He famously said that he could resist everything except temptation, and his life was, indeed, full of excesses, which brought him both fame and ruin.
To this day, Oscar Wilde (1854–1900), continues to inspire authors, as well as movie and theater producers, who are tempted, as it were, by his satirical and ironic portrayals of Victorian life.
Now, the Irish playwright, infamous in his day for extravagant clothes and eccentric lifestyle, is experiencing a revival on stage, screen, and in other media.
An opera based on his seminal play, The Importance of Being Earnest, debuted in New York in June.
Also, The Happy Prince, a movie about the untold story of the last tragic days of Wilde was released in October. The film was written and directed by British actor Rupert Everett, who stars in the film. Everett is no stranger to Wilde’s works, having played the lead character in the 2002 movie version of The Importance of Being Earnest.
And a new biography, The Fall of the House of Wilde by Emer O’Sullivan was published in October.
The renewed interest in the controversial playwright proves, according to a Wall Street Journal article, that “biographies and collections of Wilde’s letters have transformed the caricature of a dandy with a green carnation into a portrait of a classics scholar, philosopher and author.”
There is no doubt that his was a life made, in equal measure, of fortunes and misfortunes. Once a celebrated writer who took London’s social scene by storm, he became destitute and shunned after being imprisoned for “gross indecency”—a Victorian term for homosexuality.
Still, even in the darkest moments, Wilde did not lose his wit—or the sense of aesthetics. While he lay dying in a Paris hotel on November 30, 1900, he reportedly looked around his room and said, “Either this wallpaper goes, or I do.”
He did go, after a bout of cerebral meningitis claimed his life at the age of 46. For all the quotes attributed to Wilde, the most telling, perhaps, is the one from his 1893 play, Lady Windermere’s Fan: “Somehow or other I’ll be famous, and if not famous, I’ll be notorious.”