“A Biographical Sketch of one of England’s Leading and Most Enduring Writers, Oscar Wilde,” by Andrew J. Schatkin

UNSPECIFIED – CIRCA 1754: Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irish writer, poet, and prominent aesthete. Photograph taken in 1882 by Napoleon Sarony (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

“A Biographical Sketch of one of England’s Leading and Most Enduring Writers, Oscar Wilde,” by Andrew J. Schatkin

My dear lovers of literature, and you of all faiths and thoughts and all views and opinions, I bid you and ask you to join with me in another voyage of intellectual discovery where those who may wish to engage in critical thinking and do not engage in and accept media lies, falsehoods, political code words, and hype can join in the effort to gain truth and facts amid the barrage of corruption and virtual darkness we are confronted with and befuddled and made effective fools of. I welcome you in this quest and task of attaining and coming to know intellectual honesty and honest discernment. Join with me in this voyage of discovery to get at and find what is valid and authentic in the world of confusion and to come with me in tearing apart he curtain of lies and darkness that hides from us what is truth and facts.

Today I speak of certainly one of England’s greatest writers and playwrights and novelists and one I greatly treasure, Oscar wilder. I will never forget, when in my formative high school years, I read and immensely enjoyed his wonderful novel “The Picture of Dorian Grey.” His plays are also wonderful artistic productions. Let me say here as I have said before that I am a great fan and lover of English literature both the poets such as Coleridge; Wordsworth; Swinburne; Housman; Kipling; Tennyson; Browning; and many others who I can never and cannot cast out of my mind and spirit. I also cannot leave out the great English novelists and short story writers such as the great master of the short story Rudyard Kipling; Lawrence ; Conrad; Dickens, Thackeray; Austen; Forster; and many, many others, and they all are lights to my path in life and every day and night they are on the table next to my bed and are my idols and leaders in my thoughts and I do know that to my death I will never be able to do without them.

Oscar Wilde was born in 1854 and died in 1900. He was an Irish poet and playwright and was quite popular as a writer of plays and of course is best remembered for his novel I mentioned previously The Picture of Dorian Gray and had the unfortunate fate of imprisonment for consensual homosexual acts which led to his early death age 46. He was a classicist and read classics at Trinity College and at Oxford. He lectured in the United States and Canada and then returned to London where he worked as a journalist and published his only novel Dorian Gray in 1890. In 1895 he produced four society comedies. He was arrested and convicted of gross indecency and was jailed from 1895 to 1897 and served two years hard labor. In his last year in prison he wrote De Profundis, published in 1905, a long letter which discusses his spiritual journey through his trials and on his release. He left for France where he wrote the long poem the Ballad of Reading Gaol, a poem speaking of his prison life.

Wilde was born in Dublin. He was baptized in the local Anglican church of Ireland. He was educated at home until the age of 9 where he was taught French and German. He attended the Port Royal school from 1864 to 1871, where he excelled in classics and won a scholarship to Trinity where he read classics from 1871 to 1874. He then won a scholarship to Oxford where he read greats from 1874 to 1878. He had great interest in Catholic theology. He was well known for his interest in the aesthetic and decadent movements. He graduated from Oxford and won a prize for one of his poems. In 1881, he published poems. He made a lecture tour of the U.S. in 1882. He married in 1884 in London where he had returned. He worked in journalism from 1885 to 1887. He published shorter fiction in 1888 and proceeded to write dialogues and essays. He published The Picture of Dorian Gray in 1890. Reviewers criticized the novel’s decadence and homosexual allusions. He then worked as a playwright and produced two plays during the 1880s and had a theatrical career from 1892 to 1895 and wrote comedies of society including Lady Windemere’s Fan in 1892.

In 1891, he was introduced to Lord Alfred Douglas who introduced him into the Victorian underground of gay prostitution. He had a quarrel and words with Lord Alfred’s father, the Marquess of Queensbury in which the marquess insulted Wilde. His final play, The Importance of Being Earnest, was written in 1894. Wilde initiated a prosecution against Queensbury for libel by reason of a note accusing Wilde of sodomy. Queensbury was arrested for criminal libel and began an investigation into Wilde’s homosexual liaisons. The trial became notorious as the details of Wilde’s private life of gay activities emerged. The trial opened in 1895. Wilde dropped the prosecution and Queensbury was found not guilty and Wilde was found liable for Queensbury’s expenses and was left bankrupt. Wilde was then arrested for gross indecency and sodomy. The trial ended with a hung jury and Wilde was allowed to post bail. In 1895, at the final trial, Wilde was convicted of gross indecency and was sentenced to two years hard labor and was imprisoned from 1895 to 1897and the sentence affected his health and he spent two months in the infirmary. Wilde was released from prison in 1897 and fled to France never to return to England. In his last years, he was in poverty and in exile from 1897 to 1900. Wilde died in 1900 a broken man. He died of cerebral meningitis. Wilde was pardoned in 2017.

Oscar Wilde was a most talented writer in many forms including poetry, the novel, and most of all plays. All his work has lasted and endured the passages and ravages of time and have a particular fondness and remembrance of his fine novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, which when I read it I read it with great pleasure. I will always remember this great work as well as his excellent drawing room comedies. He had the misfortune if not bad luck to live in an age and country and society where homosexuality even though consensual was a criminal offense but the real cause of Wilde’s downfall was his prosecution against Queensbury, a man it would seem of great power. It was this political factor that brought about his jailing and the extremely harsh sentence imposed which literally broke his health and brought about his impoverishment and suffering. Of course, he did live at a time and age and society and country where homosexuality was still a criminal offense and taboo. This was his misfortune and it is probably for the good that most western countries no longer regard homosexuality as a criminal offense and leave private sexual activity at least in this respect alone and not to be interfered with. This change, I think, is to the good, although the real and actual cause of Wilde’s imprisonment and sentence to hard labor was, one might say, his clash with a man of obvious great power in the person of the Marquess of Queensbury who he had the mistake of attacking and even encountering. His downfall, although in part due to his homosexuality, was more due to a powerful political opponent.

I end with the conclusion and view that Wilde was a great writer and I have a volume in my library of his complete literary work and corpus which stood the test of time and which I still love and enjoy. His literary work for me his literary work outweighs whatever faults his age and time may have found in him.