The Importance of Being Earnest
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Oscar Wilde (FINGAL O'FLAHERTIE WILLS), (October 16, 1854-November 30, 1900), Irish author and aesthete, was born into a respectable, if flamboyant, middle-class Dublin family. His father, Sir William Wilde was an eminent surgeon, his mother, Jane Francesca Elgee ('Speranza'), a well-known poet. Both parents were Irish nationalists-- Sir William collected Irish folklore, and Lady Wilde wrote romantic nationalist poetry and translated Celtic tales under the name 'Speranza'. Their house at 1 Merrion Square was a centre of Dublin social and artistic life. Lady Wilde's talent for self- publicity and for inventive selffashioning (e.g. her adoption of Italian names, based on a probably spurious claim that her family was of Italian origin), her love of poetry and languages, and her extravagant dress were all models for the young Oscar.
Wilde was a pioneer of the modern art of celebrity, becoming famous more for his 'personality' than his works. After settling in London in 1879 he continued to cultivate this eccentric and brilliant persona, and his self-publicizing was aided by satirists such as and W. S. Gilbert, who used Wilde as the main model for the long-haired, lily- sporting aesthete Bunthorne in his 1881 comic opera. In fact, Wilde and his satirists publicized each other: Wilde's extensive lecture tour of North America in 1882 was organized by Richard D'Oyly Carte to coincide with the tour of, and was intended to introduce aestheticism to the American public. Wilde saw his role as that of 'civilising America', preaching practical aestheticism in the face of what he saw as a prevalent vulgar materialism.
Download Oscar Wilde's complete Biography from Literature Online, available from the Santa Monica Public Library
In His Own Words: