Acclaimed novelist, playwright, essayist, and poet Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde – better known as Oscar Wilde – will always be remembered for his flamboyant narrative style, which was representative of his support for the Aesthetic Movement of that era.
His works, which included ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ and ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ are considered today to be one of the most beautiful literary works of all time.
Oscar Wilde: Early Life
Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin on October 16, 1854 to celebrated doctor William Wilde, and poet Jane Francesca Elgee. As a son to highly intellectual parents, it was no wonder that he would become one as well. Wilde became fluent in both French and German early on. He also became enamored with Greek and Roman studies.
He excelled in academics, eventually earning him a Demyship scholarship for further study at Magdalen College in Oxford. It was during his time at this prestigious university that he was able to delve into creative writing. After graduating from Oxford, he moved to London where he published his first collection of poems. He was 27 then, and this would establish him in society as one a highly talented up-and-coming writer.
It was obvious even then that Oscar Wilde would have a bright future in literature. A year after publishing his poetry collection, he traveled to New York City to embark on an American lecture tour. He was invited by Richard D’Oyly Carte, an English impresario, who wanted to introduce Wilde and the American public to the ideas of Aestheticism.
Originally, they had planned to only give lectures for a period of four months. But due to demand and the lectures’ success, they continued. In just nine months, Wilde delivered an astounding 140 lectures. Oscar Wilde was one of the most notable figures of the Aesthetic Movement. It was a belief that art should focus on being beautiful with NO deeper meaning or practical purpose.
After his lectures, he returned to England to give other lectures and to continue his support for the Aesthetic Movement. At age 30, Wilde married Constance Lloyd, a wealthy Englishwoman, who was a daughter of a Queen’s Counsel. They had two sons named Cyril (1885) and Vyvyan (1886). It was after Constance’s second pregnancy that their family life would unravel.
Oscar Wilde: Later Works and Personal Struggles
Sometime around 1887, Oscar Wilde was asked to become editor of The Lady’s World magazine. He set to work to breathe new life into it by adding more serious articles, especially on topics such as parenting, culture, and politics. The magazine was renamed The Woman’s World to fit its better tone and content.
Before leaving the magazine however, Wilde was able to pursue other literary ventures, like publishing The Happy Prince and Other Tales in 1888. In 1891, it was followed by an essay collection. In the same year, he published his first and only novel, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’.
While it remains to be one of the most loved classics today, back then, its original version was heavily criticized. The story is that of a young man named Dorian Gray who wishes that his portrait age while he remains youthful. According to critics, the work was ‘decadent’, ‘unclean’ and ‘immoral’. Oscar Wilde later revised it for publication, adding six more chapters and a preface.
Other notable works from Wilde includes his first play, ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’, as well as satirical comedies such as ‘Woman of No Importance’ and ‘An Ideal Husband’. His most famous play of course was his last, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ (1895).
Unfortunately, Wilde’s last years were spent in exile in France, where he developed meningitis and died by November 1900. His life and works continue to fascinate readers and admirers to this day. Draw from his charm and wit through these thought-provoking Oscar Wilde quotes.
30 Oscar Wilde Quotes about Beauty and Life