*** Biographies: Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (1854-1900

Figure 1.--.

Biographies: Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde (1854-1900)

Oscar Wildec was an Irish born British author. He wrote a novel and melodic poems, but was especially known foe his witty drawing room plays which for a time made him the tost of London. His sardonic humor in his writings is still much quoted today. He delivered lectures on aesthetics dressed in velvet knickers for which he was rediculed in the press . He and his wife Constance had two sons. His life was ruined by charges of imporality and oe of the great scandal trials of Victorian England.


Oscar's parents were Sir William Wilde and Jane Francesca Elgee.

Sir William Wilde

William Wilde was a noted Irish physcian. He graduated from the Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. Wilde as a young man traveled to Madeira, Teneriffe, North Africa and the Middle East. He published books. He was appointed medical advisor to the Irish Census (1841). Dr. Wilde took his position very seriously and collected especially detailed data. His work is of considerable historical importance because it provides a picture of Ireland in the years just before the Potato Famine. The Census results when publised (1843) included data that had never been included previously in a census. Authorities were impressed with Dr. Wilde's work and as a result, he was appointed Assistant Commissioner of the 1851 Irish Census. He held the post for the 1861 and 1871 Census as well. Queen Victoria knighted him for his Census work (1864). Dr. Wilde opened a Dublin medical practice to treat ear and eye diseases. From the beginning he provided free treatment for indigent patients. Dr. Wilde founded St. Mark's Ophthalmic Hospital which he financed (1844).

Jane Francesca Elgee

Jane Francesca Elgee was a highly literate woman. She gained public ttention during the Potato Famine. She wrote stridently revolutionary poems using the pseudonym "Speranza". Her poems were published in the Irish weekly newspaper The Nation. British authorities concerbed not oinly about the politica impact of the Potato Famine and the wave of Revolutions on the continent, raided and closed ThevNation. She was also a brilliant linguist. She spoke the major European languages. She translated translated a number of works. Her translation of Wilhelm Meinhold's gothic horror novel Sidonia the Sorceress. Oscar read this and it's influence can be seen in some of his work.


Oscar had a brother William and and a sister Isola. He also had a half brother Henry and two half sisters Emily and Mary.

Half siblings

Dr. Wilde fathered three illegitimate children before he married. Before he married: Henry Wilson (1838- ), Emily (1847-71?), and Mary (1849-71?). William supported the children. He provided funds for Henry's education and medical studies. After William finished his studies, William worked with his father at St. Mark's Hospital. Mary and Emily were raised by William's brother. The two girls were tragically killed in a fire as young women.

Full siblings

William "Willie" Charles Kingsbury, was born on September 26, 1852. Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie was born on October 16, 1854. Jane particularly wanted a daughter and Isola Emily Francesca was born on April 2, 1857. Emily tragically died of a sudden fever (1867). Oscar who was was anout 13 years old at the time was deeply shocked. The rest of his life he carried a lock of Emily's hair.


Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin on October 16, 1854.

Childhood Clothing


I'm not sure about Oscar's early education. Both Willie and Oscar attended the Portora Royal School at Enniskillen, comparable to an English public school. Oscar was a gifted student and permormed brilliantly in the classics, still a major part of the curriculum. I don't think that Oscar was very impressed with games (spots) which was an importabt part of school life. At least in his writings he makes sardonic comments about cricket and football. An example is, "Football is all very well a good game for rough girls, but not for delicate boys." Oscar earned the top academic prize durng his last 2 years. He also won a second prize in drawing. Oscar earned the Royal School Scholarship for Trinity College in Dublin (1871). He performed brilliantly at Trinity. His best results of course were in the classics. He placing first in his examinations (1872). He gained the most prestigious academic honor an undergraduate could earn--a Foundation Scholarship. At the end of his Trity years, Wilde was awarded the Berkeley Gold Medal for Greek and a Demyship scholarship to Magdalen College in Oxford (1874). Oscar persued his studies at Oxford. He received the Newdigate prize for his poem, "Ravenna". In his studies he earned a First Class in both his "Mods" and "Greats".

