Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Anglo-Irish playwright,
novelist, poet, short story writer and Freemason. One of the most
successful playwrights of late Victorian London, and one of the
greatest celebrities of his day, known for his barbed and clever
wit, he suffered a dramatic downfall and was imprisoned after
being convicted in a famous trial for gross indecency (homosexual
and early life
Wilde was born into a Protestant Anglo-Irish family, at 21 Westland
Row, Dublin, to Sir William Wilde and his wife Jane Francesca
Elgee. Jane was a successful writer and an Irish nationalist,
known also as 'Speranza', while Sir William was Ireland's leading
ear and eye surgeon, and wrote books on archaeology and folklore.
He was a renowned philanthropist, and his dispensary for the care
of the city's poor, in Lincoln Place at the rear of Trinity College,
Dublin, was the forerunner of the Dublin Eye and Ear Hospital,
now located at Adelaide Road.
June 1855, the family moved to 1 Merrion Square, in a fashionable
residential area. Here, Lady Wilde held a regular Saturday afternoon
salon with guests including Sheridan le Fanu, Samuel Lever, George
Petrie, Isaac Butt and Samuel Ferguson. Oscar was educated at
home up to the age of nine. He attended Portora Royal School in
Enniskillen, Fermanagh from 1864 to 1871, spending the summer
months with his family in rural Waterford, Wexford and at Sir
William's family home in Mayo. Here the Wilde brothers played
with the young George Moore.
leaving Portora, Wilde studied classics at Trinity College, Dublin,
from 1871 to 1874. He was an outstanding student, and won the
Berkeley Gold Medal, the highest award available to classics students
at Trinity. He was granted a scholarship to Magdalen College,
Oxford, where he continued his studies from 1874 to 1878 and where
he became a part of the Aesthetic movement, one of its tenets
being to make an art of life . While at Magdalen, he won the 1878
Oxford Newdigate Prize for his poem Ravenna. He graduated with
a double first, the highest grade available at Oxford.
this time, Wilde became familiar with philosophies and writings
on same-sex love, and lived for several years with the society
painter Frank Miles, who may or may not have been his lover.
After graduating from Magdalen, Wilde returned to Dublin,
where he met and fell in love with Florence Balcome. She in turn
became engaged to Bram Stoker. On hearing of her engagement, Wilde
wrote to her stating his intention to leave Ireland permanently.
He left in 1878 and was to return to his native country only twice,
for brief visits. The next six years were spent in London, Paris
and the United States, where he travelled to deliver lectures.
Wilde's address in the 1881 British Census is given as 1 Tite
Street, London. The head of the household is listed as Frank Miles.
London, he met Constance Lloyd, daughter of wealthy Queen's Counsel
Horace Lloyd. She was visiting Dublin in 1884, when Oscar was
in the city to give lectures at the Gaiety Theatre. He proposed
to her and they married on May 29, 1884 in Paddington, London.
Constance's allowance of £250 allowed the Wildes to live
in relative luxury. The couple had two sons, Cyril (1885) and
Vyvyan (1886). After Oscar's downfall, Constance took the surname
Holland for herself and the boys.
died in 1898 following spinal surgery and was buried in Staglieno
Cemetery in Genoa, Italy. Cyril was killed in France in World
War I. Vyvyan survived the war and went on to become an author
and translator. He published his memoirs in 1954. His son, Merlin
Holland, has edited and published several works about his grandfather.
Oscar Wilde's niece, Dolly Wilde, was involved in a lengthy lesbian
affair with writer Natalie Clifford Barney.
While at Magdalen College, Wilde became particularly well known
for his role in the aesthetic and decadent movements. He began
wearing his hair long and openly scorning so-called "manly"
sports, and began decorating his rooms with peacock feathers,
lilies, sunflowers, blue china and other objets d'art.
behaviour cost him a dunking in the River Cherwell in addition
to having his rooms (which still survive as dedicated function
rooms at his old college) trashed, but the cult spread among certain
segments of society to such an extent that languishing attitudes,
"too-too" costumes and aestheticism generally became
a recognised pose.
in general was caricatured in Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta
Patience (1881). Such was the success of Patience in New York
that Richard D'Oyly Carte conceived the idea of sending Wilde
to America on a lecture tour. This was duly arranged, Wilde arriving
in January 1882. Although Wilde later claimed to have told the
customs officer "I have nothing to declare except my genius",
historians and biographers have concluded that this is an embellishment
of Wilde's as there is no contemporary evidence that this occurred.
