|Oscar Wilde was one of the paradigmatic figures of the late Victorian age. He was the second son of William Robert Wills Wilde, a surgeon and the author of medical texts, and the former Jane Francesca Elgee, a poet and novelist. His early education was at the Portora School at Enniskillen, Ireland, and at Trinity College, Dublin. In 1878 he received a bachelor's degree with first-class honors from Magdalen College, Oxford. Wilde went to London after leaving Oxford, and his first volume of poems was published in 1881; by that time he had acquired a reputation as one of the best conversationalists in England. Wilde went on a lecture tour of the United States in 1882, which further enhanced his reputation as a great wit, and as one of the primary aesthetes of the age. He said that he was dedicated to the principle of "art for art's sake," and did all he could to live up to that image. He became as famous for his bons mots at dinner parties as for his published writing, and his example inspired a generation of aspiring artists. In 1884, Wilde married Constance Mary Lloyd; they had three children together before her death in 1898. He published THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES, a collection of fairy stories he wrote to amuse his children, in 1888. THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY his only novel, appeared in 1890; the reaction was controversial, with many critics admiring it but others proclaiming it immoral. A string of successful plays followed in the early 1890s, among them THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, which is often regarded as his masterpiece. The exception to Wilde's succession of theatrical successes was SALOME, which was denied a performance license because of its hedonistic depiction of Biblical characters. In 1895, Wilde was publicly called a "sodomite" by the Marquess of Queensberry, who had been trying unsuccessfully to end the relationship between Wilde and the Marquess's son, Lord Alfred Douglas. Against the advice of his friends, Wilde sued Queensberry for libel. Wilde lost the case, and as a result of evidence presented at that trial, he was arrested and tried for homosexuality (a crime in Britain until well into the 20th century). The first jury could not reach a verdict, but a second trial produced a guilty verdict and Wilde was sentenced to two years' hard labor. Much of his term was spent at Reading Gaol, which was to give its name to his final work, "The Ballad of Reading Gaol". Upon his release from prison in 1897, Wilde went to live on the Continent under an assumed name. He died in Paris three and a half years later, in utter poverty. His persecution no doubt led to his early death--an enormous loss to the world of literature. He was buried in a pauper's grave, though his remains were eventually transferred to P?re-Lachaise, where his tombstone quotes from "The Ballad of Reading Gaol": "And alien tears will fill for him/Pity's long broken urn/For his mourners will be outcast men/And outcasts always mourn." Wilde continues to be among the most beloved and widely read writers in the world.