Tag Archives: Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde, born on the 16th of October 1854 in Dublin, Ireland, is only second to Shakespeare as the most oft quoted author in the English speaking world. His razor sharp wit combined with his majestically elegant prose to tell us some of the greatest stories of all time.

He was a voracious playwright, but to many his greatest work outside of plays is undoubtedly his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Dorian Gray is the story of a young man who sells his soul away for the promise of eternal youth and perpetual beauty. Told with Wilde’s fantastic wit and magical prose, the book caused a national outrage when it was first published in 1890, for the hedonism and  decadence contained in the novel as well as its supposed homosexual overtones, even though the 1890 version was censored heavily before it was ever printed.

Sadly, this grand book spurred many members of the public to attack Wilde and his  “homosexual agenda”, leading to the arrest of Mr Wilde and his good friend and supposed lover Alfred Taylor in 1895 for Sodomy and Gross Indecency. Wilde was sentenced to 2 years hard labour. During his time in jail performing hard labour, he passed out and ruptured his ear drum upon the chapel floor, an injury that is said to have lead directly to his contracting cerebral meningitis and subsequent death a few years later.

When Oscar Wilde died in Paris in 1900, he died completely destitute and penniless.

When you compare books written today to Mr Wilde’s writing you will find that his writing stands up remarkably well, a good hundred years after they were written, which cannot be said for all of the work to come out of that time.

The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Picture of Dorian Gray

Any modern assessment of the man is sure to mention his great charm and incredible wit, but he was so much more than a clever man with a flair for writing. He created some of the most memorable and colorful characters in modern literary history. His willingness to play and venture into the worlds of the heretofore unknown have rightfully earned him a place in the history books as one of the greatest authors, not only of his time, but of all time.

Whilst his writing can seem somewhat impenetrable and obtuse, with a little persistence many modern readers find that with a bit of help, the efforts required to fall in love with the man are more than worth the time invested.

He was probably the first man to be tried and sentenced by an angry public, spurred on by a media with an agenda. The public fury whipped up against him mighty pall to what seems so regular today, but his sexual proclivities made him a pariah, and in histories eyes, perhaps a venerable one.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Where to Start With Oscar Wilde

Where to Start With Oscar Wilde

Oscar WildeOscar Wilde has a very special place in history, one all of his own. The man known for his acerbic wit and most quotable quotes is well known as having written some of the funniest and most clever work of his time. But so often time is not a friend to authors and books, the nuances and style of language at the time of writing can vary wildly and make it hard for new readers to get a good start on a book or author.

While it is quite true that WIlde only wrote one novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, he wrote a multitude of short stories and an abundance of poetry and plays.

My humble suggestion would be to start with the lighthearted The Importance of Being Earnest. It is a fantastic play that showcases Wildes characteristic wit, and has the added bonus of being in play format which is easy to follow and not overly long. Download or read a copy from Project Gutenberg Here.

If the 21,000 word play is still a bit daunting, try The Canterville Ghost which comes in at just under 11,500 words, which was his first short story to be published and remains one of his most popular short stories since its first appearance in 1887.

The Picture of Dorian GrayNo matter where you start with Oscar Wilde, you will invariably move onto what has probably become his most famous and certainly his most notorious work, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Adapted time and time again into plays, musicals, movies, tv shows even cartoons, The Picture of Dorian Gray was said to be the novel that that broke the camels back and ending up getting Wilde sent to gaol for grave indecency. The book was said to be unclean, effeminate and a contaminating influence on society, what it actually was, was a work of classic gothic fiction.

After you finish Dorian Gray, search around for his other many works, but be sure to include The Ballad of Reading Gaol, written after Wilde was released from Reading gaol and exiled himself to France. It is most famous for including the oft quoted lines

Yet each man kills the thing he loves

A passage from the Ballad of Reading Gaol was chosen as Wilde’s epitaph, engraved on his headstone, and seems a fitting end for this piece.

And alien tears will fill for him,
Pity’s long-broken urn,
For his mourners will be outcast men,
And outcasts always mourn.