Today In History: Oscar Wilde Born

Today In History |

October 16, 1854


Today in 1878, the poet and novelist Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin. He is known as one of the wittiest people in history, whose writing was widely read during his lifetime. He is also associated with his foppish style of dress, which provoked scorn during the early part of his public life.

He published his first book in 1881, a collection of poetry. He toured the United States for the following year, delivering lectures about poetry. The swishing, quipping dandy was met with some skepticism.

He returned to the UK and got married, fathering two children. He wrote fairy tales for them, which were published in 1888. Two years later, he published The Picture of Dorian Gray, his only novel and most enduring work. He continued producing one major work a year for the following five years.

The British Library

Unlike many authors who became famous posthumously, Wilde was well-read during his time. His most popular work was The Importance of Being Earnest, his 1895 play.

The Marquess of Queensberry publicly accused him of being a homosexual, then a crime, in 1895. She claimed that Wilde had a relationship with her son. Wilde initiated an unsuccessful libel lawsuit against her - the evidence was too strong that she was correct.

He was arrested and sentenced to two years of hard labor. He got his freedom in 1897, after which he escaped the country to Paris. There, he continued writing. He was killed by meningitis in 1900.

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Matt lives in Southern California. He is interested in politics, history, literature and the natural world.