I’ve been looking through (and actually reading. . .) bios about Oscar Wilde and I was surprised by his sexual orientation and the amount of influence that seemed to have in his later life. For a brief glimpse of his early life,he was born in Dublin, Ireland (1854). His mother was a liberal writer and his father a surgeon. At a young age he was very intelligent and began to dress with more style and flare to outwardly show who he was as a person, strongly believing in individuality.
His first work was Vera, written 1881 right after he moved into London. A few years following that he courted Constance Mary Lloyd. After this, he visited America, where his style was not appreciated among others. Despite that, he met many people there, one person being Walt Whitmen who enjoyed Wilde’s company. Coming from America, at home Wilde struggled financially and could no longer cover his extravagances. Conveniently, he wed with Constance who’s family was wealthy enough to compensate. After marriage to Constance is when his sexual exploration began with his homosexual relationships with Robert Ross and Lord Alfred Douglas. Many of Oscar Wilde’s work hinted at his homosexual nature. His novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, was both honored as well as seen as obscene due to the vanity and ‘off’ nature of the entrancing tale. Another work he had written that was seen as ‘indecent’ to the public was Salome, which he transcribed in French in order for the play to continue in performance. Being the father of two boys, Cyril and Vyvyan, is what pushed him to create these works and others to free himself as well as provide for his family.
In the Victorian era, homosexuality was a crime. Those who were involved in that type of ‘behavior’ or way of life was persecuted, killed, or imprisoned. Oscar Wilde was walking on a thin line when secretly having a relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas which caused discomfort and anger in Lord Douglas’ father (Marquess of Queensbury). Lord Douglas’ father was so upset, in fact, that he took Oscar Wilde to court to be charged with sodomy. Although Queensbury was not able to attain complete and solid evidence, Oscar was found guilty and sentenced to 2 years with a charge of both sodomy and gross indecency.
Unfortunately, while Wilde was in prison, Constance changed her last name and the children’s to save them from ‘the shame’ of their father. She then died due to a mishap with a spinal surgery, leaving the children to her family, still hidden away from their father. Once released, Wilde exiled himself to London where he lived with his first lover, Robert Ross for his remaining years, dying in the 1900’s from cerebral meningitis.
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I found it strange and interesting peaking into Oscar’s life for a large majority of the week. I thought it was also interesting how my parents were able to give me some insight on the era and the man himself. My parents often humor me when it comes to historical or literary figures, but it felt good to really connect with them on the topic of a great writer.
Oscar Wilde’s sexual orientation seemed to make him both fashionable, trendy, and daring during that time period. Sure, people hated him, but he soaked in hate in love with the same meaning: attention, which he loved. To free himself, he wrote his inner feelings and passions in his writing, which is why homosexual sub-text is found in many of his pieces. Homosexuality aside, he created based on emotion and feeling, which is one of the most innovative and innate resources on the planet. To be able to plug into something like that and evoke that same feeling from everyone else, whether it be negative or positive, is still quite impressive. A true gentlemen and scholar, Oscar Wilde is.