Oscar Wilde online
Oscar Wilde online
Oscar Wilde was an Anglo-Irish playwright, novelist, poet, and critic. He is regarded as one of the greatest playwrights of the Victorian Era.
In his lifetime he wrote nine plays, one novel, and numerous poems, short stories, and essays.
Wilde was a proponent of the Aesthetic movement, which emphasized aesthetic values more than moral or social themes. This doctrine is most clearly summarized in the phrase ‘art for art’s sake’.
Besides literary accomplishments, he is also famous, or perhaps infamous, for his wit, flamboyance, and affairs with men. He was tried and imprisoned for his homosexual relationship (then considered a crime) with the son of an aristocrat.
Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin to intellectual parents. His father Sir William Wilde was Ireland’s leading eye and ear surgeon and was knighted for his services to medicine. His mother Jane Francesca Wilde was a lifelong supporter of Irish independence and wrote poetry in support of Irish nationhood under the pseudonym Speranza (Italian for hope). Wilde was educated at home until he was nine years old, a German tutor and a French maid taught him their languages which he learnt to speak fluently.
Wilde studied Greek and Latin literature at Trinity College, Dublin and later at Magdalen College, Oxford. After his graduation form Oxford, Wilde moved to London and began his writing career. He eventually found great success with his comic plays.
1882 photograph of Oscar Wilde.
In 1884, Wilde married Constance Lloyd. The couple had two sons; Vyvyan and Cyril.
In 1891, Wilde was introduced to Lord Alfred Douglas, known to his friends as Bosie. Wilde had had homosexual relationships with men in the past but it was Lord Alfred Douglas who introduced him to Victorian England’s gay sub-culture and the availability of male prostitutes. Lord Alfred Douglas’ father, the Marquess of Queensberry, disapproved of his son’s lifestyle and his friendship with Wilde, suspecting that the two were lovers.
On February 18, 1895, the Marquess of Queensberry left a calling card for Wilde at a London private gentleman’s club. Written on the back of the card was the message For Oscar Wilde, Posing Somdomite (an incorrect spelling of the word sodomite). Wilde sued the Marquess for libel. However, Queensberry’s lawyers persuaded the jury that there had been no libel because Wilde was, in fact, homosexual. The Marquess of Queensberry was found not guilty. Wilde was forced to pay Queensberry’s legal fees, which left him bankrupt.
1894 photograph of Lord Alfred Douglas (left) and Oscar Wilde (right).
Following his unsuccessful libel case, Wilde was arrested on April 6, 1895 on charges of gross indecency. He was found guilty of gross indecency and homosexuality and sentenced to two years hard labor. Wilde served time in Wandsworth and Pentonville prisons in London and was later transferred to Reading Gaol in Berkshire. While in prison Wilde wrote a letter of fifty thousand words, known as De Profundis to Lord Alfred Douglas. After Wilde was found guilty, his wife Constance changed her surname and that of her children to Holland and left England, settling in Switzerland.
Wilde was released from prison on May 18, 1897. He left England for France and never returned to Britain or Ireland again. In France Wilde wrote the lengthy poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol, originally published under the pseudonym C 33, Wilde’s serial number in Reading Gaol. The poem was well received but Wilde failed to make much money from it. Wilde spent his final days in a cheap, dirty hotel in Paris.
The way he expresses desire and rejection, beauty, and violence, is of great attraction to the public. Mishima received the influence of Nihon Romanha, a writer belonging to Japanese romanticism, who emphasized the unity of Japan and its cultural values. This was a vehicle to reinforce nationalist ideology and more in times of war. However, Mishima was also interested and was a great admirer of modern Western literature. His first extensive work The Forest in Flower, was published in 1941. This work, like The Cigarette (1946), and Thieves (1948) were written during World War II and show the total departure from the tragic reality of war and of defeat.
