Oscar Wilde

Author Oscar Wilde was known for his acclaimed works including 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' and 'The Importance of Being Earnest,' as well as his brilliant wit, flamboyant style and infamous imprisonment for homosexuality.

oscar wilde

(1854-1900)

Who Was Oscar Wilde?

Author, playwright and poet Oscar Wilde was a popular literary figure in late Victorian England. After graduating from Oxford University, he lectured as a poet, art critic and a leading proponent of the principles of aestheticism. In 1891, he published The Picture of Dorian Gray, his only novel which was panned as immoral by Victorian critics, but is now considered one of his most notable works. As a dramatist, many of Wilde’s plays were well received including his satirical comedies Lady Windermere's Fan (1892), A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), his most famous play. Unconventional in his writing and life, Wilde’s affair with a young man led to his arrest on charges of "gross indecency" in 1895. He was imprisoned for two years and died in poverty three years after his release at the age of 46.

Early Life and Education

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born on October 16, 1854, in Dublin, Ireland. His father, William Wilde, was an acclaimed doctor who was knighted for his work as a medical advisor for the Irish censuses. William later founded St. Mark's Ophthalmic Hospital, entirely at his own personal expense, to treat the city's poor. Wilde's mother, Jane Francesca Elgee, was a poet who was closely associated with the Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848, a skilled linguist whose acclaimed English translation of Pomeranian novelist Wilhelm Meinhold's Sidonia the Sorceress had a deep influence on her son's later writing.

Wilde was a bright and bookish child. He attended the Portora Royal School at Enniskillen where he fell in love with Greek and Roman studies. He won the school's prize for the top classics student in each of his last two years, as well as second prize in drawing during his final year. Upon graduating in 1871, Wilde was awarded the Royal School Scholarship to attend Trinity College in Dublin. At the end of his first year at Trinity, in 1872, he placed first in the school's classics examination and received the college's Foundation Scholarship, the highest honor awarded to undergraduates.

Upon his graduation in 1874, Wilde received the Berkeley Gold Medal as Trinity's best student in Greek, as well as the Demyship scholarship for further study at Magdalen College in Oxford. At Oxford, Wilde continued to excel academically, receiving first class marks from his examiners in both classics and classical moderations. It was also at Oxford that Wilde made his first sustained attempts at creative writing. In 1878, the year of his graduation, his poem "Ravenna" won the Newdigate Prize for the best English verse composition by an Oxford undergraduate.

Career Beginnings

Upon graduating from Oxford, Wilde moved to London to live with his friend, Frank Miles, a popular portraitist among London's high society. There, he continued to focus on writing poetry, publishing his first collection, Poems , in 1881. While the book received only modest critical praise, it nevertheless established Wilde as an up-and-coming writer. The next year, in 1882, Wilde traveled from London to New York City to embark on an American lecture tour, for which he delivered a staggering 140 lectures in just nine months.

Upon the conclusion of his American tour, Wilde returned home and immediately commenced another lecture circuit of England and Ireland that lasted until the middle of 1884. Through his lectures, as well as his early poetry, Wilde established himself as a leading proponent of the aesthetic movement, a theory of art and literature that emphasized the pursuit of beauty for its own sake, rather than to promote any political or social viewpoint.

On May 29, 1884, Wilde married a wealthy Englishwoman named Constance Lloyd. They had two sons: Cyril, born in 1885, and Vyvyan, born in 1886. A year after his wedding, Wilde was hired to run Lady's World , a once-popular English magazine that had recently fallen out of fashion. During his two years editing Lady's World , Wilde revitalized the magazine by expanding its coverage to "deal not merely with what women wear, but with what they think and what they feel. The Lady's World ," wrote Wilde, "should be made the recognized organ for the expression of women's opinions on all subjects of literature, art and modern life, and yet it should be a magazine that men could read with pleasure."

Acclaimed Works

Beginning in 1888, while he was still serving as editor of Lady's World , Wilde entered a seven-year period of furious creativity, during which he produced nearly all of his great literary works. In 1888, seven years after he wrote Poems , Wilde published The Happy Prince and Other Tales , a collection of children's stories. In 1891, he published Intentions , an essay collection arguing the tenets of aestheticism, and that same year, he published his first and only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray . The novel is a cautionary tale about a beautiful young man, Dorian Gray, who wishes (and receives his wish) that his portrait ages while he remains youthful and lives a life of sin and pleasure.

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde 1854 1900 Irish novelist playwright freemason wit Photograph by Napoleon Saron

Though the novel is now revered as a great and classic work, at the time critics were outraged by the book's apparent lack of morality. Wilde vehemently defended himself in a preface to the novel, considered one of the great testaments to aestheticism, in which he wrote, "an ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style" and "vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art."

Wilde's first play, Lady Windermere's Fan , opened in February 1892 to widespread popularity and critical acclaim, encouraging Wilde to adopt playwriting as his primary literary form. Over the next few years, Wilde produced several great plays—witty, highly satirical comedies of manners that nevertheless contained dark and serious undertones. His most notable plays were A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), his most famous play.

Personal Life and Prison Sentence

Around the same time that he was enjoying his greatest literary success, Wilde commenced an affair with a young man named Lord Alfred Douglas. On February 18, 1895, Douglas's father, the Marquis of Queensberry, who had gotten wind of the affair, 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 Queensberry's note that he sued him for libel. The decision ruined his life.

When the trial began in March, Queensberry and his lawyers presented evidence of Wilde's homosexuality—homoerotic passages from his literary works, as well as his love letters to Douglas—that quickly resulted in the dismissal of Wilde's libel case and his arrest on charges of "gross indecency." Wilde was convicted on May 25, 1895, and sentenced to two years in prison.

Wilde emerged from prison in 1897, physically depleted, emotionally exhausted and flat broke. He went into exile in France, where, living in cheap hotels and friends' apartments, he briefly reunited with Douglas. Wilde wrote very little during these last years; his only notable work was a poem he completed in 1898 about his experiences in prison, "The Ballad of Reading Gaol."

Death and Legacy

Wilde died of meningitis on November 30, 1900, at the age of 46. More than a century after his death, Wilde is still better remembered for his personal life—his exuberant personality, consummate wit and infamous imprisonment for homosexuality—than for his literary accomplishments. Nevertheless, his witty, imaginative and undeniably beautiful works, in particular his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray and his play The Importance of Being Earnest , are considered among the great literary masterpieces of the late Victorian period.

Throughout his entire life, Wilde remained deeply committed to the principles of aestheticism, principles that he expounded through his lectures and demonstrated through his works as well as anyone of his era. "All art is at once surface and symbol," Wilde wrote in the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray . "Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. Those who read the symbol do so at their peril. It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors. Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex and vital."

QUICK FACTS

  • Name: Oscar Wilde
  • Birth Year: 1854
  • Birth date: October 16, 1854
  • Birth City: Dublin
  • Birth Country: Ireland
  • Gender: Male
  • Best Known For: Author Oscar Wilde was known for his acclaimed works including 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' and 'The Importance of Being Earnest,' as well as his brilliant wit, flamboyant style and infamous imprisonment for homosexuality.
  • Fiction and Poetry
  • Theater and Dance
  • Astrological Sign: Libra
  • Portora Royal School
  • Magdalen College
  • Trinity College
  • Nationalities
  • Death Year: 1900
  • Death date: November 30, 1900
  • Death City: Paris
  • Death Country: France

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Biography

Oscar Wilde Biography

oscar wilde

“To get back my youth I would do anything  in the world, except take exercise, get up early or be respectable.”

– Oscar Wilde

Short biography Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde was born on 16 October 1854 in Dublin, Ireland. His parents were well known and attracted a degree of gossip for their extravagant lifestyles. In 1864, his father Wille Wilde was knighted for his services to medicine.

Oscar_Wilde

In one academic year, he got rusticated for turning up to College three weeks after the start of term. Thus, after a while, he lost interest in pursuing an academic career in Oxford and moved to London. It was in London that he was able to skillfully enter into high society, soon becoming well known as a playwright and noted wit. Oscar Wilde became famous throughout London society. He was one of the early “celebrities” – in some respects, he was famous for being famous. His dress was a target for satire in the cartoons, but Wilde didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he learnt the art of self-publicity and seemed to revel in it, at least up until his trial in 1898.

oscar-Wilde

Shortly, after the case ended, a warrant was issued for Wilde’s arrest under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 – which outlawed homosexuality – even between consenting adults.

Trial of Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde’s trial gripped the nation, the subject matter a source of intense gossip and speculation in the press. The trial moved to a quick conclusion and Wilde was found guilty. For his “crime” of homosexual acts, Wilde was given the maximum jail sentence of two years hard labour in Wandsworth and then Reading Gaol. It is no understatement to say this experience deeply shocked and affected the previously ebullient Wilde.

In some respects he never really recovered; on his release, he left for Paris where he lived in comparative anonymity. However, he retained his wit and continued to write, heavily influenced by his chastening experiences. Of these post gaol writings, his poem “Ballad of Reading Gaol” is perhaps the most well known, illustrating a new dimension to Wilde’s writing.

I never saw a man who looked With such a wistful eye Upon that little tent of blue Which prisoners call the sky, And at every drifting cloud that went With sails of silver by.

I walked, with other souls in pain, Within another ring, And was wondering if the man had done A great or little thing, When a voice behind me whispered low, “ That fellow’s got to swing .”

From: Ballad of Reading Gaol

Although Wilde couldn’t return to his previous level of writing he developed new capacities, whilst retaining his sharp intellect. As Jonathon Fryer commented on Oscar Wilde’s final part of life he was.

 “beaten but not bowed, still a clown behind a mask of tragedy.”

The Life of Wilde was turbulent and volatile – never short of incident. It reflected his own inner paradoxes and revolutionary views. In some ways, he was both a saint and sinner at the same time. Rightly or wrongly Wilde is remembered as much for his life as his writings. However he himself said.

“I have put my talent into writing, my genius I have saved for living.”

His writings reflect in part his paradoxical view of life, suggesting things were not always as they appeared. As his biographer, Richard Ellman said of Wilde.

“Along with Blake and Nietzsche , he was proposing that good and evil are not what they seem, and that moral tabs cannot cope with the complexity of behaviour”

Whatever one may make of Wilde’s life, his capacity for writing remains undeniable. His greatest work and comedy is arguably  “ The Importance of Being Earnest ”. Here the plot line is thin, to say the least, but Wilde brings it alive through his scintillating repertoire of wit and biting humour.

“Relations are simply a tedious pack of people, who haven’t got the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die.”

– Algernon , Act I

“Thirty-five is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years.”

– Lady Bracknell , Act III

Wilde was not an overtly political commentator, but through his plays, there is an underlying critique of social norms that are illumined for their absurdities.

Wilde remains a fascinating character; someone who lived life to the full, experiencing both the joy and tragedy of society’s vacillating judgements. With the distance of over a century, it is easier to judge Wilde for his unique contributions to literature rather than through the eyes of Victorian moral standards. His quotes have become immortal a fitting tribute to a genius of the witticism

“I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying. ”

-Oscar Wilde

As Stephen Fry wrote of Oscar Wilde.

“What of Wilde the man? He stood for Art. He stood for nothing less all his life. He is still enormously underestimated as an artist and a thinker.. Wilde was a great writer and a great man.”

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan . “ Biography of Oscar Wilde ”, Oxford, UK www.biographyonline.net , 22nd Nov. 2006. Last updated 8 February 2018.

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Oscar Wilde

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Irish Writer, Critic, Aesthete

Oscar Wilde

Summary of Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde emerged in late nineteenth century London as the living embodiment of the Aesthetic movement . He won fame as a dramatist, poet and novelist whose ideas on art, beauty and personal freedom formed a formidable challenge to Victorian puritanicalism. At the same time, Wilde attracted public notoriety for his stream of witty aphorisms and his "effeminate" long hair, dandyish clothing and his devotion to flowers. He was halted at the height of his fame when sentenced to three years imprisonment for illegal homosexual activity. Ruined physically and financially, he lived out the final few years of his life in Paris, dying aged just 46. Wilde's star, which today burns brightest within the gay/queer community, has never diminished, however, and his legacy - exemplified by two classics of English literature, the Gothic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray and the stage satire, The Importance of Being Earnest - prevails through screen biographies and countless reinterpretations of his works. But perhaps it was his flair for self-publicity and his oft-quoted witticisms that his name truly endures in the consciousness of the public.

Accomplishments

  • Wilde's name is routinely linked with Théophile Gautier's famous maxim " Arte per amore dell' Arte " ( art for art's sake ). 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".
  • 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. By liberating English literature from its Victorian preconceptions, he helped align British culture with the modernist values emerging on the European continent.
  • Wilde found a way to marry the role of rebel and dandy. The rebel belonged to the realm of the bohemian while the dandy sat closer to aristocratic culture. Wilde plotted his own path; a dandy whose sartorial elegance was a symbol of his superiority of spirit and personal freedom rather that a symbol of his wealth and status. In this way, Wilde was perhaps the first to self-consciously treat public life as an artistic performance.
  • 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. The strength of his political convictions have, however, been questioned by some scholars. And although he was apt to excuse his carnal proclivities as a "form of sexual madness", there can be no questioning Wilde's martyr-like status which has seen him canonized as an icon for the Gay Liberation movement.

The Life of Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde Photo

The greatest champion of the credo "art-for-art's-sake", Wilde professed that no "form of government is most suitable for an artist to live under" and that, as far as the true artist was concerned, any "authority over him and his art is ridiculous".

