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Spotlight on: Oscar Wilde

It’s time to celebrate all things Oscar Wilde - tomorrow is his 166th birthday!

Oscar Wilde is one of the most celebrated wordsmiths in history. He turned his hand to poetry, epigrams, plays and one novel - The Picture of Dorian Gray. His ability to coin new styles of language and witticisms has meant he’s been remembered in the canon of Literature for centuries. 

Not only this, but we remember Wilde for his flamboyant style, glittering conversational skill and ability to rise through the ranks of London’s elite. A pioneer of the aesthetic movement, he celebrated ‘art for arts sake’, and championed the supremacy of art and beauty. For this reason he is still revered by artists, writers and designers today. 

But Wilde did not have an easy life: at the heights of his fame and success, while his play The Importance of Being Earnest was still being performed in London, he was brought to trial for gross indecency with men. He was eventually convicted and was jailed from 1895 to 1897, a back-breaking and traumatic ordeal that signalled the dwindling of his creative power and physical strength. During his last year in prison he wrote De Profundis, a letter to his lover Bosie (Lord Alfred Douglas), about the nature of suffering and his spiritual development in prison. After being released he never truly recovered his strength, and died three years later. 

A figure that changed the way we look at language, art and beauty forever, Wilde’s impact can’t be understated despite his relatively short life. Reclaimed now as a LGBT+ icon, he continues to inthrall new generations with his astute and amusing observations on life. 

Five Fun Facts About Oscar Wilde:

  • His full name was actually Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde
  • His last words were: ‘my wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or other of us has got to go.’
  • He knew five languages!
  • There is no evidence that he actually said the famous quote ‘be yourself, everyone else is already taken.’
  • His mother, Jane Wilde, was a well-known Irish activist and nationalist. She was also a noted women’s suffragist and advocated for women’s education.
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