Oscar Wilde was an Irish novelist, playwright, poet and critic who was born on the 16th of October, 1854. He is best known for writing ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ and ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ and is regarded as one of the greatest playwrights of the Victoria era.
Both of Oscar’s parents were successful intellectuals. His father, Sir William Wilde, was an acclaimed surgeon, philanthropist and gifted writer and his mother, Lady Jane Francesca Wilde, was a revolutionary poet and journalist. He also had an older brother, Willie, and a younger sister named Isola Francesca who died young at age 10.
Oscar was a bright child and after pursuing an education at Magdalen College of Oxford University, he went on to write nine plays, a novel and various poems, essays and short stories. At the height of his success in 1895, he was accused of “gross indecency”, tried, and sentenced to two years of hard labour at the prison in Reading. His prison assignment was influenced by the fact that he was a long standing friend of the Palmer family and had once toured the Huntley and Palmer biscuit factory in 1892.
Upon his release in 1897, he wrote ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’, a poem about the inhumane prison conditions he had experienced. His health and reputation had suffered because of his imprisonment and three years later, he died in Paris on 30 November 1900.