Oscar Wilde
OSCAR WILDE (1854-1900)
'I have nothing to declare but my genius' Wilde once told a customs official. But the popular image of Wilde as a man of effortless achievement and wit is far from the truth. Born in Dublin, Ireland the son of a nationalist poetess he studied at Trinity College, Dublin before going on to Magdalen College, Oxford. It was here that he allied himself with Aesthetisism - Art for Art's sake - and adopted his characteristic Aesthetic dress and haircut (based on a costume he wore to an undergraduate ball). Though well known as a socialite, Wilde recieved little recognition as an artist for many years until the play 'Lady Windermere's Fan' established his literary fame in 1892. But success was extremely short lived. On the opening night of his masterpiece 'The Importance of Being Earnest' in 1895 the Marquess of Queensberry, father of Lord Alfred Douglas with whom Wilde was having a relationship, began a public vendetta against him. An ill-advised attempt to sue for slander led to a conviction on a morals charge and time in Reading Jail. On his release, Wilde lived in self-imposed exile in France where he died in obscurity. Throughout his life, Wilde retained a deep affection towards children. His marriage in 1884 to Constance Lloyd produced two boys to whom Wilde was devoted and her decision to keep them from him following his conviction was devastating.
Wilde's short stories were writen at a time when he had begun to moderate his literary ambitions with financial needs. He therefore started to work in a number of popularist sub-genres - detective fiction, ghost stories, fairy tales - a market opened up by recently reduced printing costs and used to great effect by the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle. But Wilde, ever-contemptuous of writers who 'pandered to the masses', refused to produce straight genre-pieces. Though they conform to the character, plot and moral frameworks of the various sub-genres, their essense is often subverted, giving rise to witty, but often subtle and complex, parodies.
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