Oscar Wilde

(1854 – 1900)

Oscar Wilde: Biographical Sketch

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde (Dublin, Ireland, October 16, 1854 – Paris, France, November 30, 1900) was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London’s most popular playwrights in the early 1890s. Today he is remembered for his epigrams and plays, and the circumstances of his imprisonment which was followed by his early death.

Wilde’s parents were successful Anglo-Irish Dublin intellectuals. Their son became fluent in French and German early in life. At university Wilde read Greats; he proved himself to be an outstanding classicist, first at Dublin, then at Oxford. He became known for his involvement in the rising philosophy of aestheticism, led by two of his tutors, Walter Pater and John Ruskin. After university, Wilde moved to London into fashionable cultural and social circles. As a spokesman for aestheticism, he tried his hand at various literary activities: he published a book of poems, lectured in the United States and Canada on the new “English Renaissance in Art”, and then returned to London where he worked prolifically as a journalist. Known for his biting wit, flamboyant dress, and glittering conversation, Wilde became one of the best-known personalities of his day.

At the turn of the 1890s, he refined his ideas about the supremacy of art in a series of dialogues and essays, and incorporated themes of decadence, duplicity, and beauty into his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). The opportunity to construct aesthetic details precisely, and combine them with larger social themes, drew Wilde to write drama. He wrote Salome (1891) in French in Paris but it was refused a licence. Unperturbed, Wilde produced four society comedies in the early 1890s, which made him one of the most successful playwrights of late Victorian London.

At the height of his fame and success, while his masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), was still on stage in London, Wilde had the Marquess of Queensberry, the father of his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, prosecuted for libel, a charge carrying a penalty of up to two years in prison. The trial unearthed evidence that caused Wilde to drop his charges and led to his own arrest and trial for gross indecency with other men. After two more trials he was convicted and imprisoned for two years’ hard labour. In 1897, in prison, he wrote De Profundis which was published in 1905, a long letter which discusses his spiritual journey through his trials, forming a dark counterpoint to his earlier philosophy of pleasure. Upon his release he left immediately for France, never to return to Ireland or Britain. There he wrote his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), a long poem commemorating the harsh rhythms of prison life. He died destitute in Paris at the age of forty-six.

Read more about Oscar Wilde on Wikipedia.



  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890)
    – Initially serialized in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine; republished in book form after the addition of a preface in 1891.
Novellas and Short Stories
  • The Portrait of Mr. W.H. (1889)
  • Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and Other Stories (1891)
    • Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime
    • The Sphinx Without a Secret
    • The Canterville Ghost
      – First published 1887.
    • The Model Millionaire
  • Poems in Prose (1894)
    • The Artist
    • The Doer of Good
    • The Disciple
    • The Master
    • The House of Judgment
    • The Teacher of Wisdom
  • Complete Shorter Fiction (1982)
  • Six Short Stories (1991)
  • The Canterville Ghost, and Other Stories (1991)
  • Complete Short Fiction (1995)
  • Short Stories by Oscar Wilde (1996)
  • Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime, the Portrait of Mr. W. H. and Other Stories (2002)
  • Vera, or the Nihilists (1880)
  • The Duchess of Padua (1883)
  • Salomé (1892)
  • Lady Windermere’s Fan (1893)
  • A Woman of No Importance (1893)
  • An Ideal Husband (1895)
  • The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)
  • A Florentine Tragedy (1908)
    – Fragment; published posthumously.
  • Intentions (1913)
    – Fragments; published posthumously.
  • La Sainte Courtisane, or The Woman Covered With Jewels (1917)
    – Fragment; published posthumously.
  • Plays (1954)
  • The Plays of Oscar Wilde (1980)
  • The Complete Plays (1988)
  • Five Major Plays (1991)
  • The Plays of Oscar Wilde (1999)
  • Ravenna (1878)
  • Poems (1881)
  • Poems (1892)
  • The Sphinx (1893)
  • The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898)
  • Oscar Wilde: Selected Poems (1992)
  • The Ballad of Reading Gaol and Other Poems (1992)
  • The Collected Poems of Oscar Wilde (1994)
  • Complete Poetry (1997)
  • Selected Poems (1998)
Fairy Tales and Fiction for Children
  • The Happy Prince and Other Stories (1888)
    • The Happy Prince
    • The Nightingale and the Rose
    • The Selfish Giant
    • The Devoted Friend
    • The Remarkable Rocket
  • A House of Pomegranates (1891)
    • The Young King
    • The Birthday of the Infanta
    • The Fisherman and His Soul
    • The Star-Child
  • Complete Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde (1996)
  • Satyricon
    – Fragments; by Petronius Arbiter (AD 27 – 66). Translated under the name Sebastian Melmoth; published posthumously in 1902.
  • What Never Dies
    (Ce Qui ne Meurt Pas by Jules Amédee Barbey d’Aurevilly (1884))
    – Translated under the name Sebastian Melmoth; published posthumously in 1928.
Nonfiction and Correspondence
  • Intentions (1881)
  • De Profundis (1895)
  • After Reading (1921)
  • After Bwerneval (1922)
  • Some Letters from Oscar Wilde to Alfred Douglas (1924)
  • Oscar Wilde’s Leters to Sarah Bernhardt (1924)
  • Sixteen Letters from Oscar Wilde (1930)
  • Letters to the Sphinx from Oscar Wilde (1930)
  • Essays (1950)
  • Selected Essays and Poems (1954)
    – Republished as De Profundis and Other Writings (1973).
  • The Letters of Oscar Wilde (1962)
  • Literary Criticism (1968)
  • The Artist as Critic (1969)
  • More Letters of Oscar Wilde (1985)
  • Selected Letters of Oscar Wilde (1987)
  • Oscar Wilde’s Oxford Notebooks (1989)
  • The Soul of Man, and Prison Writings (1990)
  • Aristotle at Afternoon Tea (1991)
  • The Uncollected Oscar Wilde (1997)
  • De Profundis: The Ballad of Reading Gaol and Other Writings (1999)
  • The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde (2000)
  • Essays and Lectures (2003)
  • Selected Journalism (2004)
  • Works (1908 – 1910)
  • The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde (1931)
  • The Portable Oscar Wilde (1946)
  • Complete Works (1948)
  • The Wit and Humor of Oscar Wilde (1959)
  • The Wit of Oscar Wilde (1969)
  • Monologues from Oscar Wilde (1988)
  • The Oxford Authors: Oscar Wilde (1989)
  • The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde (1989)
  • Oscar Wilde: The Complete Fairy Tales and Prose Poems (1989)
  • Plays, Prose Writings and Poems (1991)
  • Works (1993)
  • Sayings of Oscar Wilde (1993)
  • Oscar Wilde’s Guide to Modern Living (1996)
  • The Complete Oscar Wilde (1996)
  • The Best of Oscar Wilde (1997)
  • Nothing … Except My Genius (1997)
  • The Importance of Being a Wit: The Insults of Oscar Wilde (1997)
  • Oscar Wilde’s Wit and Wisdom: A Book of Quotations (1998)
  • Collins Complete Works of Oscar Wilde: Centenary Edition (1999)
  • The Complete Illustrated Stories, Plays and Poems of Oscar Wilde (2000)
  • The Complete Illustrated Works of Oscar Wilde (2000)
  • Oscar Wilde: The Major Works (2000)
  • Selected Prose of Oscar Wilde (2002)
  • The Epigrams of Oscar Wilde (2002)
  • The Wisdom of Oscar Wilde (2002)
  • Best Known Works of Oscar Wilde (2003)
  • The Best of Oscar Wilde: Selected Plays and Writings (2004)
Online editions of Oscar Wilde’s works:


A Selection of Quotes

The Picture of Dorian Gray

“Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty. There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”

“The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.”

Lady Windermere’s Fan

“Ideals are dangerous things. Realities are better. They wound, but they’re better.”

“In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.”

“Scandal is gossip made tedious by morality.”

“A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.”

The Portrait of Mr. W.H.

“A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.”

The Soul of Man Under Socialism

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”

The Decay of Lying

“Paradoxically though it may seem, it is none the less true that life imitates art far more than art imitates life.”


“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”

Find more quotes by Oscar Wilde on Wikiquote and Goodreads.