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Oscar Wilde Essay

1969 words - 8 pages

Oscar Wilde

Birth and early life

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (October 16, 1854 – November 30, 1900) was an Anglo-Irish playwright, novelist, poet, short story writer and Freemason. One of the most successful playwrights of late Victorian London, and one of the greatest celebrities of his day, known for his barbed and clever wit, he suffered a dramatic downfall and was imprisoned after being convicted in a famous trial for gross indecency.
Birth and early life
Wilde was born into a Protestant Anglo-Irish family, at 21 Westland Row, Dublin, to Sir William Wilde and his wife Jane Francesca Elgee. Jane was a successful writer and an Irish nationalist, known also as ...view middle of the document...

While at Magdalen, he won the 1878 Oxford Newdigate Prize for his poem Ravenna. He graduated with a double first, the highest grade available at Oxford.

During this time, Wilde became familiar with philosophies and writings on same-sex love, and lived for several years with a male lover he had met in 1876, the society painter Frank Miles. However, in keeping with the social mores of his day, such activities were kept secret.

Marriage and family

After graduating from Magdalen, Wilde returned to Dublin, where he met and fell in love with Florence Balcome. She in turn became engaged to Bram Stoker. On hearing of her engagement, Wilde wrote to her stating his intention to leave Ireland permanently. He left in 1878 and was to return to his native country only twice, for brief visits. The next six years were spent in London, Paris and the United States, where he travelled to deliver lectures.

In London, he met Constance Lloyd, daughter of wealthy Queen's Counsel Horace Lloyd. She was visiting Dublin in 1884, when Oscar was in the city to give lectures at the Gaiety Theatre. He proposed to her and they married on May 29, 1884 in Paddington, London. Constance's allowance of £250 allowed the Wildes to live in relative luxury. The couple had two sons, Cyril (1885) and Vyvyan (1886). After Oscar's downfall, Constance took the surname Holland for herself and the boys. She died in 1898 following spinal surgery and was buried in Staglieno Cemetery in Genoa, Italy. Cyril was killed in France in World War I. Vyvyan survived the war and went on to become an author and translator. He published his memoirs in 1954. His son, Merlin Holland, has edited and published several works about his grandfather. Oscar Wilde's niece, Dolly Wilde, was involved in a lengthy lesbian affair with writer Natalie Clifford Barney.


Keller cartoon from the Wasp of San Francisco depicting Wilde on the occasion of his visit there in 1882.

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.

His behaviour cost him a dunking in the River Cherwell in addition to having his rooms (which still survive as dedicated function rooms at his old college) 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 recognised pose.

Aestheticism in general was caricatured in Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta Patience (1881). Such was the success of "Patience" in New York that Richard D'Oyly Carte conceived the idea of sending Wilde to America on a lecture tour. This was duly arranged, Wilde arriving in January 1882. Although Wilde later claimed to have told the customs officer "I have nothing to declare...

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