Wilde’s imprisonment for homosexuality in 1895 ended a spectacularly successful career. Although he lived for a few more years in exile in France after his release and produced some moving poetry, his life was effectively over.

He had been a remarkably talented and prize-winning student at university in Dublin and Oxford, and embarked on lengthy lecture tours of America, Britain and Ireland. In a society that was suspicious of art, he lived life as an aesthete.

He began to write stories for children and produced his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, in 1890. Its homoerotic elements were controversial and were used by the prosecution during Wilde’s trial to help prove his guilt.

Between 1892 and 1895 Wilde wrote hugely successful comedies for the stage, including The Importance of being Earnest. His polished, witty and amusing plays offered a satirical perspective on Victorian society and its morals and manners.

Use of extract recording by permission of the Poetry Archive at

Poems by Oscar Wilde

The Ballad of Reading Gaol

Read by Simon Armitage
The Ballad of Reading Gaol - Oscar Wilde - Read by Simon Armitage

Featured in the Archive