His Life

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born on October 16th, 1854 in Dublin, Ireland to eminent ocular surgeon, Sir William, and his wife, Lady Jane Francesca Wilde. Both of his parents were authors in their own right, with his fathers medical text books being standard reading for students, whilst his mothers poetry, written under the nom de plume Speranza, was popular amongst the supporters of the Irish Independence movement.

Wilde's school life began in 1863 at the Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, an instiution which steeped its pupils in a classical education. He went on to win a place to study at Trinity College in Dublin from 1871 where he won the Berkeley Gold Medal for Greek. He won a scholarship to study at Magdalen College, Oxford in 1874, from where he took a First Class in Classical Moderations in 1876, and two years later, a First Class in Literae Humaniores. Shortly before leaving 'going up' from university, Wilde published his first poem, entitled 'Ravenna' which won the prestigious Newdigate prize.

It was whilst studying at Oxford that Oscar came across Walter Pater and became an advocate for his 'Art for Art's Sake' movement. Wilde became notorious for his effeminate affectations as an aesthete under his influence, and started sporting more and more outlandish habits. He wore velvet and carried a jewel topped cane, lavender gloves, and wore a dyed green button hole flower. He developed an affection for Roman Catholicism, no doubt attracted by the pomp and ceremony of the Church, but Pater dissuaded him from converting to the faith, and instead instigated Wilde's ideas of a 'Hellenistic Ideal' whilst the pair toured Greece.

In 1879, Wilde moved to Chelsea, in London, and started to write for his living and became the self-styled 'Apostle of Aestheticism'. This was quite a stressful time, as his father died, leaving his family in dire financial straits, and he was jilted by his fiancee, Florence Balcombe, who ran off and married Bram Stoker.

A year after Ravenna was published, Wilde penned his first collection entitled 'Poems' and in 1882 he embarked on a lecture tour of the United States and Canada where he talked on the topic of the 'Cult of the Artificial'. He played the aesthetic dandy role to a tee, from the moment he stepped foot in the country, giving his famous reply to the customs officials, that he 'had nothing to declare but his genius'. This tour thrust him into the international spotlight, and Wilde eventually married Constance Mary Lloyd on May 29, 1884. The couples first son, Cyril, was born in 1885, and their second, Vyvyan, was born the next year. By 1887, Wilde had become the editor of Womens World, and seemed to become quite settled.

By 1889, he became bored with the tame turn his life had taken, and started to write more and more contravertial essays on aesthetics and Art for Art's Sake. In 1891, Wilde met and fell in love with the son of the Marquess of Queensbury, Lord Alfred Douglas, known as 'Bosie' who was then an undergraduate at Oxford. Bosie was taken with the brilliance of Wilde's conversation and wit, and the young lord's good looks and title entranced Wilde. The couples relationship marked on of the most productive phases of Wildes life, despite the ever increasing distance from his wife.

In 1895, The Marquess of Queensberry triggered Wildes downfall, after he left a visiting card at Wilde's London club, the Albemarle, upon which he had written,To Oscar Wilde posing as a sodomite. Wilde was incensed, and after encouragment from Bosie, sued the Marquess for libel. The Marquess then threatened to produce a string of witnesses who could testify as to his behaviour, and Wilde withdrew the case. Shortly afterwards, on the basis of the evidence shown in court by the Marquess, Wilde was charged under section II of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885, often called the 'Labouchere amendment'.

Wilde was given the chance to leave the country to escape punishment when the Marquess left him another note at his club saying ''I will not prevent your flight but if you take my son with you, I will shoot you like a dog,. Wilde didn't listen and was arrested hours later, four days after the first night on 'The Importance of being Earnest'.

Wilde served 2 years hard labour, the first six months at Wandsworth, and the remainder in Reading. After his conviction his family disowned him, his children changed their name from Wilde to Holland, his house and assets were seized after he was declared bankrupt, and many of his friends deserted him.