Oscar Wilde and Important Artists and Artworks

James Whistler: Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge (1872-77)

Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge (1872-77)

Artist: James Whistler

Whistler's Impressionistic treatment of Battersea Bridge evoked the hushed atmosphere of the river Thames at dusk; the foggy London skyline peppered with exploding fireworks. It was one of a series of paintings that many, including the critic John Ruskin, saw as an affront to standards in art. In June 1888, following the two men's recent re-acquaintance, Wilde gifted a copy of his new anthology, The Happy Prince , to Ruskin. Wilde's gift was accompanied by a note which read: "There is in you something of prophet or priest, and of poet, and to you the gods gave eloquence such as they have given to none other, so that your message might come to us with the fire of passion, and the marvel of music, making the deaf hear, and the blind see". One of the tales in the book was called "The Remarkable Rocket", a satire about a delusional toy rocket who believes that his "setting off" will take center stage at a royal marriage. The rocket has not realized that he will be "a mere footnote to the party". As the literary historian Anne Bruder describes it, "When the Rocket begins an exhortation on his superiority to the other fireworks and his importance to the future of the Prince and Princess, he pathetically begins to weep, and thus destroys his ability to be ignited. His fuse wet, he gets tossed onto a trash heap where uninterested children, who do not even watch the explosion, set him off as they walk away. And while the narrator tells us, "But nobody saw him," the Rocket dies swearing, "I knew I should create a great sensation". As Bruder concluded, "The placement of this tale in Wilde's oeuvre and his gifting it to Ruskin [...] was almost certainly an allegorical rendering of his former friend and famous egotist J. M. Whistler". Whistler's painting prompted Ruskin to accuse the artist of "flinging a pot of paint in the public's face". Whistler's detestation of the critic led to him suing for libel, a lawsuit he won at great expense and which brought him just minor financial retribution. Unfortunately, the legal costs bankrupted the painter.

Oil on canvas - Collection of the Tate, United Kingdom

Aubrey Beardsley: Illustration for Salomé, "J'ai baisé ta bouche Iokanaan" (1893)

Illustration for Salomé, "J'ai baisé ta bouche Iokanaan" (1893)

Artist: Aubrey Beardsley

Aubrey Beardsley was a fashionable young British illustrator who had made a name for himself by illustrating a book, Mort d'Arthur , by the medieval poet Malory. The book proved a favorite amongst the Pre-Raphaelites, with whom Wilde was initially affiliated through his admiration of the movement's maverick son, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Beardsley first met Wilde in 1891. He was somewhat spellbound by the author and even displayed a photograph of Wilde on his fireplace. When Salomé was first published (in English) in February 1893, the Pall Mall Budget magazine commissioned Beardsley for a drawing to illustrate the play's content. However, the magazine rejected the macabre, fantastical image that was based on the play's last scene in which Salomé kisses the lips of John the Baptist's severed head. It was a highly decorative, gruesome, and sexually suggestive vision, which Beardsley thought Wilde would appreciate. In the April of that year, however, an art publication called The Studio ran the illustration as part of its first edition. Wilde saw the drawing pre-publication and liked it so much he presented Beardsley with an inscribed copy of the earlier printing of the book which read thus: "March '93. For Aubrey. For the only artist who, besides myself, knows what the Dance of the Seven Veils is, and can see that invisible dance". The critic Peter Raby argued that "Beardsley gave the text its first true public and modern performance, placing it firmly within the 1890s - a disturbing framework for the dark elements of cruelty and eroticism, and of the deliberate ambiguity and blurring of gender, which he released from Wilde's play as though he were opening Pandora's box". As an interesting footnote, Beardsley became art editor of the fashionable magazine The Yellow Book which ran from 1894-97. Promoting the ideas of the Aesthetic movement, the magazine took its name from the "dishonourable" covering under which controversial French novels were hidden from public view (as the British Library notes, it is, in fact, a "yellow book" which corrupts Dorian Gray, that book generally thought to be Joris-Karl Huysmans's decadent 1884 novel A rebours ( Against nature )). The British Library records moreover that "when Wilde was arrested in 1895, there were rumours he had been carrying a yellow-bound book. Though this was actually Pierre Louÿs's French novel Aphrodite , a confused crowd thought it was a copy of [the] magazine, and gathered to throw stones at the publishers offices".

Line block print on Japanese vellum paper - Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Philip William May: Oscar Wilde and Whistler (1894)

Oscar Wilde and Whistler (1894)

Artist: Philip William May

The English satirist Phil May, a member of the Chelsea Arts Club, contributed many caricatures of actors, artists, and writers to London periodicals. His self-assured drawing style and his cutting wit attracted a devoted following with his illustrations published in book collections. His caricature of Wilde and the American painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler was reproduced in Phil May's Sketch-book , first published in 1895. The caption refers to Whistler's repeated accusation that Wilde plagiarized his ideas. May's caption reads: [Wilde]: "That was an awfully good joke you made last night. I wish I could say it was mine". [Whistler]: "You will my boy. You will". The acerbic Whistler's eagerness to court controversy, and his craving for the limelight, made him and Wilde natural friends and together they fronted the public image of the Aesthetic movement. Twenty-years older, Whistler initially regarded Wilde as a disciple demanding of his master's approval. Indeed, Wilde's editor, Frank Harris, believed that Whistler did more to influence Wilde's wit than any other acquaintance: "Of all the personal influences which went into the moulding of Oscar Wilde's talent, that of Whistler was by far the most important; Whistler taught him the value of wit and the power a consciousness of genius and a knowledge of men lend to the artist". However, as with many of both men's close friendships, theirs ended in acrimony. Whistler felt increasingly that Wilde, whose reputation was eclipsing his own, had copied his dandyish style of dress and speech (hence the caption in May's caricature). Responding to Whistler's charge of plagiarism, Wilde retorted, "as far as borrowing Mr. Whistler's ideas about art, the only thoroughly original ideas I have ever heard him express have had reference to his own superiority over painters greater than himself". Wilde further opined, "Mr Whistler always spelt art, and we believe still spells it with a capital I". Whistler retorted, "What has Oscar in common with Art? Except that he dines at our tables, and picks from our platters the plums for the pudding he peddles in the provinces". By 1890 the two men's friendship had dissolved entirely with Wilde, ever one to have the last word, basing the murdered artist in his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray on his friend-turned-nemesis, Whistler.

Pen and black ink, with black crayon and touches of blue crayon, on ivory laminate board - The Art Institute of Chicago

Jacob Epstein: The tomb of Oscar Wilde (1914)

The tomb of Oscar Wilde (1914)

Artist: Jacob Epstein

For Wilde's tomb, the modernist sculptor Jacob Epstein created an enormous, horizontally-winged Art Deco Sphinx - carved from a 20-ton block of stone - giving the feeling of forward flight, suggestive of the poet as a messenger. The design may reflect Epstein's early interest in the primal sexuality of Indian and Egyptian art and statues of winged Assyrian bulls in the British Museum. Epstein was commissioned in 1908 to design the tomb, at a cost of £2000. His original sketches depicted two, grieving young men but, abandoning that plan, he drew inspiration from Wilde's poem, The Sphinx . Epstein initially planned a small angelic figure behind the Sphinx's ear, as a reference to the verse, "sing me all your memories". He also envisaged five figures on the Sphinx's headdress, one with a crucifix perhaps symbolizing martyrdom and Wilde's Catholicism. When the sculpture was previewed in 1912 (in Epstein's London studio), The Guardian reported: "one may see that this flying messenger, incomplete with worn eyes and the strange headdress, flying through our world with incredible swiftness, telling of beauty and of fatal mutiny against life, is at once a revelation and an enigma that will hold the attention of men as long as the great block of limestone lasts". After arriving in Paris, the Sphinx's unusually large testicles were covered over with plaster to be replaced with a bronze plaque of a butterfly. Epstein was furious and refused to attend the tomb's unveiling. The testicles were then stolen by vandals in 1961, leading to rumors that the cemetery manager was using them as a paperweight. The tradition in which visitors would kiss the tomb after applying greasy lipstick to their mouths led to the surface being eroded. In 2011, a glass barrier was erected around the lower half of the tomb to protect it. According to historian Ellen Crowell, the tomb "stands out like a sore thumb in a nineteenth-century cemetery whose sculptural aesthetic seems, to the modern visitor, overarchingly figurative and representational. It is precisely this aesthetic alterity that has, for one hundred years, prompted viewers to regard Epstein's 'Tomb for Oscar Wilde' as future- rather than past-oriented, more modernist than Victorian, a monument to enlightened pride rather than retrograde shame".

Hopton Wood stone - Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

Anselm Keifer: From Oscar Wilde (1974)

From Oscar Wilde (1974)

Artist: Anselm Keifer

In this small and delicate early watercolor, Kiefer depicts a pale pink rose blooming against a dense and fluidly painted organic background. The inclusion of the words "von Oskar Wilde/für Julia" suggests that the rose is a gift from Wilde himself to Kiefer's then wife. It has been suggested that if the picture is turned anti-clockwise, the face of the artist can be seen in the flower. Keifer has said, "If you have a big idea, a big theme, you need a small format", and here, and in many other works, his interest in alchemy and transformation is reflected in the theme of growth and decay in nature. The image specifically references Wilde's touching fairy tale The Nightingale and the Rose . In it, the songbird sacrifices itself on the rosebush's thorns with the combination of the birdsong and its blood giving life to the red flower of love. The rose is then plucked by a lovestruck philosophy student who presents the flower to his true love. She however rejects him in favor of another suitor who brings her jewels. Brokenhearted, the injured third party turns back to philosophy, the only kind of life knowledge he understands (a knowledge certainly more "knowable" than love).

Watercolor and Gouache on paper - The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Maggi Hambling: A conversation with Oscar Wilde (1998)

A conversation with Oscar Wilde (1998)

Artist: Maggi Hambling

This "witty and amusing" sculpture/bench in central London resembles a sarcophagus with a sinewy bust of Wilde laughing, emerging from one end like the wisps of smoke from his cigarette. It is inscribed with a famous quotation from Wilde's play Lady Windermere's Fan : "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars". A permanent memorial to Wilde in central London was first suggested during the 1980s and early 1990s by fans of the playwright's work, including the Queer avant-garde filmmaker Derek Jarman. Following Jarman's death in 1994, a committee, including thespians Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen, and the Irish poet and Nobel Laurette Seamus Heaney, brough the proposal to fruition with hundreds of individual donors and foundations contributing funds for the project. Following Danny Osbourne's Oscar Wilde Memorial Sculpture which was unveiled in Wild's birthplace (in Merrion Square, Dublin) a year earlier, Hambling's work was chosen from a shortlist of six. Hambling said of her work, "The idea is that he is rising, talking, laughing, smoking from this sarcophagus and the passer by, should he or she choose to, can sit on the sarcophagus and have a conversation with him". The memorial, while popular with passers-by, met with mixed critical reviews. Tom Lubbock, chief art critic for The Independent acknowledged the need for a Wilde memorial in London, and commended the project for its "real and proper Victorian public spirit", but he dismissed the work itself which he compared to a Madame Tussauds waxwork. He wrote: "We have nothing of the nerve, the folly, the ruin, the glory [of Wilde]. We have nothing for history - only the whimsical notion of us chatting cheerfully with this anodyne figment". Charles Spencer, chief drama critic of The Telegraph added to the scorn when he wrote: "Hideous is too gentle a word to describe it. [...] The idea is quite witty [...] but the representation of Wilde is loathsome. He looks even worse than the picture of Dorian Gray in the attic, sporting Medusa-like snakes of hair and a vile, degenerate grin. Even Wilde, the master of the aphorism, might have been stumped for words to describe it". It was left to committee member Jeremy Isaacs to highlight the fact that the sculpture "already evokes more favourable response from the public than any other statue I know in London, with the possible exception of Peter Pan".

Granite - Adelaide Street, London

McDermott and McGough: The Oscar Wilde Temple (2017)

The Oscar Wilde Temple (2017)

Artist: McDermott and McGough

Working in painting, film, photography and sculpture, David McDermott and Peter McGough, have explored such themes as religion, medicine, fashion and sexual behaviour throughout their partnership. For many years, they dressed as Victorian gentlemen, living in a townhouse lit only by candlelight, creating a historical fantasy where they could live and work. Initially transforming the Russell Chapel in the Church of the Village in New York, their immersive installation, The Oscar Wilde Temple took 20 years to create, setting out to transport visitors back to Wilde's visit to America between 1882-83. The artists created a complete, Aesthetic movement interior with fabric wall coverings, architectural and decorative details and furnishings. The Temple's centerpiece was an altar built around a 4'3" wooden statue of Wilde, poised in a devotional style. On the pedestal below is carved C33, Wilde's prison number at Reading Gaol. Framing each side of the statue were eight "stations": paintings tracing the journey of Wilde - depicted as a divine being - from arrest through imprisonment and his hard labor. "Commemorating Oscar Wilde as a martyr", wrote art critic Leon Craig, "subverts traditional Christian teachings on bodily purity and homosexuality, while pointing out the homoeroticism in many medieval and early modern representations of male martyrs". A second altar honored people who have died, or are suffering, from AIDS. It was complemented with portraits of other contemporary "martyrs" who have contributed to rising worldwide awareness of the disease. McDermott & McGough aimed to celebrate the creative process by which experience is transformed into art and reality abstracted into revelation. Critic Rosemary Waugh wrote, "The Oscar Wilde Temple is essentially a shrine, a devotional offering to all that LGBT+ people have endured, past and present. In this respect, it's intensely sad, a reminder of entirely needless suffering".

Oil on linen - Studio Voltaire, New York

Biography of Oscar Wilde

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born into a family of professional and literary parents. His father, Sir William Wilde, was Ireland's preeminent ear and eye surgeon and a philanthropist and writer who published books on archaeology, peasant folklore and a biography of the satirist Jonathan Swift. Wilde's mother, Jane, a committed Irish nationalist, and recognized authority on Celtic myth, was a revolutionary poet who wrote under the pen-name "Speranza". It was Jane Wilde who can be credited with instilling in her son his love for poetry and neo-classical art.

