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Oscar Wilde 1882 studio portait by Napoleon Sarony

Oscar Wilde: Biography

Image: | Above: Oscar Wilde 1882 studio portait by Napoleon Sarony

Oscar O'Flahertie Fingal Wills Wilde was the son of Sir William and Lady Jane Wilde. Both were flamboyant and controversial local figures.

In 1878, Oscar Wilde moved to London with a degree from Oxford and a burning desire to achieve stardom. He viewed life as a performance. His wardrobe was designed by theatre costumiers, including a velvet coat edged with braid, and a large flowing pale green tie.

Within two years, he had made quite a name for himself, but his first play, 'Vera or The Nihilists', was not well received. Nor was his first volume of poetry.

Wilde decided to adopt a life of respectability. In 1884, he married Constance Lloyd and fathered two sons. He even became editor of Women's World, a very reputable publication.

But by 1886 he was secretly meeting his male lovers. Shortly thereafter, he separated from his wife. He submerged himself in liquor and young men. Ironically, it was during this period (1888-1895) that most of Wilde's important works were written, including his only novel, 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'.

The last of Wilde's plays, 'The Importance of Being Earnest', is considered by many to be the finest modern farce in the English language.

For months, the Marquess of Queensbury had been demanding that Wilde stay away from his son, Lord Alfred Douglas. Wilde, however, was quite infatuated with the young man. Queensbury confronted Wilde at his club, leaving his infamously misspelled note accusing Wilde of "posing as a Somdomite."

Wilde charged Queensbury with libel, but revelations during the trial about his relationship with Alfred ("Bosie") caused the playwright to be prosecuted for homosexual offences. He was sentenced to two years hard labour.

He was never the same after his release from prison in 1897. In November 1900, Oscar Wilde died penniless and alone in a Paris hotel.