Oscar Wilde's 156th birthday celebrated with Google doodle

Oscar Wilde, writer, poet, playwright, wit and gay icon. His 156th birthday is celebrated with a Google doodle

"Illusion is the first of all pleasures", Oscar Wilde once said.

So it is fitting then that the Google doodle has changed again, this time to celebrate what would have been the 156th birthday of one of the greatest writers, poets and playwrights who ever lived.

The design pays tribute to the Irishman by featuring a portrait from The Picture of Dorian Gray - the first and only novel published by Wilde.

The work was published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in 1890. It was revised and published as a novel a year later.

"An artist should create beautiful things, but should put nothing of his own life into them," Wilde wrote in the first chapter.

In a review of the 2009 film, starring Colin Firth and Ben Barnes, Darragh McManus said in the Guardian, "For me, Dorian Gray is special – not necessarily Wilde's best work but unique in his canon – because it's so sincere: ineffably, inescapably, absolutely. It's a very good novel anyway: moving, exciting, full of dread, angst, horror, lucidity … and a great love, I think, for mankind and for the artist's own self."

Besides films, there have been plays, readings, exhibitions, walks and other events to mark Dorian Gray.

But Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde, who came into the world in 1854 ("genius is born - not paid", he once said), was most well known for his stage masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest. It opened in 1895 in London.

His other short stories and poems include The Happy Prince and Other Tales. For the stage he wrote Lady Windermere's Fan, A Woman of No Importance and An Ideal Husband.

In addition to his literary fame, Wilde remains a gay icon.

Although he married and had two sons, in 1891 the writer started an affair with Lord Alfred Douglas, dubbed 'Bosie'.

In 1895, Wilde sued Bosie's father for libel as the Marquis of Queensberry had accused him of homosexuality.

He was arrested and tried for gross indecency, sentenced to two years hard labour for sodomy.

During his time in prison he penned De Profundis, a monologue and autobiography addressed to Bosie.

He also took up the issue of inhuman prison conditions in The Ballad of Reading Gaol, which he wrote on his release in 1897.

Wilde died broke in a hotel in Paris, aged 45, on November 30 1900.

One of many misconceptions about Wilde is that he died of syphilis, but recent research claims a rare ear infection took his life.

Writing about his "hero" in the Guardian last year, writer Michael Holroyd said, "What I came to value was the charming way he arrived at deeply unpopular opinions ... He was an extraordinarily brave writer. "

Wilde's work touched many people. Even the Vatican's official newspaper last year praised a book written about the playwright.

In 2000 Wilde fans marked the 100th anniversary of his death with a service in Westminster Abbey.


Amy Fallon

The GuardianTramp

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