Early Education and Training

A pupil at the Portora Royal School in Enniskillen between 1864-71, Wilde was already gaining a reputation as something of a wunderkind . He demonstrated an early prowess for humorous storytelling and excelled in reading the classics. He also took to languages, becoming fluent in French and German. Wilde went on to win awards for his translations of Greek and Latin texts, including a scholarship to Trinity College Dublin, Ireland's most prestigious university. Attending between 1871-74, Wilde became an outspoken member of Trinity's Philosophical Society. A champion of the maverick Pre-Raphaelite painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti , and the "passionately atheistic" poet Algernon Charles Swinburne, Wilde would win one of Trinity's top academic awards, the Berkely Gold Medal for Greek, while actively promoting himself as an Aesthete. Even at this early age, Wilde had started to attract attention through his unique writing style and his nonconformist lifestyle.

Oscar Wilde in his iconic Bohemian regalia

Between 1874 and 1878, Wilde studied classical literature at Magdalen College at Oxford University where he distinguished himself as a classical scholar, a poseur and a humourist. He was attracted by the rituals and dress of Freemasonry and attained the "Sublime Degree of Master Mason"; and though he held widely conflicting views on religion, he was deeply attracted to Catholicism, even meeting Pope Pius IX in 1877.

In his third year at Oxford, Wilde met the essayist and art critic Walter Pater who advocated the rejection of "vulgar" bourgeois virtue in favor of an art that exists without the need for justification or moral purpose. Pater argued, moreover, for an enhanced sensibility towards beauty, and a life lived with aesthetic intensity. Under Pater's influence, Wilde's devotion to art intensified while the teachings of art historian and critic John Ruskin offered the young scholar fresh perspectives on the nature of art. Wilde began to dabble in art criticism himself with his review of the opening show of the Grosvenor Gallery in 1877 for Dublin University Magazine . As the literary historian Anne Bruder observed, "His review exemplifies his early attitudes toward the coming of modernism, views clearly derived from Ruskin" in the way he "elevates that which represents nature most clearly to the highest position of excellence".

Following Pater's maxim "burn always with a hard gemlike flame", Wilde revelled in the idea of the aesthetic pose and immersed himself in the Aesthetic and Decadent movements. Growing his hair long and dressing flamboyantly, he decorated his rooms with objets d'art , peacock feathers, lilies and sunflowers, declaring, "Oh, would that I could live up to my blue china!". Wilde won Oxford University's prestigious Newdigate Prize, an annual poetry award (won previously by Ruskin) for his poem Ravenna . By now, Wilde had started to attract a group of dedicated followers who were drawn to the Irishman's iconoclasm and his glorification of the virtues of youth.

After completing his studies at Oxford, Wilde returned to Ireland where he hoped to revive his romantic relationship with Florence Balcombe, a celebrated beauty. Florence, much to Wilde's anguish, became engaged to Bram Stoker (author of Dracula ) prompting Wilde to move to London where he boarded with the highly successful society portraitist Frank Miles. Miles, who shared Wilde's love of flowers, had purchased a house in the newly fashionable Tite Street in Chelsea; a street that counted the painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler , and the illustrator Charles Rickets and his partner Charles Shannon, amongst its residence. Miles's home was decorated (as was Whistler's) with sparse furnishings and with a Japoniste colour scheme and styling.

Mature Period

In 1881 Wilde published (at his own expense) his first poetry collection, Poems . Drawing heavily on the likes of Algernon Swinburne, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Keats (a little too heavily for some critics') it drew mixed notices. The satirical magazine Punch , which lampooned Aestheticism as an effeminate art form, singled out Wilde as its literary talisman: "The poet is Wilde, but his poetry's tame" it pronounced. Any objections to Poems did not dent his rising fame, however, and the names of Wilde and Miles soon spread throughout London's Society circles who flocked to Chelsea to socialize with the two aesthetes.

Wilde, photographed in New York City, 1882

With the rising interest in the Aestheticism movement in America, Richard D'Oyly Carte, the theatre impresario who staged the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan, sent the 27-year old Wilde on a lecture tour of North America. His role was to promote Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta Patience , which satirised the Aesthetic movement and partly parodied Wilde as the "fleshly poet" Bunthorne. The American press had been somewhat scathing of Wilde's indolence and his aesthetic attire (of velvet jacket, knee breeches, and silk stockings) but they were, nevertheless, eager to get an original quote from him. Several newspaper reporters even hired a launch boat to meet Wilde on his ship before it docked in New York. But it was on his passage through the port's customs office that Wilde offered the most famous of all his witticisms, declaring "I have nothing to declare but my genius". In an interview the following day, Wilde added that "I am here to diffuse beauty, and I have no objection to saying that".

The lecture tour, originally scheduled for four months, lasted an entire year, with Wilde giving a total of 140 lectures. At Harvard University, the students dressed as Bunthorne, paraded to their front row seats, brandishing sunflowers and lilies. Alerted of their actions in advance, Wilde confounded expectations by taking to the stage in conventional evening dress and announcing, "Caricature is the tribute that mediocrity pays to genius [...] Save me from my disciples". A highlight of Wilde's travels came at a silver mine in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. There, he read passages from the autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, the eminent 16 th century Italian silversmith. The "uncultured" miners were disappointed that Wilde had not brought Cellini with him as a guest! Informing them that Cellini was dead, one of the miners asked, "Who shot him?" Wilde also met with various distinguished writers, including Henry Longfellow, Henry James and Walt Whitman. To Whitman, Wilde wrote, "There is no one in this wide great world of America whom I love and honor so much". Whitman later told the press that he and Wilde had "a jolly good time".

Alice Pike Barney's portrait of her daughter Natalie as Lucifer

While staying at the Long Beach Hotel on New York's Long Island, Wilde encountered the wealthy industrialist Albert Clifford Barney, his wife Alice, and their daughters Natalie and Laura. Alice listened intently to Wilde's pronouncements on the importance of developing children's artistic tastes and how to decorate one's home aesthetically. Wilde left an indelible impression on Alice, who herself went on to pursue a bohemian lifestyle and a new career in art (despite her husband's vocal protests). On one occasion, Wilde rescued Natalie from a gang of chasing schoolboys who by scooping her up onto his lap and calming her by recounting a fairy tale. From that moment, Wilde became Natalie's lifelong hero. She grew up to become one of Paris's most celebrated and notorious literary salon hostesses, and a lesbian lover of Wilde's niece Dolly.

Returning from America, Wilde embarked on a lecture tour in Britain, regaling his audiences with his impressions of the New World. In 1884, he proposed to Constance Lloyd whom he had met three years earlier. Their marital home at 16 Tite Street in London was renovated at considerable expense to match the couple's Aesthetic ideals. The couple had two sons, Cyril and Vyvyan, but after he second pregnancy, Wilde was left physically repelled by Constance. His first homosexual experience was probably with Robert "Robbie" Ross, who Wilde met in Oxford in 1886. Ross's inclinations were open and unrestrained, despite Victorian Britain's attitudes towards morality.

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Between 1887-89, Wilde acted as editor for The Lady's World magazine (renaming it The Woman's World ). In addition to his views on art and literature, he contributed serious articles on parenting, culture, and politics, and even stories to be read to children. Wilde saw the magazine as "the recognized organ for the expression of women's opinions on all subjects of literature, art and modern life, and yet it should be a magazine that men could read with pleasure". While The Woman's World was not a commercial success, his involvement with the publication helped catapult Wilde to even greater fame. The Happy Prince and Other Tales was published meanwhile in 1888, revealing his talent for allegoric fairy tales (one of which carried a cutting criticism of Whistler's Impressionistic painting Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge (1887)).

Wilde produced his most important works in his later life. His only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray - a story about a self-destructive man who maintains eternal youth at the expense of his soul - was published in the July 1890 edition of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine . It was expanded by six chapters into book form the following year. Despite the cautionary tale that was the hero's self-destruction, the novel came under fire for its decadence and homosexual allusions with The Daily Chronicle describing it as "unclean", "poisonous", and "heavy with the mephitic odours of moral and spiritual putrefaction". Wilde vigorously defended himself in letters to the press, but later revised the book, removing the passages of overt homo-eroticism, and adding a preface of 22 epigrams on the purpose of art.

In 1891, Wilde published a collection of essays on aestheticism in Intentions (1891), an anthology influenced by the ideas of the French poets Théophile Gautier and Charles Baudelaire , and the American painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler (with whom he endured a most fractious relationship). Wilde expounded his aesthetic ideals through essays such as "The Decay of Lying: A Dialogue". The essay, written in Socratic dialogue, presents its ideas through the conversation between the two characters Vivian and Cyril. Vivian tells Cyril of an article he has been writing called "The Decay Of Lying: A Protest" which espouses the values of Aestheticism and the "art for art's sake" maxim. It has not been lost on historians such as Bruder, however, that Wilde's philosophy on art was "decidedly fickle" in the way it fluctuated between the Ruskin's view that the role of the art critic was indispensable to establishing the true value of art, and the Whistler's position that true art was (or should be) able to speak for itself.

Nevertheless, Wilde travelled to Paris where he was celebrated as a respected writer at renowned literary salons. It was through his conversations in social settings that Wilde truly thrived. Writer Frances Winwar described how, before "a group of listeners, especially if they were young and handsome and titled, he outdid himself. In the spark of their admiration his mind quickened. Epigram followed epigram, one more dazzling, more preposterous than the other, yet always, like the incandescent core of the firework, with the burning truth at the heart".

Wilde had first met William Morris in 1881. Following that meeting, Morris wrote that though Wilde was "certainly clever" he thought of him as "an ass". The two men did, however, become friends and their political views were close enough that ten years on Morris's essay "The Socialist Ideal" appeared together in a pamphlet with Wilde's "Soul of Man under Socialism" (also published in The Fortnightly Review in February 1891). Wilde's essay has confused scholars who have queried his motivations. As historian Xavier Giudicelli observed, the essay is "a surprising and slippery text, whose nature and value is difficult to ascertain". He suggests that "One possible way of solving the problem [...] is to dismiss it as a mere playful variation upon such notions as socialism, individualism or democracy and to regard it as a flippant response to contemporary debates in late Victorian Britain". But both Morris and Wilde backed the socialist principle that the worker's "moral character" was only improved if there was a creative aspect to manual labor. Wilde wrote: "A great deal of nonsense is being written and talked nowadays about the dignity of manual labour. There is nothing necessarily dignified about manual labour at all, and most of it is absolutely degrading. It is morally and mentally injurious to man to do anything in which he does not find pleasure, and many forms of labour are quite pleasureless activities, and should be regarded as such".

oscar wilde biography in short

Later in 1891 Wilde was back on more familiar territory with the publication of two volumes of stories and fairy tales: Lord Arthur Savile's Crime, and Other Stories and A House of Pomegranates . The publication of the latter confirmed Wilde's friendship with Charles Rickets whose graphic work was inspired by the dreamy maidens of the Pre-Raphaelite painters (he would also illustrate Wilde's The Sphinx in 1894, and painted the hero of Wilde's short story, The Portrait of Mr. W. H. , which was used as the frontispiece of the book). The men formed a close and lasting relationship with Rickets, who described Wilde as "the most remarkable man he had met", even publishing a personal memoir, Recollections of Oscar Wilde in 1932. (shortly before Rickets's death). (The memoir was written through the narrative device of an imagined conversation between Rickets and a fictitious French writer he named Jean Paul Raymond (a decision which would have no doubt met with Wilde's approval).

Later Period

It was, however, for Wilde's society stage comedies, executed in the strict style of drama known as the pièce bien faite ("well made play") that he would become best known. His first stage success was the comedy of manners, Lady Windermere's Fan , first performed in 1892. Set in London, the play involves a jealous wife whose husband's becomes closely acquainted with a mysterious and beautiful older woman, Mrs. Erlynne. It transpires that Mrs. Erlynne is Lady Windermere's divorced mother who had disappeared from her daughter's life when she was just a baby. Mrs. Erlynne and the well intentioned and proper Lord Windermere are not engaged in an illicit affair at all but, rather, Mrs. Erlynne is hatching a plot to be reunited with her estranged daughter. Taking to the stage after its first performance (in February), Wilde announced, "The actors have given us a charming rendition of a delightful play, and your appreciation has been most intelligent. I congratulate you on the great success of your performance, which persuades me that you think almost as highly of the play as I do myself". The play duly toured Britain, earning Wilde £7,000 (around £800,000 in todays money) in its first year.

oscar wilde biography in short

After becoming captivated by the New Testament story of the beheading of John the Baptist, Wilde interpreted, firstly in French, the macabre story of Salomé as a one-act play. The story had been a popular subject for Christian art since the Renaissance (well-known examples include Masolino de Panicale's 1435 fresco, Salome Bringing the Head of the Baptist to Herodias and French Symbolist Gustave Moreau's 1876 painting, The Apparition ( Dance of Salome )). Wilde's Salomé was published in 1893, and in English the following year, promoted with the help of designer Aubrey Beardsley 's controversial illustration. It was not performed until 1896, however, because of Britain's ban on the representation of biblical characters on stage. When it finally reached the West End stage, a critic for The Times said of Salomé , "It is an arrangement in blood and ferocity, morbid, bizarre, repulsive, and very offensive in its adaptation of scriptural phraseology to situations the reverse of sacred". Salomé was quickly followed by three society comedies, bringing their author significant financial rewards.

The first was A Woman of No Importance (1893), a comedy of manners (the name given to a type of play that satirizes the behaviour in a particular social group) targeting English upper-class mores and hypocrisy, and a protest against gender inequalities. The critic William Archer said of the play it "must be taken on the very highest plane of modern English drama". An Ideal Husband and, by almost unanimous agreement, his masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest both followed in 1895. An Ideal Husband is a scandalous social satire about a political blackmail plot that embroils a lively cast including an idle philanderer, young lovers, an imperious father, society doyennes and a fearsome femme fatale. The play opened at the Haymarket Theatre in London in January 1895 to popular acclaim, and exceeded 100 performances. His final play, The Importance of Being Earnest (subtitled A Trivial Comedy for Serious People ) proved his greatest legacy to the stage as he took the conventions of farce and transformed them, in three acts, through a series of satiric epigrams that ridiculed Victorian hypocrisies.

