The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 552
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
He had several options at that point-return to England, visit Japan and
Australia, or go to the states of the former Confederacy. He decided on
the last, and recorded, "I have received a good offer for two months light
lecturing in the South which I am most anxious to visit."2
Born in Dublin on October 16, 1854, Wilde was the son of brilliant and
eccentric parents. His mother took the pen name "Speranza," and be-
came a champion of Irish nationalism, while his father earned interna-
tional renown as an eye and ear surgeon. An excellent student, young
Wilde graduated from Trinity College in Dublin, and won a scholarship to
Oxford. At the venerable English school he pursued varied interests, in-
cluding Catholicism (even though he was a Protestant), Free Masonry,
and especially the Pre-Raphaelite and aesthetic movements. He won the
coveted Newdigate Prize for poetry and graduated with honors in 1878.
While at Oxford Wilde was influenced by two art critic rivals, Walter Pater
and John Ruskin, and later by James A. McNeill Whistler, William Morris,
Algernon Charles Swinburne, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and other poets, in-
tellectuals, and creative artists.'
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, founded in 1848 by a small group of
English visual artists who admired medieval representations of nature, at-
tracted him. He felt a kinship with their aims of moving art back beyond
the renaissance to a more natural expression of painting, sculpture, and
literature. Aestheticism, and its emphasis on the decorative arts, caught
not only Wilde's attention but that of the public. The aesthetes, especial-
ly Pater and Ruskin, differed among themselves about art and its func-
tion, but they were united in their rejection of Victorian standards and
precepts. Machine production, they believed, was the enemy of crafts-
manship. They denounced commercialism that resulted in vulgar, worth-
less, and uninspired mass production of consumer goods. The aesthetes
held that individual effort was of prime importance. They argued that
artistic taste could be expressed in familiar items such as houses, wallpa-
per, furniture, cabinets, china, artificial flowers, and clothing. The work-
man needed a high level of artistic consciousness. Accepting no compro-
mises, the aesthetes adopted extremes that attracted ridicule, derision,
and, most important, attention.4
Wilde, with his sharp wit, generosity, flair for self-advertisement, and
2 Hart-Davis, More Letters, 4.
Patrick Byrne, The Wzldes ofMernon Square (New York: Staples Press, 1953); Horace Wyndham,
Speranza: A Bzography of Lady Wlde (New York: T. V. Boardman, 1951); Eric Lambert, Mad Wth
Much Heart: A Lzfe of the Parents of Oscar Wlde (London: Muller, 1967).
4 Roger B Stein, John Ruskzn and Aesthetic Thought zn Amenca, 184o-z89o (Cambridge- Harvard
University Press, 1967); Robin Spencer, The Aesthetic Movement: Theory and Practice (London: Stu-
dio Vista, 1972); Andrew Rose, The Pre-Raphaelites (Oxford: Phaidon Press, 1977); Philip Hender-
son, Wlhlam Morns Hs Life, Work andFnends (NewYork: McGraw-Hill, 1967), 228-230, 304-305.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/630/: accessed June 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.