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.
Wilde's plays had reached a pinnacle of success, and anything new from the playwright was eagerly awaited. The press were always hungry for details and would pursue stories about new plots and characters with a vengeance. To combat this Wilde gave the play a working title, Lady Lancing. The use of seaside town names for leading characters, or the locations of their inception, can be recognised in all four of Wilde's society plays (Jack's surname, Worthing, is itself taken from the town where Wilde was staying when he wrote the play). (more...)