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.
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.