Upon leaving prison on May 19th 1897, Wilde moved to Berneval, France under the name Sebastian Melmoth, where he was briefly reunited with Bosie, but the loss of his family, his home and his fortune had left him a broken man. He died of suspected cerebral meningitis on 30th. November, 1900, in the Hotel d'Alsace, Paris. He was buried in Bagneux Cemetery in Paris, but was reinterred in the French National Cemetery at Pére Lachaise in 1909.

His Work

Wilde's work is inspirational. His characters, in both plays and books show such witty turns of phrase, and the elegance of his writing is astounding. Despite writing only one full length adult novel, he seems to be remembered more as a writer and a wit, than a playwright.


It has proved to be very awkward to get a complete bibliography for Wilde, especially with dates. Where possible I've arranged his work chronologically, else it's alphabetical


The Birthday of the Infanta
The Canterville Ghost
The Devoted Friend
The Fisherman and His Soul
The Happy Prince (1888)
Lord Arthur Savile's Crime (1891)
The Model Millionaire
The Nightingale and the Rose
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)
The Remarkable Rocket
The Selfish Giant
The Sphinx without a Secret
The Star-Child
The Young King


Vera, or the Nihilists (1882)
The Duchess of Padua (1883)
Lady Windermere's Fan(1892)
A Woman of No Importance(1893)
An Ideal Husband(1895)
A Florentine Tragedy
The Importance of Being Earnest
La Sainte Courtisane

Prose and Poetry

Ave Imperatix
Ave Maria Gratia Plena
Amor Intellectualis
At Verona
Agamemnon of Aeschylos
The Artist's Dream or San Artysty.......
The Artist
By The Arno
The Burden of Itys
La Bella Donna della mia Mente
Ballade de Marguerite
Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898)
Chorus of Cloud Maidens
The Dole of the King's Daughter
The Disciple
The Doer of Good
E Tenebris
Easter Day
Fabien dei Franchi
Flower of Love
From Spring Days to Winter
The Garden of Eros
The Grave of Keats
The Grave of Shelley
The Harlot's House
Her Voice
House of Judgement
In the Forest
In the Gold Room
Le Jardin des Tuileries
Libertatis Sacra Fames
Lotus Leaves
Louis Napoleon
Madonna Mia
Magdalen Walks
The Master
My Voice
The New Helen
The New Remorse
On the sale by auction of Keat's Love Letters
Quantum Mutata
Queen Henrietta Maria
Quia Multum Amavi
Rome Unvisited
San Miniato
Santa Decca
Silentium Amoris
Song of Lamentation
The Sphinx
Symphony in Yellow
Taedium Vitae
Teacher of Wisdom
To L.L.
To Milton
To My Wife
The True Knowledge
Under the Balcony
Urbs Sacra Aeterna
A Vision
Vita Nuova
Wasted Days
With a copy of House of Pomegranates
- on Approaching Italy
- on the Massacre of Christians in Bulgaria
- on Hearing the Dies Irae Sung
- Holy Week at Genoa
- to liberty
- du matin
- du voyage
- la fuite de la lune
- silhouettes
- le jardin
- la mer
- le reveillon
- Le Panneau
- Les Ballons

Essays and Miscellaneous Notes

Two Letters to the Daily Chronicle....
The Decay of Lying
Pen, Pencil and Poison
The Critic as Artist
The Critic as Artist part 2
The Truth of Masks
The English Renaissance of Art
House Decoration
The Soul of Man Under Socialism
The Rise of Historical Criticism
Art and the Handicraftsman
Lecture to Art Students
London Models
Three Letters to Robert Ross
Portrait of Mr. W.H. (1889)
A Few Maxims for the Instruction of the Over-educated
Phrases & Philosophies for the Use of the Young
De Profundis (1905)

Sources include:
etext.lib.virginia.edu/subjects/salome/bio.html etext.lib.virginia.edu/subjects/salome/bio.html