The Controversial Dorian Gray
What comes to people’s minds if they hear the title “The Picture of Dorian Gray” or “The Importance of Being Earnest”? It does not take a wide reader or a genius to know that these titles are given life and meaning by the great poet and dramatist named Oscar Wilde.
Oscar Wilde is a known Irish for being an excellent author and dramatist. Aside from his brilliance when it comes to the languages and literature, he is also known for dressing more grandiose clothing. A typical guy whom Oscar seats next to, look more than typical, even when the guy is already wearing a Victorian style of clothing. Oscar is known to be deeply moved by beauty, and so he lived his life to the fullest, which shows with how many styles and designs that he was willing to wear for a clothing piece. 1
In fact, this poet was usually caricatured in public. In the whole of the United States and Europe, Oscar was a common prey when it comes to moral outrage. He wrote stories following homoerotic themes.
An example would be one which he entitled Dorian Gray, a novel that was undeniably controversial because aside from its having a Faustian theme, it dealt with homosexuality, duplicity, aestheticism, homoeroticism and the regime of the decadents. The Picture of Dorian Gray is generally a gothic horror and a classic fiction that represents the irony of the “modern classics” of the literature of the Western World. Oscar did not deny his being highly active in the movement of the decadents, so he continued fighting for the rights and principles of his beliefs, supporting libertarianism, social reform and advocated pacifism.2
Oscar and the Challenges
Oscar didn’t let the challenges of his time, and the critics, get the better of him. What he did in order for the trials not to consume him was to continue keeping his trademark, wit and style intact. Because of this, he felt that he had more fun and fulfillment when it comes to writing his works. The challenge kept him motivated and with that, it cannot be denied that the success of his plays is a common event in Oscar Wilde’s life.
He was praised and appreciated by equally great writers, credible social critics, remarkable authors and excellent poets. Some of them include John Ruskin, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Walt Whitman and George Bernard Shaw. Oscar Wilde had written too many pieces of literature that countless writers translated his works into different languages for all the world to understand. Aside from that, his works were also made into movies, adapted to suit the screen and even the theater and the stage not only once, but a couple of times. 3
To know Oscar Wilde better, among the many of his excellent works include The Importance of Being Earnest, An Ideal Husband, Salomé, A Woman of No Importance, La Sainte Courtisane, A Florentine Tragedy, Lady Windermere’s Fan, The Duchess of Padua, Nihilists and Vera. These are only some of his plays. When it comes to the fictions he has written, examples would be Intentions, Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime, A House of Pomegranates, The Portrait of Mr. W. H. and The Happy Prince and Other Tales. 4
Traces in the Past
Going back to Oscar Wilde’s history, Oscar’s real name is Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde. On the 16th of October, 1854, Jane Francesca Elgee Agnes, a writer, gave birth to Oscar, with William Robert Wills Wilde, a doctor, as his father. It is no surprise that it is from his mother where he got his talent in writing from. Jane Francesca Elgee Agnes was a nationalist. 5
Aside from that, she also grew up to be a writer, who later on encouraged Oscar to go on and follow his dreams. They both shared the same interests, and so, Jane became the first teacher of Oscar when it comes to writing and literature. Oscar’s father, on the other hand, is an eye and ear surgeon. During these times, Oscar’s father was known as a philanthropist. In fact, in 1864, William Robert Wills Wilde knighted. Oscar Wilde has two siblings. He has a sister named Isola who is younger than him, and William, a brother, older than him.6
William was home-schooled during the early years of his childhood. It was in Trinity College located in Dublin, Ireland, when he first went to a formal school. After spending some years of education in Trinity College, he transferred and continued his education Oxford, England. He went to Magdalen College from 1874 to 1878. He learned a lot from Magdalen College. It was in this college when he was affected and inspired by the works of Walter Pater, a critic and a writer at the same time, who is known for assisting in finding “art for art’s sake” which is part of the convictions and principles of Aesthetic Movement. 7