A comedy of overlapping mistaken identities (two philanderers, Jack and Algernon, adopt the same pseudonym (Earnest)), The Importance of Being Earnest opened at George Alexander's St. James Theatre in London's West End on Valentine's Day 1895. It was said that on its opening night, as a mark of recognition for Wilde's aestheticism, many women dressed in lily corsages, while many men wore lilies of the valley in their lapels. Wilde himself arrived in typically flamboyant dress. It was widely reported in the press that he wore a black coat with a velvet collar, a white waistcoat, a black moiré ribbon watch chain, white gloves, a green scarab ring, and lilies of the valley in his lapel. It was not lost on Wilde devotees, either, that the West End was the red light district; a place where married men could abandon their true identity and indulge in the reckless pursuit of pleasure. Indeed, most of Wilde's works operated around the themes of sin, indiscretion and their destructive consequences. Indeed, his maxim that "life imitates art" (as opposed to "art imitates life") was proving to be most prescient as he himself was beginning to feel the destructive consequences of his own pursuit of unbridled pleasure.

Oscar Wilde with Lord Alfred Douglas, May 1893.

In 1891 Wilde had been introduced to the 21-year-old Lord Alfred Douglas, who was studying at Oxford. They embarked on an indiscreet and tempestuous affair, with the infatuated Wilde indulging the spoilt Douglas's every whim. Douglas introduced Wilde into the world of gay prostitution, and illicit meetings with working-class boys. Their relationship exacerbated Douglas's already rocky relationship with his father, the Marquess of Queensberry. On February 18 th , 1895, four days after the opening of Earnest , the Marquess left a calling card for Wilde inscribed, "For Oscar Wilde, posing somdomite [sic]". Urged on by Douglas, but against the advice of close friends, Wilde sued Queensberry for criminal libel.

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Queensberry had to demonstrate that his accusation was true and hired private detectives to uncover evidence of Wilde's sexual deviance. Details of Wilde's private life began to appear in the press, and when a number of male prostitutes agreed to testify against him, Wilde dropped the prosecution. On leaving court, Wilde, who had ignored advice from his friends to flee to France, was immediately arrested for "gross indecency". During his first trial, Wilde dazzled the court with his witty repartee, and the jury was unable to reach a verdict. At the re-trial, Wilde was convicted and sentenced to imprisonment with hard labour. His initial incarceration at Pentonville Prison consisted of many gruelling hours on a treadmill and the mundane task of separating out fibres from old rope. Subsequently, at Wandsworth Prison, he collapsed from illness and hunger, rupturing his right ear drum in the fall. He was later transferred to Reading Gaol where he was addressed and identified only by his prison number: C33. Rickets visited his good friend in Reading (and publicly reproached the "social reformer" William Morris for not doing so) but according to Wilde the visit was not a success.

Between January and March 1897, Wilde wrote a 50,000-word letter to Lord Alfred Douglas, tracing his spiritual journey of redemption and fulfilment. He was barred from sending the letter, but was permitted to take it with him when released from prison in the May of that year. In the letter, published posthumously in 1905 as De Profundis , Wilde reflected upon his life and career, as one who "stood in symbolic relations to the art and culture of my age". The dramatically cut De Profundis was filled with recriminations against Douglas for encouraging him into debauchery and for distracting him from his life's work though the two lovers would be briefly reunited.

Oscar Wilde, photographed in Rome, shortly before his death in 1900

On the day of his release, a bankrupt and broken Wilde, headed for France, never to return to Britain. He spent the last three years of his life in exile, living under the pseudonym Sebastian Melmoth. His only further published work was a long poem called "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" (1898), an eloquent plea for prison reform. His wife Constance refused to meet him or allow him to see their sons, although she did provide him with monies. Wilde and Douglas lived together near Naples for a few months before they were effectively separated by both families under the threat of cutting off all further funds.

In 1898 the English painters Augustus John and William Rothenstein met Wilde in Paris. John, "appreciative of him as a great man", described Wilde as a "distinguished reprobate [...] a big and good-natured fellow with an enormous sense of fun, impeccable bad taste [and] a deeply religious apprehension of the Devil". Wilde was similarly taken with John, describing him as a "charming Celtish poet in colour". George Bernard Shaw, meanwhile, noted that despite his numerous woes, Wilde maintained "an unconquerable gaiety of soul" and he was also visited by loyal friends, the caricaturist and wit Max Beerbohm, and his future literary executor Robert Ross. By November 25 th 1900 Wilde had developed cerebral meningitis and died five days later at the age of 46, having been finally received into the Roman Catholic Church. Wilde had proved true to his word when he had predicted that he "could never outlive the [nineteenth] century as the English people would not stand it".

The Legacy of Oscar Wilde

Although Wilde did not contribute directly to the plastic arts, stylistically, Aubrey Beardsley's illustration for Wilde's play Salomé helped promote the florid decoration of Art Nouveau and the illustrations of artists such as William Rothenstein. Indeed, Wilde was a giant presence within the Aesthetic movement, promoting its values through his writing, and his seemingly single-handed invention of the "cult of personality". He offered as much as anyone in defining the alternative culture of Victorian London. As the living personification of his art, he pre-empted a trait amongst contemporary artists, that reached a new apex in Britain in the mid-1990s with the Young British Artists movement , for hedonistic self-publicity.

In more enlightened times, Wilde (despite being personally conflicted over his sexual drives) has been cast by the LGBTQ activists as a martyr to their cause and was commemorated with a stained-glass window at Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey in 1995. In 2014, he was one of the inaugural honorees in the Rainbow Honor Walk in San Francisco's Castro neighbourhood noting LGBTQ people who have "made significant contributions in their fields".

Writer, director and thespian, Rupert Everett wrote, directed, and starred as Wilde in The Happy Prince (2018), the latest in a long line of filmed adaptations of Wilde's life. Everett stated, "for me he is an integral character in that [...] he really is, in modern times, the first "out" gay man and I think for all of us [gay men] that's quite important in the sense that homosexuality up until him was something nobody ever talked about [...] The road to liberation I think started with him [...] he's my Christ figure really".

Influences and Connections

Charles Baudelaire

Useful Resources on Oscar Wilde

  • Oscar Wilde By Richard Ellmann
  • Oscar - A Life By Matthew Sturgis
  • Making Oscar Wilde By Michele Mendelssohn
  • Oscar Wilde: The Unrepentant Years By Nicholas Frankel
  • The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde: An Intimate Biography By Neil McKenna
  • Oscar Wilde: His Life and Confessions By Frank Harris
  • Son of Oscar Wilde By Vyvyan Holland
  • The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde By Merlin Holland
  • Wilde in America: Oscar Wilde and the Invention of Modern Celebrity By David M. Friedman
  • Built of Books: How Reading Defined the Life of Oscar Wilde By Thomas Wright
  • The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde By Joseph Pearce
  • The Soul of Man under Socialism and Selected Critical Prose By Oscar Wilde
  • The Decay of Lying: An Observation By Oscar Wilde
  • The Critic as Artist By Oscar Wilde
  • The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde By Oscar Wilde
  • Oscar Wilde - The Official Website of Oscar Wilde
  • Oscar Wilde Online
  • The Oscar Wilde Society
  • Memorial for Oscar Wilde's grave in Paris - archive, 1912 By James Bone / The Guardian / February 12, 1912
  • Constructing Artist and Critic Between J. M. Whistler and Oscar Wilde: "In the best days of art there were no art-critics" By Anne Bruder / English Literature in Translation: Volume 47, Number 2, 2004
  • Rupert Everett interview The Graham Norton Show, BBC Radio 2 / November 21, 2020
  • Aesthetics and Politics: The Afterlives of Oscar Wilde's The Soul of Man Under Socialism (1891) By Xavier Giudicelli / OpenEdition Journal / February 13, 2016
  • The Yellow Book British Library Books Collection
  • Art and the Handycraftsman By Oscar Wilde
  • The English Renaissance By Oscar Wilde
  • House Decoration By Oscar Wilde
  • Lecture to Art Students By Oscar Wilde
  • London Models By Oscar Wilde
  • Omnibus - 'Oscar Wilde' In this BBC documentary, writer Michael Bracewell portrays Oscar Wilde as an inspiration to generations of rockers and artists. Contributors include Neil Tennant from Pet Shop Boys, playwright Tom Stoppard and actor Stephen Fry.
  • Oscar Wilde 2001 Biography channel/History Television documentary
  • Reputations: Oscar Wilde himself Biography channel documentary
  • Wilde (1997) British biopic starring Stephen Fry and Jude Law
  • The Happy Prince (2018) Rupert Everett stars as Wilde during his final, tragic days
  • The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960) Peter Finch plays Wilde in this account of his criminal cases
  • Oscar Wilde (1960) Low-budget biopic starring Robert Morley
  • Wilde Salomé (2011) Docu-drama starring, and written and directed by, Al Pacino

Content compiled and written by Robert Weinberg

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

Biography of Oscar Wilde, Irish Poet and Playwright

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oscar wilde biography in short

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Born Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde, Oscar Wilde (October 16, 1854 – November 30, 1900) was a popular poet, novelist, and playwright in the late 19 th century. He wrote some of the most enduring works in the English language, but is equally remembered for his scandalous personal life, which ultimately led to his imprisonment.

Fast Facts: Oscar Wilde

  • Full Name : Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde
  • Occupation : Playwright, novelist, and poet
  • Born : October 16, 1854 in Dublin, Ireland
  • Died : November 30, 1900 in Paris, France
  • Notable Works : The Picture of Dorian Gray, Salome , Lady Windermere's Fan, A Woman of No Importance , An Ideal Husband, The Importance of Being Earnest
  • Spouse : Constance Lloyd (m. 1884-1898)
  • Children : Cyril (b. 1885) and Vyvyan (b. 1886).

Wilde, born in Dublin, was the second of three children. His parents were Sir William Wilde and Jane Wilde, both of whom were intellectuals (his father was a surgeon and his mother wrote). He had three illegitimate half-siblings, who Sir William acknowledged and supported, as well as two full siblings: a brother, Willie, and a sister, Isola, who died of meningitis at age nine. Wilde was educated first at home, then by one of the oldest schools in Ireland.

In 1871, Wilde left home with a scholarship to study at Trinity College in Dublin, where he particularly studied the classics, literature, and philosophy. He proved himself to be an excellent student, winning competitive academic awards and coming first in his class. In 1874, he competed for and won a scholarship to study at Magdalen College, Oxford for another four years.

During this time, Wilde developed several, widely differing interests. For a time, he considered converting from Anglicanism to Catholicism. He became involved with Freemasonry at Oxford, and later became even more involved with the aesthetic and Decadent movements. Wilde scorned “masculine” sports and deliberately created an image of himself as an aesthete. However, he was not helpless or delicate: reportedly, when a group of students attacked him, he singlehandedly fought them off. He graduated with honors in 1878.

Society and Writing Debut

After his graduation, Wilde moved to London and began his writing career in earnest. His poems and lyrics had been published in various magazines previously, and his first book of poetry was published in 1881, when Wilde was 27 years old. The next year, he was invited to make a lecture tour of North America talking about aestheticism; it was so successful and popular that a planned four-month tour turned into nearly a year. Although he was popular with general audiences, critics eviscerated him in the press.

In 1884, he crossed paths with an old acquaintance, a wealthy young woman named Constance Lloyd. The couple married and set out to establish themselves as stylish trendsetters in society. They had two sons, Cyril in 1885 and Vyvyan in 1886, but their marriage began to fall apart after Vyvyan’s birth. It was also around this time that Wilde first met Robert Ross, a young gay man who eventually became Wilde’s first male lover.

Wilde was, by most accounts, a loving and attentive father, and he worked to support his family in a variety of pursuits. He had a stint as editor of a women’s magazine, sold short fiction, and developed his essay writing as well.

Literary Legend

Wilde wrote his only novel – arguably his most famous work – in 1890-1891. The Picture of Dorian Gray eerily focuses on a man who bargains to have his aging taken on by a portrait so that he himself can stay young and beautiful forever. At the time, critics heaped disdain on the novel for its portrayal of hedonism and fairly blatant homosexual overtones. However, it’s endured as a classic of the English language.

Over the next few years, Wilde turned his attentions to playwriting. His first play was a French-language tragedy Salome , but he soon shifted to English comedies of manners. Lady Windermere's Fan, A Woman of No Importance , and An Ideal Husband appealed to society while also subtly critiquing it. These Victorian comedies often revolved around farcical plots that nonetheless found ways to critique society, which made them immensely popular with audiences but riled up more conservative or straitlaced critics.

Wilde’s final play would prove to be his masterpiece. Debuting onstage in 1895, The Importance of Being Earnest broke away from Wilde’s “stock” plots and characters to create a drawing room comedy that was, nonetheless, the epitome of Wilde’s witty, socially-sharp style. It became his most popular play, as well as his most praised one.

Scandal and Trial

Wilde’s life began to unravel when he became romantically involved with Lord Alfred Douglas, who introduced Wilde to some of the seedier side of gay London society (and who coined the phrase “the love that dare not speak its name”). Lord Alfred’s estranged father, the Marquess of Queensbury, was livid, and an enmity between Wilde and the marquess sprung up. The feud reached a boiling point when Queensbury left a calling card accusing Wilde of sodomy; an infuriated Wilde decided to sue for libel . The plan backfired, since Queensbury’s legal team mounted a defense based on the argument that it could not be libel if it was the truth. Details of Wilde’s liaisons with men came out, as did some blackmail material, and even the moral content of Wilde’s writing came under criticism.