D'Oyly Carte used Wilde's lecture tour "to prime the pump"
for an American tour of Patience, making sure that the ticket-buying
public was aware of this British personality.
was deeply impressed by the English writers John Ruskin and Walter
Pater, who argued for the central importance of art in life. He
later commented ironically on this view when he wrote, in The
Picture of Dorian Gray, "All art is quite useless".
This quote also reflects Wilde's support of the aesthetic movement's
basic principle: Art for art's sake. This doctrine was coined
by the philosopher Victor Cousin, promoted by Theophile Gautier
and brought into prominence by James McNeill Whistler.
aesthetic movement, represented by the school of William Morris
and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, had a permanent influence on English
decorative art. As the leading aesthete, Wilde became one of the
most prominent personalities of his day. Though he was ridiculed
for them, his paradoxes and witty sayings were quoted on all sides.
1879 Wilde started to teach Aesthetic values in London. In 1882
he went on a lecture tour in the United States and Canada. He
was torn apart by no small number of critics — The Wasp,
a San Francisco newspaper, published a cartoon ridiculing Wilde
and Aestheticism — but also was surprisingly well received
in such rough-and-tumble settings as the mining town of Leadville,
Colorado. On his return to the United Kingdom, he worked as a
reviewer for the Pall Mall Gazette in the years 1887-1889. Afterwards
he became the editor of Woman's World.
Wilde endorsed an anarchistic brand of socialism, expounding his
beliefs in the text "The Soul of Man under Socialism".
In 1881 he published a selection of his poems, but these attracted
admiration in only a limited circle. His most famous fairy tale,
The Happy Prince and Other Tales, appeared in 1888, illustrated
by Walter Crane and Jacob Hood. This volume was followed by a
second collection of fairy tales, A House of Pomegranates (1892),
which the author said was "intended neither for the British
child nor the British public."
only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, was published in 1891.
Critics have often claimed that there existed parallels between
Wilde's life and that of the book's protagonist, and it was used
as evidence against him at his trial. Wilde contributed some feature
articles to the art reviews, and in 1891 re-published three of
them as a book called Intentions.
fame as a dramatist began with the production of Lady Windermere's
Fan in February 1892. This was written at the request of George
Alexander, actor-manager of the St James's Theatre in London.
Wilde described it as "one of those modern drawing-room plays
with pink lampshades". It was immediately successful, the
author making the enormous sum of 7,000 pounds from the original
run. He wore a green carnation on opening night. In 1894, the
Robert Hichens novel The Green Carnation, said to be based on
the relationship of Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas, was published.
It would be one of the texts used against Wilde during his trials
the following year.
successful in 1892 was the play Salomé, which was refused
a licence for English performance by the Lord Chamberlain because
it contained Biblical characters. Wilde was furious, even contemplating
(he said) changing his nationality to become a French citizen.
The play was published in English, with illustrations by Aubrey
Beardsley, in 1894. A French edition had appeared the year before.
next comedy was A Woman of No Importance, produced on 19 April
1893 at the Haymarket Theatre in London by Herbert Beerbohm Tree.
It repeated the success of Lady Windermere's Fan, consolidating
Wilde's reputation as the best writer of "comedy of manners"
since Richard Brinsley Sheridan.
slightly more serious note was struck with An Ideal Husband, produced
by Lewis Waller at the Haymarket Theatre on 3 January 1895. This
contains a political melodrama—as opposed to the marital
melodrama of the earlier comedies—running alongside the
usual Wildean epigrams, social commentary, comedy, and romance.
George Bernard Shaw's review said that "...Mr Wilde is to
me our only serious playwright. He plays with everything: with
wit, with philosophy, with drama, with actors, with audience,
with the whole theatre..."
a month later, his masterpiece The Importance of Being Earnest
appeared at the St James's Theatre. It caused a sensation. Years
later, the actor Allen Aynesworth (playing 'Algy' opposite George
Alexander's 'Jack') told Wilde's biographer Hesketh Pearson that
"In my fifty-three years of acting, I never remember a greater
triumph than the first night of 'The Importance of Being Earnest'."
the three previous comedies, Earnest is free of any melodrama,
it brought irony, satire and verbal wit to English drama. Yet
follows an unusually clever plotline: - where alter egos abound
among false identities, mistaken identities and imaginative romantic
liaisons. It is in a class of its own in the whole of English
drama as a piece of pure, delightful nonsense. This incomparable
'comedy of manners' is a perfect example of Wilde's theory on
Art: Lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper
aim of Art. At least two versions of the play are in existence.
Wilde originally wrote it in four acts, but George Alexander proposed
to cut it down to three for the original production.
between An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest,
Wilde wrote at least the scenario for a play concerning an adulterous
affair. He never developed it, the Queensberry affair and his
own trial intervening. Frank Harris eventually wrote a version
called Mr and Mrs Daventry.
has been suggested that in 1894, Wilde wrote another little-known
play (in the form of a pantomime) for a friend of his, Chan Toon,
which was called For Love of the King and also went under the
name A Burmese Masque. It has never been widely circulated. One
copy, held in the Leeds University Library's Fay and Geoffrey
Elliott Collection, is marked: "This is a spurious work attributed
to Wilde without authority by a Mrs. Chan Toon, who was sent to
prison for stealing money from her landlady. A.J.A. Symons."
(15, Handlist 148, Leeds handlists index)
Wilde's sexual orientation has variously been considered bisexual,
homosexual, and pederastic. His most significant sexual relationships
appear to have been (in chronological order) with (perhaps) Frank
Miles, Constance Lloyd (Wilde's wife), Robert Baldwin Ross, and
Lord Alfred Douglas. Wilde also had numerous sexual encounters
with working-class male youths, who were often prostitutes.
generally believe Wilde was introduced to homosexuality in 1885
(the year after his wedding) by the 17-year-old Robert Baldwin
Ross. Neil McKenna's biography The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde
(2003) theorizes that Wilde was aware of his homosexuality much
earlier, from the moment of his first kiss with another boy at
the age of 16. According to McKenna, after arriving at Oxford
in 1874, Wilde tentatively explored his sexuality, discovering
that he could feel passionate romantic love for "fair, slim"
choirboys, but was more sexually drawn towards swarthy young rough
the late 1870s, Wilde was already preoccupied with the philosophy
of same-sex love, and had befriended a group of Uranian (pederastic)
poets and homosexual law reformers, becoming acquainted with the
work of gay-rights pioneer Karl-Heinrich Ulrichs. Wilde also met
Walt Whitman in America in 1881, writing to a friend that there
was "no doubt" about the great American poet's sexual
orientation — "I have the kiss of Walt Whitman still
on my lips," he boasted.
even lived with the society painter Frank Miles, who was a few
years his senior and may have been his lover. However, writes
McKenna, he was unhappy with the direction of his sexual and romantic
desires, and, hoping that marriage would cure him, he married
Constance Lloyd in 1884. McKenna's account has been criticized
by some reviewers who find it too speculative, although not necessarily
of whether or not Wilde was still naïve when he first met
Ross, Ross did play an important role in the development of Wilde's
understanding of his own sexuality. Ross was aware of Wilde's
poems before they met, and indeed had been beaten for reading
them. He was also unmoved by the Victorian prohibition against
homosexuality. By Richard Ellmann's account, Ross, "...so
young and yet so knowing, was determined to seduce [Wilde]."
Soon, Wilde entered a world of regular sex with youths such as
servants and newsboys, in their mid to late teens, whom he would
meet in homosexual bars or brothels.
