Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1854, Wilde studied at Trinity College before leaving Ireland for Oxford University. His first volume of poetry, Patience, was published in 1881, followed by a play, The Duchess of Padua, two years later. He became a famous celebrity as a poet, playwright, and wit, but his works did not find wide recognition until the publication of a book of stories for his children, The Happy Prince and Other Tales, in 1888. His most famous work, and his only novel, was The Picture of Dorian Gray, which was published in an American magazine in 1890 to a storm of controversy over its homoerotic themes and its attacks on hypocrisy in England. Wilde wrote numerous short stories, including The Canterville Ghost (1887) and Lord Arthur Savile's Crime (1891). His first publicly performed play, Lady Windermere's Fan, opened in February 1892. Its success prompted him to continue to write for the theater, and subsequent plays included A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). These plays continue to be performed today, and have been translated to films. Salomé was adapted to an opera by Richard Strauss in 1905. Oscar Wilde was a married man, but he had affairs with many men, including a young aristocrat named Lord Alfred Douglas, who translated Salomé, originally written in French, into English in 1894. Douglas’ father, the Marquess of Queensberry, publicly denounced Wilde. He was tried for “gross indecency” and sentenced to two years hard labor in prison. On his release, he was a penniless, dejected man and he soon died in Paris, aged 46. Of his post-prison writings, the best is his poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol.

Graphic Classics: Oscar Wilde
144 pages, $10

from Graphic Classics: Oscar Wilde, illustration ©2008 Stephen Silver