Oscar Wilde (born Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde on October 16, 1854, Dublin, Ireland—died November 30, 1900, Paris, France) was an Irish poet and playwright.
After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London’s most popular playwrights in the early 1890s. He is best remembered for his velvet jackets, knee breeches & black silk stockings, his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, his plays Lady Windermere’s Fan, Salomé, An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest, and the circumstances of his imprisonment and early death.
Eager for acclaim, Wilde agreed to lecture in the United States and Canada in 1882, announcing on his arrival at customs in New York City that he had “nothing to declare but his genius.”
He was a dramatist whose reputation rests on his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), and on his comic masterpieces Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). He advocated art for art’s sake, and he was the object of celebrated civil and criminal suits involving homosexuality and ending in his imprisonment (1895–97).
His close friendship with Lord Alfred Douglas, whom he had met in 1891, infuriated the marquess of Queensberry, Douglas’s father. Accused by the marquess of being a sodomite, Wilde, urged by Douglas, sued for criminal libel. Wilde’s case collapsed and he dropped the suit. Urged to flee to France by his friends, Wilde refused, unable to believe that his world was at an end. He was arrested and ordered to stand trial.
Wilde testified brilliantly, but the jury failed to reach a verdict. In the retrial he was found guilty and sentenced, in May 1895, to two years at hard labour at Reading Gaol. In May 1897 Wilde was released, bankrupt, and immediately went to France, hoping to regenerate himself as a writer, where in 1900, he died suddenly of acute meningitis brought on by an ear infection.