My W. B. Yeats & Oscar Wilde research

At home I have just completed some background research on both writers Oscar Wilde and W. B. Yeats. Hopefully this information may be of some use to you for better understanding of their backgrounds before we begin to look at their novel/poems in greater depth..

Oscar Wilde 1854-1900 

Wilde was educated at Trinity College, Dublin and Magdalen College, Oxford. While at Oxford, he became involved in the aesthetic movement. After he graduated, he moved to London to pursue a literary career.

‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ is the only published novel by Oscar Wilde. In a letter, Wilde said the main characters were reflections of himself:

“Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry is what the world thinks me: Dorian is what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps”.

It appeared as the lead story in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine printed as the July 1890 issue. The magazine’s editors feared the story was indecent as submitted, so they censored roughly 500 words, without Wilde’s knowledge, before publication. But even with that, the story was still greeted with outrage by British reviewers, some of whom suggested that Wilde should be prosecuted on moral grounds, leading Wilde to defend the novel aggressively in letters to the British press. He later revised the story for book publication, making substantial alterations, deleting controversial passages, adding new chapters and including an aphoristic Preface which has since become famous in its own right. The amended version was published in April 1891. Some scholars believe that Wilde would today have wanted us to read the version he originally submitted to Lippincott’s.

His greatest talent was for writing plays, and he produced a string of extremely popular comedies including ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’ (1892), ‘An Ideal Husband (1895)’ and ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ (1895). ‘Salomé’ was performed in Paris in 1896.

Drama and tragedy marred Wilde’s private life. He married Constance Lloyd in 1884 and they had two sons, but in 1891 Wilde began an affair with Lord Alfred Douglas. In April 1895, Wilde sued Douglas’ father, the Marquis of Queensberry, for libel, after the Marquis had accused him of being homosexual. Wilde lost and, after details of his private life were revealed during the trial, was arrested and tried for gross indecency. He was sentenced to two years of hard labour. While in prison he composed a long letter to Douglas, posthumously published under the title ‘De Profundis’ .  Wilde was released with his health irrevocably damaged and his reputation ruined. He spent the rest of his life in Europe, publishing ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’ in 1898. He died in Paris on 30 November 1900.

Oscar Wilde portrait.jpg

William Butler Yeats 1865-1939

Yeats was born in Dublin and educated there and in London.

His earliest volume of verse was published in 1889, and its slow-paced and lyrical poems display Yeats’s debts to Edmund Spenser, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and the poets of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. From 1900, Yeats’s poetry grew more physical and realistic. He largely renounced the transcendental beliefs of his youth, though he remained preoccupied with physical and spiritual masks, as well as with cyclical theories of life. So after 1910, Yeats’s dramatic art took a sharp turn toward a highly poetical, static, and esoteric style. His later plays were written for small audiences; experimenting with masks, dance, and music, and were profoundly influenced by the Japanese Noh plays. Although a convinced patriot, Yeats deplored the hatred and the bigotry of the Nationalist movement, and his poetry is full of moving protests against it.

In 1923 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature as the first Irishman so honoured for what the Nobel Committee described as:

“inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation.”

Yeats is generally considered one of the few writers who completed their greatest works after being awarded the Nobel Prize; such works include The Tower (1928) and The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1929)

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