In 1895, Oscar Wilde was convicted of 'gross indecency' (i.e., homosexual acts) and sentenced to two years' imprisonment with hard labour. He was sent first to Pentonville and Wandsworth prisons in London, and then to another at Reading, in Berkshire. While there, he wrote his long poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol.
Wilde died at the Hôtel d'Alsace, in Paris. On his deathbed, he was accepted into the Roman Catholic church. A month before this, he had commented, "My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or other of us has got to go."
Oscar's father was Sir William Wilde, Ireland's leading ear and eye surgeon, who also wrote books on archaeology and folklore. Oscar's mother, Jane Francesca Elgee, Lady Wilde, called 'Speranza', was an Irish nationalist and writer.
Wilde was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, from 1871 to 1874, winning the Berkeley Gold Medal, the highest award for students of the classics. He then went on to Magdalen College, Oxford, for another four years, where he won the famous Newdigate Prize for his poem Ravenna.
His full name was Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde.
Oscar Wilde: Man can believe the impossible, but can never believe the improbable.
Oscar Wilde: The truth is rarely pure and never simple.
Oscar Wilde: Every great man nowadays has his disciples, and it is always Judas who writes the biography. (The Critic as Artist)
Oscar Wilde: Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.
Oscar Wilde: Society exists only as a mental concept; in the real world there are only individuals.
Oscar Wilde: To do nothing at all is the most difficult thing in the world, the most difficult and the most intellectual. To Plato, with his passion for wisdom, this was the noblest form of energy. (The Critic as Artist)
Oscar Wilde: He knew the precise psychological moment when to say nothing. (The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891)
Oscar Wilde: Yet each man kills the thing he loves
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!
(The Ballad of Reading Gaol, 1898)
Oscar Wilde: Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one's head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace. (The Canterville Ghost)
Oscar Wilde: The heart was made to be broken.
Oscar Wilde: If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life.
Oscar Wilde: I put all my genius into my life; I put only my talent into my works.
Oscar Wilde: Bad art is a great deal worse than no art at all.
Oscar Wilde: Most men and women are forced to perform parts for which they have no qualifications. Our Guildensterns play Hamlet for us, and our Hamlets have to jest like Prince Hal. The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast.
Oscar Wilde: What is said of a man is nothing. The point is, who says it.
Oscar Wilde: Popularity is the one insult I have never suffered.
Oscar Wilde: I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.
Oscar Wilde: As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked on as vulgar, it will cease to be popular. (The Critic as Artist)
Oscar Wilde: No man dies for what he knows to be true. Men die for what they want to be true, for what some terror in their hearts tells them is not true.
Oscar Wilde: One's real life is so often the life that one does not lead.
Oscar Wilde: A man who pays his bills on time is soon forgotten. (Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young)
Oscar Wilde: The final mystery is oneself.
Oscar Wilde: Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best. (Impressions of America)
Oscar Wilde: A man can be happy with any woman, as long as he does not love her. (The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891)
Oscar Wilde: My name has two Os, two Fs and two Ws. A name that is destined to be in everybody's mouth must not be too long. It comes so expensive in advertisements. When one is unknown, a number of Christian names are useful, perhaps even needful. As one becomes famous, one sheds some of them, just as a balloonist, rising higher, sheds unnecessary ballast. All but two of my five names have been thrown overboard. Soon I shall discard another and be known simply as 'The Wilde' or 'The Oscar'.
Oscar Wilde: One should always play fairly when one has the winning cards.
Oscar Wilde: Those who are faithful know only the trivial side of love: it is the faithless who know love's tragedies.
Oscar Wilde: Your true friends stab you in the front.
Oscar Wilde: A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone's feelings unintentionally.
Oscar Wilde: Society produces rogues, and education makes one rogue cleverer than another.
Oscar Wilde: It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.
Oscar Wilde: The basis of optimism is sheer terror.
Oscar Wilde: A man who can dominate a London dinner-table can dominate the world. (A Woman of No Importance, 1893)
Oscar Wilde: A man can't be too careful in the choice of his enemies. (The Picture of Dorian Gray)