Oscar Wilde Is Born

Oscar Wilde was born at 21 Westland Row, Dublin (now home of the Oscar Wilde Centre, Trinity College, Dublin) the second of three children born to Sir William Wilde and Jane Francesca Wilde, two years behind William ("Willie"). Jane Wilde, under the pseudonym "Speranza" (the Italian word for 'Hope'), wrote poetry for the revolutionary Young Irelanders in 1848 and was a life-long Irish nationalist. She read the Young Irelanders' poetry to Oscar and Willie, inculcating a love of these poets in her sons. Lady Wilde's interest in the neo-classical revival showed in the paintings and busts of ancient Greece and Rome in her home. William Wilde was Ireland's leading oto-ophthalmologic (ear and eye) surgeon and was knighted in 1864 for his services to medicine. He also wrote books about Irish archaeology and peasant folklore. A renowned philanthropist, his dispensary for the care of the city's poor at the rear of Trinity College, Dublin, was the forerunner of the Dublin Eye and Ear Hospital, now located at Adelaide Road.

The sixteenth of October, 1854, Oscar Wilde was born into a most stimulating environment. The family, which included two year old brother Willie (Willie became a journalist in London), lived on the North Side of Merrion Square-the right part of the right neighborhood for members of those professions "fit for gentlemen" who aspired to the aristocracy. Speranza held a weekly Salon in a candle-lit (on the sunniest of afternoons) front room, which attracted the best and brightest of Dublin's artists, writers, scientists, and miscellaneous intellectuals. Oscar Wilde, at the youngest of ages, was encouraged by both parents to sit among such visitors as, perhaps, John Ruskin-later an influential teacher and friend at Oxford-and fetch books for his father, or amuse adults with his stories.