Oscar Wilde was born on 16 October 1854, in Dublin, Ireland, and he was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and Magdalen College, Oxford. After completing school, he continued writing various publications and he became a prominent writer, poet, and aesthete in Ireland.
During the late nineteenth century, His writing genius made him to become one of the most successful writers in London and in other places. Currently, Wilde’s reputation rests on his unparalleled genius for witty conversations, epigrams, dramatic and literary merit of his works, which have made him to be popular. Oscar Wilde’s works had a profound effect on the history of the United States.
Always, Wilde recognized himself as a member of the Aesthetic Movement of the late nineteenth century. Therefore, Wilde endeavored to put more emphasis on aesthetic values over moral or social norms in his lifestyle and in his literary works. His life was greatly influenced by magnificence.
And in contrast to the normal Victorian styles and mores that existed during the 1880s and 1890s, he wore ostentatious clothes that made him stand out from everyone else. In most cases, his works were a subject of open misrepresentation and the objective of much moral fury. This took place both in Europe and in America. His various publications, for example, Dorian Gray, which had some homoerotic ideas, were also heavily criticized. Nonetheless, as pointed out earlier, he was one of the ‘decadents’ of the late nineteenth century.
Therefore, he fought for the embracement of certain ideologies, such as pacificism, social reform, and libertarianism way of life. Even though most people spoke ill of him, he was making himself to be heard with his unique style and smartness. This made him to enjoy much success with most of his writings that brought him much popularity.
He acclaimed and gained acquaintance with several high-ranking personalities of his time, “including fellow playwright George Bernard Shaw, American poets Walt Whitman and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and English author and social critic John Ruskin” (Merriman 2008, para. 2). In America, his publications motivated other writers to write on the same subjects. In addition, some of his works were modified to the stage and were produced as films in several occasions.
Consequently, because of the influence of his works, Wilde was invited in December 1881 to give a series of lectures in America on aesthetics. Even though the lectures were scheduled to last for only four months, he gave them for nearly a year, with over one hundred and forty lectures delivered in a period of two hundred and sixty days.
During the period, he strove to give the American people the most amiable English aesthete and this had a profound effect on the history of the U.S. (Ellmann 1987, 186-188). As a result, his teachings influenced some Americans who started to embrace aestheticism. During the tour, Wilde also met some influential American authors such as Walt Whitman and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who had endorsed his teachings.
Again, because of the commercial success that his previous visit had brought, Wilde went back to the United States in 1882. During this second lecture tour, he spoke about the “Cult of the Artificial.” This notion out rightly snubbed the social conception of the natural for reasons given in the earlier sections of the paper.
Criss-crossing America on a grueling schedule, Wilde fully played the role of the aesthete while he was there and “he dressed the dandy to a tee and was heard by an astonished America when, queried by Customs he said: “I have nothing to declare… except my genius” (Terpening 2007, para. 16).
His lectures aimed at putting together the splendor he saw in art onto the everyday lifestyle of people. He strove to realize these both practically and philosophically. For example, while he was a student at Oxford, he had adorned his dresses with blue china and lilies. Therefore, one of his talks during the tour was based on interior design. Although Wilde’s lectures affected the behavior of men and women in America, a number of people cruelly caricatured his views.
For example, during his tour to Boston to give a talk on aestheticism, the Republican (Springfield) newspaper wrote derogatory comments about him. However, despite the hostile media reception he received, he got a cordial reception in many parts of the United States and this assisted in facilitating the influence of his teachings.
During his life, Wilde wrote various popular and long-lived publications that greatly influenced the American society. The publications he authored made him to be recognized all over the country. More so, he was recognized as a “Professor of Aesthetics.”
For example in 1888, he wrote the novel The Happy Prince and Other Tales, which he dedicated to his two children he got in his marriage with Constance Lloyd. Two years later, he published The Picture of Dorian Gray. After these, he continued to publish other fairy tales. In the early 1890s, he authored a number of popular plays that further assisted in facilitating his views in Europe and America.
Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892) tackled the issue of divorce in marriage, A Woman of No Importance (1893) dealt with the issue of divided allegiance among the children in the family, An Ideal Husband (1895) addressed the issue of corruption, and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) addressed the significance of manners in the society.
Prior to writing the popular plays, Wilde had authored numerous essays and he concealed his real identity in most of them. In one of his works, ‘The Critic as Artist’ (1890), he argues that criticism is the better component of creation and that it is not a must for the critic to have a fair standing or to be rational in his or her reasoning.
In a deeply conventional essay, The Soul of a Man Under Socialism (1891), he assumes a more positive perception of the road to embracing socialism and he opposes the Christian principle of self-sacrifice in favor of joyfulness. Wilde’s fairy tales, plays, and essays all had one purpose: to influence the behavior of his audience for them to accept his decadent views. And in the U.S., this was not an exception.
In conclusion, until his premature death on 30 November 1900, the numerous literary works that Oscar Wilde published greatly influenced the history of Europe and America. As a member of the Aesthetic Movement of the late nineteenth century, he advocated for sensitivity to artistic beauty and refined taste in his lectures and literary works. Although he was criticized for his devotion to and quest for the beautiful, his highly influential lifestyle appreciated art and beauty as the main objective of human life.
Ellmann, Richard. 1987. Oscar Wilde. New York: Vintage Books.
Merriman, Charles. “Oscar Wilde.” Jalic Inc., May 2008, http://www.online-literature.com/wilde/ (accessed 8 December, 2010).
Terpening, William. “The Picture of Oscar Wilde: A Brief Life.” VictorianWeb, June 8, 2007, http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/wilde/wildebio.html (accessed 8 December, 2010).