Oscar Wilde Life and works

Life

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (Dublin 1854 - Paris 1900) was an Irish writer and poet. His father was a famous eye surgeon and his mother a poet and Irish nationalist.
He was educated at home until the age of nine. After that, he went to the famous Trinity College in Dublin and later studied in Oxford. There he was influenced by Ruskin and started to have an important role in the Aesthetic and Decadent movement of the time. He was an excellent student and received awards and scholarships.
Trinity College, Dublin
Oxford University
After university he moved to London, where he began teaching aesthetic values and became famous for his unconventional clothes and manners (his caricatures were published in the famous Punch magazine) and for his wit and humour, that soon turned him into one of the most famous personalities of the Victorian era. When he started writing, he was immediately successful, and in 1882 he went to the USA and Canada where he gave lectures about Aestheticism.

The Punch Magazine and Oscar Wilde's caricatures

Works

Today he is considered one of the most successful playwrights of the second half of the 19th century (his most famous play is The Important of Being Earnest), but he also was a writer, a poet and a great celebrity.

The Importance of Being Earnest

He wrote some well-known children's stories and an extremely successful novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, which was considered a milestone in the Aesthetic movement. It is the story of a handsome young gentleman who, at the beginning of the novel, is quite innocent and naïve. After meeting the decadent Lord Henry Wotton, who, soon becomes his great friend, he gradually begins to lead an immoral and dissipated life. Basil Hallward, his best friend, paints a wonderful portrait of him, but Dorian suddenly kills him. As the years pass by, Dorian remains young and beautiful, whereas his portrait becomes old and ugly, until he hates the picture so much that he decides to destroy it.

Gray's portrait

In 1884 Oscar Wilde married Constance Lloyd and they had two sons. In 1895, while he was celebrating a series of great successes, he was suddenly arrested imprisoned and condemned to two years' hard labour because of his homosexuality, which was considered a crime at that time.

Constance Lloyd
Oscar Wilde with his family
Wilde and his wife, Constance Lloyd
Oscar Wilde and Lord Douglas

In prison he wrote a very long letter known as De Profundis to Lord Alfred Douglas, his lover.

Wilde and his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas

He also wrote a long moving poem, the Ballad of Reading Gaol. They were both published after his death. When he left prison two years later, he was very ill and had no friends, no money and no family. He was completely isolated from society and the artistic circles, so he decided to move to France. There he spent his last years in solitude. He died penniless in Paris at the end of 1900.

Created By
Elena Merlini
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