Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde 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 known for his epigrams and plays, his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, as well as the circumstances of his imprisonment and early death. Take a look below for 30 more fun and interesting facts about Oscar Wilde.
1. Wilde’s parents were successful Anglo-Irish intellectuals in Dublin.
2. He became fluent in French and German early in life.
3. At university, Wilde read Greats. He proved himself to be an outstanding classicist, first a Dublin, then at Oxford.
4. He became known for his involvement in the rising philosophy of aestheticism, led by two of his tutors, Walter Pater and John Ruskin.
5. After university, Wilde moved to London into fashionable cultural and social circles.
6. As a spokesman for aestheticism, he tried his hand at various literary activities. He published a book of poems, lectured in the United States and Canada on the new English Renaissance in Art, and then returned to London where he worked prolifically as a journalist.
7. Known for his biting wit, flamboyant dress and glittering conversational skill, Wilde became one of the best known personalities of his day.
8. At the turn of the 1890s, he refined his ideas about the supremacy of art in a series of dialogues and essays, and incorporated themes of decadence, duplicity and beauty into what would be his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray.
9. Oscar Wilder’s childhood sweetheart, Florence Balcombe, married Bram Stoker in 1878, disappointing Oscar because he cherished their two year romance and hoped that it would continue.
10. In 1878, Oscar Wilde won the Newdigate Prize for best English verse composition by an Oxford undergraduate for his poem “Ravenna.”
11. Following the publication of his book Poems in 1881, Oscar Wilde went on an American lecture tour where he gave 140 lectures in only nine months.
12. While touring in America, Oscar Wilde met many famous literary figures of the time, including Walt Whitman, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Henry Longfellow.
13. Wilde returned to the united Kingdom and continued a lecture tour through England and Ireland, ending in 1884.
14. Wilde’s poetry was written to emphasize the pursuit of beauty for beauty’s sake as opposed to the promotion of a social or political viewpoint.
15. In 1884, he married Constance Lloyd. They had two boys together, Cyril and Vyvyan.
16. Wilde worked as the editor at Lady’s World, a women’s magazine, for two years and expanded its coverage to include women’s issues and not just fashion. His efforts revitalized the magazine.
17. In 1888, Wilde’s book The Happy Prince and Other Tales was published. It was a collection of children’s stories.
18. In 1891, Wilde published two books, an essay collection called Intentions, and his one and only novel titled The Picture of Dorian Gray.
19. In 1891, he opened a play called Lady Windemere’s Fan. Its success encouraged Wilde to focus on writing plays for the next few years.
20. Wilde wrote the plays A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband, and the most famous play of his career in 1895, The Importance of Being Earnest.
21. Due to an affair with the son of the Marquis of Queensberry, Wilde was convicted in 1895 of “gross indecency” and sentenced to two years in jail.
22. Following his prison term, Wilde moved to France as a financially ruined man. He wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol, a poem, which was the only notable work he completed during the last few years of his life.
23. Wilde died on November 30, 1900. He was 46 years old and died of meningitis.
24. It’s claimed that, while studying at Magdalen College in Oxford, he was famous for his ability to learn long passages of writing by heart and later effortlessly recall them.
25. Although he was fluent in French, German, Italian and Ancient Greek, it’s thought that he couldn’t speak a word of his mother tongue, which was Irish.
26. Wilde’s mother, Jane Wilde, was a lifelong Irish nationalist and wrote poetry for the revolutionary Young Irelanders, while his father, Sir William Wilde, was Queen Victoria’s eye surgeon and was even knighted for it.
27. Two of his half sisters died in a fire. One was dancing close to the fireplace and her dress caught on fire, but when the other one tried to pull it out, they both fell into the fireplace and burned to death.
28. Wilde was one of the first authors at the time that acknowledged the importance of the so-called “Art for Art’s sake” movement and decided to go on tours around North America, giving lectures on aestheticism to perspective young students.
29. He was well known for his flamboyant fashion sense. For example, he would often wear green carnations in his jacket lapel when going out.
30. John Lennon often called Wilde one of his biggest poetic role models and, in fact, Wilde even made it to the cover of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover.