Oscar Wilde


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Wilde, Oscar

(Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde), 1854–1900, Irish author and wit, b. Dublin. He is most famous for his sophisticated, brilliantly witty plays, which were the first since the comedies of Sheridan and Goldsmith to have both dramatic and literary merit. He studied at Trinity College, Dublin, and at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he distinguished himself for his scholarship and wit, and also for his elegant eccentricity in dress, tastes, and manners. Influenced by the aesthetic teachings of Walter PaterPater, Walter Horatio
, 1839–94, English essayist and critic. In 1864 he was elected a fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford, and he subsequently led an austere and uneventful life.
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 and John RuskinRuskin, John,
1819–1900, English critic and social theorist. During the mid-19th cent. Ruskin was the virtual dictator of artistic opinion in England, but Ruskin's reputation declined after his death, and he has been treated harshly by 20th-century critics.
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, Wilde became the center of a group glorifying beauty for itself alone, and he was famously satirized (with other exponents of "art for art's sake") in Punch and in Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta Patience. His first published work, Poems (1881), was well received. The next year he lectured to great acclaim in the United States, where his drama Vera (1883) was produced. In 1884 he married Constance Lloyd, and they had two sons, Cyril and Vyvyan.

Later he began writing for and editing periodicals, but his active literary career began with the publication of Lord Arthur Savile's Crime and Other Stories (1891) and two collections of fairy tales, The Happy Prince (1888) and The House of Pomegranates (1892). In 1891 his novel Picture of Dorian Gray appeared. A tale of horror, it depicts the corruption of a beautiful young man pursuing an ideal of sensual indulgence and moral indifference; although he himself remains young and handsome, his portrait becomes ugly, reflecting his degeneration.

Wilde's stories and essays were well received, but his creative genius found its highest expression in his plays—Lady Windermere's Fan (1892), A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895), and his masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), which were all extremely clever and filled with pithy epigrams and paradoxes. Wilde explained away their lack of depth by saying that he put his genius into his life and only his talent into his books. He also wrote two historical tragedies, The Duchess of Padua (1892) and Salomé (1893).

In 1891, Wilde met and quite soon became intimate with the considerably younger, handsome, and dissolute Lord Alfred Douglas (nicknamed "Bosie"). Soon the marquess of Queensberry, Douglas's father, began railing against Wilde and later wrote him a note accusing him of homosexual practices. Foolishly, Wilde brought action for libel against the marquess and was himself charged with homosexual offenses under the Criminal Law Amendment, found guilty, and sentenced (1895) to prison for two years. His experiences in jail inspired his most famous poem, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), and the apology published by his literary executor as De Profundis (1905). Released from prison in 1897, Wilde found himself a complete social outcast in England and, plagued by ill health and bankruptcy, lived in France under an assumed name until his death.

Bibliography

See his collected works, ed. by R. Ross (1969); letters, ed. by R. Hart-Davis (1962); complete letters, ed. by M. Holland and R. Hart-Davis (2000); notebooks, ed. by P. E. Smith 2d and M. S. Helfant (1989); Oscar Wilde in America: The Interviews (2010), ed. by M. Hofer and G. Scharnhorst; biographies by R. Ellman (1988), P. Raby (1988), J. Pearce (2005), N. McKenna (2006), R. Stach (2 vol., 2010, tr. 2013), R. Morris, Jr. (2012), and S. Friedländer (2013); studies by M. Fido (1974), N. Kohl (1989), G. Woodcock (1989), T. Wright (2009), J. Bristow, ed. (2013), and D. M. Friedman, (2014).

References in periodicals archive ?
This source is a significant archive for the study of Oscar Wilde as it provides an insight into the 1882 tour which has previously not been widely available to most modern scholars.
It is in its treatment of Wilde's dramatic masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest, that The Faiths of Oscar Wilde shines the brightest.
What: Subtitled "The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde," Moises Kaufman's drama documents the famous downfall; directed by Joe Zingo
Science and Oscar Wilde," John Wilson Foster details the interest in science Wilde evinces in his Oxford commonplace book.
The characters whose encounters and conflicts dramatize these juxtapositions include the imperialists Cecil Rhodes, Leander Jameson, and Alfred Milner and the writers Rudyard Kipling, Oscar Wilde, Olive Schreiner, and Frank Harris.
HANDWRITTEN works and portraits of Oscar Wilde and William Butler Yeats made more than [euro]175,000 in an auction this week.
On April 6, 1895, in room number 118, Oscar Wilde, Britain's most quotable and flamboyant playwright was arrested at one of London's top hotels while sipping on weak hock and seltzer.
London, Sep 25 (ANI): A group of letters by the renowned playwright Oscar Wilde recently went under the hammer in Derby.
Instead, he'll be focusing on the two other authors he adores the most - Oscar Wilde and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
AN IVORY-HANDLED walking cane and a brass inkwell believed to have belonged to poet and playwright Oscar Wilde will go under the hammer, it was revealed.
Among the many books on Wilde that Holland has authored or edited are the following: last year's Oscar Wilde: A Life in Letters (reviewed in these pages last September-October); The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde (2004), which contains the first uncensored transcript of the events leading up to Wilde's imprisonment for homosexuality; and The Wilde Album: Public and Private Images of Oscar Wilde (1998).