Oscar Wilde was born in 1854, but is still considered a literary and cultural icon who paved the way for LGBT representation in the arts. His role as one of the foremost spokespeople for aestheticism is evident in everything we know about Wilde.
The poet, author and playwright was known for his flamboyant style and razor-sharp wit and is thought of as one of the first real celebrities of the modern era.
Despite being shunned due to his sexual orientation later in his life, Wilde’s work endures even 165 years after his birth.
Along with approximately 50,000 other men, Wilde was posthumously pardoned for acts of “gross indecency”, following the implementation of the Alan Turing law in 2017.
Along with some of his always memorable quotes, here are five things you might not have known about the father of Dorian Gray.
1. The son of Anglo-Irish intellectuals
“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.” – Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde was born Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde. His father was an acclaimed medical doctor and philanthropist, while his mother was an Irish nationalist and well-known poet.
2. A man of many tongues
“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” – Oscar Wilde
Wilde was somewhat of a polyglot. He studied Greek for nine years and was also fluent in French, German, Spanish and English, and able to converse in Italian. Despite his mother’s nationalistic fervour, Oscar could ironically not speak Irish Gaelic.
3. Writing for children
“No better way is there to learn to love Nature than to understand Art. It dignifies every flower of the field. And, the boy who sees the thing of beauty which a bird on the wing becomes when transferred to wood or canvas will probably not throw the customary stone.” – Oscar Wilde
Wilde is perhaps better known for his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the many plays and poems that came from his pen, but he was also a children’s book author, releasing The Happy Prince and Other Tales – a book comprising five short stories for children – in 1888.
4. A symbolic alias
“Life is never fair, and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not.” – Oscar Wilde
Even in exile, when Wilde’s health was truly starting to fail, his wit never did. Here, he took the pseudonym Sebastian Melmoth, drawing inspiration from the main character in Charles Maturin’s novel Melmoth the Wanderer, and Saint Sebastian, a man martyred for his cause.
5. A kiss goodbye
“A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” – Oscar Wilde
Wilde’s gravesite and memorial in Paris’s Père Lachaise Cemetery was upgraded and cordoned off with protective glass in 2011, after years of lipstick kisses from adoring fans started damaging the memorial.