Oscar Wilde - Inductee

1854 - 1900

By the age of 40 Oscar Wilde was famous in Europe and the U.S. for penning The Picture of Dorian Gray, his influential political tract ‘The Soul of a Man Under Socialism’ and his theater masterpiece The Importance of Being Earnest. At the height of his fame he was publicly accused of being a ‘sodomite’ by John Douglas, the Marquis of Queensberry, with whose son, Lord Alfred, Wilde had been involved. His place in society threatened, Wilde sued Queensberry for libel. Losing the suit, he was indicted on charges of “gross indecency between males.” His first trial, remembered for its defense of “the love that dare not speak its name,” ended without a verdict; but he was tried again, lost, and was sentenced to two years at hard labor. When he was released from prison in 1897 he was a broken man. Bankrupt, bereft of friends, and his place in society, he went into exile. The dissipation that followed took a final toll on what remained of his health. He died on November 30, 1900 and was buried in France. Wilde’s persecution, which brought to light details about gay life among the upper class long kept hidden, ushered homosexuality into public view in a way it had not been – underscoring the decisive role the closet played in keeping it hidden from society even though it was not uncommon. The publicity surrounding Wilde’s trials had a chilling effect on the daily lives of countless terrified people who were driven only deeper into the closet; but it also led to the development of a nascent gay and lesbian consciousness that became central to the success of the GLBT Civil Rights Movement that was to follow.

Lesson Plans
Oscar Wilde Bronze Memorial

Plaque Sponsor

Drew Jemilo in recognition of Judge Tom Chiola (Ret.) the first openly gay elected official in Illinois

Demography

Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Faith Construct Catholic Protestant

Nations Affiliated Ireland United Kingdom United States France

Era/Epoch Victorian Era (1837-1901)

Field(s) of Contribution

Author

Editor

Journalism

Poet

Social Justice

Theater

Commemorations & Honors

Trinity College's Berkeley Gold Medal (1874)

Newdigate Prize for his Poem Ravenna (1878)

Sublime Degree of Master Mason While at Oxford (1874-1878)

Oscar Wilde Memorial Sculpture in Merrion Square Dublin, Ireland (1997)

Google Doodle Commemorating Wilde's 156th Birthday (2010)

Inaugural San Francisco Rainbow Honor Walk Honoree (2014)

Posthumous Pardon Under the Policing and Crime Act aka The Alan Turing Law (2017)

Resources

Related Images

Oscar Wilde Bronze Casting Source Image

Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas in About 1893

Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray Book Jacket

Oscar Wilde's Salome Program Cover 1894

Oscar Wilde's Tombstone

Oscar Wilde Tombstone Notice

Related Videos

Gay Actor Stephen Fry on Oscar Wilde December 7, 2010

A&E Biography Show on Oscar Wilde (Playlist Link)

Authorship

Original Biography Author
Victor Salvo
Biography Edited By
Owen Keehnen
Biography Vetted, Edited, and Certified By
Neil McKenna
Image Rights Usage Granted By
Corbis Images
Image Source for Bronze Casting
Corbis Images
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell