Between 1892 and 1895, Oscar Wilde's drawing-room comedies Lady Windermere's Fan, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest made his name as a playwright who fearlessly mocked the hypocrisy and snobbery of Victorian society and took gleeful delight in appearing to trivialize its most sacred institutions.
With its premiere on Valentine's Day 1895, The Importance of Being Earnest – a hilarious comedy of mistaken identities and coruscating language – was a phenomenal success, but its run was cut short prematurely by Wilde's court case and subsequent incarceration, and the play was not published until 1899, after Wilde had been released from prison.
Also including the powerful Salomé, originally written in French and banned by the British censor, this collection displays Wilde at his provocative and witty best, and demonstrates why he was a playwright who delighted audiences and infuriated critics in equal measure.
About the Author
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (b. Dublin, 1854) was an Irish playwright, who wrote one of the best loved comedies in the English language - The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). A leading wit and conversationalist in London society, his career was destroyed at its height when he was imprisoned for homosexual offences.
Wilde was born in Dublin and educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and Magdalen College, Oxford. Settling in London, he became famous for his extravagant dress, long hair, and paradoxical views on art, literature, and morality. His first play, Vera (1880), a tragedy about Russian nihilists, was produced in New York to poor reviews. Success in the theatre came with the elegant drawing-room comedy Lady Windermere's Fan. A Woman of No Importance (1893) was another success. Other works for the theatre were An Ideal Husband (1895) and the biblical Salomé (1896), written in French for Sarah Bernhardt.
Wilde flaunted his homosexual affairs, including his ill-fated liaison with Lord Alfred Douglas. Following a celebrated trial in 1895 he was sentenced to two years' imprisonment with hard labour. The sentence led to public humiliation, poor health, and bankruptcy. On his release in 1897 he left for France and remained in exile there until his death in 1900.
Reading and rereading Wilde throughout the years, I noticed something that his panegyrists had not, it seems, suspected: namely the verifiable, elementary fact that Wilde was virtually always right. -- Jorge Luis Borges