Synopsis

Enthralled by his own exquisite portrait, Dorian Gray exchanges his soul for eternal youth and beauty. Influenced by his friend Lord Henry Wotton, he is drawn into a corrupt double life, indulging his desires in secret while remaining a gentleman in the eyes of polite society. Only his portrait bears the traces of his decadence. The Picture of Dorian Gray was a succès de scandale. Early readers were shocked by its hints at unspeakable sins, and the book was later used as evidence against Wilde at the Old Bailey in 1895.

Characters

Dorian Gray

A beautiful, rich, spoilt, young man, aged about 20, at the start of the story. His pure good looks belie his increasing age and sinfulness.

Basil Hallward

An artist. Obsessed and inspired by Dorian’s beauty, he paints the fateful portrait of him.

Lord Henry Wotton

Basil’s elegant, cynical and irresistible friend, who encourages Dorian’s life of self gratification, but never guess where the “New Hedonism” he preaches has led his young protege.

Lady Henry

His wife – “she tried to look picturesque, but only succeeded in being untidy”

Lord Fermor

Lord Henry’s uncle, who indulges “the great aristocratic art of doing absolutely nothing” – usually at his club.

Sybil Vane

An exquisitely beautiful, gifted young actress with whom Dorian falls in love wien he sees her act.

James Vane

Her gruff-mannered younger brother. He goes to sea and returns 18 years later. 

Mrs Vane

Their mother – “a faded tired woman who played Lady Capulet, in a sort of magenta dressing wrapper’

Lady Narborough

An elderly society hostess – @a very clever woman with… the remains of a really remarkable ugliness”.

Duchess of Monmouth

A pretty, writy, bored young woman, married to “a jaded-looking man of sixty”.

Alan Campbell

A brillient young scientist who shares an unnamed secret with Dorian Grey.

Quotes

The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.

opening line

The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.

Chapter 1, pg. 4

The reason I will not exhibit this picture is that I am afraid that I have shown in it the secret of my own soul.

cp 1 pg 6

The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful.

cp 2 pg 21

You are a wonderful creation. You know more than you think you know, just as you know less than you want to know

cp 2 pg 23

Humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the world’s original sin. If the cave-man had known how to laugh, History would have been different.

cp 3 pg 46

You, who know all the secrets of life, tell me how to charm Sibyl Vane to love me! I want to make Romeo jealous, I want the dead lovers of the world to hear our laughter, and grow sad. I want a breath of our passion to stir their dust into consciousness, to wake their ashes into pain. My God, Harry, how I worship her!

cp 4 pg 61-62

I wish I had, for as sure as there is a God in heaven, if he ever does you any wrong, I shall kill him.

cp pg 78

You have killed my love. You used to stir my imagination. Now you don’t even stir my curiosity. You simply produce no effect. I loved you because you were marvellous, because you had genius and intellect, because you realised the dreams of great poets and gave shape and substance to the shadows of art. You have thrown it all away. You are shallow and stupid.

cp 7 pg 98

But you must think of that lonely death in the tawdry dressing-room simply as a strange lurid fragment from some Jacobean tragedy, as a wonderful scene from Webster, or Ford, or Cyril Tourneur. The girl ever really lived, and so she has never really died

cp 8 pg 116

Now if Geoffrey had done the thing on purpose, how interesting he would be! I should like to know someone who had committed a real murder.

cp 18 pg 223

It had brought melancholy across his passions. Its mere memory had marred many moments of joy. It had been like conscience to him. Yes, it had been conscience. He would destroy it.

cp20 pg253

About Oscar Wild

oscar wild picture
Oscar Wilde

Early Life

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born on the 16th October 1854  in a house number, 21 Westland Row, Dublin (now home of the Oscar Wilde Centre, Trinity College),     he was the middle child of three children, of an Anglo-Irish couple: Jane, née Elgee and Sir William Wilde. 

Oscar’s family was connected to literature even before his career, his mother Jane Wilde was a niece (by marriage) of the novelist, playwright and clergyman Charles Maturin (1780 – 1824), who may have influenced her literary career.

