The 1895 theatrical play The Importance of Being Earnest was written by which author and playwright?

And the answer: Oscar Wilde.

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Born in Dublin, Ireland, Oscar Wilde wrote The Importance of Being Earnest as a comedic satire of Victorian social life. The play is considered one of his best works, along with the 1891 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.

A literary artist who sought pleasure and beauty in all its forms, Wilde is remembered today for his contributions to literature as well as his contributions to the aesthetic movement. Born to Irish poet "Speranza" and successful surgeon William Wilde, Oscar Wilde began his search for higher knowledge from a very young age. The writer excelled in school, placing at the top of his class at Trinity College, Dublin, where he won the Berkeley Gold Medal for Greek, and later at Magdalen College, University of Oxford.

After Oxford, Wilde moved to London, where he published his first body of work. While it received only modest praise, it established the young author and encouraged him on his path. Wilde took to travel, and delivered a series of lectures across America and England in 1882. It was through these lectures that Wilde began to solidify his place as a leader of the aesthetic movement. The movement was characterized by beauty for beauty’s sake, rather than to promote a message.

In 1891, Wilde published his first and only novel, Portrait of Dorian Gray. Critics were outraged by the novel’s seeming lack of morality, a fact which Wilde vehemently defended in the preface. The following year, Wilde produced his most famous work, The Importance of Being Earnest. Together, these works lead to the peak of Wilde’s literary success.

However, following a slanderous note left on his doorstep, Wilde embarked on a lawsuit that would lead to his downfall. As an openly gay man, Wilde sued a critic for libel, yet ultimately lost the case and was imprisoned between 1895 and 1897 for being a homosexual. A few years later, he passed away at the age of 46, most likely from complications of an ear infection.

While he met a premature and tragic end, Wilde continues to influence literary aesthetic culture across the globe. His works are still widely circulated, as is his notorious pursuit of beautiful things.

Read more about this influential poet, playwright and author here.

The original program. Photo courtesy: V&A

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