Wilde's words, the relations were akin to "feasting with
panthers", and he revelled in the risk: "the danger
was half the excitement." In his public writings, Wilde's
first celebration of romantic love between men and boys can be
found in The Portrait of Mr. W. H. (1889), in which he propounds
a theory that Shakespeare's sonnets were written out of the poet's
love of Elizabethan boy actor "Willie Hughes".
meeting and falling in love with Lord Alfred Douglas in 1891,
Wilde and his lover embraced an orgiastic life style, and for
a few years they lived together more or less openly in a number
of locations. Wilde and some within his upper-class social group
also began to speak about homosexual law reform, and their commitment
to "The Cause" was formalised by the founding of a highly
secretive organisation called the Order of Chaeronea, of which
Wilde was a member.
homosexual novel, Teleny or The Reverse of the Medal, written
at about the same time and clandestinely published in 1893, has
been attributed to Oscar Wilde, but was probably, in fact, a combined
effort by a number of Wilde's friends, which Wilde edited. Wilde
also periodically contributed to the Uranian literary journal
In 1891, Wilde became intimate with Lord Alfred Douglas, who went
by the nickname "Bosie". Bosie's father, John Sholto
Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry, became increasingly enraged
at his son's involvement with Wilde. He confronted the two publicly
several times, and each time Wilde was able to mollify the Marquess.
Eventually, the Marquess planned to interrupt the opening night
of The Importance of Being Earnest with an insulting delivery
of vegetables, but somebody tipped Wilde off and he was barred
from entering the theatre.
February 18, 1895, the Marquess left a calling card at one of
Wilde's clubs, the Albemarle. On the back of the card he wrote
"For Oscar Wilde posing as a Somdomite" (a misspelling
Wilde's friends advised him to ignore the insult, Lord Alfred
later admitted that he egged Wilde on to charge Queensberry with
criminal libel. Queensberry was arrested, and in April 1895, the
Crown took over the prosecution of the libel case against him.
The trial lasted three days. The prosecuting counsel, Edward Clarke,
was unaware that Wilde had had liaisons and romantic relationships
with other males.
asked Wilde directly whether there was any substance to Queensberry's
accusations and Wilde denied that there was. Edward Carson, the
barrister who defended Queensberry, hired investigators who were
able to locate a number of youths with whom Wilde had been involved,
either socially or sexually, such as the 16-year-old Walter Grainger
and other newsboys and valets.
put on a tremendous display of drama in the first day of the trial,
parrying Carson's cross-examination on the morals of his published
works with witticisms and sarcasm, often breaking the courtroom
up with laughter. For instance, asked whether he had ever adored
any man younger than himself, Wilde replied, "I have never
given adoration to anybody except myself." However, on the
second day, Carson's cross-examination was much more damaging:
Wilde later admitted to perjuring himself with some of his answers.
On the third day, Clarke recommended that Wilde withdraw the prosecution,
and the case was dismissed.
authorities were unwilling to let matters rest. Based on the evidence
acquired by Queensberry and Carson, Wilde was arrested on April
6, 1895, in room no. 118 at the Cadogan Hotel, London, and charged
with "committing acts of gross indecency with other male
persons" (a euphemism for any sex between males) under Section
11 of the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act. Clarke offered to defend
him for nothing at his upcoming trial.
and imprisonment in Reading Gaol
Wilde brought suit against Lord Alfred Douglas's father, the ninth
Marquess of Queensberry, for sending him a slanderous note. However,
it was Wilde who was forced to act defensively at the trial because
sodomy was a crime in late Victorian England and this first trial
led to two others (the latter two against Wilde). While Wilde
did not speak directly against homosexual practices in his trials,
he was forced to twist his answers to Mr. C. F. Gill's examination
in order avoid incriminating himself:
What is "the love that dares not speak its name?"
Wilde: "The love that dares not speak its name" in this
century is such a great affection of an elder for a younger man
as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the
very basis of his philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets
of Michelangelo and Shakespeare. It is that deep spiritual affection
that is as pure as it is perfect. It dictates and pervades great
works of art, like those of Shakespeare and Michelangelo, and
those two letters of mine, such as they are. It is in this century
misunderstood, so much misunderstood that it may be described
as 'the love that dares not speak its name', and on that account
of it I am placed where I am now. It is beautiful, it is fine,
it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural
about it. It is intellectual, and it repeatedly exists between
an older and a younger man, when the older man has intellect,
and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life
before him. That it should be so, the world does not understand.
