victorian values[6†][7†]. His play is conceptually witty and entertaining[6†][7†].

Personal Life

Oscar Wilde’s personal life was marked by both joy and scandal[4†][8†]. In 1884, he married a wealthy Englishwoman named Constance Lloyd[4†][8†]. The couple had two sons, Cyril and Vyvyan[4†][8†].

However, Wilde’s personal life was marred by rumors of infidelity and scandal[4†][8†]. In 1891, Wilde began an affair with Lord Alfred Douglas, nicknamed 'Bosie’[4†]. This relationship would eventually lead to one of the most notorious trials of the era[4†].

In April 1895, Wilde sued Bosie’s father, the Marquis of Queensberry, for libel, after the Marquis had accused him of being homosexual[4†]. This trial, and the subsequent criminal trials for gross indecency, led to Wilde’s imprisonment from 1895 to 1897[4†][2†][4†].

Wilde died on November 30, 1900, in Paris, France[4†][1†][2†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Oscar Wilde’s legacy is as diverse and complex as his literary output[6†]. His star, which today burns brightest within the gay/queer community, has never diminished[6†]. His legacy is exemplified by two classics of English literature, the Gothic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray and the stage satire, The Importance of Being Earnest[6†]. These works prevail through screen biographies and countless reinterpretations[6†].

Wilde’s legend owes its longevity partly to the dramatic memory of his fall from popular fame in 1895 and his subsequent death in exile[6†][9†]. This memory has been sustained by the controversy over his personality that had continued almost unabated over the years[6†][9†].

Wilde was perhaps the first to self-consciously treat public life as an artistic performance[6†]. While he claimed to live a life governed by no other responsibility than to enjoy excess and create beauty, Wilde did not shy away from calling for social and political reform[6†]. The strength of his political convictions have, however, been questioned by some scholars[6†].

Wilde’s influence extended beyond his works. His wit, flamboyance, and tragic end have made him a lasting icon[6†][10†][11†]. He is now regarded as one of the greatest producers of Irish literature[6†][10†], and his conduct throughout his trial, as well as his lifestyle in general, helped to solidify him as a gay icon[6†][11†].

Key Information

Oscar Wilde was an Irish wit, poet, and dramatist[1†]. He was a spokesman for the late 19th-century Aesthetic movement in England, which advocated art for art’s sake[1†]. He was the object of celebrated civil and criminal suits involving homosexuality and ending in his imprisonment (1895–97)[1†].

References and Citations:

  1. Britannica - Oscar Wilde: Irish author [website] - link
  2. Wikipedia (English) - Oscar Wilde [website] - link
  3. Encyclopedia of World Biography - Oscar Wilde Biography [website] - link
  4. BBC History - Historic Figures - Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900) [website] - link
  5. Wikipedia (English) - Oscar Wilde bibliography [website] - link
  6. TheArtStory - Oscar Wilde Overview and Analysis [website] - link
  7. SchoolWorkHelper - Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest: Analysis [website] - link
  8. Historic UK - The Life and Times of Oscar Wilde [website] - link
  9. The New Republic - George Woodcock on Oscar Wilde's legacy [website] - link
  10. Culture Trip - Things You May Not Know About Oscar Wilde [website] - link
  11. The Bristorian - ‘The Love that Dare Not Speak Its Name’: Oscar Wilde as a Gay Icon [website] - link
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