With distant Italian ancestry, using the Italian  word for hope “Speranza”  as a  pseudonym, she wrote poetry for the revolutionary Young Irelanders in 1848. As  a lifelong Irish nationalist. she read the Young Irelanders’ poetry to Oscar and Willie, inculcating a love of these poets in her sons.

William Wilde was Knighted in 1864 for his services as a medical advisor and assistant commissioner, to the census in Ireland. In addition to this he wrote books on Irish archaeology and peasant folklore. 

On his father’s side Wilde was descended from a Dutchman, Colonel de Wilde, who went to Ireland with King William of Orange’s invading army in 1690, and numerous Anglo-Irish ancestors. On his mother’s side, Wilde’s ancestors included a bricklayer from County Durham, who emigrated to Ireland sometime in the 1770s.

In addition to his children with his wife, Sir William Wilde had  three other children born out of wedlock before his marriage: acknowledging paternity of his illegitimate or “natural” children he provided for their education, arranging for them to be reared by his relatives.

Until he was nine, Oscar Wilde was educated at home, where a French nursemaid and a German governess taught him their languages. He joined his brother Willie at Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, attending from 1864 to 1871. 

He excelled academically, particularly in the subject of Classics, in which he ranked fourth in the school in 1869. His aptitude for giving oral translations of Greek and Latin texts won him multiple prizes, including the Carpenter Prize for Greek Testament. He was one of only three students at Portora to win a Royal School scholarship to Trinity in 1871.

Isola died at age nine of meningitis. Wilde’s poem “Requiescat” is written to her memory.

“Tread lightly, she is near

Under the snow

Speak gently, she can hear

the daisies grow” 

University education: 1870s

Trinity College, Dublin

Wilde left Portora with a royal scholarship to read classics at Trinity College, Dublin, from 1871 to 1874, where he lived with his elder brother. 

He was advised  to compete for a demyship (a half-scholarship worth £95 (£8,900 today) per year)  Magdalen College, Oxford – which he won easily.

Magdalen College, Oxford

At Magdalen, he read Greats from 1874 to 1878, and from there he applied to join the Oxford Union, but failed to be elected.

Wilde joined the Apollo Masonic Lodge at Oxford, and was soon raised to the “Sublime Degree of Master Mason”. During a resurgent interest in Freemasonry in his third year, he commented he “would be awfully sorry to give it up if I secede from the Protestant Heresy”.] 

However Wilde stopped  active involvement in Freemasonry once he left Oxford,allowing his membership of the Apollo University Lodge to lapse after failing to pay subscriptions.

At Oxford, Wilde was involved  in the aesthetic and decadent movements, having long hair, openly scorned “manly” sports, he did box occasionally though, and his rooms were decorated with, peacock feathers, lilies, sunflowers, blue china and other objets d’art

Wilde was once physically attacked by a group of four fellow students, and dealt with them single-handedly, surprising critics. By his third year Wilde had truly begun to develop himself and his myth, and considered his learning to be more expensive than what was within the prescribed texts. This attitude resulted in his being rusticated for one term, after he had returned late to a college term from a trip to Greece with Mahaffy.

Wilde won the 1878 Newdigate Prize for his poem “Ravenna”, which reflected on his visit there the year before. He graduated with a double first in his B.A. of Classical Moderations and Literae Humaniores (Greats). Wilde wrote to a friend, “The dons are ‘astonied’ beyond words – the Bad Boy doing so well in the end.’

Apprenticeship of an aesthete: 1880s

Debut in society

After graduation from Oxford, Wilde returned to Dublin, where he met Florence Balcombe, a childhood sweetheart. She became engaged to Bram Stoker and they married in 1878. Wilde was disappointed but stoic: he wrote to her, remembering “the two sweet years – the sweetest years of all my youth” during which they had been close. He also stated his intention to “return to England, probably for good.” This he did in 1878, only briefly visiting Ireland twice after that.

With the last of his inheritance from the sale of his father’s houses, he set himself up as a bachelor in London. The 1881 British Census listed Wilde as a boarder at 1 (now 44) Tite Street, Chelsea, where Frank Miles, a society painter, was the head of the household.[48]

Wilde had been publishing lyrics and poems in magazines since entering Trinity College, especially in Kottabos and the Dublin University Magazine. In mid-1881, at 27 years old, he published Poems, which collected, revised and expanded his poems.

