Oscar Wilde and His Ideology Throughout His Life
The Victorian Era of the Nineteenth Century was a time dedicated to prosperity, suffused with controversy. It was a time of change accompanied by the topics of religion, work ethics, morality, completely altering the social structure of England. Though many people have debated against these beliefs, there was one person who completely challenged these ideologies, setting a completely different environment in the nation of Britain. This person goes by the name of Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde or also known as Oscar Wilde. Born on rich Irish Soil, he transformed the British Kingdom by opening a new sense of a modern sensibility when breaking down the social standards that hold within its society. Expressing his idea of art through his writings of novels, playwrights, essays, and short stories expanded his popularity not only in Britain but others within the four walls of Europe. He also pours his thoughts on the Aesthetic Movement which was a very big debatable piece of English Literature during the nineteen hundreds. Though his ideas were what most people thought someone would want to advocate about, he still ended being most successful with one of his most Accomplished novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. He both admired and criticized many artists and other social figures who were alive during this time about their point of view of Aestheticism.
Aestheticism was a time had the main idea of meaning that art should have no other purpose but for enjoyment. He not only shined brightly in his field of art but identified it and defined it in such a unique way that other candidates in this generation could not keep up. His ideas he expressed art as not have anything meaningful, just the photo itself. He thinks that books and articles were the ones to fill the minds of people to learn from things. From the start, from his childhood both parents into writings poems and literature books, he got his influence from them as well as from reading way too many books himself. As his fame was growing uncontrollably, just like any other object in this world, his reputation came into the end. Rumors surfaced about him having hidden messages about his sexuality in his books as well as him sending letters to Lord Alfred Douglas. When these speculations were going all the way up to the high authority, he was sent to trial and was found guilty. While in prison, he tried to follow up his reputation by writing more stories but did not go the way he planned and stopped. Having an affair with a man completely brought him down to the gutter but still till the day, one of the most influential social figures during his time of growth. ‘I can resist everything except temptation.’ meaning he couldn’t resist the temptation of making his voice be heard and expressing his ideas to everyone to open their minds to everything.
Rewind to the very beginning where it all began, Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde or famously known as Oscar Wilde was born on October 16, 1854, in Westland Row, Dublin, Republic of Ireland. Born and raised from professional and literary parents were known as well. Ireland’s renowned eye and ear surgeon Sir William Wilde, who occasionally wrote books on medicine, archaeology, folklore, books based on Irish Antiquarian topography and ethnology and person named Jonathan Swift. Sir William Wilde made an honorary name for himself as the head of the Surgeon Oculist. His book, Aural Surgery (1853) was a book based on the standard steps of the proper way to perform Aural Surgery which was a big subject in Britain and America. Some of his works include Blackwater, Boyne, and Lough Corrib. His mother, Jane Francesca Elgee Wilde, was an Irish poet who wrote under the name of Speranza but was known around Ireland as Lady Jane Wilde. She greatly advocated the ideas of Nationalism and Women’s rights in which she was a Nationalist and Women’s rights advocate herself. Her writings often reflected her views on certain topics such as nationalism, women’s rights, revolutionary poems, Celtic myth, and folklore. Her sudden fame sparked from her article that published called Nation which talked her main idea was to encourage the Irish people to defend their country.
Some of her pieces include the Exodus, The Famine Year, and La Via Dolorosa. Due to his parent’s success, he had a very privileged and cultured childhood. Wilde was a bright human being even as a child growing more as he aged and developing his love for writing from his parents. Attending schools such as Portora Royal School at the age of 10 located in Enniskillen, Ireland, earning many scholarships which allowed him to attend Trinity College, Dublin (1871-1874) and Magdalen College, Oxford University (1874-78). In these colleges, he managed to obtain his degree with honors. Wilde was able to distinguish himself from the others by earning many medals and prizes throughout his years in college, mainly for his devoted interest in classics, more specifically Ancient Greek history and literature. At this point, Wilde was able to make himself known not only from classics but his intelligence and cleverness. This is where he sparked an interest in writing, political and historical views in life which in the future was known for.
As this stage in life, Wilde spent a good amount of his life reading books and about English literature and Greek history. Major influences that later Wilde interpreted in his writings were English Writers, Walter Pater’s Studies in the History of the Renaissance and John Ruskin. These two wrote about how people should feel the need to interpret the idea of aesthetic moral sense when looking or interpreting art. In the 1880s, Aestheticism was the culprit of igniting despair and rage in London. Aestheticism centered around the idea of ‘art for art’s sake’ meaning that art should not serve or hold any moral meaning within in other than for the purpose of its beauty. Beauty was believed that it was the most important part in life and many artists, writers, and designers went based on this idea and created works that were simply to be admired its beauty. It began when there was a reaction relating to people’s perception of the customs of the industrial age. They perceived it as ugly and it originated from Immanuel Kant who suggested his proposal aesthetics, separating them from pleasure, ethics, and moral values. Other people who were also in favor of this principle were William Morris, John Ruskin, Leo Tolstoy, Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Madame De Stael, Theophile Gautier, and philosopher Victor Cousin. Some of Immanuel Kant’s ideas expressed in his writings include, ‘Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.’