Wilde was forced to drop the case, and he himself was arrested and tried for gross indecency (the formal umbrella charge for homosexual behavior). Douglas continued to visit him and had even tried to get him to flee the country when the warrant was first issued. Wilde pled not guilty and spoke eloquently on the stand, but he did warn Douglas to leave for Paris before the trial ended, just in case. Ultimately, Wilde was convicted and sentenced to two years’ hard labor, the maximum allowed under the law, which the judge decried as still not sufficient.

While in prison, the hard labor took a toll on Wilde’s already-precarious health. He suffered an ear injury in a fall that later contributed to his death. During his stay, he was eventually allowed writing materials, and he wrote a lengthy letter to Douglas that he could not send, but that laid out a reflection on his own life, their relationship, and his spiritual evolution during his imprisonment. In 1897, he was released from prison and immediately sailed to France.

Final Years and Legacy

Wilde took the name “Sebastian Melmoth” while in exile and spent his final years digging into spirituality and railing for prison reform. He spent some time with Ross, his longtime friend and first lover, as well as Douglas. After losing the will to write and encountering many unfriendly former friends, Wilde’s health took a steep decline.

Oscar Wilde died of meningitis in 1900. He was conditionally baptized into the Catholic Church, at his wish, just before his death. At his side to the end was Reggie Turner, who had remained a loyal friend, and Ross, who became his literary executor and the primary keeper of his legacy. Wilde is buried in Paris, where his tomb has become a major attraction for tourists and literary pilgrims. A small compartment in the tomb also houses Ross’s ashes.

In 2017, Wilde was one of the men formally given posthumous pardons for convictions of previously-criminal homosexuality under the “ Alan Turing law.” Wilde has become an icon, much like he was in his time, for his style and unique sense of self. His literary works have also become some of the most important in the canon.

  • Ellmann, Richard. Oscar Wilde . Vintage Books, 1988.
  • Pearson, Hesketh. The Life of Oscar Wilde . Penguin Books (reprint), 1985
  • Sturgis, Matthew. Oscar: A Life . London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2018.
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  • World Biography

Oscar Wilde Biography

Born: October 16, 1854 Dublin, Ireland Died: November 30, 1900 Paris, France Irish-born English author, dramatist, and poet

The English author Oscar Wilde was part of the "art for art's sake" movement in English literature at the end of the nineteenth century. He is best known for his brilliant, witty comedies including the play The Importance of Being Earnest and his classic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Outstanding childhood

Oscar Fingall O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland, on October 16, 1854. His father, Sir William Wilde, was a well-known surgeon; his mother, Jane Francisca Elgee Wilde, wrote popular poetry and other work under the pseudonym (pen name) Speranza. Because of his mother's literary successes, young Oscar enjoyed a cultured and privileged childhood.

After attending Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, Ireland, Wilde moved on to study the classics at Trinity College, Dublin, from 1871 to 1874. There, he began attracting public attention through the uniqueness of his writing and his lifestyle. Before leaving Trinity College, Wilde was awarded many honors, including the Berkely Gold Medal for Greek.

Begins writing career

At the age of twenty-three Wilde entered Magdalen College, Oxford, England. In 1878 he was awarded the Newdigate Prize for his poem "Ravenna." He attracted a group of followers whose members were purposefully unproductive and artificial. "The first duty in life," Wilde wrote in Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young (1894), "is to be as artificial as possible." After leaving Oxford he expanded his cult (a following). His iconoclasm (attacking of established religious institutions) clashed with the holiness that came with the Victorian era of the late nineteenth century, but this contradiction was one that he aimed for. Another of his aims was the glorification of youth.

Oscar Wilde. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Sexuality of Oscar Wilde

In 1886 Wilde became a practicing homosexual, or one who is sexually attracted to a member of their own sex. He believed that his attacks on the Victorian moral code was the inspiration for his writing. He considered himself a criminal who challenged society by creating scandal. Before his conviction (found guilty) for homosexuality in 1895, the scandal was essentially private. Wilde believed in the criminal mentality. "Lord Arthur Savile's Crime," from Lord Arthur Savile's Crime and Other Stories (1891), treated murder and its successful cover-up comically. The original version of The Picture of Dorian Gray in Lippincott's Magazine emphasized the murder of the painter Basil Hallward by Dorian as the turning point in Dorian's downfall. Wilde stressed that criminal tendency became criminal act.

Dorian Gray was published in book form in 1891. The novel was a celebration of youth. Dorian, in a gesture typical of Wilde, is parentless. He does not age, and he is a criminal. Like all of Wilde's work, the novel was a popular success. His only book of formal criticism, Intentions (1891), restated many of the views that Dorian Gray had emphasized, and it points toward his later plays and stories. Intentions emphasized the importance of criticism in an age that Wilde believed was uncritical. For him, criticism was an independent branch of literature, and its function was important.

Between 1892 and 1895 Wilde was an active dramatist (writer of plays), writing what he identified as "trivial [unimportant] comedies for serious people." His plays were popular because their dialogue was baffling, clever, and often short and clear, relying on puns and elaborate word games for their effect. Lady Windermere's Fan was produced in 1892, A Woman of No Importance in 1893, and An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest in 1895.

On March 2, 1895, Wilde initiated a suit for criminal libel (a statement that damages someone's reputation) against the Marquess of Queensberry, who had objected to Wilde's friendship with his son, Lord Alfred Douglas. When his suit failed in April, countercharges followed. After a spectacular court action, Wilde was convicted of homosexual misconduct and sentenced to two years in prison at hard labor.

Prison transformed Wilde's experience as extremely as had his 1886 introduction to homosexuality. In a sense he had prepared himself for prison and its transformation of his art. De Profundis is a moving letter to a friend and apologia (a formal defense) that Wilde wrote in prison; it was first published as a whole in 1905. His theme was that he was not unlike other men and was a scapegoat, or one who bears blame for others. The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898) was written after his release. In this poem a man murdered his mistress and was about to be executed, but Wilde considered him only as criminal as the rest of humanity. He wrote: "For each man kills the thing he loves, / Yet each man does not die."

After Wilde was released from prison he lived in Paris, France. He attempted to write a play in his style before his imprisonment, but this effort failed. He died in Paris on November 30, 1900.

For More Information

Bloom, Harold, ed. Oscar Wilde. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2002.

Ellmann, Richard. Oscar Wilde. New York: Knopf, 1988.

Kaufman, Moises. Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde. New York: Vintage Books, 1998.

Pearce, Joseph. The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde. London: HarperCollins, 2000.

Woodcock, George. Oscar Wilde: The Double Image. New York: Black Rose Books, 1989.

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Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde (Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde) was an Irish playwright and poet. His earlier writing in the 1880s contains different forms. In the early 1890s, he became one of the most prevalent playwrights in London. Oscar Wilde is best known for his plays, his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray , imprisonment, his criminal opinions for uncivilized offensiveness, and his death at the age of 46.

Wilde was a spokesman for aestheticism. He worked at various literary activities. He turned out to be one of the best-known personalities of his time because of his biting wit, impressive conversational skills, and showy dressing. In the late 1890s, he advanced his ideas about the authority of art in essays and dialogues. He also employed the themes of depravity, beauty, and duplicity. These themes are found in his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray .

Wilde started writing drama with an opportunity to construct artistic specifics precisely. He combines these artistic specifics with the larger social themes. In 1891, he wrote Salome in French. The play was not published in England because the English stage prohibited portraying Biblical subjects. In the early 1890s, Wilde also published four comedies of society. These comedies made him one of the effective playwrights of late-Victorian England.

In 1895, Oscar Wilde wrote The Importance of Being Earnest. This play attained the height of fame and success and was widely performed on stage for a long period of time. During that time, Oscar Wilde charged the lover of his father, Marquess of Queensberry, for criminal defamation. The defamation trial made Oscar Wilde drop his charges against Marquess and caused his own arrest for indecency with men. The charge against Wilde was proved, and he was put into hard labor for two years (1895-1897).

In the last year in his prison, Wilde wrote De Profundis . It is a long letter that discusses his spiritual journey. To his early philosophy, he formed a dark counterpart to his early philosophy. After release, he went to France. In 1898, he wrote his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol.

A Short Biography of Oscar Wilde

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born on 16 th October 1854. Wilde’s father, William Wilde, was an admired doctor and was awarded for his work for Irish Censuses as a medical advisor. Later Wilde founded his own hospital, St. Mark’s Ophthalmic Hospital, to treat the poor people of the city. The mother of Oscar Wilde, Jane Francesca Elgee, was a poet. She was also closely associated with the 1848’s Young Irelanders Rebellion. The linguist skills of Wilde’s mother had greatly influenced his writing.

Wilde attended Portora Royal School at Enniskillen. There, he started taking a deep interest in Roman and Greek studies. He graduated in 1871 and was awarded the scholarship to attend Trinity College in Dublin. In 1872, he was placed first in the classics examination at school and received the Foundation Scholarship from schools.

He graduated from Trinity College in 1874 and received the Berkeley Gold Medal for the best student in Greek. He then attended Magdalen College in Oxford. He graduated from college in 1878.

After graduation, Oscar Wilde shifted to London to live with his friend Frank Mile. Frank Miles was a famous portraitist in London. Wilde, in London, continued writing poetry. In 1881, he published his first collection Poems . Though the collection did not receive much admiration, it established Wilde to be the next up-coming writer. In 1882, Wilde traveled to New York on the board for an American lecture tour. In the period of one month, he delivered an astonishing 140 lectures.

He also met some leading American literary figures and scholars, including Walt Whitman, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Henry Longfellow.

When his tour ended, he started another lecture circuit of Ireland and England, which lasted till the mid of 1884. Through his early poetry and lectures, Wilde made a reputation as the foremost advocate of the aesthetic movement. He supported the theory of art and literature that is concerned with the search for beauty for the sake of beauty rather than to endorse any social and political stance.

Wilde married Constance Lloyd on 29 th March 1884. Constance Lloyd was a wealthy Englishwoman. In 1885, their first son was born named Cyril, where the second son Vyvyan was born the following year. In 1885, Wilde was appointed as an editor in the popular magazine Lady’s World. During his tenure at the magazine, Oscar Wilde invigorated that magazine and extended its coverage not to not only to deal with what women of his time wear but also what they feel. He tried to make it a platform to express the opinion of women on different subject art, literature, and modern life.

Wilde’s seven-years of creativity began in 1888. During that time, Wilde wrote the majority of his most famous literary works. In 1888, Wilde published The Happy Prince and Other Tales, seven years after the publication of Poems. The collection The Happy Prince and Other Tale contains the stories of children. He published an essay collection in 1891 titled as Intentions. In this collection, Oscar Wilde argues about the principles of aestheticism. In the same year, he also published his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Indeed, in today’s time, the novel is regarded as one of the greatest works of classics. However, at the time of its publication, the apparent lack of morality in the novel made the critics outrageous.

In 1892, Wilde published his first play Lady Windermere’s Fan . The play received critical acclaim and widespread popularity. Encouraged by the success of his first play, Oscar Wilde adopted playwriting as his main literary form. Over the course of a few years, Oscar Wilde published his great plays that were highly satirical, witty, and contained comedies of manner and dark and serious undertones. The most notable plays he wrote during this time were An Ideal Husband, A Woman of No Importance, and The Importance of Being Earnest.

At the time when his literary career was at its peak, Oscar Wilde charged the lover of his father Marquess of Queensberry for criminal defamation. Quesenberry was upset with his daughter’s affair with Oscar Wilde, and sent him a letter titled “Oscar Wilde: Posing Somdomite.” Somdomitte is a misspelling of the sodomite. The defamation trial made Oscar Wilde drop his charges against Marquess and caused his own arrest for indecency with men. The charge against Wilde was proved, and he was put into hard labor for two years (1895-1897).

In 1897, Wilde was released from prison. Emotionally exhausted and physically depleted, he went to France and never returned to England and Ireland. In France, he lived in the apartments of friends and in cheap hotels. He also reunited with his wife for a short time. During these years, Wilde did not write much. The only notable work he wrote was “The Ballad of Reading Gaol.” It was published in 1898 and dealt with Wilde’s experiences in prison. 

Oscar Wilde died on 30 th November 1900 due to meningitis at the age of 46. Oscar Wilde stayed committed to his aesthetic principles. He expounded these principles through his literary works and lectures.

Oscar Wilde’s Writing style

In his writings, Oscar Wild had oft time talked about his opinion that in art, substance, and sincerity are overshadowed by style. For example, in his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray , he paid more attention to nuances of words and form than anything else. Along with being the essay on decorative art, the novel was a piece of ornamented art that is composed of the cautiously selected phrases.

Oscar Wilde was so determined in writing a perfect that when someone asked him to write a story of a hundred thousand words – beautiful words, he complained that in the English language, they do not have one hundred thousand beautiful words.

Mixture of Realism and Fantasy

Oscar Wild incorporated the features of both realism and fantasy in his works with phenomenal ability. He merged the two opposing genres through realistic dialect and thoughtful imagery into an interestingly melancholic tale.

Imagery in Wilde’s Works

Wilde also outshined other writers in the use of imagery. He illustrates different situations and people by employing different types of literary devices. His most favorite and frequently employed imagery is the morbid one. On the art of morbidity, he has an astonishing command and mastery. By the use of morbid imagery, he describes unusual images of blood, murder, and corpse that would compete with any other imagery in the modern cinema. For example, in the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray , he gives wonderful morbid imagery as:

“He rushed at him and dug the knife into the great vein that is behind the ear, crushing the man’s head down on the table and stabbing again and again.  There was a stifled groan and the horrible sound on some one choking with blood.  Three times the outstretched arms shot up convulsively, waving grotesque stiff-fingered hands in the air.  He stabbed him twice more, but the man did not move.  Something began to trickle on the floor.  He waited for a moment, still pressing the head down.  He could hear nothing, but the drip, drip on the threadbare carpet.”

The above passage is in a haunting illustration of a horrible murder, and even draws a horrifying picture of the most unimaginative mind.

