The Irish writer and poet, Oscar Wilde is best known for writing The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), a dark and sardonic novel which was the topic of much controversy at its time. Wilde rose to immense fame in London during the 1890s as a playwright. Wilde’s wit, his plays and events leading to his imprisonment and later death all contribute to the popularity of this literary personality.
Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born to successful Dublin intellectuals, Sir William Wilde and Jane Francesca Wilde on October 16, 1854 at 21 Westland Row, Dublin. Knighted in 1864, Oscar’s father was a distinguished ophthalmologic surgeon and philanthropist who wrote many books. Jane Wilde on the other hand was an Irish nationalist as well as a poet. The influence of his parents embedded in Oscar, intellectuality unmatched to other children of his age. Wilde was initially educated at home after which he attended the Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.
In 1871, Wilde obtained a scholarship to Trinity College, Dublin where he shared rooms with his brother Willie Wilde and studied classics. While at Trinity, Wilde developed an interest in Greek literature and also became an active member of the University Philosophical Society. A brilliant student, Wilde topped his class in the first year and also won a scholarship in the second moving on to winning the Berkeley Gold Medal, the highest award of the university in his final year. In 1874, Wilde entered Magdalen College, Oxford to study Greats. He remained there will 1878. During his years at Magdalen College, Wilde was profoundly involved in the aesthetic and decadent movements. Here too, Wilde excelled in studies, winning many awards including Oxford’s Newdigate Prize for his poem, Ravenna (1878).
After completing his education, Wilde settled in London where he continued to write poetry and published the first collection in 1881. Also in 1881, Wilde set out on a tour to America and Canada to deliver lectures on aestheticism. Wilde married Constance Mary Lloyd in 1884. The couple had two sons they named, Cyril and Vyvyan.
Unfortunately for Wilde, in 1891 he met Lord Alfred Douglas, an English poet who became Wilde’s lover. At the peak of his career when Wilde’s masterpiece, The Importance of being Earnest was on stage in London, Wilde pressed charges against Douglas’s father, the Marquess of Queensberry for libel. However, as the trial progressed, Wilde was forced to drop his charges after which he was arrested and tried for gross indecency with other men. Wilde was finally convicted and imprisoned for two years. During his time in prison Wilde wrote excessively producing some of his greatest essays and letters.
Upon his release from prison, Wilde adopted the name Sebastian Melmoth and went to Paris where he was reunited with his lover, Robert Baldwin “Robbie” Ross, a Canadian journalist. With Ross by his side, Oscar Wilde died on November 30, 1900, the reason being meningitis. Wilde was buried in Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.