Oscar Wilde –
photograph taken in 1882 by Napoleon Sarony
1. His full name is Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde and he was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1854.
2. His mother, Jane Francesca Elgee, was a celebrated writer who went by the pen-name of ‘Speranza’. She is said to have mastered 12 languages and frequently translated many works into English from Italian, French, German, Russian, Turkish and Spanish.
3. His father, William Robert Wills Wilde, was a physician who specialised as an ear-eye surgeon. He fathered at least 3 illegitimate children before he married Jane Francesca Elgee.
4. The Wilde’s often dined with other famous writers and poets such as John Butler Yeats and George Henry Moore.
5. Oscar Wilde had photographic memory. While studying at Magdalen College in Oxford, he was famous for his ability to recall long passages of writing.
6. His only published novel is ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. All his other works are either plays, poems or short children’s stories.
7. His most controversial play is ‘Salome’, which was refused permission to be staged because of biblical content. Acclaimed actress Sarah Bernhardt would have played the lead role.
8. He was accused of, tried and sent to prison to Holloway for two years on account of sodomy and gross indecency.
9. ‘De Profundis’ was written while in prison and recounts his thoughts and feelings on his incarceration. It was partially published in 1905, then fully in 1962 in ‘The Letters of Oscar Wilde’. You can read ‘De Profundis’ it in it’s entirety here.
10. Wilde died of cerebral meningitis on 30th November 1900 in Paris. Reginald Turner, close friend and fellow writer was with him when he passed away. He is buried at Pere Lachaise Cemetery and his tomb was designed and built by Sir Jacob Epstein in the form of a stylised angel.
There we are. Ten facts about Wilde that you may or may not have known about. His was a very interesting life and makes for a brilliant read. If you are interested in finding out out more about this great author, then I suggest Barbara Belfords ‘Oscar Wilde: A Certain Genius’.
Belford specialises in Victorian literary figures and has also written biographies of Violet Hunt and Bram Stoker. I highly recommend her work.
Click here to read ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ online.
Mel u said:
Thanks for this very interesting post. I was in fact inspired by your post to read and blog on Oscar Wilde’s wonderful short story, “The Model Millionaire”-I referenced your post in mine-I hope we can both do another Wilde post on his 157 birthday!
The Picture of Dorian Gray is quite a novel. I read it early in life and it impacts me to this day, with its juxtaposition of our looks as shown by our physical appearance and our lifetime of living. Fascinating concept.
I didn’t know he had a photgraphic memory! I’m impressed, that would have come in quite handy during exams etc. Must check out that book, thanks for the recommendation.
Have you read an account of his trial, or rather his testimony? The man was amazing. His answers sounded as though he’d been sitting and composing them for a long while instead of making them up on the spot. I’ll confess that I couldn’t get into Dorian Gray. The writing was superb but the story itself was not engaging (to me). I like his plays though.
Mel U – I’m heading on over there to read it now. I love your posts on Victorian writers. There’s not enough readership for them really. I hope we can do a post together too. Glad I inspired someone!
Worddreams – It is a fascinating concept. And the language is just so gorgeous. It’s a shame he never wrote other novels. There are times when I feel he was a bit lazy. All that talent and it went into a bunch of plays, a novel and some short stories. I feel the same about Borges. I’d love to have read a novel by him. He would have got the Nobel Prize for sure.
Friande – Yes, I was surprised too. I discovered it in Belford’s biography. She does a great job. With his genius I’d say he didn’t even need to revise!
DBS – Nope. I haven’t had the pleasure yet. But I did hear about his clever quips. Apparently he was trying to be a bit too clever towards the end and they managed to twist his words. It’s brilliant that you’ve read his plays. Which would you recommend as the best?
I liked The Importance of Being Ernest the best. It was just so chaotic and fun – the word play, the dialogues. Fun!
This is a great information. I don’t know Oscar Wilde before, I have seen the book but didn’t even pay attention who wrote it.
Thank you for sharing this new knowledge.
You’re welcome. His children’s stories are very nice. All his books are amazing. I hope you get a chance to read him.