Flamboyant and controversial, Oscar Wilde was a dazzling personality, a master of wit, and a dramatic genius whose sparkling comedies contain some of the most brilliant dialogue ever written for the English stage. Here in one volume are his immensely popular novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray; his last literary work, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” a product of his own prison experience; and four complete plays: Lady Windermere’s Fan, his first dramatic success, An Ideal Husband, which pokes fun at conventional morality, The Importance of Being Earnest, his finest comedy, and Salomé, a portrait of uncontrollable love originally written in French and faithfully translated by Richard Ellmann.
Every selection appears in its entirety–a marvelous collection of outstanding works by the incomparable Oscar Wilde, who’s been aptly called “a lord of language” by Max Beerbohm.
Oscar Wilde was born into a socially prominent Anglo-Irish family in Dublin in 1854. A gifted student, he entered Oxford in 1874, where he fell under the aesthetic influence of Walter Pater and John Ruskin. He was soon well known as a dandy, wit, and man-about-town, but married in 1884. THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY was published in 1891, as was his essay, "The Soul of Man Under Socialism," but he found critical and popular sucess in the theater with his comedies: Lady Windermere's Fan (1892), A Woman of No Importance (1892) An Ideal Husband (1895), and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). In 1895, the Marquess of Queensberry sought to end the close relationship between his son, Lord Alfred Douglas, and Wilde, publicly referring to Wilde as a homosexual. After losing a lawsuit against the Marquess for libel, Wilde was arrested and served two years of hard labor at Reading and Pentonville prisons. Wilde was deserted by his wife and friends and upon his release in 1897, he moved to France under an assumed name, where he finished writing "The Ballad of Reading Gaol," and traveled to Italy with Lord Alfred Douglas. Wilde died suddenly in Paris in November of 1900.