Family Finances

Dr. Wilde, Oscar's father, died (1876). In part because of his philanthropy, the family found itself in difficult straits. Henry, Oscar's half brother, supported the family by paying the mortgage and providing other support. This support, however, ended when Henry died unexpectedly (1877).

Literary Career Launched

Wilde after graduting from Oxford went on to London. He moved in with Frank Miles. Miles had achieved some notice as a high society portraitist--a lucrative endevor. painter. Wilde published a collection of poetry (1881). Sone liked the collection, but there were also critics. Despite the mixed reaction, the book launched his literary career. His poems tend to be highly melodic.

America (1881-82)

Wilde began lecturing on aesthetic values and became a popular lecturer in London (1879). His lectures displayed his sardonic humor which rediculed many accepted values and were punctuated with his fancy dress. His lectures proved popular with some, but were severely criticized. The students at Oxford ducked him in the river Cherwell and trashed his rooms. He decided on a tour of America. He sailed for New York December 1881. He traveled throught America, delivering lectures on aesthetics. Wilde's main thesesis was "art for art's sake". He insisted, "All that I desire to point out is the general principle that Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life." [Wilde, "Intentions".] He also wrote, "We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language." [Wilde, "Canterville".] Initially the plan was for a 50-lecture tour that was planned to last 4 months. Wilde extended the tour for almost a year, giving 140 lectures. He made quite an impression. He delivered his lectures wearing velvet knickers. This may have been easily accepted in Boston or other Northeastern city. Wilde gave his lectures, however, throughout the Unted States, speaking to some rather rough audiences in the West. Americans did not know quite what to make of him. A San Francisco newspaper, The Wasp published a cartoon depicting Wilde in his velvet knickers--ridiculing him and and Aestheticism. Perhaps based on his experiences, he wrote "Of course America had often been discovered before Columbus, but it had always been hushed up." Wilde used the opportunity to meet important American authors like Henry Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Walt Whitman. He also used the opportunity to have his play, "Vera", produced in New York.

Marriage (1884)

Wilde married Constance Lloyd (1884). She was 4 years younger than her new husband. Constance was daughter of a noted barrister-- Horace Lloyd. Her mother was Adelaide Atkinson Lloyd. Her father died when she was only 16 years old. She was bright and literate. She was well-read and familiar with several European languages. She was an outspoken young woman at a time when that was not well accepted. The new couple had sons within two years after their marriage (1885-86). Notably there were no more children. She published a book based on children's stories she had heard from her grandmother--There Was Once (1888). Both Constance andv her husband were involved in the dress reform movement. It is unclear just when Constance became aware of her husband's sexual proclivities. Since there were no more children after Vyvyan was born, she may have learned something at this time. Just what neither Constrance and Oscar ever revealed. She actually met Lord Alfred Douglas when Wilde brought Douglas him to their home (1891). Oscar began living more in hotels than their Tite Street home. This would have also meant that he was sprnding less time wuth the boys. One source claims that suring a visit, Wilde warned what would happen to naughty boys who made their mamas cry. The boys responded by asking what happened to absent papas who made mamas cry. [Ellman] Just what went on between the two will never be known. Both were unconventional and this seems to have been the key factor. There were no bitter recriminations. The two clearly respected each other and remained friendly.

Oscar Wilde's children

Figure 2.Here we see Oscar Wilde's two sonsCyril and Vyvyan. The portrait would have been taken about 1891. The boys wear Little Lord Fauntleroy velt suits, but wih differently styled suits and blouses.

Children (1885-86)

The Wilde's has two sons: Cyril (1885-1915) and Vyvyan (1886-1967). We have little information about their childhood at this time. We have some idea as to how they wre dressed from available portraits. They seem to have been dressed very fashionably, apparrantly in matching outfits. We note satin cavalier outfits, Little Lord Fauntleroy suits, sailor suits, and other outfits. Following Wilde's disgrace, Constance took the children to Switzerland. She changed the family name to Holland. Constance died only a few years later (1898). Cyril Holland was killed in World War I. This is an occurance that we too often have to report in British, French, and German biographies. Vyvyan went on the write a book Son of Oscar Wilde. Vyvyan's son Merlin is also a writer and the family has kept the name Holland, never reverting to Wilde.

