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1854 Born in Dublin. Son of Sir William Wilde, founder of the first eye and ear hospital in Great Britain, and Jane Francesca Elgee Wilde, a writer.

1864 Enters the Portora Royal School at Enniskillen.

1871 Enters Trinity College, Dublin.

1874-1879 Attends Magdalen College, Oxford. It is a time of conflict for him, conflict between the philosophies of Ruskin and Pater, between Roman Catholicism and Freemasonry, and between heterosexuality and homosexuality. He distinguishes himself for scholarship; also for dressing and acting eccentricly.

1878 Wins Newdigate Prize for his poem Ravenna.

1881 Publishes his first volume of verse, Poems. His manners and attire are satirized in Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera Patience.

1882 A lecture tour of the United States is a great personal success.

1883 Wilde's first play, Vera; Or the Nihilists was first produced in New York.

1883-1884 Gives a successful lecture tour of the United Kingdom. Writes his second unsuccessful play, The Duchess of Padua.

1884 Marries Constance Lloyd the daughter of a Dublin barrister and a woman with financial resources. Takes a house in Chelsea, an artistic section of London. Makes and builds friendships with fellow artists.

1887-1889 Edits Woman's World, a popular magazine.

1888 Publishes The Happy Prince and Other Tales, a collection of original fairy tales.

1889 Publishes essay on Shakespeare's sonnets in Blackwood's Magazine, "The Portrait of Mr. W. H. " The theory of the essay is that many of the sonnets are addressed to a man. "The Decay of Lying" appears in The Nineteenth Century.

1890 Serializes The Picture of Dorian Gray in Lippincott's Magazine.

1891 Publishes several essays and three books exhibiting his far-ranging interests: Intentions, an important collection of dialogues containing Wilde's aesthetic philosophy; Lord Arthur Savile's Crime, and Other Stones, a collection of short stories; and The Picture of Dorian Gray, his only novel. The novel arouses a storm of controversy over its morality. Publishes another collection of stories, A House of Pomegranates. Produces The Duchess of Padua. Begins his friendship with Lord Alfred Douglas, a friendship that will prove disasterous.

1892 Enjoys great popular success for his production of Lady Windermere's Fan at the St. James's Theatre. Writes (in French) Salom�. It is not produced because of an old law forbidding theatrical depiction of biblical characters.

1893 Produces another success, A Woman of No Importance. Publishes Lady Windermere's Fan. Publishes Salom� in French.

1894 Renowned actress Sarah Bernhardt puts on Salom� in Paris. Wilde publishes Salom� in English translation. Writes The Importance of Being Earnest.

1895 Puts on An ldeal Husband at the Haymarket Theatre and The Importance of Being Earnest at the St. James's Theatre; it is his last and best dramatic work. This is the height of his theatrical success; both plays are popular and critical hits. Infatuated with Douglas, Wilde flaunts the friendship in public, drawing public criticism from Lord Douglas's father. Wilde sues for libel, but then abandons the case. Incriminating evidence that comes to light in cross-examination leads to Wilde's arrest for homosexual offenses. After a hung jury on his first trial, Wilde is found guilty of homosexuality in a second. The sentence is two years at hard labor. He is bankrupted, humiliated.

1897 In prison, writes De Profundis, a moving description of his spiritual progress to religious insight; it will be published in part in 1905 and in full in 1962. On his release from prison, goes in exile to the Continent, where he lives under an alias, Sebastian Melmoth.

1898 Publishes his best known poem, The Ballad of Reading Gaol. Also publishes two letters on prison reform. His wife dies.

1900 After being baptized into the Roman Catholic Church, he dies of cerebral meningitis at the Hotel D'Alsace. He is buried at Bagneaux.


This chronology is based in part on Karen Lawrence, Betsy Seifert, and Lois Ratner, The McGraw-Hill Guide to English Literature. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1985, pp. 184-86.

Last modified 8 October 2012