It is a truth universally acknowledged that Oscar Wilde, the Irish writer and aesthetic leader who wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest, was lightyears ahead of his time.
His style, wit and talent for celebrity (he’s been called the first person famous for simply being famous) were unparalleled, as was his commitment to remain true to who he was and what he wanted. All this makes his final years – spent in prison for sodomy and gross indecency before dying penniless in Paris from cerebral meningitis in 1900 all the more tragic.
But now it seems that the world is finally catching up with Oscar Wilde. As Brenda Cronin noted last week in the Wall Street Journal, a great number of new high-profile books, movies and plays about him indicate that 116 years after his death, Wilde is making a comeback.
Here are just a few of them:
An opera by Gerald Barry based on “The Importance of Being Earnest” is playing in New York at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater.
Across the river, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, "The Judas Kiss," David Hare’s 1998 play about Wilde, just wrapped up a revival. It starred the wonderful British actor Rupert Everett.
“The Happy Prince,” a movie about Wilde, starring, written and directed by Everett, who has previously portrayed both Wilde and some of his most famous characters, begins shooting soon in locations throughout Europe, including Bavaria, Belgium, France and Italy.
A new biography about Wilde by Emer O’Sullivan, titled “The Fall of the House of Wilde,” is out in the UK and will be released here in the US in the fall. It delves into his upbringing in Victorian Dublin, in a house on Merrion Square, and the influence of his father, the surgeon Sir William Wilde, and his mother, the poet Lady Jane Wilde.
Earlier this year, Eleanor Fitzsimmons published “Wilde's Women: How Oscar Wilde Was Shaped by the Women of His Life.”
In Paris, where Wilde spent his remaining days in exile after being released from prison, an exhibition about Wilde, titled ‘Oscar Wilde: L’impertinent absolu’ (Oscar Wild: the absolute impertinent person) will open on September 28 at the Petit Palais museum.
Wilde is also getting his due as a key figure in path towards gay rights. “Gay marriage and all the things happening now are all very much the product or part of the road that was started with Oscar Wilde’s death,” Everett told Cronin. “[He helped] unleash one of the great 20th-century debates, which was sexuality, women, men and what we are.”
Wilde’s grandson, Merlin Holland, added that his grandfather’s reach extends far, calling him “an icon in the modern world.”