While browsing through the Atlas Obscura’s entry on the Oscar Wilde House, I was struck by the beauty of the building, in spite of its cramped outward appearance and urban location. Though located on a street corner in the capital city of Dublin, the house is richly decorated in gorgeous stained-glass windows.
The first to capture my attention was the portion of the window pictured above–at the top-center is an ornate flower, gold against a red backdrop, with white floral detailing. The vivacity of the colors left me with the impression that it must have brought great joy to the residents of the home. I can’t imagine anyone living there being unhappy with such a gorgeous piece defining their home.
The other work of stained-glass art featured on the Atlas Obscura page was a representation of Oscar Wilde’s fairytale, “The Happy Prince.”
It is as vibrant and detailed as the first–the colors, again, are bright and varied. It is a livingly ornate depiction of one of Wilde’s works, and perhaps goes to show how much his writing and artistry were valued in the household.
This was, after all, his family’s residence and his childhood home. That his family would choose to decorate it with reference to his works indicates their pride in his talents.
As I read through the page and cycled through the gallery, catching just a small glimpse into the famous author’s family life, I was reminded of how influential his family was–Oscar Wilde’s father being a prominent physician and his mother an activist. This, in turn, reminded me of the Sheridan family.
In Siobhán Kilfeather’s Dublin: A Cultural History, she discusses the Sheridan family, who “dominated literary and intellectual life in the late century” (50). But while Oscar Wilde, a writer and the son of a well-to-do family, was able to mingle with London’s high-class (his experiences being reflected in his famous play The Importance of Being Earnest), Thomas Sheridan, an actor, ran into trouble when he declared, “I am as good a gentleman as you are” while onstage (51).
During Sheridan’s time, class lines were more rigid. As Kilfeather notes, “an artist (or indeed a doctor or lawyer)” being “a gentleman was quite contentious” (51). Though Sheridan had proven himself as an artist, it would be harder for him to gain recognition or prestige as a societal figure.
Like Oscar Wilde, the Sheridans eventually moved to London. Unlike Oscar Wilde, this was a place of prosperity and success for the family.
Though impossible, I wonder what would’ve happened if Oscar Wilde had stayed in Ireland. Would a scandal still have erupted to destroy his career, or would staying in his beautiful childhood home–which stands as a celebration of him and his achievements–have promised a different future?