The world mocks at it, and sometimes puts one in the pillory for
trial ended with the jury unable to reach a verdict. The next,
and last, trial was presided over by Chief Justice Sir Alfred
Wills. On May 25, 1895 Wilde was convicted of gross indecency
and sentenced to two years' hard labour.
was imprisoned first in Pentonville and then in Wandsworth prison
in London, and finally transferred in November to Reading Prison,
some 30 miles west of London. Wilde knew the town of Reading from
happier times when boating on the Thames and also from visits
to the Palmer family, including a tour of the famous Huntley &
Palmers biscuit factory quite close to the prison.
known as prisoner C. 3.3, (which described the fact that he was
in block C, floor three, room three) he was not, at first, even
allowed paper and pen to write with, but a later governor was
more friendly. During his time in prison, Wilde wrote a 50,000-word
letter to Douglas, which he was not allowed to send while still
a prisoner, but which he was allowed to take with him at the end
of his sentence.
his release, he gave the manuscript to Ross, who may or may not
have carried out Wilde's instructions to send a copy to Douglas
who, in turn, denied having received it. Ross published a much
expurgated version of the letter (about a third of it) in 1905
(four years after Wilde's death) with the title De Profundis,
expanding it slightly for an edition of Wilde's collected works
in 1908, and then donated it to the British Museum on the understanding
that it would not be made public until 1960. In 1949, Wilde's
son Vyvyan Holland published it again, including parts formerly
omitted, but relying on a faulty typescript bequeathed to him
by Ross. Its complete and correct publication did not take place
until 1962, in The Letters of Oscar Wilde.
manuscripts of A Florentine Tragedy and an essay on Shakespeare's
sonnets were stolen from his house in 1895. In 1904, a five-act
tragedy, The Duchess of Padua, written by Wilde about 1883 for
Mary Anderson but not acted by her, was published in German (Die
Herzogin von Padua, translated by Max Meyerfeld) in Berlin.
Prison was unkind to Wilde's health and after he was released
on May 19, 1897 he spent his last three years penniless, in self-imposed
exile from society and artistic circles. He went under the assumed
name of 'Sebastian Melmoth', after the famously "penetrated"
Christian saint Sebastian, who has since become a gay icon, and
the devilish central character of his great-uncle Charles Robert
Maturin's gothic novel Melmoth the Wanderer. After his release,
he wrote the famous poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol.
his deathbed he was accepted into the Roman Catholic church, which
he had long admired. However, biographers disagree on whether
his conversion was an act of volition, since he may not have been
fully conscious at the time. Wilde spent his last days in the
Hôtel d'Alsace, now known as L'Hôtel, in Paris. Just
a month before his death he is quoted as saying, "My wallpaper
and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or other of us has
got to go."
died of cerebral meningitis on November 30, 1900. Different opinions
are given on the cause of the meningitis; Richard Ellmann claimed
it was syphilitic; Merlin Holland, Wilde's grandson, thought this
to be a misconception, noting that Wilde's meningitis followed
a surgical intervention, perhaps a mastoidectomy; Wilde's physicians,
Dr. Paul Cleiss and A'Court Tucker, reported that the condition
stemmed from an old suppuration of the right ear (une ancienne
suppuration de l'oreille droite d'ailleurs en traitement depuis
plusieurs années) and did not allude to syphilis.
modern scholars and doctors agree that syphilis was unlikely to
have been the cause of his death. Wilde was buried in the Cimetière
de Bagneux outside Paris but was later moved to Père Lachaise
Cemetery in Paris. His tomb in Père Lachaise was designed
by the sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein, at the request of Robert Ross,
who also asked for a small compartment to be made for his own
ashes. Ross's ashes were transferred to the tomb in 1950. The
numerous spots on it are lipstick traces from admirers.
modernist angel depicted as a relief on the tomb was originally
complete with male genitals. They were broken off as obscene and
kept as a paperweight by a succession of Père Lachaise
Cemetery keepers. Their current whereabouts are unknown. In the
summer of 2000, intermedia artist Leon Johnson performed a 40
minute ceremony entitled Re-membering Wilde in which a commissioned
silver prosthesis was installed to replace the vandalised genitals.
1. After Wilde's death, his friend Frank Harris wrote a biography,
Oscar Wilde: His Life and Confessions. This is generally regarded
as being very unreliable, although entertaining. Of his other
close friends, Robert Sherard, Robert Ross, Charles Ricketts and
Lord Alfred Douglas variously published biographies, reminiscences
2. An account of the argument between Frank Harris, Lord Alfred
Douglas and Oscar Wilde as to the advisability of Wilde's prosecuting
Queensberry can be found in the preface to George Bernard Shaw's
play The Dark Lady of the Sonnets.
