Classic Author Spotlight – Prisoner C33

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde [say that five times fast] (October 16, 1854 – November 30, 1900) was an Irish writer and poet known for his wit, cynicism, and dry, “fuck you,” writing style, and is a personal favorite of mine.

His two most well known works of prose are: his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), in which Wilde expresses his ideas on the supremacy of art and beauty; and the play, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) – one of his four society comedies.

At the height of his fame, while The Importance of Being Earnest was still on stage, Wilde sued the father of his then lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, for libel. The subsequent trial brought to light evidence which led to Wilde dropping his charges and being arrested himself on charges of gross indecency with other men. He was convicted and sentenced to two years hard labor.

After Wilde was released, he left for France and never returned to Britain. While in France, he wrote his final work, the Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), a poem commemorating the harshness of prison life and is authored, “Prisoner C33.”

He died destitute in Paris at the age of forty-six of cerebral meningitis. The epitaph on his tomb reads,

“And alien tears will fill for him/Pity’s long broken urn,/For his mourners will be outcast men/And outcasts always mourn.”

While I undoubtedly would’ve hated Wilde had we gone to high school together, pompous ass that he was, there is also no doubt to his talent. Reading his society comedies is like reading the smirk on his face as he witnessed Victorian life around him. A master of sarcasm and blatant insult, Wilde’s work is, to the observant reader, insightful and entertaining.

If you’re a Wilde virgin, I recommend picking up The Picture of Dorian Gray. Wilde spends a lot of time on the soapbox in this novel through the character Lord Henry Wotton, but it’s worth reading. For you e-book whores, it’s usually free through Amazon/Kindle. Now you have no excuse. I expect a report.