Born: 16 October 1854
Died: 30 November 1900
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Best known as: The author of The Importance of Being Earnest
Name at birth: Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde
Oscar Wilde was an 19th century Irish writer whose works include the play The Importance of Being Earnest and the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. He is also one of the Victorian era's most famous dandies, a wit whose good-humored disdain for convention became less favored after he was jailed for homosexuality. Wilde grew up in a prosperous family and distinguished himself at Dublin's Trinity College and London's Oxford. He published his first volume of poems in 1881 and found work in England as a critic and lecturer, but it was his socializing (and self-promotion) that made him famous, even before the 1890 publication of The Picture of Dorian Gray. In 1895, at the height of his popularity, his relationship with the young poet Lord Alfred Douglas was declared inappropriately intimate by Douglas's father, the Marquess of Queensberry. Wilde sued for libel, but the tables were turned when it became clear there was enough evidence to charge Wilde with "gross indecency" for his homosexual relationships. He was convicted and spent two years in jail, after which he went into self-imposed exile in France, bankrupt and in ill health. His other works include the comedies Lady Windermere's Fan (1892), A Woman of No Importance (1893) and An Ideal Husband (1895), several collections of children's stories and the French drama Salomé (1896).
Extra credit: The phrase "the Love that dare not speak its name" comes from a poem by Lord Alfred Douglas, and when questioned about its meaning in open court, Wilde gave an impassioned speech on the value of male love... Lord Alfred Douglas's father, the Marquess of Queensberry (John Sholto Douglas), was a boxing enthusiast who endorsed the prizefighting rules that bear his name... One of Wilde's most famous quotes: "There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."
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