3. In 1946, Hesketh Pearson published The Life of Oscar Wilde
(Methuen), containing materials derived from conversations with
Bernard Shaw, George Alexander, Herbert Beerbohm Tree and many
others who had known or worked with Wilde. This is a lively read,
although inevitably somewhat dated as to overall approach. It
gives a particularly vivid impression of what Wilde's conversation
must have been like.
4. In 1954 Vyvyan Holland published his memoir Son of Oscar Wilde.
It was revised and updated by Merlin Holland in 1999.
5. In 1975 H. Montgomery Hyde published Oscar Wilde: A Biography.
6. In 1983 Peter Ackroyd published The Last Testament of Oscar
7. In 1987 Richard Ellmann published Oscar Wilde, a very minute
8. In 1997 Merlin Holland published a book entitled The Wilde
Album. This rather small volume contained many pictures and other
Wilde memorabilia, much of which had not been published before.
It includes 27 pictures taken by the portrait photographer Napoleon
Sarony, one of which is at the beginning of this article.
9. 1999 saw the publication of Oscar Wilde on Stage and Screen
written by Robert Tanitch. This book is a comprehensive record
of Oscar's life and work as presented on stage and screen from
1880 until 1999. It includes cast lists and snippets of reviews.
10. 2003 saw the publication of the first complete account of
Wilde's sexual and emotional life in The Secret Life of Oscar
Wilde by Neil McKenna (Century/Random House).
11. 2005 saw the publication of The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde,
by literary biographer Joseph Pearce. It explores the Catholic
sensibility in his art, his interior suffering and dissatisfaction,
and his lifelong fascination with the Catholic Church, which led
to his deathbed conversion.
films, television series and stage plays
1. Two films of his life were released in 1960. The first to be
released was Oscar Wilde starring Robert Morley. Then came The
Trials of Oscar Wilde starring Peter Finch. At the time homosexuality
was still a criminal offence in the UK and both films were rather
cagey in touching on the subject without being explicit.
2. In 1960, Irish actor Mícheál Mac Liammóir
began performing a one-man show called The Importance of Being
Oscar. The show was heavily influenced by Brechtian theory and
contained many poems and samples of Wilde's writing. The play
was a success and Mac Liammoir toured it with success everywhere
he went. It was published in 1963.
3. In the summer of 1977 Vincent Price began performing the one-man
play Diversions and Delights. Written by John Gay and directed
by Joe Hardy, the premise of the play is that an aging Oscar Wilde,
in order to earn some much-needed money, gave a lecture on his
life in a Parisian theatre on November 28, 1899 (just a year before
his death). The play was a success everywhere it was performed,
except for its New York City run. It was revived in 1990 in London
with Donald Sinden in the role.
4. In 1978 London Weekend Television produced a television series
about the life of Lillie Langtry entitled Lillie. In it Peter
Egan played Oscar. The bulk of his scenes portrayed their close
friendship up to and including their tours of America in 1882.
Thereafter, he was in a few more scenes leading up to his trials
5. Michael Gambon portrayed Wilde on British Television in 1983
in the three-part BBC series Oscar concentrating on the trial
and prison term.
6. 1988 saw Nickolas Grace playing Wilde in Ken Russell's film
Salome's Last Dance.
7. In 1989 Terry Eagleton premiered his play St Oscar. Eagleton
agrees that only one line in the entire play is taken directly
from Wilde, while the rest of the dialogue is his own fancy. The
play is also influenced by Brechtian theory.
8. A fuller look at his life, without any of the restrictions
of the 1960 films, is Wilde (1997) starring Stephen Fry. Fry (an
acknowledged Wilde scholar) also appeared as Wilde in 1993 in
the short-lived American television series "Ned Blessing."
9. Moises Kaufman's 1997 play Gross Indecency: The Three Trials
of Oscar Wilde uses real quotes and transcripts of Wilde's three
10. Wilde appears as a supporting character in Tom Stoppard's
1997 play The Invention of Love and is referenced extensively
in Stoppard's 1974 play Travesties.
