Oscar Wilde

On this date in 1854, writer Oscar Wilde was born in Ireland. He studied at Trinity College on a scholarship. In 1874, Wilde was awarded a scholarship to Oxford. His first book of poems was published in 1881, and he spent a year lecturing on aesthetics in the United States. Wilde married in 1884 and fathered two sons, working for a magazine and writing children's stories. His only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, was published in 1890. This was followed by his successful plays: Lady Windermere's Fan, opening in 1892, A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895), The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), and Salome, first produced in 1894. In 1895, Wilde sued the father of his male lover for libel after Wilde was accused of homosexuality. Wilde dropped the ill-advised lawsuit, but was then charged criminally and convicted of gross indecency and sentenced to two years' hard labor. His health was broken by the ordeal. He wrote "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" about it in 1898. Penniless, he moved to the continent, where he died of meningitis. On his deathbed, the lifelong skeptic, who had written "it is better for the artist not to live with popes" ("The Soul of Man Under Socialism") converted to Roman Catholicism, a gesture perhaps imputed to his brain condition. Master of the epigram, Wilde is known for such one-liners as, "To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance." "I think that God in creating Man somewhat overestimated his ability." "The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it." "He hasn't a single redeeming vice." "There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." Of religion, Wilde wrote: "A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it." "Truth, in matters of religion, is simply the opinion that has survived."--The Critic as Artist, 1891. "There is no sin except stupidity."--The Critic as Artist. Wilde was reputed to have said on his deathbed: "Either that wallpaper goes or I do." D. 1900.

“Science is the record of dead religions.”

—Oscar Wilde, Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young, 1894

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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