Though the book sold out its first print run of 750 copies it was not generally well received by the critics, Punch  “The poet is Wilde, but his poetry’s tame”.  By a tight vote, the Oxford Union condemned the book for alleged plagiarism. 

The librarian, who had requested the book for the library, returned the presentation copy to Wilde with a note of apology. Biographer Richard Ellmann argues that Wilde’s poem “Hélas!” was a sincere, though flamboyant, attempt to explain the dichotomies the poet saw in himself; one line reads: “To drift with every passion till my soul / Is a stringed lute on which all winds can play”.

North America: 1882

Aestheticism was caricatured by Gilbert and Sullivan in Patience (1881). Richard D’Oyly Carte, an English impresario, invited Wilde to make a lecture tour of North America, simultaneously priming the pump for the US tour of Patience and selling this most charming aesthete to the American public. 

Wilde journeyed on the SS Arizona, arriving 2 January 1882, and disembarking the following day. The tour lasted  for almost a year due to the commercial success instead of the four months that was planned.

Wilde sought to transpose the beauty he saw in art into daily life. This was a practical as well as philosophical project: in Oxford he had surrounded himself with blue china and lilies, and now one of his lectures was on interior design.

When asked to explain reports that he had paraded down Piccadilly in London carrying a lily, long hair flowing, Wilde replied, “It’s not whether I did it or not that’s important, but whether people believed I did it”.

According to biographer Michèle Mendelssohn, Wilde was the subject of anti-Irish caricature and was portrayed as a monkey, a blackface performer and a Christy’s Minstrel throughout his career. Harper’s Weekly put a sunflower-worshipping monkey dressed as Wilde on the front of the January 1882 issue. 

The magazine didn’t let its reputation for quality impede its expression of what are now considered odious ethnic and racial ideologies. The drawing stimulated other American maligners and, in England, had a full-page reprint in the Lady’s Pictorial. … When the National Republican discussed Wilde, it was to explain ‘a few items as to the animal’s pedigree.’ And on 22 January 1882 the Washington Post illustrated the Wild Man of Borneo alongside Oscar Wilde of England and asked ‘How far is it from this to this?'”

Though his press reception was hostile, Wilde was well received in diverse settings across America; he drank whiskey with miners in Leadville, Colorado, and was fêted at the most fashionable salons in many cities he visited.

London life and marriage

His earnings, plus expected income from The Duchess of Padua, allowed him to move to Paris between February and mid-May 1883. While there he met Robert Sherard, whom he entertained constantly. “We are dining on the Duchess tonight”, Wilde would declare before taking him to an expensive restaurant

In London, he had been introduced in 1881 to Constance Lloyd, daughter of Horace Lloyd, a wealthy Queen’s Counsel, and his wife. She happened to be visiting Dublin in 1884, when Wilde was lecturing at the Gaiety Theatre. He proposed to her, and they married on 29 May 1884 at the Anglican St James’s Church, Paddington, in London. 

Although Constance had an annual allowance of £250, which was generous for a young woman (equivalent to about £26,300 in current value), the Wildes had relatively luxurious tastes. They had preached to others for so long on the subject of design that people expected their home to set new standards. No. 16, Tite Street was duly renovated in seven months at considerable expense. They had had two sons together, Cyril (1885) and Vyvyan (1886). 

Wilde became the sole literary signatory of George Bernard Shaw’s petition for a pardon of the anarchists arrested (and later executed) after the Haymarket massacre in Chicago in 1886.

Buy From Amazon

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The first version of The Picture of Dorian Gray was published as the lead story in the July 1890 edition of Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, along with five others. 

The story begins with a man painting a picture of Gray. When Gray, who has a “face like ivory and rose leaves”, sees his finished portrait, he breaks down. Distraught that his beauty will fade while the portrait stays beautiful, he inadvertently makes a Faustian bargain in which only the painted image grows old while he stays beautiful and young. 

For Wilde, the purpose of art would be to guide life as if beauty alone were its object. As Gray’s portrait allows him to escape the corporeal ravages of his hedonism, Wilde sought to juxtapose the beauty he saw in art with daily life.