11. David Hare's 1998 play The Judas Kiss portrays Wilde as a
manly homosexual Christ figure.
12. The main character in the Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty
musical A Man of No Importance identifies himself with Oscar Wilde,
and Wilde appears to him several times.
13. Oscar: in October 2004, a stage musical by Mike Read about
Oscar Wilde, closed after just one night at the Shaw Theatre in
Euston after a severe critical mauling.
Wilde in modern culture
1. Todd Haynes' 1998 film Velvet Goldmine contains many references
to Oscar Wilde, and features British child actor Luke Morgan Oliver
as the young Wilde, who, in the film's introduction, anachronistically
claims that he wishes to be a 'pop idol.'
2. Mention of Wilde was made in The Smiths' song, "Cemetry
Gates," released on the 1986 album The Queen Is Dead. Lead
singer Morrissey has stated that he has long been an admirer of
Wilde and his works.
3. The Smiths also have a song called "Oscillate Wildly"
4. Featured in a sketch from season one of The Kids in the Hall
in which Wilde is on an island with Buddy Cole.
5. Jimmy Buffett mentions Wilde in his song, "Quietly Making
Noise", from his Fuitcakes album.
6. In the Starman comics, Oscar Wilde was briefly shown as a friend/acquaintance
of the Shade.
7. There is a skit about Oscar Wilde in the Monty Python The Monty
Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief called Oscar Wilde and Friends.
It can also be found in the 39th episode of Monty Python's Flying
8. A multiple-issue 'chapter' of Dave Sim's comic book Cerebus
the Aardvark, entitled Melmoth (later collected as a single volume
under that title) retells the story of Wilde's final months with
the names and places slightly altered to fit the world of the
Cerebus storyline, while Cerebus himself spends most of the chapter
as a passive observer.
9. In the Godzilla vs. Megalon episode of Mystery Science Theater
3000, a character in the movie was named and frequently referenced
as Oscar Wilde for wearing a very similar haircut.
10. Ian Lawson wrote music to the words in his poem "Requiescat".
11. Boston-based musical duo New Remorse, taking their name from
the Wilde poem "The New Remorse." Singer Stephen Driss
has cited Wilde as being "the first rock-star..."
12. British singer / songwriter James Blunt mentions Dorian Gray
in the chorus of the song "Tears and Rain".
13. Fake Oscar Wilde quotes and references are a running gag at
14. British band The Libertines mention Dorian Gray in the chorus
of the song "Narcissists".
15. Wilde is celebrated and mourned on the title track of The
Divine Comedy's Absent Friends album.
16. The 1980 series four episode "Rescue" of Blake's
7 is derived from The Picture of Dorian Grey, to the point of
having a villain called Dorian.
in matters of religion, is simply the opinion that has survived."
nineteenth century is a turning point in history, simply on account
of the work of two men, Darwin and Renan, the one the critic of
the Book of Nature, the other the critic of the books of God.
Not to recognise this is to miss the meaning of one of the most
important eras in the progress of the world."
is the shining sore on the leprous body of Christianity."
with its saints and martyrs, its love of self-torture, its wild
passion for wounding itself, its gashing with knives, and its
whipping with rods -- Medievalism is real Christianity, and the
medieval Christ is the real Christ."
I think of all the harm the Bible has done, I despair of ever
writing anything to equal it."
worst vice of the fanatic is his sincerity."
sign of a Philistine age is the cry of immorality against art."
is the fashionable substitute for belief."
are a set of interfering, meddling people, who come down to some
perfectly contented class of the community and sow the seeds of
discontent amongst them. That is the reason why agitators are
so absolutely necessary. Without them, in our incomplete state,
there would be no advance towards civilisation."
is grossly selfish to require of one's neighbour that he should
think in the same way, and hold the same opinions. Why should
he? If he can think, he will probably think differently. If he
cannot think, it is monstrous to require thought of any kind from
thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it."
man dies for what he knows to be true. Men die for what they want
to be true, for what some terror in their hearts tells them is
worse form of tyranny the world has ever known is the tyranny
of the weak over the strong. It is the only tyranny that lasts."
books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the
world its own shame."
is no such thing as an omen. Destiny does not send us heralds.
She is too wise or too cruel for that."