April 2000

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde is undoubtedly my favorite author. His wit, humor, honesty and undaunting perceptions of the human condition have assured him a place in history, both literary and otherwise. Now 100 years after his death, his name is still a household word.

Wilde was born October 16, 1854, at 21 Westland Row in Dublin, Ireland, to Sir William Wilde, founder of the first eye and ear hospital in Great Britain, and Jane Francesca Elgee Wilde, a flamboyant woman who was nick-named "Esperanza". I will not even begin to list his life events here; there is exhaustive information from many other sources, including the links listed below. What I did want to convey was my admiration of Wilde.

From 1874 - 1879 he attended Magdalen College, Oxford. Upon my arrival in England, the first thing I did was rail to Oxford and take the tour of Magdalen (pronounced "maudlin"). After the tour, I told the guide that I was writing a play about Oscar and would love to see his rooms. The guide gladly took me there. His rooms are now a small classroom, but I still looked on the window sills where he supposedly carved his name (I couldn't find it). By the way, the play was finished and is sitting quietly in a locked drawer.

During his time at Oxford, Wilde befriended J.P. Mahaffey, Trinity's leading Greek scholar, and contributed to his works. I actually found an original copy of Mahaffey's "Social Life in Greece" (Macmillan and Co., 1874), and the preface reads: Wherever modern writers have suggested to me interesting views or quotations, I trust I have fully acknowledged my obligations. I cannot do so adequately to my old pupils, Mr. H.B. Leech, of Caius College, Cambridge, and Mr. Oscar Wilde, of Magdalen College, Oxford, who have made improvements and corrections all through the book.

After Oxford, Wilde moved to 16 Tite Street, Chelsea, in London, and began making himself known through poems, literary criticism, plays, and his sharp, observant tongue. Unfortunately, it was in London where he met Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie), who was the gateway to his humiliating downfall, which included a messy libel trial at the hands of Bosie's father, the Marquess of Queensbury, prison, and self-imposed exile to Paris, where he died from cerebral meningitis 30 November, 1900, at the young age of 46.

I have studied Wilde for many years, and have always felt that he was born before his time. Were he alive today, he would be a superstar (probably writing award-winning screenplays), applauded for his views and work, and embraced by many. Of course he would have alternately loved and hated this, but at least he would have had the opportunity to create.

Wilde links on the web:

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