Reviewers immediately criticised the novel’s decadence and homosexual allusions; The Daily Chronicle for example, called it “unclean”, “poisonous”, and “heavy with the mephitic odours of moral and spiritual putrefaction”. Wilde vigorously responded, writing to the editor of the Scots Observer, in which he clarified his stance on ethics and aesthetics in art – “If a work of art is rich and vital and complete, those who have artistic instincts will see its beauty and those to whom ethics appeal more strongly will see its moral lesson.”

A plaque to mark the spot where Wilde agreed to write The Picture of Dorian Gray and Doyle to write the second Holmes book (credit)

He nevertheless revised it extensively for book publication in 1891: six new chapters were added, some overtly decadent passages and homo-eroticism excised, and a preface was included consisting of twenty two epigrams, such as “Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”

Queensberry family

In mid-1891 Lionel Johnson introduced Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas, Johnson’s cousin and an undergraduate at Oxford at the time.] Known to his family and friends as “Bosie”, he was a handsome and spoilt young man. 

An intimate friendship sprang up between Wilde and Douglas and by 1893 Wilde was infatuated with Douglas and they consorted together regularly in a tempestuous affair. If Wilde was relatively indiscreet, even flamboyant, in the way he acted, Douglas was reckless in public. Wilde, who was earning up to £100 a week from his plays (his salary at The Woman’s World had been £6), indulged Douglas’s every whim: material, artistic, or sexual.

Douglas soon initiated Wilde into the Victorian underground of gay prostitution and Wilde was introduced to a series of young working-class male prostitutes from 1892 onwards by Alfred Taylor. These infrequent rendezvous usually took the same form: Wilde would meet the boy, offer him gifts, dine him privately and then take him to a hotel room. Unlike Wilde’s idealised relations with Ross, John Gray, and Douglas, all of whom remained part of his aesthetic circle, these consorts were uneducated and knew nothing of literature. Soon his public and private lives had become sharply divided.

Lord Alfred’s father, the Marquess of Queensberry, was known for his outspoken atheism, brutish manner and creation of the modern rules of boxing. Queensberry, who feuded regularly with his son, confronted Wilde and Lord Alfred about the nature of their relationship several times, but Wilde was able to mollify him. 

In June 1894, he called on Wilde at 16 Tite Street, without an appointment, and clarified his stance: 

“I do not say that you are it, but you look it, and pose at it, which is just as bad. And if I catch you and my son again in any public restaurant I will thrash you” to which Wilde responded: “I don’t know what the Queensberry rules are, but the Oscar Wilde rule is to shoot on sight”. 

Wilde’s account in De Profundis was less triumphant: “It was when, in my library at Tite Street, waving his small hands in the air in epileptic fury, your father… stood uttering every foul word his foul mind could think of, and screaming the loathsome threats he afterwards with such cunning carried out”.  

Queensberry only described the scene once, saying Wilde had “shown him the white feather”, meaning he had acted in a cowardly way. Though trying to remain calm, Wilde saw that he was becoming ensnared in a brutal family quarrel. He did not wish to bear Queensberry’s insults, but he knew to confront him could lead to disaster were his liaisons disclosed publicly. 

Trials

Wilde v. Queensberry

By John Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry, died 1900 – This file is from the collections of The National Archives (United Kingdom), catalogued under document record CRIM1/41/6. For high quality reproductions of any item from The National Archives collection please contact the image library., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13282381

On 18 February 1895, the Marquess left his calling card at Wilde’s club, the Albemarle, inscribed: “For Oscar Wilde, posing somdomite”, encouraged by Douglas and against the advice of his friends, initiated a private prosecution against Queensberry for libel, since the note amounted to a public accusation that Wilde had committed the crime of sodomy.

Queensberry was arrested for criminal libel; a charge carrying a possible sentence of up to two years in prison. Under the 1843 Libel Act, Queensberry could avoid conviction for libel only by demonstrating that his accusation was in fact true, and furthermore that there was some “public benefit” to having made the accusation openly. Queensberry’s lawyers thus hired private detectives to find evidence of Wilde’s homosexual liaisons.

