Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irishnote playwright, poet, and journalist of the Victorian Era; he lived in Victorian London. A massive celebrity of his day, known for his wit and social commentary, he habitually made perverse and snarky quips and often immortalized them in his work. His most celebrated play, The Importance of Being Earnest, is still often performed today. His other famous works include the poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol, his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, and several beautiful fairy tales, including The Happy Prince. He once wrote a break-up letter that became world-famous (De Profundis).
Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland, on 16 October 1854, the second son of three children born to Sir William Wylde, the foremost eye and ear specialist of his time, and Lady Jane Wilde, a poet and a staunch Irish Nationalist. Oscar's siblings were William "Willie" Wilde and Isola Wilde, who died when she was ten, to Oscar's lasting grief.
Wilde's education began at Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, from which he obtained a scholarship to Trinity College, Dublin, where he won the Berkeley Gold Medal for Greek and received a demyship to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he distinguished himself as a Classical scholar, poseur, wit, and poet. In Oxford, he came under the influence of the writers John Ruskin and Walter Pater. Pater taught him the doctrine of "Art for Art's sake", which eventually served as the core teaching of Aestheticism. Wilde set out to idolise beauty for beauty's sake, filling his rooms with blue china and reproductions of paintings by the likes of Dante Gabriel Rosetti and Edward Burne-Jones, declaring that beauty was the ideal after which everyone should strive. He would also dress flamboyantly, wearing a velvet coat edged with braid, knee-breeches, black silk stockings, a soft, loose shirt with a wide turn-down collar and a large flowing tie, which clashed with the upper middle class's more conventional fashion sense.
During the 1880s, he was the object of ridicule in Victorian society's antagonism to Aestheticism; the periodical Punch satirised him, and Gilbert and Sullivan made the opera Patience satirising Aestheticism in general, with Bunthorne, a "fleshly poet", based partly on Wilde. This, however, led Wilde to reinforce the association, so he published his collected poems in 1881 and went on a lecture tour in America in 1882, eager for acclaim and short on funds (Gilbert, Sullivan, and Richard D'Oyly Carte, who was both the producer of Patience and Wilde's booking agent, sent Wilde on this lecture tour, seeking to popularize the show's American touring productions). His lecture tour proved a massive success, and he returned to England in 1883, covered with considerable notoriety, if not glory.
In 1884, Wilde married Constance Mary Lloyd, the daughter of a prominent Irish barrister; he had two sons, Cyril and Vyvyan, the latter who became one of his biographers. Meanwhile, Wilde was a reviewer for the Pall Mall Gazette and became editor of Woman's World from 1887-89, during which he published The Happy Prince and Other Tales (1888), a collection of fairy tales.
In the 1890s, Wilde wrote nearly all of his major works. One of his most famous works is The Picture of Dorian Gray (serialised in 1890, revised and expanded in 1891), a novel combining Gothic horror with elements from the Decadent movement that predominated France, to harsh condemnations of immorality. He also published Intentions (1891), a collection of essays affirming his stance on Aestheticism, citing French poets such as Théophile Gautier and Charles Baudelaire. He also published a series of plays: Lady Windermere's Fan (1891), Salomé (1893), A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895), and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895).
Wilde developed a very close (perhaps even homoerotic) friendship with Lord Alfred Douglas, and this relationship catalysed Wilde's eventual fall. The Marquess of Queensbury, the father of Douglas, launched a smear campaign on Wilde, and Douglas, wanting to see his father in the dock, persuaded Wilde to sue for criminal libel. Unfortunately for Wilde, his case collapsed; Lord Queensbury was acquitted, and his place in the dock was taken by Wilde, who was sentenced to two years imprisonment. While in prison, Wilde wrote a long denunciatory letter to Douglas (published in part in 1905 under the title of De Profundis).
In May 1897, Wilde was released from prison, and he went to France in the hopes of regenerating himself as a writer. However, his only work after his release from prison was The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), a poem revealing his concern for inhumane prison conditions. Despite being bankrupt, he maintained "an unconquerable gaiety of soul" that sustained him, receiving the support of friends such as Max Beerbohm and Robert Ross, who would become his literary executor; he also reunited with Douglas.
Wilde died of acute meningitis from an ear infection on 30 November 1900. All his life, he was strongly attracted to the Catholic Church, and he was received into the Church on his deathbed.
Wilde is famous for producing an enormous body of quotable wit — enormous enough that of the hundreds of quotes attributed to him, as many as half may resemble things he actually said. This tendency to gather misattributions is the root of his status as Uncyclopedia's Memetic Badass in chief. Not to be confused with the other "Oscar Wilde".
Works with their own pages:<!—index—>
- An Ideal Husband
- The Importance of Being Earnest
- Lady Windermere's Fan
- The Picture of Dorian Gray
- The Happy Prince
- The Selfish Giant
- The Canterville Ghost
Other works provide examples of:
- Author Avatar: The character with all the good lines generally is this.
