Oscar Wilde was one of the most prominent Irish born playwrights. He was a major player in the aesthetic movement, which was based on art for art’s sake. Wilde was also a novelist, playwright, poet, and critic.
He was born Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wilson Wilde on October 16, 1854, in Dublin, Ireland. Wilde came from a rather large family. William Wilde, his father, had three illegitimate children previous to his marriage. They were Henry Wilson in 1838, Emily in 1847, and Mary in 1849. William provided financially for all of them. Henry studied medicine and later assisted his father at St. Mark’s Hospital. William’s brother raised Emily and Mary but both died in a fire at the ages of 24 and 22. Oscar’s mother had three children, William Charles Kingsbury in 1852, Oscar in 1854, and Isola Emily Franscesca in 1857. Isola died ten years later in 1857 from a sudden fever. Oscar was profoundly affected by this and kept a lock of her hair sealed in a decorated envelope until the day he died.
Oscar’s father, William Wilde, graduated as a doctor, completed voyages to North Africa and the Middle East, studied at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, written two books, and been appointed medical advisor to the Irish Census of 1841 all by the time he was 28. He later became Assistant Commissioner to the 1851 Census and was knighted for his work in 1864 at the age of 49.
Oscar’s mother, Jane Francesca Elgee, wrote revolutionary poems for an Irish weekly newspaper called The Nation in 1846. She was also a gifted linguist with a lot of knowledge of major European languages and translated Wilhelm Meinhold’s horror novel, Sidonia The Sorceress. This came to be one of Oscar’s favorite books.
Oscar attended Protora Royal School at Enniskillen and excelled at Classics. In 1872, he placed first in his examinations and was awarded a Foundation Scholarship. In 1874, Oscar won the college’s Berkeley Gold Medal for Greek and was awarded a Demyship (scholarship) to Magdalen College, Oxford.
Then in 1876, Oscar’s father died and Henry had to support the family, until his sudden death in 1878.
Oscar did very well at Oxford and was awarded the Newdigate prize for his poem, “Ravenna” and “First In Greats” by his teachers. After graduation he moved to London with is friend, Frank Miles, a well-known portrait painter. Then in 1881, Oscar published his first collection of poems entitled, Poems.” It was reviewed well by the critics.
In late 1881, Wilde came to New York and traveled across the United States. He gave a series of lectures on “The...