Wilde’s friends had advised him against the prosecution at a Saturday Review meeting at the Café Royal on 24 March 1895; Frank Harris warned him that “they are going to prove sodomy against you” and advised him to flee to France. Wilde and Douglas walked out in a huff, Wilde saying “it is at such moments as these that one sees who are one’s true friends”. 

The libel trial became a cause célèbre as salacious details of Wilde’s private life with Taylor and Douglas began to appear in the press. A team of private detectives had directed Queensberry’s lawyers, led by Edward Carson QC, to the world of the Victorian underground. Wilde’s association with blackmailers and male prostitutes, cross-dressers and homosexual brothels was recorded, and various persons involved were interviewed, some being coerced to appear as witnesses since they too were accomplices to the crimes of which Wilde was accused

The trial opened at the Old Bailey on 3 April 1895 before Justice Richard Henn Collins amid scenes of near hysteria both in the press and the public galleries. The extent of the evidence massed against Wilde forced him to declare meekly, “I am the prosecutor in this case”. 

Wilde’s lawyer, Sir Edward George Clarke, opened the case by pre-emptively asking Wilde about two suggestive letters Wilde had written to Douglas, which the defence had in its possession. He characterised the first as a “prose sonnet” and admitted that the “poetical language” might seem strange to the court but claimed its intent was innocent. Wilde stated that the letters had been obtained by blackmailers who had attempted to extort money from him, but he had refused, suggesting they should take the £60 (equal to £7,000 today) offered, “unusual for a prose piece of that length”. He claimed to regard the letters as works of art rather than something of which to be ashamed.

In his opening speech for the defence, Carson announced that he had located several male prostitutes who were to testify that they had had sex with Wilde. On the advice of his lawyers, Wilde dropped the prosecution. Queensberry was found not guilty, as the court declared that his accusation that Wilde was “posing as a Somdomite [sic]” was justified, “true in substance and in fact”. Under the Libel Act 1843, Queensberry’s acquittal rendered Wilde legally liable for the considerable expenses Queensberry had incurred in his defence, which left Wilde bankrupt.

Regina v. Wilde

After Wilde left the court, a warrant for his arrest was applied for on charges of sodomy and gross indecency. Robbie Ross found Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel,  Pont Street, Knightsbridge, with Reginald Turner; both men advised Wilde to go at once to Dover and try to get a boat to France; his mother advised him to stay and fight. 

Wilde, lapsing into inaction, could only say, “The train has gone. It’s too late.” On 6 April 1895, Wilde was arrested for “gross indecency” under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, a term meaning homosexual acts not amounting to buggery (an offence under a separate statute).  At Wilde’s instruction, Ross and Wilde’s butler forced their way into the bedroom and library of 16 Tite Street, packing some personal effects, manuscripts, and letters. Wilde was then imprisoned on remand at Holloway, where he received daily visits from Douglas.

Events moved quickly and his prosecution opened on 26 April 1895, before Mr Justice Charles. Wilde pleaded not guilty. He had already begged Douglas to leave London for Paris, but Douglas complained bitterly, even wanting to give evidence; he was pressed to go and soon fled to the Hotel du Monde. Fearing persecution, Ross and many others also left the United Kingdom during this time. Under cross examination Wilde was at first hesitant, then spoke eloquently:

What is “the love that dare not speak its name”?

Charles Gill (prosecuting):

“The love that dare not speak its name” in this century is such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis of his philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets of Michelangelo and Shakespeare. It is that deep spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect. It dictates and pervades great works of art, like those of Shakespeare and Michelangelo, and those two letters of mine, such as they are. It is in this century misunderstood, so much misunderstood that it may be described as “the love that dare not speak its name”, and on that account of it I am placed where I am now. It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it. It is intellectual, and it repeatedly exists between an older and a younger man, when the older man has intellect, and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him. That it should be so, the world does not understand. The world mocks at it, and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it.

Wilde:

This response was counter-productive in a legal sense as it only served to reinforce the charges of homosexual behaviour.