- Author Tract: Nearly everything he wrote, to some extent. "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" is a bitter indictment of the Victorian penal system.
- Ballad of X: "The Ballad of Reading Gaol".
- Black Comedy: "Lord Arthur Savile's Crime".
- Break the Cutie: Prison did this to him, as illustrated in "The Ballad of Reading Gaol."Something was dead in each of us
And what was dead was Hope.
- Cloudcuckoolander: His comment on the wallpaper, dressing like prince Rupert for a costume party then wearing the same costume every day, holding only a lily in a blue vase in his rooms, wanting to satisfy his blue porcelain set.
- The Cuckoolander Was Right: "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" gives a heartbreakingly realistic depiction of Victorian prisons.
- Corrupt the Cutie: Wilde’s cynically witty lead characters are rarely above a little casual corruption of any passing cuties. Certainly, Lord Illingworth in A Woman of No Importance seems incapable of seeing a cutie of either gender without contemplating some kind of corruption...Lord Illingworth: Do you know, I don't believe in the existence of Puritan women? I don't think there is a woman in the world who would not be a little flattered if one made love to her. It is that which makes women so irresistibly adorable.
Mrs. Allonby: You think there is no woman in the world who would object to being kissed?
Lord Illingworth: Very few.
- Cuckoosnarker: Known for both his eccentricity and his sharp witticisms.
- Deadpan Snarker: Everyone in his plays. Everyone. The man himself as well.
- Double Standard: Several of his plays at least touch upon the unfairness of women's reputations being ruined by activities that men are fairly freely allowed to get away with. A Woman of No Importance, for one, is a quite explicit attack on the idea that a woman must be Defiled Forever by something that marks the man involved out as no more than a charming cad.
- Downer Ending: Various works, to say nothing of the last few years of his own life, which border on Diabolus ex Machina territory.
- Fair-Weather Friend: A literal example with Hugh Miller in "The Devoted Friend", who visits Hans during the spring, summer, and autumn, but not during the winter when Hans is left to endure the cold weather by himself. Lampshaded by Hugh:Hugh: There is no good in my going to see little Hans as long as the snow lasts, for when people are in trouble, they should be left alone, and not be bothered by visitors.
- False Widow: Mrs. Arbuthnot from A Woman of No Importance.
- Glove Slap: Discussed in A Woman of No Importance:Mrs Allonby: Miss Worsley would not let you kiss her.
Lord Illingworth: Are you sure?
Mrs Allonby: Quite.
Lord Illingworth: What do you think she'd do if I kissed her?
Mrs Allonby: Either marry you, or strike you across the face with her glove. What would you do if she struck you across the face with her glove?
Lord Illingworth: Fall in love with her, probably.
Mrs Allonby: Then it is lucky you are not going to kiss her!
Lord Illingworth: Is that a challenge?
- Later in the play, an actual glove slap does occur — but not involving Miss Worsley.
- The Heartless: In "The Fisherman and His Soul", a Fisherman cuts his shadow (which holds his soul) free from his body so that he can live in the sea with his love, a mermaid. The soul, lacking a heart, becomes evil.
- Hellhole Prison: The Ballad of Reading Gaol details the horrors he experienced during his imprisonment in Reading Gaol. He writes of the inedible food, back-breaking hard labor, and crushing misery that makes prisoners worse instead of rehabilitating them.The vilest deeds like poison weeds
Bloom well in prison air.
It is only what is good in man
That wastes and withers there.
Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate
And the Warder in Despair.
- Homoerotic Subtext: Played with in ''The Portrait Of Mr. W. H., where the characters debate over supposed Homoerotic Subtext in Shakespeare's sonnets. Wilde plays with Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory, and even the reader starts wondering if the assumptions could be true.
- Hot Witch: In "The Fisherman and his Soul", the one who tells the Fisherman how to get rid of his soul so he can court a mermaid is a beautiful red-headed witch. She bitterly lampshades the trope via lamenting how the Fisherman is hung up on the mermaid when he should be smitten with her due to her own beauty.
- Ignored Aesop: Invoked and enforced by the water rat at the end of The Devoted Friend; after the linnet concludes his story, the water rat asks what became of Hugh Miller, and the linnet attempts to dismiss this by attempting to tell the story's moral, only for the rat to storm away before the linnet starts, with the rat admitting that he wouldn't have listened to the linnet's story if he had known a moral would be involved.
- Insane Troll Logic: "The Devoted Friend", "The Remarkable Rocket", "The Crime of Lord Arthur Savile".
- Interspecies Romance: "The Fisherman and His Soul" has a Handsome Fisherman who catches a cute little mermaid in his fishing nets, and releases her when she promises to sing every day so he can catch more fish. Within a few days he falls head over heels in love, and while she likes him back, she can't accept his feelings because he has a soul, unlike non-humans like her. And so the young Fisherman begins to work on getting rid of his own soul...
