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A Life’

Matthew Sturgis

Head of Zeus

Oscar Wilde’s life – like his wit – was alive with paradox. He was both an early exponent and a victim of ‘celebrity culture’: famous for being famous, he was lauded and ridiculed in equal measure. His achievements were frequently downplayed, his successes resented. He had a genius for comedy but strove to write tragedies. He was an unabashed snob who nevertheless delighted in exposing the faults of society. He affected dandified disdain but was prone to acts of kindness. Although happily married, he became a passionate lover of men and – at the peak of his success – brought disaster upon himself. Wilde disparaged authority, yet went to law to defend his love for Lord Alfred Douglas and, having delighted in fashionable throngs, died almost alone.

Yet despite this ruinous end, Wilde’s star continues to shine brightly. His was a life of quite extraordinary drama and his flamboyant refusal to conform to the social and sexual orthodoxies of his day make him an inspiration to all who seek to challenge convention.

Matthew Sturgis brings alive the distinctive mood of the ‘fin de siècle‘. He places Wilde firmly in the context of his times and demonstrates why he is as relevant as ever today.

About the author

Matthew Sturgis is a writer with a deep knowledge of the late Victorian cultural world and on the editorial board of ‘The Wildean’, the journal of the Oscar Wilde society.


  • An authoritative and tremendously readable biography of Oscar Wilde by an author who brings to life a man whose anarchic genius never fades. A superb, original and balanced study.

Wolfson History Prize judges