On this day in 1854, a young baby by the name of Oscar Fingel O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin. Given the length of the name it is no wonder why it was eventually shortened to the simple (and now famous) Oscar Wilde.
Wilde was the middle child of three in his family. He had one older brother and one younger sister. His mother Jane, was better known in Irish circles as “Speranza” the revolutionary Irish Nationalist poet. Oscar’s father William was a renowned Eye and Ear doctor and was eventually knighted for his work in the field. He fathered three other children before his marriage and while he did care for them financially, he did not raise them in the Wilde home with his “legitimate” children.
Oscar was home-schooled until the age of nine before taking the Portora Royal School at Enniskillen by storm. He mastered the classics and won awards throughout his time at the school. He also won the Royal School Scholarship to attend Trinity College back in Dublin, where he continued to excel before furthering his studies at Oxford.
From there Wilde went on the lecture circuit in America. He had to add dates and extend the tour to satisfy the interested crowds and while he was in New York he arranged for one of his plays to be staged. It was the beginning of a long string of plays, stories, theater performances, and more that would vault the talented, flamboyant man to new heights.
Oscar Wilde was not a one-trick pony. He wrote fairy tales, poetry, comedies, novels, children’s books, plays, and short stories. He was wildly prolific and good enough to be celebrated while he was alive (unlike many others who are only revered after their deaths). He was passionate, frivolous, hard-working, talented, and scandalous. His downfall was inevitable given his fame, his exuberance, and his penchant for male lovers, in a time when homosexuality was illegal. He went to prison for having a an affair with a man and while he was away, his wife took his children and moved to another country under an assumed name. By the time Wilde was released his reputation was in tatters, his lover was gone, and his fortune was spoken for. He was a pariah at the end of his career and although he was just as talented as ever before, no one would stage or publish any of his works. By the end of his short life he was destitute and disgraced.
His works have stood the test of time though – and now this master of the classics is considered one himself. He is one of the most quoted and most recognizable poets of all time. He once said the “the best revenge is living well” and while he may have had a rough go of it later in life, Oscar Wilde is celebrated still and he lives on today through his work…..so I think he’s had his revenge after all. Happy birthday!