Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin on 16 October 1854. He was born into an educated and cultured family; his mother was a poet and journalist, while his father was a leading surgeon, as well as a well-known philanthropist and writer.
Wilde attended Trinity College, Dublin in the early 1870s and then went on to study at Oxford University. Whilst at Oxford, he won the 1878 Newdigate Prize for his poem, Ravenna.
In 1881, he published his first collection of poetry, Poems, which received mixed reviews. For the next few years he worked as an art reviewer and lecturer, moving between Paris, the United States, Britain, and Ireland. After marrying Constance Lloyd in 1884 and having 2 sons, Wilde worked as the editor of Woman's World magazine from 1887-1889. Moving in London’s fashionable social circles, he became known for his biting wit, flamboyant dress and glittering conversation. Indeed, Wilde became one of the best-known personalities of his day.
In 1891, his first and only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, was published and was shortly followed by his successful play, Lady Windemere’s Fan (1892). This was the first of a string of popular hit comedies that were well received by London society despite their penchant for offering a comedic, but often not particularly flattering, analysis of the upper classes. These plays included A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895), and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895).
In 1895, Wilde sued Lord Alfred Douglas’ father for libel after being accused of homosexuality (even though Lord Alfred, or Bosie, was indeed his lover). Wilde was unsuccessful, and he was arrested and tried for gross indecency. He was sentenced to two years of hard labor. After being released in 1897, he spent the rest of life staying with friends across Europe, eventually dying of cerebral meningitis in Paris in 1900. He was alone and penniless.
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Test out your knowledge on one of Oscar Wilde's wittiest plays!
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