In 1949 he published a work that quickly gained popularity: Confessions of a mask, a work that marked the definitive consecration of him in the literary world. Although some critics showed bewilderment and reservations about the particularity of the subject (because the protagonist confessed his homosexuality) certainly this represented a novelty in Japanese literature. Mishima was drawn to the aesthetic values of Western classicism. The Golden Pavilion (1956) was his most successful work in the 1950s.
In 1958, he traveled to the United States and upon his return, Mishima married the daughter of a well-known painter. A year later, Kyoko’s House was published, it did not receive the favors of the critics. He always tried to reflect his taste for the values of the authentic Japanese based on the values of the samurai. In this sense, fascinated by the ideology of warriors, he wrote The Way of the Samurai and In Defense of Culture (1968). Mishima presented himself as a defender of the restoration of the values of the prewar and militaristic culture. The author was a man concerned about corporality and the state of the body, for this reason, he was a lover of the Martial Arts.
From 1955 Mishima began an intense program of physical activity and also resorted to military training at the Sietai base, together with a group of university students. His enormous literary production, among which, along with those already mentioned, stand out: The prohibited color (1951), The death of mid-summer (1953), The voice of the wave (1954), The taste of glory (1963) and Thirst for love (1964).
After the Banquet (1960), one of his most successful novels, he wrote Patriotism (1961) and Death in the afternoon, and other stories (1971), a compilation of short stories representative of a time when he was dying in the name of noble ideals.
Among his theatrical production of these years, it is worth mentioning Madame de Sade (1965) and My friend Hitler (1968). His most popular work is: The sea of fertility, composed of the novels Snow of spring (1966), Runaway horses (1968), The temple of the dawn (1970) and The corruption of an angel, completed the latter days before his death. In this work, a critique of Japanese society is made for the loss of traditional values. Yukio Mishima was concerned about the strong westernization of his country and analyzed its transformation from a pessimistic and critical perspective.
This terrible vision of Mishima led him to embrace suicide as the only way out of him, ending his life on November 25, 1970.
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Oscar Wilde is one of the most iconic figures from late Victorian society. Enjoying a meteoric rise to the top of society, his wit, humour and intelligence shine through his plays and writings. However, due to his sexuality, he suffered the indignity and shame of imprisonment. For a long time, his name was synonymous with scandal and intrigue. However, with changing social attitudes, he is remembered with greater affection for his biting social criticism, wit and linguistic skills.
“To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early or be respectable.”
Short biography Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde was born on 16 October 1854 in Dublin, Ireland. His parents were well known and attracted a degree of gossip for their extravagant lifestyles. In 1864, his father Wille Wilde was knighted for his services to medicine.
Oscar Wilde proved to be a student of great talent. He was awarded a scholarship to Trinity College Dublin. Here he studied the classics, in particular developing an interest in the Greek philosophers and the Hellenistic view of life. From Trinity College, he won a scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford University. He enjoyed his time in Oxford and was able to develop his poetic sensibilities and love of literature. He also became more conscious of his bisexual nature. For his increasingly “feminine” style dress he often received stick from more “traditional” Oxford students. He was a brilliant scholar, but also increasingly rebellious.
In one academic year, he got rusticated for turning up to College three weeks after the start of term. Thus, after a while, he lost interest in pursuing an academic career in Oxford and moved to London. It was in London that he was able to skillfully enter into high society, soon becoming well known as a playwright and noted wit. Oscar Wilde became famous throughout London society. He was one of the early “celebrities” – in some respects, he was famous for being famous. His dress was a target for satire in the cartoons, but Wilde didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he learnt the art of self-publicity and seemed to revel in it, at least up until his trial in 1898.
On 18 February 1895, the Marquess of Queensbury (who devised the Queensbury’s rules for boxing) left a calling card accusing Wilde of sodomy. Wilde initiated a private libel against Queensbury for defamation. Queensbury was arrested and so hired a private detective to find evidence that Wilde was involved in homosexual behaviour with young men. At the trial, Wilde defended himself with his usual wit and flippancy, but the counsel for the Marquees William Carson Esq. was able to provide factual evidence and testimonies of male prostitutes who were willing to testify against Wilde. Realising he had miscalculated, Wilde dropped his libel case but became liable for the financial cost (which left him bankrupt)
Shortly, after the case ended, a warrant was issued for Wilde’s arrest under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 – which outlawed homosexuality – even between consenting adults.
Trial of Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde’s trial gripped the nation, the subject matter a source of intense gossip and speculation in the press. The trial moved to a quick conclusion and Wilde was found guilty. For his “crime” of homosexual acts, Wilde was given the maximum jail sentence of two years hard labour in Wandsworth and then Reading Gaol. It is no understatement to say this experience deeply shocked and affected the previously ebullient Wilde.
In some respects he never really recovered; on his release, he left for Paris where he lived in comparative anonymity. However, he retained his wit and continued to write, heavily influenced by his chastening experiences. Of these post gaol writings, his poem “Ballad of Reading Gaol” is perhaps the most well known, illustrating a new dimension to Wilde’s writing.
I never saw a man who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every drifting cloud that went
With sails of silver by.
I walked, with other souls in pain,
Within another ring,
And was wondering if the man had done
A great or little thing,
When a voice behind me whispered low,
“That fellow’s got to swing.”
From: Ballad of Reading Gaol
Although Wilde couldn’t return to his previous level of writing he developed new capacities, whilst retaining his sharp intellect. As Jonathon Fryer commented on Oscar Wilde’s final part of life he was.
“beaten but not bowed, still a clown behind a mask of tragedy.”
The Life of Wilde was turbulent and volatile – never short of incident. It reflected his own inner paradoxes and revolutionary views. In some ways, he was both a saint and sinner at the same time. Rightly or wrongly Wilde is remembered as much for his life as his writings. However he himself said.
“I have put my talent into writing, my genius I have saved for living.”
His writings reflect in part his paradoxical view of life, suggesting things were not always as they appeared. As his biographer, Richard Ellman said of Wilde.
“Along with Blake and Nietzsche , he was proposing that good and evil are not what they seem, and that moral tabs cannot cope with the complexity of behaviour”
Whatever one may make of Wilde’s life, his capacity for writing remains undeniable. His greatest work and comedy is arguably “The Importance of Being Earnest”. Here the plot line is thin, to say the least, but Wilde brings it alive through his scintillating repertoire of wit and biting humour.
“Relations are simply a tedious pack of people, who haven’t got the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die.”
“Thirty-five is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years.”
– Lady Bracknell, Act III
Wilde was not an overtly political commentator, but through his plays, there is an underlying critique of social norms that are illumined for their absurdities.
Wilde remains a fascinating character; someone who lived life to the full, experiencing both the joy and tragedy of society’s vacillating judgements. With the distance of over a century, it is easier to judge Wilde for his unique contributions to literature rather than through the eyes of Victorian moral standards. His quotes have become immortal a fitting tribute to a genius of the witticism
“I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying. ”
As Stephen Fry wrote of Oscar Wilde.
“What of Wilde the man? He stood for Art. He stood for nothing less all his life. He is still enormously underestimated as an artist and a thinker.. Wilde was a great writer and a great man.”
Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Biography of Oscar Wilde”, Oxford, UK www.biographyonline.net , 22nd Nov. 2006. Last updated 8 February 2018.
- Oscar Wilde – “Nothing … except for Genius” – Stephen Fry
- Wilde – Jonathan Fryer
Oscar Wilde – Film with Stephen Fry
Famous Irish people. Includes St Patrick, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Eamon de Valera, Mary Robinson and George Best.
Writers and authors – Famous authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien, William Shakespeare, J.K. Rowling, Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy, John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway.
Death and Legacy
Wilde died of meningitis on November 30, 1900, at the age of 46. More than a century after his death, Wilde is still better remembered for his personal life—his exuberant personality, consummate wit and infamous imprisonment for homosexuality—than for his literary accomplishments. Nevertheless, his witty, imaginative and undeniably beautiful works, in particular his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray and his play The Importance of Being Earnest, are considered among the great literary masterpieces of the late Victorian period.