Happy Birthday, Oscar Wilde!
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born on this day in 1854. He was a prolific writer, working in journalism, penning a number of plays, poems, essays, and his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Born in Dublin, Wilde spent his early adult life in London where he attended Oxford. Known for his wit, his conversational skills, and his flamboyant dress, Oscar became one of the best known personalities in London.
Wilde, at the insistence of his boyfriend, took his boyfriend's father to court for criminal libel. His plan backfired when the courts determined that Oscar was, in fact, guilty of gross indecency with men. He served two years hard labor or, as the Brits would say, labour. Upon his release, he fled London and settled in France where he died, destitute, at the age of 46.
Even if you've never read The Picture of Dorian Gray or The Importance of Being Ernest, you have probably heard Oscar Wilde quoted, or even quoted him yourself, without knowing it.
"I can resist everything except temptation"
"Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes"
"Be yourself; everyone else is taken."
"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all."
"The truth is rarely pure and never simple."
"There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."
And, my favorite:
"True friends stab you in the front."
Oscar is so frequently quoted that Dorothy Parker wrote a poem about him:
If, with the literate, I am
Impelled to write an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit:
We all assume that Oscar said it.
Some of Oscar's work was published after his death and his work continues to be performed to this day. It's unfortunate that he died poor and didn't benefit from the success of his work simply because he was gay.