Magdalen College paved way to Oscar’s realization of the talents and skills he never knew he had. From this point in time, Oscar continued excelling and in no time, he was known for excelling in school. He wrote a poem entitled “Ravenna” in 1878, which earned him the award Oxford’s Newdigate Prize. Some of the lines from this award-winning poem are these:
“Adieu! Adieu! yon silver lamp, the moon,
Which turns our midnight into perfect noon,
Doth surely light thy towers, guarding well
Where Dante sleeps, where Byron loved to dwell.”8
After finishing school, Oscar decided to stay in London and finally settle there. He spent his life in London writing more poems. He has written too many poems to the extent that he was able to create a collection of his works. In 1881, his first collection of poems was published and the book’s title was as simple as “Poems”. It was also in 1881 when Oscar toured Canada and the United States because he had to speak in front of audiences on important events. People all over the world listened to him especially with what he had to say about aestheticism.9
It was in 1883 when he finally got back to Europe after a long period of training. Because in Europe he did not have to do too much lecturing on events, he settled in Paris, France. Finally, he got married in 1884 to Constance Mary Lloyd. Oscar and Constance had two children. One is named Cyril who, unfortunately, did not live long enough to witness more of the success of his father. Cyril died during the First World War.
10 Vyvyan, on the other hand, is their other son who is following the footsteps of Oscar Wilde. Vyvyan is writing the biography of his father Oscar for the book “Oscar Wilde: A Pictorial Biography in 1960”. The whole family decided to spend their lives together as a whole family in Chelsea, London. It was also in Chelsea where he continued to write. In 1887, a magazine called Woman’s World was where Oscar worked for. He became the editor of the said magazine. He also worked for the magazine called Pall Mall Gazette.
In 1891, Oscar met Lord Alfred Douglas, and the two fell in love. Alfred’s father tried to humiliate Wilde and destroy him because he did not approve of his son’s relationship with Wilde. This paved way to Wilde’s downfall, but redeemed himself after surviving years of imprisonment. He was released from jail in May, 1897. After this, he went back to Paris and nurtured a relationship with writer Robert Baldwin Ross. Robert Ross was Oscar Wilde’s executor of the estate of the Wilde’s. Oscar died of meningitis and, on his deathbed, partner Robert was by his side. During his dying moments, he was baptized into Roman Catholic, too. Today, Socar Wilde’s remains lie in Père Lachaise located in Paris. 11
1 Wilde, Oscar and Camille Cauti. The Picture of Dorian Gray. (Spark Educational Publishing, 2003) xiii.
3 Burt, Daniel. The Biography Book: A Reader’s Guide to Nonfiction, Fictional, and Film Biographies of More Than 500 of the Most Fascinating Individuals of All Time. (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000) 446.
4 Ibid., p. 447
5 . Ibid., p. 478
6 Garber, Marjorie. Academic Instincts. (Princeton University Press, 2001) 64.
8 Wilde, Oscar. Collected Works of Oscar Wilde: The Plays, the Poems, the Stories and the Essays, Including De Profundis. (Wordsworth Editions, 1997) 910.
9 Burt, Daniel. The Biography Book: A Reader’s Guide to Nonfiction, Fictional, and Film Biographies of More Than 500 of the Most Fascinating Individuals of All Time. (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000) 446.
11 Garber, Marjorie. Academic Instincts. (Princeton University Press, 2001) 64.
Beckson, Karl and Inc NetLibrary. Oscar Wilde: The Critical Heritage. Routledge, 1970.
Burt, Daniel. The Biography Book: A Reader’s Guide to Nonfiction, Fictional, and Film
Biographies of More Than 500 of the Most Fascinating Individuals of All Time.
Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000.
Garber, Marjorie. Academic Instincts. Princeton University Press, 2001.
Wilde, Oscar. Collected Works of Oscar Wilde: The Plays, the Poems, the Stories and the
Essays, Including De Profundis. Wordsworth Editions, 1997.
Wilde, Oscar and Camille Cauti. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Spark Educational Publishing, 2003.