Flamboyant man-about-town, Oscar Wilde had a reputation that preceded him, especially in his early career. He was born to a middle-class Irish family (his father was a surgeon) and was trained as a scholarship boy at Trinity College, Dublin. He subsequently won a scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was heavily influenced by John Ruskin and Walter Pater, whose aestheticism was taken to its radical extreme in Wilde's work. By 1879 he was already known as a wit and a dandy; soon after, in fact, he was satirized in Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience. Largely on the strength of his public persona, Wilde undertook a lecture tour to the United States in 1882, where he saw his play Vera open---unsuccessfully---in New York. His first published volume, Poems, which met with some degree of approbation, appeared at this time. In 1884 he married Constance Lloyd, the daughter of an Irish lawyer, and within two years they had two sons. During this period he wrote, among others, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), his only novel, which scandalized many readers and was widely denounced as immoral. Wilde simultaneously dismissed and encouraged such criticism with his statement in the preface, "There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all." In 1891 Wilde published A House of Pomegranates, a collection of fantasy tales, and in 1892 gained commercial and critical success with his play, Lady Windermere's Fan He followed this comedy with A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895), and his most famous play, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). During this period he also wrote Salome, in French, but was unable to obtain a license for it in England. Performed in Paris in 1896, the play was translated and published in England in 1894 by Lord Alfred Douglas and was illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley. Lord Alfred was the son of the Marquess of Queensbury, who objected to his son's spending so much time with Wilde because of Wilde's flamboyant behavior and homosexual relationships. In 1895, after being publicly insulted by the marquess, Wilde brought an unsuccessful slander suit against the peer. The result of his inability to prove slander was his own trial on charges of sodomy, of which he was found guilty and sentenced to two years of hard labor. During his time in prison, he wrote a scathing rebuke to Lord Alfred, published in 1905 as De Profundis. In it he argues that his conduct was a result of his standing "in symbolic relations to the art and culture" of his time. After his release, Wilde left England for Paris, where he wrote what may be his most famous poem, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), drawn from his prison experiences. Among his other notable writing is The Soul of Man under Socialism (1891), which argues for individualism and freedom of artistic expression. There has been a revived interest in Wilde's work; among the best recent volumes are Richard Ellmann's, Oscar Wilde and Regenia Gagnier's Idylls of the Marketplace , two works that vary widely in their critical assumptions and approach to Wilde but that offer rich insights into his complex character.
Stanley Weintraub is Evan Pugh Professor Emeritus of Arts & Humanities at Pennsylvania State University. He has written acclaimed works of military history on World Wars I & II. He lives in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania.
Richard Aldington, christened Edward Godfree, was born at Portsmouth, Hampshire, England, on July 8, 1892. Aldington attended preparatory schools as a child, after which he studied for four years at Dover College. He then enrolled in University College but did not complete his education there due to a sudden financial loss suffered by his father, forcing him to withdraw. For a while, Aldington was supporting himself as an assistant to a newspaper sportswriter. He also wrote reviews and essays, worked on translations, and finally began selling his own poems. He soon made friends with a group of three other young poets: Ezra Pound, Hilda Doolittle, and Harold Monro. During this period, Aldington became associated with the Imagist movement, through his association with Ezra Pound. His poetry appeared in Pound's 1914 anthology Des Imagistes and in Amy Lowell's annual anthology Some Imagist Poets. He published his first volume of poetry, Images (1910-1915), in 1915. On June 24, 1916, Aldington left for military service. He was sent to France in the winter after training. The two and a half years that Aldington spent in active duty during WWI was to become perhaps the greatest single influence on his writing for the decades to follow. His most immediate literary response to the war was his collection of poetry Images of War, published in 1919, which was followed by his first, and perhaps most well known novel, Death of a Hero. Aldington published 24 books, as editor or translator, or collections of his poems, between 1920 and 1929, including the first book of his about his friend D.H. Lawrence, D.H. Lawrence, An Indiscretion. Over the following ten years, he published several more collections of short stories, three long poems, four editions of his collected poems, miscellaneous literary journalism and wrote seven novels. In 1939, Viking offered him editorship of The Viking Book of Poetry of the English Speaking World after having published his novel Rejected Guest. Aldington sold serial rights to his memoirs to the Atlantic Monthly which were published in 1941 under the title Life for Life's Sake. After moving to Florida, Aldington began his biography of the Duke of Wellington, which was published in 1943. In 1942, Aldington took his family to Hollywood where he hoped to work as a screen writer. They stayed in Hollywood for over three years while Aldington worked as a freelance writer for the studios. He also finished The Duke, which he began in Florida, edited the Portable Oscar Wilde, and did a few translations. He published his last novel, The Romance of Casanova: A Novel, in 1946. Aldington died in France in 1962.