- It's All About Me: The title character in "The Remarkable Rocket.""What right have you to be happy? You should be thinking about others. In fact, you should be thinking about me. I am always thinking about myself, and I expect everybody else to do the same. That is what is called sympathy. It is a beautiful virtue, and I possess it in a high degree."
- The water rat in the opening narration of "The Devoted Friend", who expects his devoted friend to be devoted to him.
- Karma Houdini: Hugh Miller, little Hans's neighbor in "The Devoted Friend", promises Hans a wheelbarrow which Hans never receives, because he is sent on numerous errands which leave him physically exhausted. One night, Hugh sends Hans to fetch a doctor, but Hans never makes it, drowning in a ditch. At the story's end, Hugh Miller receives no apparent consequences for withholding the promised wheelbarrow which Hans never received.
- Master Poisoner: Thomas Griffiths Wainewright, according to Pen, Pencil, and Poison
- Old Beggar Test:
- In the short story "The Star-Child", a child is found in a forest just after a shooting star is seen in the sky. One of the woodcutters who finds the child takes him home and convinces his wife to help raise him along with their own children. The boy is handsome, but grows to be rude and arrogant. His birth mother appears on the scene in the guise of a beggar, and he rejects her. Then he turns ugly and is rejected by his friends, prompting him to go in search of his mother. Along the way, he is enslaved and aids a man with leprosy three times, though each time his master beats him for it. After the third occasion, he magically recovers his good looks and meets the leper and the beggar woman again. It turns out the leper is his father in disguise, just as his mother appeared to be a beggar woman, and both of them the wealthy rulers of a kingdom (and he of course is their son and heir).
- In The Model Millionaire, Hughie Erskine gives some money to a beggar sitting for an artist friend despite having financial problems himself. The beggar turns out to be a wealthy Baron who is a friend of the artist and wanted to pose as a beggar in one of his paintings. Impressed by Hughie's kindness, he sends Hughie an envelope with ten thousand pounds in it.
- Our Souls Are Different: In "The Fisherman and his Soul", a Fisherman gives up his soul in order to be with the mermaid he loves. His soul is shown as being intellectually completely different from himself. In fact, his life only changes for the worse once his soul returns. The spell the Fisherman performs to separate himself from his soul involves cutting his shadow free from his body, whereupon it is animated by the soul and goes about getting into misadventures. The soul, left on its own, is apparently Heartless.
- Patrick Stewart Speech: "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."
- People of Hair Color: In "The Star Child", the child stands out among his adopted family and village because he is blond while they all have dark hair and eyes.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: De Profundis, a 50,000-word letter written in prison from Wilde to his onetime lover Lord Alfred Douglas, is the "The Reason You Suck" Speech raised to the level of great art. Simultaneously played straight and inverted, in that for Wilde it's also a "The Reason I Suck" Speech.
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: In "Lord Arthur Savile's Crime," a palm reader tells the titular character that he will commit a murder in the future. Lord Arthur, who was not previously inclined to murder, decides to get it over with as soon as possible so he doesn't have it hanging over his head. In an extra dose of irony, he ends up killing the palm reader.
- Self-Plagiarism: Some of the same bits of dialogue appear in more than one of his plays.
- Shakespeare in Fiction: "The Portrait of Mr. W.H."
- Shaped Like Itself: From The Fisherman and his Soul — "They tempt me with temptations".
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Several of Wilde's fairy tales.
- "The Nightingale and the Rose": Young man is mopey because some girl doesn't like him, wants to give her a red rose, and can't find one. A nightingale feels sorry for him and travels around the world looking for a rose, and can't find one either. The nightingale sacrifices her life, brutally and painfully, to create a red rose from her own blood. The young man finds it and gives it to the girl, but she dumps him anyway, and he throws it in the gutter and decides love is stupid. End of story.
- "The Star Child": Through suffering, the arrogant boy learns the error of his ways and is restored to his former handsome self — and is crowned king. It's mentioned that he was the most benevolent ruler they'd ever had... sadly, he only ruled for three years and was succeeded by a cruel tyrant. The end.
- Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!: Once called a cynic "a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing".
- The Soulless: Subverted in "The Fisherman and his Soul". A young fisherman is magically separated from his soul, which takes on human guise and travels around without him — and the fisherman is largely unaffected, while the soul becomes a typical "soulless" monster-in-human-form. It's explained that this is because the fisherman still has a loving heart, while the soul is both literally and metaphorically heartless.
- Take That!: To various cultures, places, and people for his satirical works.
- Title Drop: A Woman of No Importance drops its title fairly crucially in an early scene, then plays with it further at the very end.
- You Are Number 6: Originally published "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" under his convict number - C.3.3.