Oscar Wilde Timeline
How It All Went Down
Oscar Wilde Born
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde is born in Dublin to Sir William and Francesca Elgee Wilde. Oscar is the second of the couple's three children, though he has three half-siblings from his father's previous relationships.
Wilde begins his studies at the Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, Ireland.
Wilde enrolls at Trinity College in Dublin to study classics. He is an outstanding student, earning the school's top prize in Greek.
Wilde is awarded a Berkeley Gold Medal, Trinity's top honor for classics students. He earns a scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford, and enrolls there for further studies. Wilde raises some eyebrows at Oxford for his flamboyant dress and mannerisms.
Graduates From Oxford
Wilde is awarded the Newdigate Prize at Oxford for his poem "Ravenna." He receives a bachelor's degree with top honors in classical moderations and classics. He moves to London.
Wilde publishes his first book, a collection of verse entitled Poems. He has established a reputation as a leader in the London aesthetic movement, and is parodied as a dandy in the Gilbert & Sullivan opera Patience.
U.S. Lecture Tour
Wilde spends the year lecturing in the United States. During his time in America, he meets poet Walt Whitman, whom he greatly admires, and produces his first play, Vera, in New York. The play is unpopular.
Lectures in the U.K.
Wilde does a lecture tour through England. He writes his second play, The Duchess of Padua, which also tanks.
Wilde marries Constance Lloyd, the wealthy daughter of an English barrister, in London. The couple settles in the Chelsea neighborhood of London.
The couple's first child, son Cyril, is born.
The Wildes' second son, Vyvyan, is born.
Wilde is hired to revitalize the failing magazine Women's World. During his two years there, he turns the magazine around, insisting that the publication "deal not merely with what women wear, but with what they think, and what they feel."27
Fairy Tales Published
Wilde publishes The Happy Prince and Other Tales, a collection of fairy tales.
Wilde publishes a book of short stories as well as a collection of essays outlining his thoughts on aestheticism. He also publishes his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, which was serialized in a magazine the year before. Critics attack Wilde's moral character on the basis of the book's homoerotic overtones. He also befriends an Oxford student named Lord Alfred Douglas.
Wilde writes the play Lady Windermere's Fan, which is a hit. He also writes a play in French called Salomé, but it is not produced because of a law forbidding the depiction of Biblical characters on stage.
A Woman of No Importance
Wilde's comedic play A Woman of No Importance premieres to great success.
The Importance of Being Earnest
Wilde's play The Importance of Being Earnest premieres at St. James's Theatre in London. He and Lord Alfred Douglas are now lovers, a fact that enrages Douglas's father the Marquis of Queensberry. Queensberry attempts to get into the theater so that he can throw vegetables at Wilde but is barred from entry.
The Calling Card
Queensberry leaves a calling card at Wilde's home inscribed to "Oscar Wilde, posing somdomite" (he meant sodomite, a pejorative term for homosexuals). Wilde decides to sue Queensberry for libel, a decision that ends up ruining his life.
Queensberry's Trial Begins
The libel trial begins. It soon becomes clear that the trial is more about Wilde's conduct as a gay man than about Queensberry's libel. Lawyers grill Wilde on his work and relationships, and submit his letters to Alfred Douglas as evidence. Queensberry is acquitted; Wilde is immediately arrested on charges of gross indecency.
Wilde's Trial Begins
Wilde's trial for indecency opens. At his family's urging, Douglas leaves the country and goes to France. Constance Wilde takes their sons to Europe and changes their last name. Wilde never sees his children again.
Oscar Wilde is convicted of gross indecency and is sentenced to two years hard labor. He is sent immediately to prison and is eventually transferred to Reading Gaol.
Wilde's mother Francesca dies. His wife Constance visits him in prison in order to break the news. Wilde pays for her funeral but is unable to afford a headstone, and so she is buried in an unmarked grave.
Release from Jail
Wilde is released from Reading Gaol in poor health. He goes to France, where he spends the rest of his life in exile.
Reunited with Douglas
Wilde and Alfred Douglas, whom he calls "Bosie," reunite in France. They soon separate and a penniless Wilde moves into the Hotel d'Alsace in Paris.
Wilde's wife Constance dies in Italy following spinal surgery at the age of 40. The couple lived apart after the trials but never officially divorced.
Oscar Wilde Dies
After a deathbed conversion to Catholicism, Oscar Wilde dies of meningitis in Paris at the age of 46. He is buried first in Cimitiere de Bagneaux, but his tomb is later moved to Paris' famed Père Lachaise Cemetery.