Oscar (Fingal O'Flahertie Wills) Wilde
- (1854 - 1900) Irish playwright, who wrote one of the bestloved comedies in the English language - The Importanceof Being Earnest (1895). A leading wit and conversationalistin London society, his career was destroyed at its height when hewas imprisoned for homosexual offences.
Wilde was born in Dublin and educated at Trinity College,Dublin, and Magdalen College, Oxford. Settling in London, he becamefamous for his extravagant dress, long hair, and paradoxical viewson art, literature, and morality. His first play, Vera (1880),a tragedy about Russian nihilists, was produced in New York to poorreviews. Success in the theater came with the elegant drawing-roomcomedy Lady Windermere's Fan. After its opening night atthe St James's Theatre, a friend asked how the performance went. "Oh,the play was a great success," Wilde replied, "but theaudience was a total failure." A Woman of No Importance(1893) was another success; when the audience called for the authorat the end of the first performance, Wilde rose from a box and announced"Ladies and Gentlemen, I regret to inform you that Mr OscarWilde is not in the house." His other works for the theaterwere An Ideal Husband (1895) and the biblical Salomé(1896), written in French for Sarah Bernhardt.
Wilde flaunted his homosexual affairs, including his ill-fatedliaison with Lord Alfred Douglas. Following a celebrated trial in1895 he was sentenced to two years' imprisonment with hard labour.The sentence led to public humiliation, poor health, and bankruptcy. On hisrelease in 1897 he left for France and remained in exile there untilhis death.He belongs to our world more than to Victoria's. Now beyondthe reach of scandal, his best writings validated by time, he comesbefore us, still a towering figure, laughing and weeping, with parablesand paradoxes, so generous, so amusing, and so right.Richard Ellmann: Oscar Wilde (1987)