A Brief Look into Wilde’s View of the World:
“The first duty in life is to be as artificial as possible” (iz Quotes).
“I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying” (Brainyquotes).
“The difference between literature and journalism is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read” (Brainyquotes).
“A poet can survive everything but a misprint” (Brainyquotes).
“I have said to you to speak the truth is a painful thing. To be forced to tell lies is much worse” (iz Quotes).
“Life is too short to learn German” (Goodreads).
“Words! Mere words! How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid, and cruel! One could not escape from them. And yet what a subtle magic there was in them! They seemed to be able to give a plastic form to formless things, and to have a music of their own as sweet as that of viol or of lute. Mere words! Was there anything so real as words?” (Goodreads).
“To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul” (Goodreads).
“My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One of us has got to go” (Goodreads). (Possibly apocryphal, but otherwise very famous last words.)
“Yet each man kills the thing he loves” (Goodreads).
“Be yourself, everyone else is taken” (Goodreads).
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars” (Goodreads).
Who is Oscar Wilde?
Born 10/16/1854 in Dublin, Ireland
Died 11/30/1900 in Paris, France
He was a brilliant comedic writer best known for his works The Importance of Being Earnest, and The Picture of Dorian Grey.
Father: Sir William Wilde, a respected and renowned eye and ear surgeon, as well as an author of several books.
Mother: Jane Francesca Agnes, Lady Wilde was a famous poet (and author) who wrote under the pseudonym Speranza.
Brother: Willie Wilde, an Alcoholic journalist and poet.
Sister: Isola Wilde, who passed away when she was nine.
Attended three years in classics at Trinity College Dublin. At 23 he attended the Magdalen College at Oxford where he received the prestigious Newdigate Prize for the best English verse composition by an Oxford undergraduate for his poem Ravenna.
He was a first class student receiving several awards and school prizes, in particular receiving the Berkeley gold medal as Trinity’s best student in Greek.
Oscar Wilde’s literary efforts stemmed from the literary movement known as aestheticism. Aestheticism eschewed the constraints of politics and religion in literature in favor of idealistic beauty in art. He was attacked by critics for his work, The Picture of Dorian Gray, many of whom stated that the work promoted moral decay. Wilde’s response was to say “vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art.” For Oscar Wilde, art was not about subject matter nor morals nor politics, but rather art for art’s sake.
Aestheticism and Translingualism
And though the idyllic nature of Aestheticism seems removed from the rather rough nature of balancing multiple languages, Oscar Wilde is not the only Translingual author who espoused the virtues of Aestheticism. Nabokov had this to say on Aestheticism “For me a work of fiction exists only insofar as it affords me what I shall bluntly call aesthetic bliss, that is a sense of being somehow, somewhere, connected with other states of being where art (curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy) is the norm.”
How is Wilde a Translingual Author?
Although Oscar Wilde could write in multiple languages, (English, French, Greek, Latin) all of his works, except for one, were written in English. His singular work of Translingualism is his play Salome. The play depicts the story of the execution of John the Baptist.
Salome was first written in French and then translated into English. Wilde chose to write Salome in French, not because he could not do it justice in English, but rather because he “wanted to see whether [he] could make anything beautiful out of it.” The it being the French language. To Oscar Wilde, the imperative thing about writing was to create beauty, and if he failed in that endeavor he wasted his time. But, funnily enough, the other reason Oscar Wilde chose to write in the play in French was for political reasons. By writing in French, Oscar Wilde was rebelling against the England that would ultimately fail to perform the translation of his play. Salome was in fact banned before it could ever be put to stage.
Controversy, Trial and Jail:
To put it bluntly, Oscar Wilde was flamboyantly homosexual; of special note, Oscar Wilde’s partner, Lord Alfred Douglas, undertook the translation of Salome into English. In 1890’s Britain it was an obvious taboo and his behavior ostracized him from his children and wife. After it was discovered that Oscar Wilde was a homosexual he was tried and sentenced for two years for “gross indecency.”
Wilde spent two years in jail where he languished and only produced one work, De Profundis, a letter he wrote detailing his relationship with Douglas, and then his eventual spiritual journey (he converted to Catholicism) during his time in jail. Wilde’s time in jail was so harsh that he was gravely injured during a fall where he ruptured his ear-drum.
Exile and Death
After he was released from jail, He left Britain for France where he lived destitute for the rest of his life. Wilde only wrote one more work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, after he was released from prison.
Oscar Wilde passed away at the age of 46 from Cerebral Meningitis.
Daniel, Anne Margaret. “Lost in Translation: Oscar, Bosie, and Salome.” Princeton University Library Chronicle (2007): n. pag. Digital file.
Kellman, Steven G. The Translingual Imagination. N.p.: U of Nebraska, 2000. Print.
“‘Oscar Fingall O’Flahertie Wills Wilde.'” Encyclopedia of World Biography: n. pag. Gale Biography. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.
“Oscar Wilde.” Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2015. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.
“Oscar Wilde – Biography.” European Graduate School. EGS, n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.
“Oscar Wilde Quote.” Goodreads. Goodreads, n.d. Web. 5 May 2015. <http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/>.
“Oscar Wilde Quote.” izQuote. iz Quotes, n.d. Web. 5 May 2015. <http://izquotes.com/>.
“Oscar Wilde Quotes.” Brainy Quote. Xplore, n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2015. <http://www.brainyquote.com>.
By Jonathan Lingsch
Back to The Translingual Imagination