Biography for Oscar Wilde

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Date of Birth

16 October 1854, Dublin, Ireland

Date of Death

30 November 1900, Paris, France (acute meningitis, following an ear infection)

Birth Name

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde

Height

6′ 3″ (1.91 m)

Mini Biography

A gifted poet, playwright, and wit, Oscar Wilde was a phenomenon in 19th century England. He was illustrious for preaching the importance of style in life and art, and of attacking Victorian narrow mindedness.

Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854. He studied at Trinity College, Dublin, before leaving his native Ireland to study at Oxford University when he was in his early twenties. His prodigious talent as far as literature was concerned was recognized, when he received the Newdegate Prize for his outstanding poem, “Ravenna”. After leaving college, his first volume of poetry, `Patience’, was published in 1881, followed by a play, `The Duchess of Padua’ two years later. It was around this time that Wilde sparked a sensation.

On his arrival to America, Wilde stirred the nation with his flamboyant personality: wearing long silk stockings, an unusual mode of dress, long, flowing hair which gave the impression of an effeminate, and a general air of wittiness, sophistication and eccentricity. He was an instant celebrity, but his works did not find recognition until the publication of “The Happy Prince and Other Tales” in 1888. His other noted work, which was his only novel, was “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1890), which caused controversy as the book evidently attacked the hypocrisy of England. The book was later used as incriminating evidence at Oscar Wilde’s trail, on the basis of its evident homosexual content.

Oscar Wilde was a married man with children, but his private life was as a homosexual. He had an affair with a young, snobbish aristocrat named Lord Alfred Douglas. Douglas’ father, the Marquess of Queensberry did not approve of his son’s relationship with the distinguished writer, and when he accused Wilde of sodomy, Wilde tried to sue the Marquess in court, but his case dropped to the ground when his homosexuality was exposed, which was then outlawed in England. Wilde was sentenced to two years hard labor in prison. On his release, he was a penniless, dejected man and he soon died in Paris, aged 46.

Wilde is immortalised through his works, and the stories he wrote for children such as “The Happy Prince” and “The Selfish Giant” are still vibrant in the imagination of the public, especially the novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, the story of a young handsome man who sells his soul to a picture to have eternal youth and beauty, only to face the hideousness of his own portrait as it ages, which entails his evil nature and degradation. The book has been interpreted on stage dramas, films, television, and is currently being filmed twice. Oscar Wilde’s very personality inspired the 1997 film, ‘Wilde’, which told the story of his homosexual life, and which had Stephen Fry as Oscar Wilde and Jude Law as Lord Alfred Douglas.

Spouse
Constance Lloyd (29 May 1884 – 7 April 1898) (her death) 2 children

 

Trivia

Oscar was the great-nephew of author Charles Maturin, an Irish clergyman and author whose gothic novel “Melmoth the Wanderer” inspired Oscar’s pseudonym ‘Sebastian Melmoth’, which he lived under for three years from his release from prison to his death.

Sons: Cyril, born in June 1885, who died in World War I, and Vyvyan, born in November 1886. Vyvyan became a writer using the surname Holland, and his own grandson, Merlin Holland, has written two books about his grandfather, “Wilde Album” and “After Oscar: The Color of his Legacy.” Merlin’s son Lucien is a classics major at Oxford, just like Oscar Wilde.

Appears on the sleeve of The Beatles’ “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album.

Separated from his wife not long after their second child was born. Was a homosexual. Tried and convicted, alongside Alfred Taylor, a procurer of young men, in 1895 for indecent acts, as homosexuality was then outlawed in the UK. All of his possessions and property were confiscated following the ruling, which resulted in prison for the playwright. Moved to Paris after he finished his sentence and lived as a pauper, writing his autobiography and works that never found an audience. Died in a cheap Paris hotel.

He published several books of stories for children, originally written for his own sons.

Relying on the generosity of friends, he went to live in France, adopting the name of Sebastian Melmoth.

Wilde attempted to woo the son of the Marquess of Queensberry, and Lord Queensberry retaliated by circulating a note which accused Wilde of Sodomy. Wilde sued for libel, but after three days in court, he realized he was losing, and he dropped the suit.

Both Wilde and his procurer (of young boys) were tried twice for “public indecency”. The first trial ended in a hung jury. The second convicted him.

Wilde served two years at hard labor for public indecency.

 

Personal Quotes

There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

I adore persons better than principles and persons with no principles more than anything else in the world.

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Men can be analyzed, women … merely adored.

I couldn’t help it. I can resist everything except temptation.

I must decline your invitation owing to a subsequent engagement.

It is only by not paying one’s bills that one can hope to live in the memory of the commercial classes.

Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong.

In the old days men had the rack. Now they have the Press.

Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.

One would have to have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing.

[on his deathbed in a Paris hotel room] Either this wallpaper goes, or I do!

The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame.

Only the shallow know themselves.

[upon taking a glass of champagne on his deathbed] I am dying beyond my means.

The man who sees both sides of a question is a man who sees absolutely nothing.

Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.

[his defense at his trial] “The Love that dare not speak its name” in this country is such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis of his philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets of Michelangeloand [William Shakespeare]. It is that deep, spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect . . . It is in this century misunderstood, so much misunderstood that it may be described as “the Love that dare not speak its name”, and on account of it I am placed where I am now. It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it, and it repeatedly exists between an elder and a younger man, when the elder has intellect, and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamor of life before him. That it should be so, the world does not understand. The world mocks at it and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it.

She wore too much rouge last night and not quite enough clothes. That is always a sign of despair in a woman.

Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.

I am not young enough to know everything.

Imagination is a quality given a man to compensate him for what he is not, and a sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is.

I love acting. It is so much more real than life.

Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.

The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.

The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.

Women have a much better time than men in this world. There are far more things forbidden to them

[Upon arriving at US Customs in 1882] I have nothing to declare except my genius.

Anybody can be good in the country.

[on Frédéric Chopin] After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own. Music always seems to me to produce that effect. It creates for one a past of which one has been ignorant, and fills one with a sense of sorrows that have been hidden from one’s tears.

A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.

In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.

Crying is the refuge of plain women, but the ruin of pretty ones.

What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Women have a wonderful instinct about things. They can discover everything except the obvious.

Young men want to be faithful, and are not; old men want to be faithless, and cannot.

Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.

We Irish are too poetical to be poets; we are a nation of brilliant failures, but we are the greatest talkers since the Greeks.

The public has an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing.

Moderation is a fatal thing… nothing succeeds like excess.

It is only the shallow people who do not judge by appearance.

[on his room in the Ritz Hotel in Paris] A harsh and ugly light, enough to ruin your eyes, and not a candle or lamp for bedside reading. And who wants an immovable washing basin in one’s room? I do not. Hide the thing.

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