Oscar Wilde

April 11, 2022

Oscar Wilde was an Irish intellectual of the 19th century. He died on November 30, 1900, and was never forgotten. 

He was notable for his works, which remain famous to this day. However, Wilde also tends to be remembered for his criminal conviction for homosexual acts, which can be considered one of the first examples of a celebrity trial.

Wilde started life as the son of Anglo-Irish intellectuals. He excelled in school, with the result that he went on to become an excellent classicist. However, Wilde also became a member of aestheticism, an art movement that emphasized aesthetics over socio-political positions in the arts. Something that ran contrary to the traditional Victorian belief that ethics was an important component of such works. Wilde made a smooth transition into London’s cultural scene when he graduated from Magdalen College, Oxford.

From there, he became involved in a wide range of things. Sometimes, Wilde was a lecturer. Other times, he wrote plays. One time, Wilde even wrote the novel called The Picture of Dorian Gray, though it is interesting to note that he wrote several shorter stories. Armed with his wit, conversation and flamboyant sense of fashion, it was no wonder that Wilde was one of the most famous personalities of the late Victorian period.

His downfall can be traced to his relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas, the son of the disapproving John Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensbury. At one point, John Douglas called Wilde a “posing Sodomite,” which prompted Wilde to sue for criminal libel. Unfortunately for him, Queensberry’s lawyers were able to dig up a great deal of evidence about his homosexual activities, so much so that Wilde actually dropped the case when they stated that they had found several male prostitutes willing to testify against him. 

However, Queensbury did not let up. Instead, he proceeded to win a counterclaim for his expenses. Furthermore, he sent the collected evidence to Scotland Yard, which resulted in Wilde being sentenced to two years’ hard labor for gross indecency.

Wilde survived the sentence. However, he was in poor health, and his finances had been ruined. Wilde reunited with Douglas for a short time before he died of meningitis while in exile on November 30 of 1900. His death might have been connected to a ruptured eardrum suffered when he fell from illness and hunger in prison.

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