Oscar Wilde (1856-1900)

Irish playwright, author and poet, born in Dublin on 16 October 1854. His parents were William Robert Wills Wilde, surgeon and writer, and his wife, Jane Francesca Agnes Wilde (née Elgee), writer and Irish nationalist under the pseudonym “Speranza”.

Wilde studied classics at Trinity College, Dublin, from 1871 to 1874, won the Berkeley gold medal for Greek in 1874, and was awarded a scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he continued his studies until 1879. Greatly influenced by John Ruskin and Walter Pater, he joined the aesthetic and decadent movement and began decorating himself and his rooms in order to carry his theory into actual practice. This aestheticism was caricatured in Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera, Patience (1881), which turned out to be successful in New York. The producer, Richard O’Oyly Carte, invited Wilde for a lecture tour in the US and Canada, and he became popular, delivering nearly 150 lectures throughout both countries. Wilde married Constance Lloyd in 1884, and they had two sons, Cyril in 1885, and Vyvyan in 1886.

Wilde’s major works include The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), his only published novel; The Importance of Being Earnest, which opened at the St James’s on 14 February 1895 and was his most enduringly popular play; Salomé (first produced in Paris on 11 Feb. 1896), a tragedy originally in French; The Happy Prince and Other Stories (1888), which was written for his sons.

In 1895, Wilde was arrested and found guilty of “gross indecency”, and sentenced to two years’ hard labour in prison. His prison experience in Reading was physically and psychologically destructive, and upon release in May 1897 he denounced the existing prison conditions and system in the Daily Chronicle (28 May 1897). Soon after his release, he travelled to Dieppe in France, where he called himself Sebastian Melmoth.  He published the famous poem “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” in February 1898, initially signed C.3.3., which denoted Building C, floor 3, cell 3 at Reading. Wilde died in Paris on 30 November 1900. (N. M.)

1.Ballade de Marguerite
2.The Ballad of Reading Gaol
3.The Dole of the King's Daughter