Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854. After attending Trinity College, he was sent to Oxford where he gained a first class degree in Classics and distinguished himself for his eccentricity. He became a disciple of Walter Pater, the theorist of Aestheticism in England, accepting the theory of "Art for Art's Sake". After graduating, he left Oxford and settled in London where he soon became a celebrity for his extraordinary wit and his dress as a "dandy". In 1881, Wilde edited, at his own expense, Poems, and was engaged for a tour in the United States where he gave some lectures about Aesthetes. On his arrival in New York, he told reporters that Aestheticism was a search for the beauty, a science through which men looked for the relationship between painting, sculpture and poetry, which were different forms of the same truth. The tour was a great success for Wilde who became famous for his irony and poses. Soon in his career he was most noted as a great talker: his presence became a social event and his remarks appeared in the most fashionable London magazines.
In the late 1880s, Wilde's literary talent was revealed by a series of short stories, The Canterville Ghost, The Happy Prince and Other Tales written for his children and his first novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. In the late 1890s, he produced a series of plots which were successful on the London stage: Lady Windermere's Fan, A Woman of No Importance, and his masterpiece The Importance of Being Ernest. However, both the novel and Salomé, a tragedy written in French, damaged the writer's reputation, since the former was considered immoral and the latter was banned from London Stage for obscenity. He met the young Lord Alfred Douglas, whose nickname was Bosie and with whom Wilde had an homosexual affair. The boy's father forced a public trial and Wilde was convicted of homosexual practices and sentenced to two-years of hard labour. While in prison, he wrote De Profundis, a long letter to Bosie. When he was released he was a broken man, his wife refused to see him and he went into exile in France where he lived his last years in poverty. The ballad of Reading Goal, originally published under his prison identity, was his last work.
Wilde adopted "the aesthetic ideal" as he affirmed in one of his famous conversations: "My life is like a work of art". He lived in the double role of rebel and dandy. The dandy must be distinguished from the bohemian: while the bohemian allies himself to the rural or urban proletariat, the dandy is a bourgeois artist who, in spite of his unconventionally, remains a member of his class. The Wildean dandy is an aristocrat whose elegance is a symbol of the superiority of his spirit. He uses his wit to shock, and his an individualist who demands absolute freedom. Since life was meant for pleasure and pleasure was an indulgence in the beautiful, Wilde's interest in beauty had no moral stance.
The concept of "Art for Art's Sake" was to him a moral imperative and not merely and aesthetic one. He believed that only "Art as the cult of Beauty" could prevent the murder of the soul. Wilde perceived the artist as an alien in a materialistic world, he wrote only to please himself and was not concerned in communicating his theories to his fellow-beings. His pursuit of beauty was the tragic act of superior being inevitably turned into an outcast.