Oscar Wilde was born in 1854 in Dublin. He was educated at Trinity College, and after he went to Magdalen College.
The major influence on him was his teacher, art historian and writer, John Ruskin.
He had the reputation as a witty and brilliant conversationalist, dandy and aesthete.
After graduating Wilde moved to London. His legendary wit and his Oxford connections introduced him to the upper class. He became the leader of the Aesthetic Movement.
On his return to England, after a voyage to United States, in 1883 he married Constance Lloyd.
Wilde’s first literary success came in 1891 with a novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, which was both an exhibition of extreme decadence and a mystery story.
He composed also some light comedies like An Ideal Husband and The Importance of being Earnest.
Wilde’s social and literary success finished in 1895 when he was arrested, because of a homosexual relationship. After the release he went to Paris supported by money from his friends. He died in 1900.
The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Preface of “The Picture of Dorian Gray” contains some of Wilde’s most famous and quoted statements such as “There is no such thing as a moral or a immoral book”.
This is Wilde’s only novel and the work that best sum up his aesthetic theories about a life of sensation and pleasure as the supreme form of art.
The story has analogies with folk and fairy tales of a person whose life depends on a magic object, and with mystery stories, but mainly contains the fullest literary statement of his aesthetic doctrine: the pursuit of pleasure and beauty as the true purpose of life.
At first glance the novel would seem to have no moral basis: Dorian leads the kind of hedonistic life that disregards moral considerations and even ordinary human feelings. The ending of the story is intensely moral and seems to suggest that there is a price to be paid for a life of pleasure.
The passage well describes the sense of mystery and pleasure with which Dorian creeps upstairs to the locked room that contains the picture.
The cult of beauty aimed at sensual pleasures and beyond common morality are the themes debated in this passage. These are silenced by the admiration paid by the world to his everlasting beauty.
The passage then goes on to describe Dorian’s pleasure for what he is, heightened when Dorian carefully examines the horrible portrait of himself on the canvas.
The end of the novel is in line with classic horror and crime stories.