‘In judging of a beautiful statue, the aesthetic faculty is absolutely and completely gratified by the splendid curves of those marble lips that are dumb to our complaint, the noble modeling of those limbs that are powerless to help us.’ written by Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde himself. Dante Gabriel art was considered very influential in the visual arts portion of aestheticism. His most famous painting was Monna Vanna was just simply to please people with its visuals not necessarily to uphold any significance in particular. ‘Flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face’ was another aesthetic influencer McNeill Whistler with his painting White. Oscar began to accumulate all these mentors and their principles and started to write stories of his own, infiltrating the same idea. At the age of twenty-three, while Wilde attended Magdalen College, Oxford, he was awarded the Newdigate prize for his poem Ravenna. It expresses the differences between innocence and experience, past and present, etc. In 1881, Wilde created a collection of poems that served a fair interpretation of both personal struggles and nature. Some of the poems include Helas, The Burden of Itys, Panthea, The Sphinx, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, Poems in Prose, etc. Wilde expressed and paraphrased Walter Pater’s most famous quote into more than one of his poems which stated: ‘hard, gemlike flame’. Wilde mirrored his attitude and impression that has been marked on him in his writings but avoided to write about confessions about himself. Skipping all the way to 1894, when he wrote about Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young, ‘is to be as artificial as possible’ His main goal was to introduce contradictions which came with the price during the nineteenth century.
What better way to further that thought than to write more playwrights of aestheticism and the saying ‘art for art’s sake’. His success began to rise more when he published his first novel The Picture of Dorian Gray in 1891. This novel has specifically supported the idea of aestheticism saying things such as ‘The artist is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim. The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things. The highest as the lowest form of criticism is a mode of autobiography. Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only beauty, there is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all. The nineteenth-century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass. The nineteenth-century dislike of Romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own fate in a glass. The moral life of man forms part of the subject-matter of the artist, but the morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium.’ Another idea he brings up this idea. Is
‘No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved. No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style. No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything. Thought and language are the to the artist instruments of art. Vice and Virtue are to the artist materials for art. From the point of view of form, the type of all the arts is the art of the musician. From the point of view of feeling the actor’s craft is the type. All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. Those who go beneath the surface so at their peril. Those who read the surface do so at their peril. It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors. The diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and viral. When critics disagree the artist is in accord with himself. We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely. All art is quite useless.’ This book talks about a man named Dorian Gray being the center of Basil Howard art because of his beauty. As he paints the ‘perfection’ face of Dorian Gray, he reveals the true self of him, therefore not wanting to release it for others to see. His friend Henry notices his painting and asks him to display his painting and Basil responds with ‘…but I really can’t exhibit it. I have put too much of myself into it.’ He then states, ‘But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face.’ This book itself affected people’s views on the moral nature of art as gaining many critics about it. Many people respected his views but brought attention to many people who opposed the idea. After his big success with the Picture of Dorian Gray, he continued to create more playwrights. His first ever play Vera; or the Nihilists which was in 1880 which is a melodrama that is based in Russia. The protagonist of the play, Vera has the plan to kill the Russian leader, Czar who abuses his power being crowned. A league he is in Nihilists which only existed in the play until later revealed what they meant to him ‘strange martyr who has no faith, who goes to the stake without enthusiasm, and dies for what he does not believe in […] a purely literary product.’ He was invented by [Turgenev, in Fathers and Sons (1861)] and completed by Dostoyevsky.’ Wilde also wrote stories, plays, and essays that were very successful and he would go around and advocate and have shown based on his plays.
Unfortunately, just like something goes up, it must come back down. This is exactly what happened to Oscar Wilde as well. The downfall of his career ended in bad terms, leaving it a mystery of how it actually occurred. Some events did happen that could have cost him his reputation was him having a relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas. Wilde was married to Constance Lloyd and had two children, Cyril, and Vyvyan Holland. It was said that he and Lord Alfred Douglas would send each other messages and be involved in physical actions that led Wilde to go to trial. Homosexuality was not accepted during the nineteenth-century and was considered a crime, which was why it was a big deal when the officials and everyone else was shocked when they heard the news of the relationship. During his trial, Wilde was charged for libel and homosexuality and was sentenced to two years of hard labor. Wilde was already bankrupt during his imprisonment, so it made things worse for himself. During his time, he would send letters to Lord Douglas and eventually got out and continued to write but things just were the same for him because of all the controversial allegations that have been made of him. Sadly, on November 30, 1900, Oscar Wilde had passed away in Paris, France due to meningitis. Even though he died, Oscar Wilde had become a face and voice of the nineteenth-century, connecting him to brilliance like the brilliant man he was. He was a man like no other, ‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken’ were his words of wisdom and as show people no need to hide behind the masks that one puts over us.
In conclusion, Oscar Wilde’s life was no ordinary one, he strived and became one of the voices of the nineteenth century, more specifically, the Victorian Era. During this time, optimism and confidence was the idea that led to self-improvement for everyone within the nation of Britain. Encouraging hard work, respectability, social deference, and religious conformity was the key to of morality of oneself. Though his views were different than most of how art should be viewed as none other than art itself, he was still one of few that many people would look up to. Wilde’s reputation has drastically changed from the time of his death to this day, asserting implications on modern-day dramas. As a person from Irish descent, he was able to open a new corridor that completely brought down the standards England has created within the doors of the United Kingdom. Showing his idealistic views through his novels, playwrights, essays, and short stories, spreading his popularity all across the continent of Europe. Throughout his life, he was completely challenging himself and exerting as much effort into what he believed was the best way to live. When people hear the name Oscar Wilde, many will correlate that his name to his sexual orientation, which was not accepted at that time and judging him for who he was. Though many people did not focus on the bigger picture of what he was trying to advocate, it did impact his career but not much in the long run. Throughout his life he was always managed to slither into the minds of many people after his death, it was not until then people started to appreciate his work more than ever. Finally realizing what a unique piece of work he was himself. He still managed to be one of the most influential writers of the nineteenth century till this day.
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