The trial ended with the jury unable to reach a verdict. Wilde’s counsel, Sir Edward Clarke, was finally able to get a magistrate to allow Wilde and his friends to post bail. The Reverend Stewart Headlam put up most of the £5,000 surety required by the court, having disagreed with Wilde’s treatment by the press and the courts.Wilde was freed from Holloway and, shunning attention, went into hiding at the house of Ernest and Ada Leverson, two of his firm friends. Edward Carson approached Frank Lockwood QC, the Solicitor General and asked “Can we not let up on the fellow now?” Lockwood answered that he would like to do so, but feared that the case had become too politicised to be dropped.

The final trial was presided over by Mr Justice Wills. On 25 May 1895 Wilde and Alfred Taylor were convicted of gross indecency and sentenced to two years’ hard labour. The judge described the sentence, the maximum allowed, as “totally inadequate for a case such as this”, and that the case was “the worst case I have ever tried”. Wilde’s response “And I? May I say nothing, my Lord?” was drowned out in cries of “Shame” in the courtroom.

Imprisonment

When first I was put into prison some people advised me to try and forget who I was. It was ruinous advice. It is only by realising what I am that I have found comfort of any kind. Now I am advised by others to try on my release to forget that I have ever been in a prison at all. I know that would be equally fatal. It would mean that I would always be haunted by an intolerable sense of disgrace, and that those things that are meant for me as much as for anybody else – the beauty of the sun and moon, the pageant of the seasons, the music of daybreak and the silence of great nights, the rain falling through the leaves, or the dew creeping over the grass and making it silver – would all be tainted for me, and lose their healing power, and their power of communicating joy. To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.

By Jack1956 – Self-photographed, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52085931

Wilde was incarcerated from 25 May 1895 to 18 May 1897. 

Decline: 1897–1900

Exile

Though Wilde’s health had suffered greatly from the harshness and diet of prison, he had a feeling of spiritual renewal. He immediately wrote to the Society of Jesus requesting a six-month Catholic retreat; when the request was denied, Wilde wept. “I intend to be received into the Catholic Church before long”, Wilde told a journalist who asked about his religious intentions.

He spent his last three years impoverished and in exile. He took the name “Sebastian Melmoth”, after Saint Sebastian and the titular character of Melmoth the Wanderer (a Gothic novel by Charles Maturin, Wilde’s great-uncle). Wilde wrote two long letters to the editor of the Daily Chronicle, describing the brutal conditions of English prisons and advocating penal reform. His discussion of the dismissal of Warder Martin for giving biscuits to an anaemic child prisoner repeated the themes of the corruption and degeneration of punishment that he had earlier outlined in The Soul of Man under Socialism.

Wilde spent mid-1897 with Robert Ross in the seaside village of Berneval-le-Grand in northern France, where he wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol, narrating the execution of Charles Thomas Wooldridge, who murdered his wife in a rage at her infidelity. It moves from an objective story-telling to symbolic identification with the prisoners.

 Although Douglas had been the cause of his misfortunes, he and Wilde were reunited in August 1897 at Rouen. This meeting was disapproved of by the friends and families of both men. Constance Wilde was already refusing to meet Wilde or allow him to see their sons, though she sent him money – three pounds a week. During the latter part of 1897, Wilde and Douglas lived together near Naples for a few months until they were separated by their families under the threat of cutting off all funds.

Wilde’s final address was at the dinghy Hôtel d’Alsace (now known as L’Hôtel), on rue des Beaux-Arts in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris. “This poverty really breaks one’s heart: it is so sale [filthy], so utterly depressing, so hopeless. Pray do what you can” he wrote to his publisher.

. Soon Wilde was sufficiently confined to his hotel to joke, on one of his final trips outside, “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One of us has got to go”. On 12 October 1900 he sent a telegram to Ross: “Terribly weak. Please come”.  His moods fluctuated; Max Beerbohm relates how their mutual friend Reginald ‘Reggie’ Turner had found Wilde very depressed after a nightmare. “I dreamt that I had died, and was supping with the dead!” “I am sure”, Turner replied, “that you must have been the life and soul of the party.” Turner was one of the few of the old circle who remained with Wilde to the end and was at his bedside when he died.

Death

By 25 November 1900 Wilde had developed meningitis, then called “cerebral meningitis”. Robbie Ross arrived on 29 November, sent for a priest, and Wilde was conditionally baptised into the Catholic Church by Fr Cuthbert Dunne, a  priest from Dublin, Wilde having been baptised in the Church of Ireland and having moreover a recollection of Catholic baptism as a child, a fact later attested to by the minister of the sacrament, Fr Lawrence Fox. Fr Dunne recorded the baptism,

Wilde died of meningitis on 30 November 1900. Different opinions are given as to the cause of the disease: Richard Ellmann claimed it was syphilitic; Merlin Holland, Wilde’s grandson, thought this to be a misconception, noting that Wilde’s meningitis followed a surgical intervention, perhaps a mastoidectomy; Wilde’s physicians, Dr Paul Cleiss and A’Court Tucker, reported that the condition stemmed from an old suppuration of the right ear treated for several years (une ancienne suppuration de l’oreille droite d’ailleurs en traitement depuis plusieurs années) and made no allusion to syphilis.

Burial

Wilde was initially buried in the Cimetière de Bagneux outside Paris; in 1909 his remains were disinterred and transferred to Père Lachaise Cemetery, inside the city. His tomb there was designed by Sir Jacob Epstein. It was commissioned by Robert Ross, who asked for a small compartment to be made for his own ashes, which were duly transferred in 1950. The modernist angel depicted as a relief on the tomb was originally complete with male genitalia, which were initially censored by French Authorities with a golden leaf. The genitals have since been vandalised; their current whereabouts are unknown. In 2000, Leon Johnson, a multimedia artist, installed a silver prosthesis to replace them. In 2011, the tomb was cleaned of the many lipstick marks left there by admirers and a glass barrier was installed to prevent further marks or damage

The epitaph is a verse from The Ballad of Reading Gaol,

And alien tears will fill for him

Pity’s long-broken urn,

For his mourners will be outcast men,

And outcasts always mourn.

Posthumous pardon

In 2017, Wilde was among an estimated 50,000 men who were pardoned for homosexual acts that were no longer considered offences under the Policing and Crime Act 2017 (homosexuality was decriminalised in England and Wales in 1967). The 2017 Act implements what is known informally as the Alan Turing law.

Bibliography

Standalone Novels

TitlePublication
The Picture of Dorian Gray1890/1891
Novels

Essays

TitleDate
The Decay of Lying1889
Pen, Pencil and Poison1891
The Soul of Man Under Socialism1891
Intentions1891
Phrases and Philosophes for the Use of the Young1894
A Few Maxims For The Instructions Of The Over-Educated1894
Essays

Stories

TitleContainsDate
The Portrait of Mr. W.H.1889
The Happy Prince and Other Tales1988
The Happy Prince
The Selfish Giant
The Nightingale and the Rose
The Fisherman and the Rose
The Devoted Friend
The Birthday Infanta
The Star-Child
The Remarkable Rocket
The Young King
A House of Pomegranates1891
Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and Other Stories1891
Cantivale Ghost1887
Chapbooks

Poems

TitleDate
Ravenna1878
Poems1881
The Sphinx1894
Poems in Prose1894
The Ballard of Reading Gaol1898
Non-Fiction

Plays

TitleDateNotes
Vera, or, The Nihilists1880
The Duchess of Padua1883
Lady Windermere’s Fan1892
A Woman of no Importance1893
Salome (French Verson)1893first performed in Paris 1896
Salome: A Tragedy in One Act1894
An Ideal Husband 1895
The Importance of Being Ernest1895
La Sainte Courtisane and A Florentine Tragedy1908
Plays
Buy from amazon
FilmDate
Flesh And Fantasy1943
The Canterville Ghost1944
An Ideal Husband1947
The Fan1949
The Importance Of Being Earnest1952
Salome1986
Salome’s Last Dance1088
The Importance Of Being Earnest1992
An Ideal Husband1999
The Importance of Being Earnest2002
A Good Woman2004

Films Based on the Life of Oscar Wilde

TitleDate
Oscar Wilde1960
The Trials of Oscar Wilde1960
Oscar Wilde1972
Wilde1997
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