I just realized that I don’t know nearly enough about Oscar Wilde.
I know him in four distinct ways:
The Importance of Being Earnest. A funny, fluffy bit of Victorian wit–a 19th century play that is still regularly performed.
The Picture of Dorian Gray. This one impressed me deeply–a well-done, meaningful work of horror.
The Love that Dare Not Speak its Name. Wilde was infamously charged and imprisoned in Reading Gaol for homosexuality. He referred to Plato, Shakespeare and Michelangelo in his “in your face” defense.
While in Reading Gaol, Wilde wrote the moving, Ballad of Reading Gaol. I love this poem–one site I googled said it was “an indictment of prison conditions in 19th century England.” As if this was all it was–geesh.
[Wilde also did some art crit/what is art stuff and some fairy tales (!) which are apparently well-loved, but I haven’t read these (yet) so they don’t form part of the mental furniture I have for Wilde. I would be especially interested to hear from anyone who has read the fairy tales–I never heard of them until googling for this thread.]
So, the guy achieves success, big success, IMHO, in at least three completely different genres. How do I get my head around someone who can write the Importance of Being Earnest and the Ballad of Reading Gaol? How can someone who was supposedly an open atheist say:
How to reconcile these aspects of Wilde? Are these the things that I should know about Wilde? Is there a way to understand his work and who he was as a whole?