The views of the reader vary in the atmosphere and style of Oscar Wilde. The early reviewers found the style and atmosphere of Oscar while deeply distasteful. According to Richard Ellman, the favorite poem of Oscar Wilde, “Charmides,” is sexually suggested, and the same thing can also be related to his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray .

Dialogues and Ideas

Another writing style prevalent in Wilde’s works is the prominence of dialogue and ideas than actions. Oscar Wilde draws his plot in a way that his characters are sitting in a room and engage in casual talk about various things. He does not show his characters in action. Moreover, in his plays, there is a clash between ideas than a clash between characters that lead to violent actions. Primarily through language in his writing, Oscar Wilde appears to be motivated to arouse the musical and visual arts.

The writing style of Oscar Wilde is characterized by the use of paradox, both dialogic and descriptive. He employed a self-contradictory statement to express the truth. The employing paradox in his works is his favorite stylistic device. For example, in the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray , the characters such as Dorian, Basil, and Lord Henry constantly exchange paradoxes. Even Lord Henry was called “Prince Paradox.”

Similarly, his play The Importance of Being Earnest is also full of puns and paradoxes. In the play, Wilde employed paradoxes to make commentaries on society. For example, at the start of the play Jack, the protagonist of the play, is ready to propose Gwendolen. However, Algernon, the cousin of Gwendolen, has some doubts. Jack introduces him to Gwendolen’s family as being “Ernest,” meaning sincere and honest. The paradox lies in what Jack claims himself to be and what his actions are.

The contemporary critics immediately identified the technique of paradox in his writing and tried to depreciate it. They argued that Wilde’s paradox was based on “the convertibility of terms” with no meaning intended. However, his style was soon admired by lots of critics.

In the Free Review, Ernest Newman appreciated the writing style of Wilde by saying that it is surprising to hear any paradox employed by Wilde independently without context, however, when they are studied it makes us recognize that they are based on reality or truth that is ignored.

Content of Wilde’s Works

The writing style of Oscar Wilde shows his mastery of showing evil and morbidity . Wilde has a remarkable hold on the reality of human nature. He also focuses on the darkness that is present in the soul of every individual. Oscar Wilde, unlike his contemporary writer, was more concerned with the dark sides of things. He acknowledges the human’s lust for immortality. He exemplifies these things in writing. For example, in his novel, the greed of Dorian for everlasting youth eventually causes his soul to deteriorate, which can be seen in his portrait.

Oscar Wilde had also acknowledged the evilness of human nature . Few writers of his time can portray these things in their works. Wilde has mastered his insight into evil and described it in his works with unbelievable ease.

To conclude, in the history of English literature and playwriting, in particular, only a few writers have skills like Oscar Wilde. Though morbidity has been mastered by Stephen King, he fails to get a hold on the rhetoric and eloquence that is a prominent feature of Wilde’s style. Similarly, Charles Dickens has the same eloquent style as that of Oscar Wilde. However, Oscar Wilde outshines him in imagery. The writing style of Oscar Wilde is a complete package, and no writer to date has been able to imitate his unique and slightly disturbing writing.

Works Of Oscar Wilde

Short stories.

  • The Nightingale and the Rose
  • The Importance of Being Earnest

History and Biography

Oscar Wilde

oscar wilde biography in short

Oscar Wilde   Biography

Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland, on October 16, 1854, and died in Paris, France, on November 30, 1900. He was a well-known writer for his short stories, his essays, and his novel The Portrait of Dorian Gray. In addition to the controversies that caused his sexual orientation at that time.

Son of Sir William Wilde, Ireland’s most famous surgeon in Ophthalmology and Otology, and Jane Wilde, a sympathizer poet of Irish Nationalism. Oscar was the second of three children of one of the most important families of the Anglo-Irish society from the city of Dublin. He received education in his home until the age of nine, in which he demonstrated an ease in learning German and French.

Oscar would study at the Portora Royal School in Enniskillen between 1864 to 1871. After high school, he would enter Trinity College in which, three years later, and thanks to the advice of J. P. Mahaffy, he would receive the most important prize of his Faculty, the Berkeley gold medal, for his work The social life in Greece.

In 1874, he would receive a scholarship with which he could enter the Magdalen College in Oxford, an institution from which he would obtain the title of Bachelor of Arts in 1878 with honors.

Although it is true that during his time at Trinity College he had already published in magazines such as Dublin University Magazine and Kottabos, and had won the Oxford Newdigate Prize in Oxford for his poem Ravenna, it was not until 1881 when he would publish Poems, his first book. This book had an incredible reception in both the critics and the public because in a few weeks they managed to sell four editions.

Back in Dublin, Wilde would fall in love with Florence Balcombe. However, she preferred Bram Stoker, with whom she would marry in 1878. Because of this, Wilde left Ireland to return in the future only twice due to job issues. Thus began a series of conferences in England, France, and the United States. While in London he would meet Constance Lloyd, with whom he would get married on May 29, 1884. The following year the first of his sons, Cyril, was born and in 1886 his second son, Vyvyan.

“When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one’s self, and one always ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.” ― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

In 1887, Wilde would start directing The Woman’s World magazine, formerly called The Lady’s World. In fact, it is the same Oscar Wilde who suggests changing the name, because although at the beginning the magazine made publications of fashion items, home decoration and an occasional fiction of pink gender, what the magazine was looking for was vindicate the emerging role of women who were already being educated and had a role in the world. Wilde would publish some of his first stories in this magazine. Although he would leave the direction of the magazine in 1889. The same year in which it publishes his first tests and Portrait of Mr. W. H. The following year publishes his most famous work: The portrait of Dorian Gray.

In 1891, he would publish some essays, including The Critic as Artist and The Decay of Lying, as well as two anthologies of his stories: A House of Pomegranates and Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and Other Stories. In the following two years, Lady Windermere’s Fan, Salomé and A woman of no importance will premiere. In 1894 he published Phrases and Philosophies for the use of youth , and in 1895 they premiered An Ideal Husband and The importance of being Ernest.

Nevertheless, in spite of the great recognition that Wilde had obtained in the literary scope, i n 1895 Oscar Wilde initiates a judgment against the Marquess of Queensberry by the crime of defamation, because he had accused him of maintaining a romance with his son, Lord Alfred Douglas. That same year, Oscar Wilde was sentenced to two years of forced labor for sodomy and indecency. His wife Constance changed her married name and that of her children to Holland, to keep the distance from the scandal involving her husband. Because of the verdict of the Court, he had to renounce to his children as well. Despite all this, Constance never divorced Oscar Wilde.

“In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. (Mr. Dumby, Act III)” ― Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan

During his time in prison, Wilde wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol and De Profundis. After leaving prison in 1897, Wilde would meet with Lord Alfred Douglas and they began a life together around Naples. However, this lasted a few months, as their family cut off their economic funds and forced them to separate. For these actions, Constance told him that she did not want him to see her or her children again.

In the year 1900, Oscar Wilde dies at the Hôtel d’Alsace in Paris, due to an attack of meningitis. In his last moments of life, he decided to convert to Catholicism and be baptized.

oscar wilde biography in short

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Yukio Mishima (January 14, 1925 – November 25, 1970) was a novelist, essayist, poet, and critic . He was born in Tokyo, Japan. His birth name was Kimitake Hiraoka. His father Shizue served as Secretary of Fisheries for the Ministry of Agriculture and his mother Azusa Hiraoka was completely devoted to the household. Despite this, Yukio was in the care of his grandmother, Natsu. During this time, the little boy had no contact with his parents. Natsu had mental problems and on many occasions, she was violent and had a madness crisis, this was later portrayed in Yukio’s works.

He learned a taste for letters and languages from his grandmother. When he was 12 years old, Mishima began to write his first stories, besides, he had already read a large number of books by authors such as Oscar Wilde and Rilke , as well as numerous Japanese classics. He attended a fairly prestigious school called the Peers School, attended by the Japanese aristocracy, and eventually extremely wealthy commoners. But, then he realized that it was the worst decision he made. He spent six miserable years in this place.

He never built friendships and was sometimes attacked by his peers. The only redeemable of that time was his participation in the editorial board in the literary society of the school, thanks to this he was able to achieve a great aptitude for literature. His performance was so good that he was commissioned to write a story for the prestigious literary magazine, Bungei-Bunka. He presented a work called Hanazakari no Mori (The forest in all its splendor). Later, the story was published in 1944, due to the war it had to be published in a small print run due to a shortage of paper.

In his youth, he suffered from tuberculosis, for this reason, he avoided doing military service and participating in the war. But for Mishima, it was taken as something negative and shameful. One of Mishima’s dreams before he became a writer was to be a kamikaze pilot. It was glorious for him to die heroically for his homeland. Frustrated, he decided to spend a lot of time writing until his father disagreed and forbade him. Mishima had to do it at night, supported and protected by his mother Shizue, who always read his stories. Then his father ordered him that he should study law and not literature.

Graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1947, Mishima never stopped writing during his university career. He got a job as a civil servant in the Japanese Ministry of Finance. But this work was so exhausting that he decided to leave it with the support of his father a year later.At that time he was able to dedicate all his time to writing. Mishima began to write all kinds of works: novels, plays, short stories, also poems, articles, and essays. Usually, his work was devoted to dark and stark themes, although contrasted with the delicacy and restraint of his style. His works led him to have worldwide recognition and to be the best-known Japanese writer abroad.

Mishima’s works

The way he expresses desire and rejection, beauty, and violence, is of great attraction to the public. Mishima received the influence of Nihon Romanha , a writer belonging to Japanese romanticism, who emphasized the unity of Japan and its cultural values. This was a vehicle to reinforce nationalist ideology and more in times of war. However, Mishima was also interested and was a great admirer of modern Western literature. His first extensive work The Forest in Flower , was published in 1941. This work, like The Cigarette (1946) , and Thieves (1948) were written during World War II and show the total departure from the tragic reality of war and of defeat.

In 1949 he published a work that quickly gained popularity: Confessions of a mask , a work that marked the definitive consecration of him in the literary world. Although some critics showed bewilderment and reservations about the particularity of the subject (because the protagonist confessed his homosexuality) certainly this represented a novelty in Japanese literature. Mishima was drawn to the aesthetic values ​​of Western classicism. The Golden Pavilion (1956) was his most successful work in the 1950s.

In 1958, he traveled to the United States and upon his return, Mishima married the daughter of a well-known painter. A year later, Kyoko’s House was published, it did not receive the favors of the critics. He always tried to reflect his taste for the values ​​of the authentic Japanese based on the values ​​of the samurai. In this sense, fascinated by the ideology of warriors, he wrote The Way of the Samurai and In Defense of Culture (1968). Mishima presented himself as a defender of the restoration of the values ​​of the prewar and militaristic culture. The author was a man concerned about corporality and the state of the body, for this reason, he was a lover of the Martial Arts.

From 1955 Mishima began an intense program of physical activity and also resorted to military training at the Sietai base, together with a group of university students. His enormous literary production, among which, along with those already mentioned, stand out: The prohibited color (1951), The death of mid-summer (1953), The voice of the wave (1954), The taste of glory (1963) and Thirst for love (1964).

After the Banquet (1960), one of his most successful novels, he wrote Patriotism (1961) and Death in the afternoon, and other stories (1971), a compilation of short stories representative of a time when he was dying in the name of noble ideals.

Among his theatrical production of these years, it is worth mentioning Madame de Sade (1965) and My friend Hitler (1968) . His most popular work is: The sea of ​​fertility, composed of the novels Snow of spring (1966), Runaway horses (1968), The temple of the dawn (1970)  and The corruption of an angel , completed the latter days before his death. In this work, a critique of Japanese society is made for the loss of traditional values. Yukio Mishima was concerned about the strong westernization of his country and analyzed its transformation from a pessimistic and critical perspective.

This terrible vision of Mishima led him to embrace suicide as the only way out of him, ending his life on November 25, 1970.

Walter Scott Biography

Walter Scott Biography

Sir. Walter Scott (August 15, 1771 – September 21, 1832) was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. British writer, poet, and lawyer considered the founder of the historical novel. Scott was one of the key figures of the Romantic Movement in the United Kingdom. He began his long career as a writer at the end of the 18th century, at which time he published the translation of the ballads of G.A. Bürger, The Chase, and William and Helen (1796). Among his most acclaimed writings, are The Lady of the Lake (1810), Guy Mannering (1815), Rob Roy (1817), Ivanhoe (1819), The Monastery (1820), and The Talisman (1825). Most of these works were published anonymously. However, towards the end of the 1820s, the identity of the author was revealed.

Early years

Son of Walter Scott, lawyer, and Anne Rutherford, w ith only two years of age, contracted polio. Disease that seriously affected his health, leaving as a limp in his right leg. At this time, he lived with his grandfather Robert Scott in Sandyknowe. After four years he returned to Edinburgh, city in which he carried out his studies. Subsequently entered the University of Edinburgh, where he studied law , as did his father.

After graduating he began to practice his profession. At this time, he began to collect information about the myths and legends of Scotland while carrying out his duties. This theme was addressed by Scott in different works.

Literary career

Towards the end of the 1790s he began his career, translating the work of Gottfried A. Bürger, Leonore, as well as the ballads included in The Chase, and William and Helen (1796). S hortly thereafter translated Götz von Berlichingen of  Goethe , book based on the life of the poet and adventurer Götz von Berlichingen, known as Iron Hand. At the beginning of the 19th century, he published the collection of ballads collected during his travels, entitled Minstrels of the Scottish Border (1802). This includes famous Scottish ballads such as The Young Tamlane, The Twa Corbies, The Douglas Tragedy, The Wife of Usher’s Well, The Cruel Sister and The Daemon Lover. After its publication, the work had little reception, however, the author continued to update this collection until 1830.

