Who was Oscar Wilde?

Oscar Wilde

Who was Oscar Wilde?

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde, commonly known as Oscar Wilde, was born on October 16, 1854 in Dublin, Ireland. He was the second child of his parents. Gifted with creative skills, Oscar Wilde went on to become a celebrated writer and dramatist.

Oscar Wilde’s father, Sir William Wilde (1815 – 1876), was an ear and eye specialist, an eminent philanthropist and skilled author. William composed books on ancient issues and folklore. Oscar Wilde’s mother was called Lady Jane Francesca Wilde (1820-1896). She was a writer and columnist. Oscar had two siblings – Willie and Isola Francesca. Isola Francesca died at the early age of 10.

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

Early life and schooling

Oscar Wilde was home schooled till he was nine years. He then went on to attend Royal School from 1864 to 1871, Trinity College, Dublin from 1871 to 1874, and Magdalen College, Oxford from 1874 to 1878. He joined an art movement at Oxford and became a campaigner for ‘Art for Art’s Sake‘ – a concept developed by the French philosopher Victor Cousin. The concept stated that art was valuable in itself and that artist did not need any justifiable religious or state reasons to carry out their artistic profession.

He won the 1878 Newdigate Prize for his poem Ravenna. During this time, Wilde got comfortable with compositions on same-sex love and lived for a while with a male partner – the general public painter Frank Miles – he met in 1876. In any case, with regards to the cultural standards of his day, such practices were covertly practiced.

Married life

Oscar Wilde's wife

Oscar Wilde’s wife – Constance Lloyd

Oscar married Constance Lloyd on the 29th of May 1884. She was the child of well-to-do English barrister called Horace Lloyd (1828-1874). Their marriage was blessed with two children, Cyril and Vyvyan. To help his family, Oscar worked as the editorial manager of Woman’s World magazine, where he worked from 1887 to 1889. After 14 years of marriage, Constance Lloyd passed away at the age of 39 in 1898.

Oscar Wilde’s Publications

Oscar began his publications immediately after graduation. He moved to Chelsea, London in 1879 to start a literary occupation. In 1881, he published his first works in poetry – “Poems”. The publication got mixed reactions from critics and pundits.

He lectured in the United States and Canada in 1882 and wrote his first play titled “Vera” which was not a success. Wilde moved to live in Paris in 1883. He also lectured in Britain and Ireland from 1883 to 1884 and wrote his second play “The Duchess of Padua”. This play failed to garner the success that Oscar wanted.

In 1888, he published “The Happy Prince and Other Tales”. The book comprised pixie stories composed for his two children. His solitary novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” was published in 1891 and got a negative reaction from reviewers.

Wilde’s Relationship with Alfred Douglas

Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas

Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas in 1893 | Image: Wikipedia.org

In 1891, Wilde started a relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas, nicknamed ‘Bosie’, who became his adored companion and his waterloo. Wilde’s marriage got truncated in 1893.

He was known for composing plays. He created a string of incredibly famous comedies including His first effective play, Lady Windermere’s Fan, was in February 1892. “A Woman of No Importance in 1893, and The Importance of Being Earnest in 1894, and “An Ideal Husband in 1895 which became a huge success”. These plays were all profoundly acclaimed and solidly established Oscar as a dramatist.

Sexual orientation

His tendency towards relations with more youthful men was notable, biographers have regularly recorded Robert Ross (who might have been his agent) as Wilde’s first such sweetheart.

By the late 1870s, Wilde had identified himself with the thinking of same-sex love and had befriended a number of gay novelists and law reformers.

The Queensberry Outrage

In 1891, Wilde became close friends with Lord Alfred Douglas. Bosie’s dad, John Sholto Douglas (9th Marquess of Queensberry) turned out to be angered at his child’s involvement with Wilde. He went up against the two openly a few times, and though each time Wilde had the option to appease the senior Douglas, in the end, the Marquess declared war.

Oscar Wilde quote

Oscar Wilde quote

Wilde’s Imprisonment

Wilde was indicted on May 25, 1895 of gross profanity and condemned to serve two years hard labor. He was detained first at Pentonville; he later was moved to Wandsworth jail in London, and then lastly moved in November to the jail in the town of Reading.

During his time in jail, Wilde composed a 50,000-word letter to Douglas, he was not permitted to send out this letter as a detainee. Upon his discharge, he gave the composition to Ross, who probably did not give the letter to Douglas as instructed by Wilde.

Ross published a much cut down form of the letter (about 30% just) in 1905 (4 years after Wilde’s passing) with the title The Letters Of Oscar Wilde.

After his Release

The jail was cruel to Wilde’s health; and when he got released on May 19, 1897, he went through a severe poverty-stricken three years. He purposefully kept himself indoors and stayed away from the art industry.

Adopting the name ‘Sebastian Melmoth’, after the focal character of the Gothic novel “Melmoth the Wanderer”, he composed the renowned lyric “The Ballad Of Reading Gaol”.

Oscar Wilde’s last days in Paris

On his deathbed, he became Catholic, which he had long appreciated. He spent his last days in the Hôtel d’Alsace in Paris (presently known as L’Hôtel). Only a month prior to his demise he is cited as saying, “My backdrop and I are battling a duel until the very end. One or other of us must go.”

He spent his last days wondering is Europe, being with companions and living in modest inns. He passed on of cerebral meningitis on November 30, 1900, poverty-stricken, in a modest Paris inn. He was laid to rest at Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Oscar Wilde quote

Oscar Wilde

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