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OSCAR WILDE – MERRION SQUARE

Image by infomatique
Wilde was born into a Protestant Anglo-Irish family, at 21 Westland Row, Dublin, to Sir William Wilde and his wife Jane Francesca Elgee. Jane was a successful writer and an Irish nationalist, known also as ‘Speranza’, while Sir William was Ireland’s leading ear and eye surgeon, and wrote books on archaeology and folklore. He was a renowned philanthropist, and his dispensary for the care of the city’s poor, in Lincoln Place at the rear of Trinity College, Dublin, was the forerunner of the Dublin Eye and Ear Hospital, now located at Adelaide Road.

In June 1855, the family moved to 1 Merrion Square, in a fashionable residential area. Here, Lady Wilde held a regular Saturday afternoon salon with guests including Sheridan le Fanu, Samuel Lever, George Petrie, Isaac Butt and Samuel Ferguson. Oscar was educated at home up to the age of nine. He attended Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, Fermanagh from 1864 to 1871, spending the summer months with his family in rural Waterford, Wexford and at Sir William’s family home in Mayo. Here the Wilde brothers played with the young George Moore.

After leaving Portora, Wilde studied classics at Trinity College, Dublin, from 1871 to 1874. He was an outstanding student, and won the Berkeley Gold Medal, the highest award available to classics students at Trinity. He was granted a scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he continued his studies from 1874 to 1878. While at Magdalen, he won the 1878 Oxford Newdigate Prize for his poem Ravenna. He graduated with a double first, the highest grade available at Oxford.

During this time, Wilde became familiar with philosophies and writings on same-sex love, and lived for several years with a male lover he had met in 1876, the society painter Frank Miles. However, in keeping with the social mores of his day, such activities were kept secret.

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