In the mid-1800s, he published the poem The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805), a writing that was well-received, followed by Ballads and Lyrical Pieces (1806), a written work while serving as secretary of the courts of justice in Edinburgh. Later, Scott published Marmion: a Tale of Flodden Field (1808), a romantic historical poem that ends with the death of the protagonist in the Battle of Flodden Field. Two years later, he published The Lady of The Lake (1810), one of his most acclaimed poems by the author.

He later published The Vision of Don Roderick (1811) and The Bridal of Triermain (1813). In 1814 he published his first novel Waverley, a work set in the Jacobite uprising of 1745 in the United Kingdom; it was published anonymously since the author was a public official. After its publication, the work became a success.

Since then, he published several novels using different pseudonyms as Author of Waverley, Jebediah Cleisbotham, Crystal Croftangry, and Lawrence Templeton, among others. It should be noted that at this time the author’s identity was a fairly well-known secret. After Waverley (1814) wrote Guy Mannering (1815), The Antiquarian (1816), Rob Roy (1818) and Ivanhoe (1819), a novel story set in medieval England that tells the story of Wilfredo de Ivanhoe, noble Saxon, likewise, delves into the contradictions between the Saxon people and the Normans. This is one of the most outstanding works of the author.

Three years later he published The Adventures of Nigel (1822) and Peveril of the Peak (1822), followed by Quintin Durward (1823), a novel set in France by Louis XI. Later published Redgauntlet (1824), Tales of the Crusaders (1825) and Woodstock or The Knights: A Story of 1651 (1826).

That same year the author’s identity was revealed; year in which the author went through one of the most difficult moments of his life, given that his wife Charlotte Carpenter died and the Constable publishing house, in which he had invested a large amount of money he went bankrupt. Leaving a debt of 130,000 pounds, which he paid for the rest of his life.

At the end of the 1820s, he published The Life of Napoleon Buonaparte (1827), a book in which he delves into the life of Napoleon Bonaparte . The following year he published The Beautiful Young Woman of Perth (1828) and Tales of the Grandfather (1828), followed by History of Scotland (1829-1830), The Daughter of the Mist (1829), Bonnie Dundee (1830) and Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft (1831), the author’s last work. At this time, Scott, stopped writing and his health began to deteriorate rapidly. Scott passed away on September 21, 1832, was buried in Dryburgh Abbey.

The author’s work is considered a pioneer in the field of the historical novel , his writings are exalted by critics, since in these he realistically addresses historical events linked to his native Scotland and the Middle Ages, vividly evoking the context in which the protagonist of the history. Scott profoundly influenced the work of European writers, as well as painters and musicians; the writings of this have been represented in the theater, cinema, and television on several occasions.

Marie Kondo Biography

Marie Kondo Biography

Marie Kondo (October 9, 1984) was born in Tokyo, Japan. Writer and businesswoman, famous for being the creator of the Konmari method. A system that explains the proper way of organizing the home so that only the necessary is available and what makes the owner happy, avoiding the accumulation derived from the tendency to cling to the past. Kondo’s method has become a trend, after the publication of her first book The Magic of Order (2011), in which she delves into the method and highlights the positive aspects of order, emphasizing the serenity and relaxation an organized house inspires, which will be reflected in the daily life of people living in the home.

Kondo was interested at an early age in order and cleanliness, influenced by magazines about decoration and the home that her mother bought. While growing up, she spent a lot of time alone, since her mother took care of her younger sister, who at that time was just a baby. During these years she studied and continued to cultivate her love for order. When she entered the institute she began ordering the shelves while other students practiced sports.

Upon entering the University of Tokyo, she noticed that ordering helped her stay calmed and release the stress produced by the studies and partials . One day she organized for the first time she experienced a state of total calm and perfect order, which motivated her to choose the organization as a profession.

The Konmari method

At 19, while studying at the University of Tokyo, she became a consultant and created the Konmari method, a System in which she explains the proper way to organize the home and other spaces, so that they become spaces of inspiration and serenity, which to some extent influences the mental health of the people who inhabit the place. The Kondo method proposes the elimination of unnecessary things, likewise, on a more personal level, it promotes the termination of unproductive relationships that do not positively influence the person. The goal of the system is to bring happiness and serenity to the person who carries it out.

Konmari is based on the steps that Kondo followed in the organization of her home, as well as certain aspects of Eastern philosophy, feng shui, and inspirational coaching. This is divided into five steps: the first is the selection and organization of clothing, only what is used is chosen, looks good or produces happiness to the owner. After the selection must be organized so that everything is visible and accessible.

The second is focused on books, only those that are of great importance are chose, preventing them from exceeding 30 books. The next step is the papers, keeping what is in force or necessary, then they are stored in folios. The fourth step is the komono, also understood as various objects that you have in the home such as photos, CDs, magazines, among others, of these should only remain what has great emotional value.

Finally, sentimental articles should be selected and organized, as mentioned above, only objects that have a deep sentimental value and that produce happiness should be chosen. I f that is not the case, it should be discarded since only objects that do not contribute to growth would be accumulating and peace of the person. This method has been widely disseminated since the publication of Kondo’s first book, entitled The Magic of Order (2011), which was well-received by the public. Shortly thereafter launched happiness after order (2012), in which delves into the method and well-being that it brings; subsequently published The magic of order. An illustrated novel (2017).

These books were transformed into lectures, audiobooks, and articles, through which, Kondo, has become one of the most prominent figures of recent years. After the publication of these, the author has participated in various radio and television programs in Japan and other countries, such as Ellen Show and Rachael Ray Show. Also has been interviewed by the Time Magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue Magazine, among others.

In 2015, she was included in the list of the 100 most influential people in the world created by Time magazine, list in which the outstanding Japanese writer Haruki Murakami has also been included. At present, her company has a long list of clients whom she helps transform her spaces into places of inspiration and serenity. In January 2019, the series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo  was launched  from Netflix, in which Kondo is seen visiting and organizing homes based on her method.

Joël Dicker

Joël Dicker Biography

Joël Dicker Biography

Joël Dicker (June 16, 1985) Born in Geneva, Switzerland. Swiss writer considered one of the most relevant writers of recent years . Before devoting himself fully to writing he studied for a short time Drama in Paris, and Law at the University of Geneva, a career that ended in 2010; Dicker rose to fame that same year, winning the prestigious Prix des Ecrivains Genevois award , an award aimed at highlighting unpublished works.  Subsequently published the successful books: The Last Days of Our Fathers (2011), The Truth About The Harry Case Quebert (2012), The Book Of The Baltimore (2015) and The Disappearance Of Stephanie Mailer (2018). Their success turned Dicker into a phenomenon of international sales.

Son of a high school teacher and a bookstore ; he has three brothers. Dicker spent his childhood in Geneva, the city where he began his academic training. While studying he began to be interested in writing, an interest he cultivated by becoming the manager of nature and animal magazine. After attending elementary school, he entered the Collège Madame de Staël, an institution where he continued polishing his writing skills. It is worth mentioning that although he was attracted to writing, he did not like to study.

At the end of this training period, he moved to Paris, where he began taking acting classes at the renowned French drama school, Cours Florent. After a year he dropped out of school and returned to his hometown, where shortly thereafter he began studying law at the University of Geneva . At 19 he wrote his first work, The Tiger (2005), a short story set in Tsarist Russia, specifically in the government of Tsar Nicholas II. Five years later he graduated, obtaining the title of Lawyer.

Joël Dicker’s work

The trajectory of the young writer began in the mid-2000s, at which time he published the story, The Tiger (2005), a work he presented in a youth literary contest but was dismissed since for the judges it was suspected that such work was written by someone so young. In the story, he deepens on topics such as existential dilemmas, violence, the possibility of redemption and the great questions that human beings pose, this was set in the government of the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II.

Five years later he won the Prix des Ecrivains Genevois prize, awarded by the Geneva Writers Society for the best manuscript not published for the work The Last Days of Our Fathers, written that was published a year later thanks to the prize. The Last Days of Our Fathers (2011), set in the period covered by World War II, focused on the strategy of Winston Churchill and the actions of the Special Operations Executive, an espionage agency infiltrated in the Nazi army lines.

In 2012, he published the criminal mystery, The Truth About The Case Harry Quebert (2012), a work that revolves around Marcus Goldman’s investigation of the murder of Nola Kellergan , who was close to the friend and mentor of writer Harry Quebert. This paper was awarded the Goncourt Prize and the Novel Grand Prix of the French Academy.

In 2018, the work was adapted to television in the miniseries format, which was directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud and starring Patrick Dempsey. Three years after the publication of The Truth About The Harry Quebert Case (2012), The Baltimore Book (2015) came out, written that continues the investigations of the young writer Marcus Goldman , this time he investigates the Goldman family of Baltimore, from the period of opulence to the decline of the family and the emergence of drama.

The most recent work of the author is The Disappearance of Stephanie Mailer (2018), a thriller that revolves around the mysterious disappearance of a journalist who at that time had discovered the irregularities of an old homicide case, by revealing this information to the police officer in charge of case disappears.

Henri de Saint-Simon

oscar wilde biography in short

Henri de Saint-Simon Biography

Claude Henri de Rouvroy, Count of Saint-Simon (October 17, 1760 – May 19, 1825) was born in Paris, France. Historian and political theorist, he was one of the founders and theorists of modern socialism. The Count of Saint-Simon was part of the military who fought in the War of Independence of the United States (1775-1783), later joined the revolutionary cause in Paris becoming a Republican.

He was appointed president of the Paris Commune in 1792, at which time he renounced his noble title and changed his name to Claude Henri Bonhomme, after being accused of speculation and spending a short time in jail focused on writing, publishing the books The industrial system (Du système industriel) and New Christianity (Nouveau Christianisme).

He was born into an aristocratic family . Among his relatives is Duke Louis de Rouvroy de Saint-Simon, author of Memories (1739-1752), a book in which he described the court of Louis XIV of France. Due to family tradition, he began his military career at an early age actively participating in the United States War of Independence (1775-1783) , in favor of the colonies. After returning to the country began the revolutionary movement that ended in the outbreak of the French Revolution (1789-1799), political and social conflict that marked the history of the eighteenth century, driving profound changes in various parts of the world as the establishment of the republican model. During the development of the revolution, Saint-Simon became a Republican and was appointed president of the Paris Commune in 1792.

In the course of his government he was accused of speculation of national assets and criticized for his close relationship with Georges-Jacques Danton, which caused him to be detained between 1793 and 1794. During the Directory (1795-1799), Saint-Simon lived on comfortably, since he had a good fortune, at that time his home was visited by prominent figures of the time such as Gaspard Monge, Joseph-Louis de Lagrange, and Guillaume Dupuytren. Later, he traveled to Germany, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland, in the course of the trip he began writing his first works.

Literary Works

At the beginning of the 19th century, he published his first work entitled Letter from a resident in Geneva to his contemporaries (Lettres d’un habitant de Genève à ses contemporains), where he outlined what he would later define as capacity theory. After spending several years living comfortably, his fortune began to decrease, which is why he faced serious economic problems. To sustain himself he wrote several scientific and philosophical articles with which he managed to stabilize his economic situation. For this same period he mentioned one of his best-known phrases in the newspaper L’Organisateur:

 If France lost its main physicists, chemists, bankers, merchants, farmers, blacksmiths, etc., it would be a body without a soul. On the other hand, if I lost all the men considered most important in the State, the fact would not bring more pain than the sentimental one

This statement was seen negatively and he was prosecuted for it. Starting the 1820s he published his next work called The Industrial System (Du système industriel, 1821) and four years later he published his most exalted work New Christianity (Nouveau Christianisme, 1825), a work in which he criticized the doctrine of Jesus and sat the basis for establishing a new Christianity that was more in line with the original evangelical teachings. After the publication of the book, he was ruined again, which is why he planned to take his life off of a shot. However, he failed and was injured in one eye, a short time later driven by one of his disciples decided to create the newspaper Le Producteur, but shortly before his appearance, he passed away. The renowned French theorist died on May 19, 1825, in Paris.

After his death, his approaches and ideas were disseminated by his disciples who created the ideological movement known as Saint-simonianism which was of great relevance in later generations influencing the formation of utopian socialism. His ideas were exalted by philosophers Karl Marx and Émile Durkheim . Saint-Simonianism’s thinking was based on his personal experience during the development of the French Revolution and the fall with the coup d’état orchestrated by Napoleon Bonaparte. In this, he stated that the government should be managed by industrialists such as workers, peasants, and owners, mentioned that the place that clerics had in the social order should be occupied by scientists; religion should guide social classes so that they improve their quality of life.

Finally, he mentioned that the redistribution of goods should be based on the capacity of each individual. These ideas influenced the work of Auguste Comte, John Stuart Mill, and various socialist philosophers.

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Interesting Literature

10 of the Best Stories and Other Works by Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was a successful poet, playwright, novelist, short-story writer, and writer of fairy tales for children. And this, of course, is to say nothing of his sparkling wit and conversation, and the many memorable quotations he is known for.

Below, we consider Oscar Wilde’s writing , bringing together the best of his work across a range of genres and modes. Are these the best works by Wilde? We think so.

1. The Ballad of Reading Gaol .

He did not wear his scarlet coat, For blood and wine are red, And blood and wine were on his hands When they found him with the dead, The poor dead woman whom he loved, And murdered in her bed …

This long poem, written after Wilde had served two years in prison following his downfall in 1895, sees Wilde reflecting on the nature of sin, crime, love, and hatred in a long poem that has given us a number of famous lines, ‘ Each man kills the thing he loves ’ being the most memorable.

Wilde dedicated the poem to a fellow prisoner, Charles Thomas Woolridge (‘C. T. W.’), a soldier who had been convicted for murdering his wife and who was hanged in Reading Gaol in July 1896 – the first execution that had taken place at the prison for eighteen years.

You can read our analysis of Wilde’s poem here .

2. ‘ Requiescat ’.

