Perhaps you recognized Oscar Wilde on our cover.
This statue is unique in that it is sculpted in colored
marble. Located in Dublin Ireland, it sits in a place of
honor near the Writer's Museum that honors the
EMERALD ISLE'S many gifted wizards of words. Oscar
Wilde was a great playwright whose personal reputation
often over-shadowed his literary genius. Probably his most
popular and most familiar piece of work is "The
Importance of Being Ernest." It is still viewed often as a
play and as a movie. His plays, "An Ideal Husband" and
"Lady Windermare's Fan," are also well known. In all,
Wilde wrote nine plays, one novel, "The Picture of Dorian
Gray," and books of poetry.
In his own day, many considered Wilde to be decadent and amoral, especially since he was functioning in the Victorian era. An interesting fact is that he and Queen Victoria died the same year - 1900. She was a ninety year old Queen that had ruled for sixty years. He was a broken man that had been forced into two years of hard labor in prison for participating in homosexual practices.Wilde died in Paris - an exile living under the name Sebastian Melmoth. He was only forty-six years old.
Life had begun for Oscar on October 16, 1854, in Dublin, Ireland. He was blessed with three middle names extending this full name to Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde. He was the second son of interesting and accomplished parents. His father, William Wilde had - by the age of 28 - graduated as a doctor, traveled to North Africa and the Middle East, studied at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, written two books, and had been an adviser to the Irish Census in 1841. The medical statistics they gathered had never been collected in any other country. He was knighted and became Sir William Wilde because of that - and subsequent census work. He opened a Dublin practice specializing in ear and eye diseases. Feeling he should provide treatment for the poor as well, he founded St. Mark's Ophthalmic Hospital which he built completely at his own expense. Before he married, he had fathered three children - all of which he financially supported. He paid for the oldest son to go to medical school and eventually hired him as an assistant at St. Mark's Hospital.
Oscar's mother Jane, gained attention for writing revolutionary poetry for an Irish newspaper. She was also a noted linguist and translated literature from European languages. Jane and William married and had three children together - Willie, Oscar, and a daughter, Isola Emily. At the age of ten the daughter died from a sudden fever. The loss of his sister had a profound and lasting affect on Oscar and the remainder of his life he carried a lock of her hair in a decorated envelope. Oscar excelled in grammar school and achieved a scholarship to Trinity College in Dublin. At Trinity, his achievements garnered him another scholarship to Oxford in England. Again at Oxford his talents were rewarded with prizes and the highest achievement marks by his examiners. Upon graduation, he moved to London, where he published his first book, "Poems."
Witty and flamboyant, with long hair and sporting flowing capes, Oscar's keen intellect and knack for quick quips made Oscar a favorite among London's literary and social set. He was sought after as a guest and a public speaker. In December 1881 Oscar sailed for New York for what was supposed to be a four month - 50 lecture tour. It turned out to last almost a year - with 140 lectures. Oscar Wilde was a phenomenon.
In 1884 at the age of thirty, he married Constance Lloyd, a well-read, wel-educated woman with an independent mind. They quickly had two sons. Thus began the most creative period of his life. He wrote, "The Happy Prince and other Tales" for his sons.
Four years before his marriage, Oscar had met Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas, an undergraduate at Oxford. They had become lovers and for those four years before his marraige, they were inseparable. By the time he wrote "The Importance of Being Ernest" in 1895, he was a highly acclaimed and well established playwright.
Also in 1895, Wilde was convicted of gross indecency - a charge brought about by Bosie's father. Wilde was sentenced to two years of hard labor in prison. Constance took the children to Switzerland and reverted to an old family name "Holland." In response to his two years of agony in prison, Oscar wrote "The Ballad of Reading Gaol." But upon release, he was a shadow of his former self and never revived his creative spirit. Constance died in 1898, three years after having moved to Switzerland. Their sons would have been 13 and 12 years old. Two years later, Oscar died as well, leaving the boys without parents. He and Bosie had reunited briefly but most of the three years that he lived after prison, Oscar wandered around Europe, seeing friends and living in cheap hotels. Finally, a persistent ear infection became serious and meningitis set in and Wilde succumbed to death. He is buried in a Paris cemetery - in exile forever. His body of work and his quick wit with a phrase live after him - for us all to enjoy.