Oscar Wilde: The Irish literary legend
Born on October 16, 1854 in Dublin, Ireland, to ophthalmologist and surgeon Sir William Wilde and poetess Jane Wilde, Oscar Wilde lost his lone sibling Isola to meningitis when she was 9.
Home-schooled till age 9, Wilde was taught French and German. Till 1871, he attended the Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. Wilde obtained a royal scholarship to read the classics at Trinity College, Dublin. At Trinity, he topped the class in the first year, secured a scholarship in the second and won the Berkeley Gold Medal in Greek in 1874, the final year. Wilde secured a demyship, a form of scholarship, to Magdalen College, Oxford and, in 1878, completed his BA Classical Moderations and Literae Humaniores with a ‘double first’ – which was an outstanding academic result.
Wilde married Constance Lloyd, the daughter of a prominent lawyer at Paddington, London, on May 29, 1884. They had two sons, Cyril Holland in 1885 and Vyvyan Holland in 1886.Wilde was closely associated with the leading lights of aestheticism, an intellectual and art movement that preferred aesthetic values than the prevalent socio-political themes.
In 1885, Wilde became the editor of The Lady’s World magazine to which he included serious articles on politics and culture without compromising fashion and arts. His first foray into theatre — the plays Vera, or The Nihilists and The Duchess of Padua — however, failed to make an impact.
In 1888, Wilde published The Happy Prince and Other Tales, followed in 1891 by the collections Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and Other Stories and A House of Pomegranates. The first version of The Picture of Dorian Gray, his only novel and most successful work, was published in the Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine in July 1890. What set the novel apart was the remarkable manner in which the author incorporated into it his ideas on themes such as beauty, decadence and duplicity.
His 1891 essay, The Soul of Man Under Socialism, proposed the abolishment of private property and advocated the rejection of competition in favour of cooperation.
Wilde later came up with the comic play Lady Windermere’s Fan in 1892, which turned out to be a roaring success. Another of his plays, Salome was published soon after but could not be staged until 1896. His farcical comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People, was written in 1894 and was staged for the first time in 1895 in London.
In May 1895, Wilde was arrested for “gross indecency” under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885, and was sentenced to two years’ hard labour. Upon his release in May 1897, he sailed to France where he spent the rest of his life. He wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol, narrating the execution of Charles Thomas Wooldridge, a prisoner at same jail where the author was imprisoned.
Wilde spent the last part of his life at the Hôtel d’Alsace on rue des Beaux-Arts in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris, and died of meningitis on November 30, 1900.
1. Wilde, supported the Irish nationalism. When Charles Stewart Parnell, an Irish nationalist politician, was falsely accused of inciting murder, he wrote in the Daily Chronicle to defend Parnell.
2. Wilde’s son, Vyvyan Holland, published his memoir in 1954 titled Son of Oscar Wilde. It narrates the troubles he, his mother, Constance Lloyd and brother Cyril Holland faced after the author was imprisoned.
3. The Oscar Wilde Memorial Sculpture is a collection of statues at the Merrion Square in Dublin, Ireland. The three sculptures designed by Danny Osborne were unveiled in 1997.
4. Oscar Wilde was buried at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. His tomb, which was designed by Sir Jacob Epstein, was also decorated with a modernist angel. A tradition has developed over the years that visitors would kiss the tomb after applying lipstick to leave a “print” of their kiss. Later in 2011, a glass barrier was set up in order to prevent this therefore making the tomb ’kiss-proof’.
SOURCES: Wikipedia, Cmgww.com, Famousauthors.com