Coffin-board, heavy stone, Lie on her breast, I vex my heart alone She is at rest …

Although Wilde’s poetry, with a few notable exceptions, isn’t as widely read as his other works today, this short lyric shows that he was capable of writing fine poetry. It was written in the 1880s while Wilde was still an up-and-coming literary figure.

The poem was written for someone in particular: Wilde’s own sister. Isola Wilde was just nine years old when she died, while recovering from a fever, during a visit to Edgeworthstown Rectory, in Ireland. Her death affected Wilde greatly.

3. ‘ The Happy Prince ’.

‘The Happy Prince’ (1888) is probably the most famous fairy tale for children which Wilde wrote. It was written several years before he wrote his one novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray , but in some ways it might be viewed as a fairy-tale version of that later Gothic narrative, but with the central conceit inverted.

oscar wilde biography in short

We have analysed this classic Wilde story here .

4. ‘ Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime ’.

One of Wilde’s finest short stories for adults (as distinct from his fairy stories for younger readers), this tale focuses on a man who has his palm read by a chiromancer, who predicts that the title character will commit murder. The poem explores the theme of superstition with Wilde’s trademark wit and skill.

5. The Picture of Dorian Gray .

Wilde’s famous preface to this – his one novel, published in book form in 1891 after being serialised the year before – states that ‘there is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book’. But in many ways Wilde’s only novel is the ultimate Victorian moral fable, about the dangers of living a selfish life driven by the pursuit of ‘new sensations’ above all else. The novel is a witty blend of Gothic horror with the ideas underpinning Aestheticism, or the ‘art for art’s sake’ movement.

The story is essentially a variation on the Faust tale, with the titular Dorian Gray (a young, handsome man) giving his soul in exchange for the ability to remain young and handsome while the portrait of him ages and decays, especially as Dorian slides further into moral corruption and sin.

We have analysed this novel here .

6. The Importance of Being Earnest .

Wilde’s best-known play, from 1895, The Importance of Being Earnest – which sees two male friends, Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, creating the perfect fictional excuse to explain their double lives to those closest to them – has been read in light of Wilde’s own double life (wife and children in Chelsea, assignations with young men in Soho). It’s a very witty play whose plot is in the tradition of old English comedies and farces. It’s known for Lady Bracknell’s famous two-word line: ‘A handbag?’

In 2007, a first edition of the play was donated to a charity shop in Nantwich, Cheshire. Aptly, it was placed in a handbag.

7. ‘ The Portrait of Mr. W. H. ’

A short story (later expanded into a novella) inspired by the mysterious dedicatee of Shakespeare’s Sonnets from 1609, ‘Mr W. H.’ One of the characters in Wilde’s story believes he has cracked this literary mystery: ‘W. H.’ refers to Willie Hughes, a boy actor with whom Shakespeare was in love. This actor is the ‘Fair Youth’ to whom the majority of the sonnets are addressed. However, the character’s determination to prove his theory will end in tragedy, in a fine Wilde story that deserves to be better-known.

8. ‘ The Critic as Artist ’.

Among the other genres Wilde wrote in, he was a dab-hand at the Socratic dialogue: two men staying up all through the night discussing important issues relating to art and the world. Here, Gilbert and Ernest talk about the role of the critic, with Wilde characteristically turning the usual relationship on its head and arguing that the critic is often more creative than the artist himself.

9. Salome .

Although Wilde is best-known for his comic plays like The Importance of Being Earnest and An Ideal Husband , he also wrote serious plays about weighty topics: here, in a daring move, he chose the topic of Salome, who asks Herod Antipas for the head of John the Baptist in exchange for dancing the sensuous Dance of the Seven Veils for Herod.

Wilde originally wrote the play in French, in 1891, but it was translated into English three years later. Curiously, it was Wilde’s play that gave us the phrase ‘dance of the seven veils’ to describe Salome’s suggestive performance!

10. De Profundis .

Here’s a question for you: which great work did Oscar Wilde write while imprisoned in Reading Gaol? Not The Ballad of Reading Gaol – that was written while he was in exile in France following his release from prison – but De Profundis , his long letter to his former lover, Lord Alfred Douglas. It’s heartfelt, honest, moving, and a must-read for anyone interested in Wilde’s life and his downfall.

About Oscar Wilde

The life of the Irish novelist, poet, essayist, and playwright Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) is as famous as – perhaps even more famous than – his work. But in a career spanning some twenty years, Wilde created a body of work which continues to be read an enjoyed by people around the world: a novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray ; short stories and fairy tales such as ‘The Happy Prince’ and ‘ The Selfish Giant ’; poems including The Ballad of Reading Gaol ; and essay-dialogues which were witty revivals of the Platonic philosophical dialogue.

But above all, it is Wilde’s plays that he continues to be known for, and these include witty drawing-room comedies such as Lady Windermere’s Fan , A Woman of No Importance , and The Importance of Being Earnest , as well as a Biblical drama, Salome (which was banned from performance in the UK and had to be staged abroad). Wilde is also often remembered for his witty quips and paradoxes and his conversational one-liners, which are legion. They include, ‘Work is the curse of the drinking classes’, and ‘I have nothing to declare except my genius’ (when travelling through customs in America).

Wilde’s life – his generosity to others, his double life as a family man and someone who engaged with extramarital affairs with other men, and his subsequent downfall when he was put on trial for ‘gross indecency’ – has been movingly written about in Richard Ellmann’s biography of Wilde and in the 1997 biopic Wilde , with Stephen Fry in the title role.

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4 thoughts on “10 of the Best Stories and Other Works by Oscar Wilde”

The fairy tales are worth a read as well.

For more about the Yellow Book, go to Wikipedia

Agree with the selections although I’ve a soft spot for ‘The Harlot’s House’. There’s a clip of Vincent Price (a favourite actor of mine) reciting the whole poem off the cuff on an old Wogan TV show online which is worth tracing. I’d also recommend the classic biography by Ellman (the best one ?) and the recent Rupert Everett film about Wilde’s final days ironically entitled The Happy Prince.

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Oscar Wilde online

Short stories.

  • The Birthday of the Infanta » A charming, bitter-sweet tale criticising the behavior of the upper classes. (12 pages)
  • The Devoted Friend » Short fable about the real meaning of friendship. A tale for all ages. (7 pages)
  • The Fisherman and His Soul » A story about a young fisherman who falls in love with a mermaid. (22 pages)
  • The Happy Prince » Timeless tale about friendship, compassion, and the transforming power of selfless love. (6 pages)
  • The Model Millionaire » A short touching story about a man, who is poor, but becomes rich through an act of kindness. (4 pages)
  • The Nightingale and the Rose » Short story of a little nightingale who sacrifices her life to create the perfect red rose for a young student in love. (4 pages)
  • The Remarkable Rocket » Comical fairy tale about a self-important fireworks rocket. (8 pages)
  • The Selfish Giant » Touching story of a giant who built a wall around his beautiful garden to keep out the children. (3 pages)
  • The Sphinx Without a Secret » Short story about a lady with the mysterious allure of a sphinx. (4 pages)
  • The Star Child » A delightful tale about goodness, generosity and charity. (10 pages)
  • The Young King » A story of a young man's metamorphosis that opens his eyes and heart. (9 pages)

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VIDEO

  1. Salome by Oscar Wilde

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  6. Oscar Wild Short Biography in Urdu/Hindi l Oscar Wild Works l Poems l Plays l Essays l Novel

COMMENTS

  1. Oscar Wilde

    Oscar Wilde (born October 16, 1854, Dublin, Ireland—died November 30, 1900, Paris, France) was an Irish wit, poet, and dramatist whose 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. Oscar Wilde: Biography, Author, Playwright, Imprisonment

    Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born on October 16, 1854, in Dublin, Ireland. His father, William Wilde, was an acclaimed doctor who was knighted for his work as a medical advisor for the ...

  3. Oscar Wilde

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

  4. Biography of Oscar Wilde

    A Short Biography. "Biography lends to death a new terror" - Oscar Wilde. Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin on 16 October 1854 to Sir William Wilde and his wife Jane. Oscar's mother, Lady Jane Francesca Wilde (1820-1896), was a successful poet and journalist. She wrote patriotic Irish verse under the pseudonym "Speranza".

  5. Oscar Wilde Biography, Works, and Quotes

    Read a short biography of Oscar Wilde. Learn more about Oscar Wilde's life, times, and work. Search all of SparkNotes Search. ... Oscar Wilde Biography. Oscar Wilde was born on October 16, 1854, in Dublin, Ireland. ... Oscar Wilde Short Stories The Happy Prince and Other Tales Published 1888 ...

  6. Oscar Wilde Biography

    Short biography Oscar Wilde. Oscar Wilde was born on 16 October 1854 in Dublin, Ireland. His parents were well known and attracted a degree of gossip for their extravagant lifestyles. In 1864, his father Wille Wilde was knighted for his services to medicine. Oscar Wilde proved to be a student of great talent.

  7. BBC

    Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin on 16 October 1854. His father was a successful surgeon and his mother a writer and literary hostess. Wilde was educated at Trinity College ...

  8. Oscar Wilde Overview and Analysis

    Oscar Wilde was a nineteenth-century Irish poet and playwright, one of the most influential and celebrated. ... (he would also illustrate Wilde's The Sphinx in 1894, and painted the hero of Wilde's short story, The Portrait of Mr. W. H., ... The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde: An Intimate Biography. By Neil McKenna. Oscar Wilde: His Life and ...

  9. Biography of Oscar Wilde, Irish Poet and Playwright

    Born Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde, Oscar Wilde (October 16, 1854 - November 30, 1900) was a popular poet, novelist, and playwright in the late 19 th century. He wrote some of the most enduring works in the English language, but is equally remembered for his scandalous personal life, which ultimately led to his imprisonment.

  10. Oscar Wilde

    Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 1854 - 30 November 1900) was an Irish writer, poet and playwright.He wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the plays Salomé, The Importance of Being Earnest, An Ideal Husband, and Lady Windermere's Fan.. Wilde was bisexual.He had a wife and two children. He had an affair with a younger man named Lord Alfred Douglas.

  11. Oscar Wilde Biography

    Oscar Wilde's unconventional life began with an equally unconventional family. He was born Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde on October 16, 1854, at 21 Westland Row, Dublin, Ireland. His father, Sir William Wilde, was an eminent Victorian and a doctor of aural surgery. Wilde's mother, Jane Francesca Elgee (or Lady Wilde), saw herself as a ...

  12. Oscar Wilde Biography

    Oscar Fingall O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland, on October 16, 1854. His father, Sir William Wilde, was a well-known surgeon; his mother, Jane Francisca Elgee Wilde, wrote popular poetry and other work under the pseudonym (pen name) Speranza. Because of his mother's literary successes, young Oscar enjoyed a cultured and ...

  13. Oscar Wilde's Writing Style and Short Biography

    Oscar Wilde. Oscar Wilde (Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde) was an Irish playwright and poet. His earlier writing in the 1880s contains different forms. In the early 1890s, he became one of the most prevalent playwrights in London. Oscar Wilde is best known for his plays, his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, imprisonment, his criminal ...

  14. Oscar Wilde

    Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. (1854-1900). Irish poet and dramatist Oscar Wilde wrote some of the finest comedies in the English language, including Lady Windermere's Fan (1892) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). He was also known for his one novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891). Wilde was a great conversationalist and a man of wide learning, but his life ended in disgrace ...

  15. Oscar Wilde

    Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born on 16 October 1854, in Dublin, Ireland, the second of three children born to writer Jane Francesca Agnes née Elgee (1821-1896) and surgeon Sir William Robert Wills Wilde (1815-1876). Wilde's mother was a prominent poet and nationalist; his father a successful ear and eye surgeon and noted philanthropist, knighted in 1864.

  16. Oscar Wilde

    Oscar Wilde Biography Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland, on October 16, 1854, and died in Paris, France, on November 30, 1900. He was a well-known writer for his short stories, his essays, and his novel The Portrait of Dorian Gray. In addition to the controversies that caused his sexual orientation at that time. Son […]

  17. Oscar Wilde bibliography

    A caricature of Wilde by Aubrey Beardsley, the caption reads "Oscar Wilde At Work". This is a bibliography of works by Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), a late-Victorian Irish writer. Chiefly remembered today as a playwright, especially for The Importance of Being Earnest, and as the author of The Picture of Dorian Gray; Wilde's oeuvre includes ...

  18. The Short Stories of Oscar Wilde

    An innovative new edition of nine classic short stories from one of the greatest writers of the Victorian era."I cannot think other than in stories," Oscar Wilde once confessed to his friend André Gide. In this new selection of his short fiction, Wilde's gifts as a storyteller are on full display, accompanied by informative facing-page annotations from Wilde biographer and scholar ...

  19. 10 of the Best Stories and Other Works by Oscar Wilde

    Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was a successful poet, playwright, novelist, short-story writer, and writer of fairy tales for children. And this, of course, is to say nothing of his sparkling wit and conversation, and the many memorable quotations he is known for. Below, we consider Oscar Wilde's writing, bringing together the best of his work across…

  20. Oscar Wilde

    Born on October 16, 1854 in Dublin, author, playwright and poet Oscar Wilde was a popular literary figure in late Victorian England, known for his brilliant ...

  21. Oscar Wilde Bibliography

    A bibliography of Oscar Wilde - he wrote 9 plays, 1 novel (The Picture of Dorian Gray), and many poems, short stories, and essays. ... Short story of a little nightingale who sacrifices her life to create the perfect red rose for a young student in love. ... Biography; Plays: A Woman of No Importance (39 pages) An Ideal Husband (54 pages)

  22. A collection of short stories by Oscar Wilde

    Wilde wrote quite a few short stories, many of them for children: The Birthday of the Infanta ». A charming, bitter-sweet tale criticising the behavior of the upper classes. (12 pages) The Devoted Friend ». Short fable about the real meaning of friendship. A tale for all ages. (7 pages) The Fisherman and His Soul ».