Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irish writer, poet and prominent aesthete. His parents were successful Dublin intellectuals, and from an early age he was tutored at home, where he showed his intelligence, becoming fluent in French and German. He attended boarding school for six years, then matriculated to university at seventeen years old. Reading Greats, Wilde proved himself to be an outstanding classicist, first at Dublin, then at Oxford. After university, Wilde moved around trying his hand at various literary activities: he published a book of poems and toured America lecturing extensively on aestheticism. He then returned to London, immediately departed for Paris and spent all his money. On returning to London he began to lecture across Great Britain and Ireland which continued from 1883 to 1888. During 1885 he worked prolifically as a journalist eventually becoming editor of the magazine "Woman's World". Known for his biting wit, flamboyant dress, and glittering conversation, Wilde was one of the most well-known personalities of his day. He next produced a series of dialogues and essays that developed his ideas about the supremacy of art. However, it was his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray – still widely read – that brought him more lasting recognition. He became one of the most successful playwrights of the late Victorian era in London with a series of social satires which continue to be performed, especially his masterpiece The Importance of Being Earnest.
At the height of his fame and success, Wilde suffered a dramatic downfall in a sensational series of trials. He sued his lover's father for libel, though the case was dropped at trial. After two subsequent trials, Wilde was imprisoned for two years' hard labour, having been convicted of "gross indecency" with other men. In prison he wrote De Profundis, 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, a long, terse poem commemorating the harsh rhythms of prison life. He died destitute in Paris at the age of forty-six.
The novel tells of a young man named Dorian Gray, the subject of a painting by artist Basil Hallward, who is greatly impressed by Dorian's physical beauty and becomes strongly infatuated with him, believing that his beauty is responsible for a new mode in his art. Talking in Basil's garden, Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, a friend of Basil's, and becomes enthralled by Lord Henry's world view. Espousing a new kind of hedonism, Lord Henry suggests that the only thing worth pursuing in life is beauty, and the fulfilment of the senses. Realising that one day his beauty will fade, Dorian cries out, wishing that the portrait Basil has painted of him would age rather than himself. Dorian's wish is fulfilled, subsequently plunging him into a series of debauched acts. (more...)