Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland to Sir William Wilde and Lady Jane Wilde. Sir William Wilde, his father and Ireland’s leading ear and eye surgeon, wrote books on archaeology and folklore. Wilde’s mother, Jane Francesca Elgee, was a prominent poet, worked as a translator, and wrote for the Young Ireland movement of the 1840s under the pen-name of Speranza.
After Portora Royal School[?] (1864-1871), Wilde studied the classics at Trinity College, Dublin, with distinction (from 1871 to 1874) and the Magdalen College in Oxford, (1874-1878). While at Magdalen College, Wilde won the Newdigate Prize[?] in 1878 with his poem Ravenna.
While at Magdalen College, Wilde became particularly well known for his role in the aesthetic and decadent movements[?]. He began wearing his hair long and openly scorning so-called "manly" sports, and began decorating his rooms with peacock feathers, lilies, sunflowers, blue china and other objets d'art.
He was deeply impressed by the English writers John Ruskin and Walter Pater[?] who taught about the central importance of art in life. Oscar Wilde soon became an advocate of Aestheticism and supported the movement’s basic principle Art for Art’s Sake (L’art pour l’art). Theophile Gautier's doctrine, new at the time, was brought into prominence by James McNeill Whistler.
In 1879 Wilde started to teach Aestethic values in London. Later he lectured in the United States and in Canada where he was torn apart by the critics. At Oxford University, his behaviour cost him a ducking in the river Cherwell[?] in addition to having his rooms trashed, but the cult spread among certain segments of society to such an extent that languishing attitudes, too-too costumes and aestheticism generally became a recognized pose.
The aesthetic movement represented by the school of William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti had a permanent influence on English decorative art. As the leading aesthete, Oscar Wilde became one of the most prominent personalities of his day. Apart from the ridicule he encountered, his affected paradoxes and his witty sayings were quoted on all sides.
Afterwards he became the editor of Woman’s World. During this time he published his most famous fairy tale The Happy Prince and Other Tales (1888). Three years later, his only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray was published. Critics often claimed that there existed parallels between Wilde’s and the protagonist’s life.
In 1884 he married Constance Lloyd, and he fathered 2 sons, Cyril (1885) and Vyvyan (1886). He had already published in 1881 a selection of his poems, which, however, only attracted admiration in a limited circle. The Happy Prince and Other Tales appeared in 1888, illustrated by Walter Crane and Jacomb Hood. This volume of fairy tales was followed up later by a second collection, The House of Pomegranates (1892), acknowledged by the author to be "intended neither for the British child nor the British public."
In much of his writings, and in his general attitude, there was to most people of his day an undertone of rather nasty suggestiveness which created prejudice against him. His novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) impressed the public more for this reason than for any supposed literary brilliance. Wilde contributed some feature articles to the art reviews, and in 1891 re-published three of them as a book called Intentions.
Wilde’s favourite genres were the society comedy and the play. From 1892 on, almost every year a new work of Oscar Wilde was published. His first real success with the larger public was as a dramatist with Lady Windermere's Fan at the St James's Theatre in 1892, followed by A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), which became Wilde’s masterpiece in which he satirized the upper-class.
The dramatic and literary ability shown in these plays, all of which were published later in book form, was as undisputed as their action and ideas were characteristically paradoxical. In 1893 the publisher refused to allow Wilde's Salome to be produced, but it was produced in Paris by Sarah Bernhardt in 1894.
In 1891 Wilde met Lord Alfred Douglas, the son of the eighth Marquess of Queensberry. Even though he was fond of Douglas and vice versa, Wilde was married to Constance Lloyd. Douglas' father was livid over his son’s relationship and wanted to bring Wilde down. He accused him of being a sodomite. As a result, Wilde took legal action and sued the Marquess of Queensberry for libel. But the court decided in favour of the marquess. Oscar Wilde was arrested and jailed.
During his time in prison, Wilde wrote a 30,000 word letter to Douglas, which was published after his death with the title De Profundis.
After being released on May 18th 1897, Oscar Wilde left the country and travelled around Europe for the last three years of his life. In 1900, at the age of 46, Oscar Wilde died of cerebral meningitis in Paris. Shortly before his death he converted to the Roman Catholic Church, which he had long admired.
Wilde has variously been considered bisexual or homosexual, depending on how the terms are defined. His inclination towards relations with other men was relatively well known, the first such relationship having probably been with Robert Ross, who proved his most faithful friend. When Wilde became intimate with Lord Alfred Douglas, John Sholto Douglas—9th Marquess of Queensberry, who was Lord Alfred's father— publicly insulted Wilde with a misspelled note left at Wilde's club. The note read "Mr. Wilde posing as a Somdomite."
Wilde charged Queensberry with libel. The confrontation escalated and some believe Lord Alfred egged Wilde on, to fight his father. After losing the libel suit Wilde was formally accused of 'gross indecency', this being little more than a euphemism for any homosexual act, public or private, and was arrested on April 6, 1895.
He was convicted on May 25, 1895 of "sodomy and gross indecency" and sentenced to serve two years hard labor in a London prison. There he wrote the famous poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol[?] ("For he who lives more lives than one, more deaths than one must die"). Prison was unkind to Wilde's health and when he was released on May 19, 1897 he spent his last years penniless on the Continent, under the name of Sebastian Melmoth in self-inflicted exile from society and artistic circles.
While in prison. he wrote an apology for his life which was placed in the hands of his executor and published in 1905. The manuscripts of A Florentine Tragedy and an essay on Shakespeare's sonnets were stolen from his house in 1895. In 1904 a five-act tragedy, The Duchess of Padua, written by Wilde about 1883 for Mary Anderson, but not acted by her, was published in a German translation (Die Herzogin von Padua, translated by Max Meyerfeld) in Berlin.
He died alone November 30, 1900, in a Paris hotel, under an assumed name, Lord Alfred having forsaken him; he was buried in the Cimetiere de Bagneux[?], outside Paris but later moved to Le Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
After Wilde's death, Wilde's friend Frank Harris wrote a biography of Wilde. Wilde is well known for his prose, but also for his quotations, e.g. "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."
A multiple-issue 'chapter' of Dave Sim's comic book Cerebus the Aardvark, entitled Melmoth, (later collected as a single volume under that title) retells the story of Wilde's final months with the names and places slightly altered to fit the world of the Cerebus storyline, while Cerebus himself spends most of the chapter as a passive observer.
Bibliography He wrote many famous works, among them:
e-texts of some of Oscar Wilde's works: