Oscar Wilde was called one of the first modern celebrities. And with celebrity, that automatically calls for scandal. He was a writer, a playwright, a fashionista, and amongst other things he was witty and pompous. Oscar Wilde took care of creating his public persona but even after his imprisonment and exile, his genius cannot be overlooked.
Here are just ten facts that you may not have known about his eventful life.
1. Oscar Wilde had a famous father.
Wilde’s father was Sir William Wilde. He was descended from a Dutch colonel who had come to Ireland with King William III. Sir William was prominent in Ireland for being the most popular surgeon for eyes and ears. Sir William was actually knighted for his accomplishments as a surgeon.
2. Wilde’s mother was also a writer.
Jane Wilde was a well-known Irish poet and Irish nationalist. She wrote under the pseudonym “Speranza” in support of the 1848 uprising in Ireland. She was also noted as a women’s suffragist and advocated for women’s education.
3. Oscar Wilde has a complicated extended family.
Aside from his brother Willie and sister Isola, Wilde also had three half-siblings. They were his father’s children that he had out of wedlock. Wilde’s father still regarded them as his own and arranged for their education.
4. Wilde only ever wrote one novel.
The Picture of Dorian Gray was the only full novel that he ever wrote. But, Wilde is known for also his several plays, poems, and short stories.
5. He had only one true, loyal friend.
Of all the people that were close to him, Robbie Ross was the one who proved to be there for him through it all. Ross provided Wilde with emotional and financial support in his final years of exile. He was also there for him during the last days of his life. After Wilde died, Ross repurchased all the rights to Wilde’s literary work and would legally go after those who published work under Wilde’s name.
6. Oscar Wilde’s wife disowned him during exile.
Wilde’s wife, Constance, visited him when he was in prison late in his life to deliver the notice of his mother’s death. Despite that they had never truly divorced, she changed her surname and their children’s in an effort to save their lives from the scandal.
7. He wrote a poem for his sister.
Wilde’s sister, Isola, suffered a tragic death from meningitis at the age of nine. He wrote a poem to honor her titled Requiescat.
8. Wilde headlined aestheticism.
The aesthetic movement took rise in the 19th century. It was evident in the writings and works of Oscar Wilde that he was a leading figure in this movement. This inspired many others to take up the cause even after Wilde’s downfall in society.
9. His most passionate relationship was with a man.
The first “real” relationship that Oscar Wilde had was with Alfred Douglas. Douglas was a spoiled and reckless son to John Douglas, who was the man behind the Queensberry Rules of Boxing. Their relationship was not perfect, as there were many breakups and reconciliations. Douglas used Wilde for money and success.
10. Oscar Wilde was very interested in Catholicism.
During his time at Magdalen College, he developed a deep interest in the religion of Catholicism. He even spoke to several clergymen about converting to the faith. When his father found out, he disapproved and threatened to cut him off. Though he never converted, the fascination remained with him for the rest of his life.
For more on the great Oscar Wilde, check out this article on unknown facts about The Picture of Dorian Gray.