Do you want to learn interesting facts about Oscar Wilde?
Best remembered for his flambuoyant lifestyle, conviction and imprisonment, his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, and his play The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde was born Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde to Anglo-Irish intellectuals in Dublin, Ireland, on 16 October 1854. He was one of the best-known Irish writers of all time.
Wilde attended Trinity College Dublin on a royal scholarship from 1871 to 1874, before moving on to Magdalen College in Oxford where he developed an interest in Freemasonry and became involved in the then emerging philosophy of aestheticism.
Apart from the famous The Picture of Dorian Gray novel, Wilde also wrote numerous poems, plays, and epigrams during his lifetime. Read on to learn more facts about Oscar Wilde.
Things you'll find in this article
- 12 Interesting Facts About Oscar Wilde
- 1. Oscar Wilde published only one novel
- 2. Oscar Wilde spoke German and French
- 3. Oscar Wilde once fought four bullies single-handedly
- 4. Bram Stoker’s wife was Oscar Wilde’s childhood sweetheart
- 5. Wilde was the subject of anti-Irish caricature throughout his career
- 6. Wilde’s father opposed his conversion to Catholicism
- 7. Wilde’s wife was a writer of children’s stories
- 8. Oscar Wilde was tried and convicted for homosexual acts
- 9. Constance Wilde changed hers and her sons’ last name after Oscar Wilde’s conviction and scandal
- 10. Oscar Wilde’s son and grandson also became writers
- 11. Wilde’s childhood home is now known as the Wilde Centre of Trinity College
- 12. Wilde’s play, The Importance of Being Earnest, was adapted into a movie in 2002
12 Interesting Facts About Oscar Wilde
1. Oscar Wilde published only one novel
The Picture of Dorian Gray, published in 1891, is Oscar Wilde’s one and only novel. It is a moral fantasy novel, but when it first came out in 1890 in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, an American periodical, it was novella-length.
The Picture of Dorian Gray falls under three genres: philosophical fiction, Gothic fiction, and decadent literature. The novel contains 65,105 words and 20 chapters. The first edition, which was a novella, consisted of only 13 chapters.
The book was controversial during its time. Deemed homoerotic and suggestive, The Picture of Dorian Gray was denounced by critics as perverse and immoral, saying it would taint the young minds that come in contact with it.
Today, Oscar Wilde’s sole novel is considered one of the most well-known Irish novels ever published.
2. Oscar Wilde spoke German and French
Oscar Wilde attended the Portora Royal School with his older brother William Charles, better known as Willie Wilde, who became a journalist.
Before that, Oscar was homeschooled until he was 9 years old. He was educated by a German governess who taught him German. Wilde also learned French from his French nurse.
3. Oscar Wilde once fought four bullies single-handedly
At Oxford, Oscar Wilde was a known aesthete who wore his hair long and adorned his room with flower, blue china, peacock feathers, and other quirky items.
He didn’t like typical sports but he boxed occasionally, something that was unknown to many and which surprised the four schoolmates who physically attacked him and whom Wilde dealth with single-handedly. This also surprised his critics.
4. Bram Stoker’s wife was Oscar Wilde’s childhood sweetheart
After graduation from Oxford in 1878, Wilde returned to his home city of Dublin. There he met again a childhood sweetheart named Florence Balcombe, who got engaged to his fellow Irish author Bram Stoker (who became famous for his Gothic horror novel, Dracula).
Florence Balcombe married Stoker the same year, which disappointed Wilde a little, prompting him to write his ex, reminiscing “the two sweet years” they had spent together, which he called the sweetest years of all his youth.
5. Wilde was the subject of anti-Irish caricature throughout his career
Throughout his career, Oscar Wilde was often portrayed as a primate or a Christy Minstrel. A Christy Minstrel was a blackface performer made famous by a group that American singer and stage performer Edwin Pearce Christy formed.
In America, for example, the cover of the January 1882 issue of Harper’s Weekly magazine featured sunflower-worshipping monkey clad in the clothing style of the Irish writer. That same month and year, the Washington Post published Wilde’s photo alongside the Wild Man of Borneo with the caption: “How far is it from this to this?”
Despite the hostile reception from the American press, however, Oscar Wilde remained well-received in many parts of the United States. He was fêted at the best salons in many cities he went to and offered whiskey by miners in Colorado, among others.
6. Wilde’s father opposed his conversion to Catholicism
Oscar Wilde became extremely interested in Roman Catholicism as a student at Trinity College, an interest that grew when he studied at Oxford and moreso after he met Pope Pius IX in Rome in 1877.
Wilde often expressed disappointment at his parents for not raising him as a Roman Catholic. He attempted to convert to Catholicism in his last year at Oxofrd, but his father threatened to cut the financial support. However, Wilde still managed to convert eventually, dying a Catholic on 30 November 1900.
7. Wilde’s wife was a writer of children’s stories
Oscar Wilde married Constance Lloyd in 1884. She wrote a book based on children’s stories told by her grandmother. The book, titled There Was Once, was published in 1888.
There Was Once is a collection of fairy tales and nursery rhymes retold by Oscar Wilde’s wife Constance. These include “Cinderella,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Little Bo-peep,” “Puss-in-boots,” “The Three Bears,” and others.
8. Oscar Wilde was tried and convicted for homosexual acts
Homosexuality was a crime during Oscar Wilde’s time in Britain. He was accused of sodomy with young men and was found guilty after the trial. Wilde was sent to prison for two years.
This hullabaloo was ignited by a feud Wilde had with the British nobleman, Sir John Sholto Douglas, whose son Sir Alfred Douglas was said to have been intimately involved with the Irish playwright.
9. Constance Wilde changed hers and her sons’ last name after Oscar Wilde’s conviction and scandal
Despite all the scandal surrounding Oscar Wilde’s homosexuality, he and his wife Constance never divorced.
What Mrs. Wilde did to protect herself and her two sons from the stigma inflicted by Wilde’s scandals was erase “Wilde” from their names and changed the last name to “Holland.” This allowed her and the two Wilde children to escape persecution and live a normal life out of the spotlight caused by the scandal. She also forced her husband to give up his parental rights.
Constance and her sons Cyril and Vyvyan moved to Switzerland. The children attended an English-language boarding school in Germany and never saw their father again.
10. Oscar Wilde’s son and grandson also became writers
Vyvyan Holland, Wilde’s younger son, was born Vyvyan Oscar Wilde in 1886. In 1954, he published his autobiography called Son of Oscar Wilde, where he writes that Oscar was a devoted and loving dad to him and his older brother Cyril (who went on to become a soldier and was killed in action during the Battle of Festubert in 1915).
Prior to the 1954 memoirs of his father, Holland had already published 2 books privately. He went on to publish three more books about Oscar Wilde.
Vyvyan’s son, Merlin Holland, born in 1945, has also published three works about his grandfather.
11. Wilde’s childhood home is now known as the Wilde Centre of Trinity College
The house at 21 Westland Row, Dublin, where Oscar Wilde grew up in is now part of Trinity College Dublin, called the Wilde Centre of Trinity College. The center houses the creative writing and Irish writing departments, under the School of English in Trinity College.
12. Wilde’s play, The Importance of Being Earnest, was adapted into a movie in 2002
The film, directed by Oliver Parker, starred Rupert Everett (as Algernon “Algy” Moncrieff), Colin Firth (John “Jack” Worthing / Ernest), Judi Dench (as Lady Bracknell), Frances O’Conner (as Gwendolen Fairfax), and Reese Witherspoon (as Cecily Cardew). The latter was nominated for the Teen Choice Award for her role.
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