Oscar Wilde Attends Magdalen College in Oxford

While at Magdalen College, Wilde became particularly well known for his role in the aesthetic and decadent movements.

He wore his hair long, openly scorned "manly" sports though he occasionally boxed, and decorated his rooms with peacock feathers, lilies, sunflowers, blue china and other objets d'art, once remarking to friends whom he entertained lavishly, "I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china." The line quickly became famous, accepted as a slogan by aesthetes but used against them by critics who sensed in it a terrible vacuousness. Some elements disdained the aesthetes, but their languishing attitudes and showy costumes became a recognised pose. Wilde was once physically attacked by a group of four fellow students, and dealt with them single-handedly, surprising critics. By his third year Wilde had truly begun to create himself and his myth, and saw his learning developing in much larger ways than merely the prescribed texts. This attitude resulted in him being rusticated for one term, when he nonchalantly returned to college late from a trip to Greece with Prof. Mahaffy.

At Oxford, Wilde was also introduced to the joys of combining Mahaffey's Greek ideal with homosexuality-the University's young men, according to several biographers, expressed delight in each other's beauty and brilliance, and Wilde later wrote of the pleasures of strolling through the grounds observing his pleasant peers. Perhaps it was these years of tranquil pleasure-for him, a Hellenistic ideal of joining love and intellectual growth-that he was trying to recapture when he established himself in middle age as Plato to young Oxford beauties. Of course in later life this harmful and unconventional practice ruined him.