Literary Work

Oscar returning from America, spent 3 months in Paris (1882). There he wrote a blank-verse tragedy that Mary Anderson, a noted actress, commissioned. She was not pleased with it and rejected it. Wilde then conducted another lecture tour, this time of Britain and Ireland. Wiklde now had family responsibilities. He accepted a job not realing to his liking. He sought to update The Woman's World (1887-89). After leaving the magazine he had more time to persue his literary efforts. It is the work that he ptroiduced at this time that he is most noted. He comiled teo volumes of children's stories that he wrote: The Happy Prince And Other Tales (1888), and The House Of Pomegranates (1892). He published The Picture of Dorian Gray, the only novel among his work. It was published in an American magazine (1890), but there was considerable criticism. He worked on the story and published an expanded version as a book in England (1891). Victorian England was also shocked and it created an image for Wilde that would hurt him in court. He wrote, "There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written." Wilde's real forte was the theater. About plays, he once wrote, "The play was a great success, but the audience was a disaster." The English audiences, however, loved his plays. His play "Lady Windermere's Fan" was both a critican and financial success (1892). This helped to set him on his feet financially. This success was followed by three other witty, drawingroom comedies which oroved highly successful: "A Woman Of No Importance" (1893), "An Ideal Husband" (1895), and" The Importance Of Being Earnest" (1895). It us these plays that are Wilde's principal contribution to English literature and created his fame at the time as an important playwrite. Today they are fascinating period pieves that provide a glimse of England in the 1890s. These plays are full of marvelous, whity banter. "If one could only teach the English how to talk, and the Irish how to listen, society here would be quite civilized." [Wilde, "Husband".] "Duty is what one expects from others, it is not what one does oneself." [Wilde, "Importance".] "Really, if the lower orders don't set a good example, what on earth is the use of them?" [Wilde, "Earnest".] "Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them." [Wilde, "Earnest".]

Lord Alfred Douglas

Wilde became acquainted with Lord Alfred 'Bosie' Douglas (1891). He was the third son of the Marquis of Queensberry. Bosie was at the time an undergraduate. He had read Dorian Gray with its thin veiled erotic plot. Bosie and Oscar became intimate. The two were constantly together until Wilde was arrested (1895). Bosie's father was outraged with the fair and called Wilde a homosexual--a daming charge in Vuictorian England. Wilde unwisely sued the Marquis for libel. Wilde was forced to withdraw his suit, but was arrested and tried for gross indecency in a sensational trial. Wilde once wrote about the press, "In the old days men had the rack. Now they have the Press." [Wilde, Fortnightly Review] He was found guilty and sentenced to 2 years hard labor. He was confined in Wandsworth Prison (November, 1895) and later transferred to Reading Gaol.

Last Years

Wilde was profoundly affected by his jail experience. He was released (1897), but he was a broken man both psychologically and physically. After his release, he wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol, a work expressing his persoinal agony in prison (1898). Wilde and Bosie did see each other, but they were never again close. Wilde left England and spent the few remaining years of his life traveling aimlessky around Europe. He spent much of this time in Paris. He had littke money. He stayed with frirnds and lived in seedy hotels. He tried to write, but with little success. He was bothered for many years with an ear infection. This became increasingly serius and eventually he developed meningitis and died (1900). His De Profundis was his aplogia published postumeously (1905).


Ellman, Richard. Oscar Wilde (1987).

Holland, Merlin. A Wilde Album.

Wilde, Oscar. "The Canterville Ghost".

Wilde, Oscar. Fortnightly Review

Wilde, Oscar. "An Ideal Husband," (1895)

Wilde, Oscar. "The Importance of Being Earnest".

Wilde, Oscar. "Intentions".

Wilde, Oscar. The Painting of Dorian Gray (1891).

Wilde, Oscar. "A Woman of No Importance".


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Created: 10:31 PM 8/17/2004
Last updated: 7:47 PM 4/16/2009