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Author Oscar Wilde published several acclaimed works, including The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest.
Oscar Wilde's father was Ireland's leading eye surgeon and was knighted in 1864.
Oscar Wilde died at age 46 on November 30, 1900 from meningitis.
Although he was married to Constance Lloyd, Wilde spent nights in a hotel with Lord Alfred Douglas. It was his most prolific writing period.
Oscar Wilde sued the Marquis de Queensburg for libel, lost, and wound up in jail for gross indecency because of his homosexuality.
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On May 29, 1884, Wilde married a wealthy Englishwoman named Constance Lloyd. They had two sons: Cyril, born in 1885, and Vyvyan, born in 1886. A year after his wedding, Wilde was hired to run Lady's World, a once-popular English magazine that had recently fallen out of fashion. During his two years editing Lady's World, Wilde revitalized the magazine by expanding its coverage to "deal not merely with what women wear, but with what they think and what they feel. The Lady's World,
" wrote Wilde, "should be made the recognized organ for the expression of women's opinions on all subjects of literature, art and modern life, and yet it should be a magazine that men could read with pleasure."
Beginning in 1888, while he was still serving as editor of Lady's World, Wilde entered a seven-year period of furious creativity, during which he produced nearly all of his great literary works. In 1888, seven years after he wrote Poems, Wilde published The Happy Prince and Other Tales, a collection of children's stories. In 1891, he published Intentions, an essay collection arguing the tenets of aestheticism, and that same year, he published his first and only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. The novel is a cautionary tale about a beautiful young man, Dorian Gray, who wishes (and receives his wish) that his portrait ages while he remains youthful and lives a life of sin and pleasure.
Though the novel is now revered as a great and classic work, at the time critics were outraged by the book's apparent lack of morality. Wilde vehemently defended himself in a preface to the novel, considered one of the great testaments to aestheticism, in which he wrote, "an ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style" and "vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art."
Wilde's first play, Lady Windermere's Fan, opened in February 1892 to widespread popularity and critical acclaim, encouraging Wilde to adopt playwriting as his primary literary form. Over the next few years, Wilde produced several great plays—witty, highly satirical comedies of manners that nevertheless contained dark and serious undertones. His most notable plays were A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), his most famous play.
Around the same time that he was enjoying his greatest literary success, Wilde commenced an affair with a young man named Lord Alfred Douglas. On February 18, 1895, Douglas's father, the Marquis of Queensberry, who had gotten wind of the affair, left a calling card at Wilde's home addressed to "Oscar Wilde: Posing Somdomite," a misspelling of sodomite. Although Wilde's homosexuality was something of an open secret, he was so outraged by Queensberry's note that he sued him for libel. The decision ruined his life.
When the trial began in March, Queensberry and his lawyers presented evidence of Wilde's homosexuality—homoerotic passages from his literary works, as well as his love letters to Douglas—that quickly resulted in the dismissal of Wilde's libel case and his arrest on charges of "gross indecency." Wilde was convicted on May 25, 1895 and sentenced to two years in prison.
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