Oscar Wilde

O scar Wilde is remember today as the author of ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray and many other works, mostly plays, which were crafted to challenge and entertain. The poet was in his time the leader of the aesthetic movement. His life came to a deeply sad end when he was convicted and sent to prison for a relationship he maintained with Sir Alfred Douglas, better known as Bosie.

Oscar Wilde


Life Facts

  • Oscar Wilde was born Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde in Dublin, Ireland in October of 1854.
  • He attended Trinity College in Dublin and while there received the Foundation Scholarship.
  •  In 1881 he published his first collection, ‘Poems.’
  • Wilde toured America giving a total of 140 lectures in nine months.
  • Oscar Wilde established himself as a leader of the “aesthetic movement.

Interesting Facts

  • Wilde was a lover of John Keats’ poetry.
  • He met with a number of notable literary figures in America while traveling, including, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Walt Whitman.
  •  He published ‘The Happy Prince and Other Tales’ and ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ in 1888.
  • In 1895 he was convicted for “gross indecency”.
  • He died in 1900 of an ear infection that had been contracted and untreated in prison.


Famous Poems by Oscar Wilde

‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’ is most certainly Wilde’s most famous poem. It is long and considered to be his last great work before his death. throughout the winding and hauntingly rhythmic stanzas, Wild describes the life and death of a prisoner who “killed the one he loved”. This character, based around a real man (Charles Thomas Wooldridge) is hanged while the other men watch.

 

‘Apologia’ is, as many of Wilde’s poems are, based around love. The poem contains statements directed at the speaker’s lover. He tells this person of all the things he’d do for them. This includes selling his ambition and giving himself over to sorrow. He would do whatever it takes.

 

‘Magdalen Walks’ is based around Wilde’s memories of his university days. The poem depicts spring and the beauty of its arrival against a backdrop of Magdalen College, Oxford where Wilde when to school. The elements of spring work wonders on the land, improving it in every way.

 

‘Requiescat’  takes its name from something that is spoken to the dead. this makes a great deal of sense when one starts reading the poem and they come to understand that the speaker believes he can talk to his lover after they are gone. He expresses his fear that any heavy walking or loud talking near her gravesite is going to disturb her slumber. He eventually concedes that this is not the case, she can hear nothing.

 

‘Her Voice’ is the companion piece of another popular poem by Oscar Wilde called ‘My Voice’. It is the longer of the two and speaks about a symbolic garden, eternity, and the consolation she is takes in the fact that she still has her beauty and he, his “Art” when they part.

 


Early Life

Wilde was born Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde in Dublin, Ireland in October of 1854. As a young child, Wilde attended Portora Royal School where he was first introduced to Greek and Roman studies, a passion which would stay with him his entire life. He was a bright child and often won awards.

After graduating, Wilde attended Trinity College in Dublin, and while there received the Foundation Scholarship, the highest award given to undergraduate students. He would continue to receive awards during his schooling and upon his graduation. One of which, the Demyship Scholarship, allowed him to study at Magdalen College in Oxford. 


Literary Career

After graduating from Magdalen, Wilde moved permanently to London. In 1881 he published his first collection, Poems.  The next year Wilde toured America giving a total of 140 lectures in nine months. He met with a number of notable literary figures while traveling, including, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Walt Whitman.

After returning home he continued to lecture, traveling through England and Ireland until 1884. It was during this time that Wilde established himself as a leader of the “aesthetic movement,” or the idea that one should live by a set of beliefs advocating beauty as having its own worth, rather than as a tool of promotion for other viewpoints. 


Writing Career and Relationships

Oscar Wilde married Constance Lloyd with whom he would have two sons. In 1888 Wilde entered his most creative and productive years. He published The Happy Prince and Other Tales, as well as his only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. At the time of its publication critics and readers were outraged by its content and apparent homosexual undertones. While his novel was not received well, he was enjoying success from several plays, such as An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest.

 During this same time period, Wilde was deeply involved in an affair with Lord Alfred Douglas, more commonly known as Bosie. Bosie’s father, outraged by the affair, wrote a note to Wilde addressed, “Oscar Wilde: Posing Somdomite” (an accidental misspelling of “sodomite”). Wilde’s choice to sue Bosie’s father for libel ruined his life. 


Prison and Death

In 1895, after a trial and conviction for “gross indecency,” Wilde spent two years in prison under forced labor conditions. This sentence took a great toll on the writer and in 1897, after being released, Wilde moved to London. His last great work, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” was completed in 1898. Oscar Wilde died in 1900 of an ear infection that had been contracted, and untreated, in prison.


Influence from other Poets

Oscar Wilde was notably influenced by writers such as John Keats, Walt Whitman, and William Shakespeare.


Poems by Oscar Wilde

Explore poetry by Oscar Wilde below, analyzed by the team at Poem Analysis.

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