Oscar Wilde: Biography, stories, poems

Biography of Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde, born October 16, 1854, in Dublin, Ireland, was a writer and poet known for his sharp wit and exuberant style. The son of Sir William Wilde, a prominent surgeon, and Jane Francesca Elgee, a poet, Wilde grew up in a culturally and educationally rich environment.

Wilde studied at Trinity College in Dublin and then at Magdalen College in Oxford, where he was noted for his intellectual brilliance and fondness for aestheticism. This movement advocated art for art’s sake. He graduated with honors and moved to London, where he quickly became a leading figure in social and literary circles.

In 1884, Wilde married Constance Lloyd and had two children. However, his personal life was complex and marked by homosexual relationships, especially with Lord Alfred Douglas. At the time, homosexuality was illegal in the United Kingdom.

Wilde succeeded as a writer with works such as “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” a novel that explored the themes of vanity and morality, and with his plays, including “The Importance of Being Earnest,” which stood out for their wit and social criticism.

However, his relationship with Douglas led to a conflict with the latter’s father, the Marquess of Queensberry. Wilde sued the Marquess for libel, but the trial exposed his private life, leading to his arrest and conviction for “gross indecency.” He was jailed in 1895 and spent two years in prison, suffering considerable deterioration in his health and reputation.

After his release in 1897, Wilde lived in France under the name Sebastian Melmoth, a reference to the uncle of the Dracula character. He published “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” reflecting his prison experience. Wilde died in Paris on November 30, 1900, at 46, impoverished and estranged from his family.

Wilde is remembered not only for his literary work but also for his wit, his defiance of social conventions and his tragic downfall. His legacy continues to inspire debates about morality, identity and art.

The short story writer

Although best known for his plays and his only novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” Oscar Wilde was also a master of the short story. As a short story writer, Wilde exhibited his characteristic wit and a distinctive narrative style, often infused with irony, humor, and a deep understanding of human nature.

His short stories can be divided into two main categories: stories for children and stories for adults. Among the former, “The Happy Prince and Other Tales” (1888) and “A House of Pomegranates” (1891) are the most prominent. Although written for children, these stories contain moral lessons and philosophical reflections that resonate with readers of all ages. In them, Wilde explores themes of sacrifice, compassion, and the search for beauty in an often cruel and materialistic world.

On the other hand, his stories for adults, which include “The Crime of Lord Arthur Savile” and “The Canterville Ghost,” showcase his ability to combine satirical humor with sharp social criticism. Wilde uses the short story format to question his time’s social and ethical norms, often with an unexpected or ironic ending.

As a short story writer, Wilde reveals a different facet of his literary talent. While his plays and novels tend to be more direct in their social criticism and exploration of moral issues, his short stories allow for greater subtlety and diversity in their approach. Wilde deftly handles language and structure in his short stories, creating entertaining and significant narratives. His contribution to the short story genre continues to be appreciated for its originality, narrative skill, and penetrating social and human commentary.

The Poet

In addition to being a storyteller, Wilde was also a poet of considerable talent. Though often overshadowed by his other writings, his poetry reveals another dimension of his literary versatility and aesthetic sensibility.

Wilde’s poetry is characterized by its elegance, measured language use, and attention to form and rhythm. His poetic work, spanning from his student days at Oxford to his maturity, reflects influences of aestheticism and decadentism, movements that valued art for art’s sake and sought beauty in response to the vulgarity and materialism of the time.

Among his most notable poetic works is the collection “Poems” (1881), which includes such pieces as “Eleutheria” and “Ravenna,” the latter of which won the Newdigate Prize for poetry at Oxford. These early poems show his skill in handling traditional forms and his interest in love, beauty, and the transience of life.

Other important works include “The Garden of Eros,” which reflects his fascination with Greek mythology and hedonism, and “The Sphinx,” a long and complex poem exploring mystical and erotic themes. He also wrote “Ballad of Reading Jail,” inspired by his prison experience. The latter is notable for its somber tone and reflection on injustice and suffering.

Wilde’s poetry often explores the tension between reality and the ideal, between the limitations of everyday life and the search for transcendental beauty. Although his poetry did not achieve the same fame as his plays or novels, it remains integral to his literary legacy, offering a more reflective and personal perspective of his artistic vision and inner world. Wilde, as a poet, demonstrates his ability to evoke deep emotions and offer keen reflections on the human condition, all with a technical skill that confirms his place as one of the foremost literary figures of his time.

Stories by Oscar Wilde