The Wildes and the Sheridans

Courtesy of Atlas Obscura: First floor stained glass window. Photo by joconell.

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.”

Courtesy of Atlas Obscura: Depiction of “The Happy Prince,” one of Oscar Wilde’s fairytales. Photo by joconell.

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?


  1. I really enjoyed reading your post, Michelle! I think the comparison between Oscar Wilde and the Sheridan family was well written and a necessary one for understanding the impact of class lines and society on Ireland. I also think your open question at the end was super interesting and makes the reader critically think about what you had just written.

  2. This was such an intriguing post! I love that you drew a connection between Wilde and Sheridan, as their stories are both a bit tragic, though they faced different adversities. I think maybe Wilde would have had a very different life had he remained in Ireland, but it might not have been the one he desired. Or maybe he would never have become the great name as we know him today. It’s interesting to think about how our decisions can impact our entire future, even after death. Despite his downfalls in other countries, or perhaps because of them (?) Wilde has been welcomed home to Ireland with open arms as a symbol of their prowess, their creativity, their activism, their unapologetic embrace of themselves, and inspires people all over the world.

  3. I was immediately drawn to your post because of the photos you chose. I think it is important to note that the family displayed pieces the referenced his work out of pride. I wonder if there may be other reasons. Maybe it’s The Importance of Being Earnest influencing me, but I wonder if part of the reason is also to display status because of Wilde’s position as a prominent author. It is also interesting that you bring up staying in Ireland may have shielded Wilde from the trail he had to undergo. Although Ireland is known for liberal politics concerning LGBTQ right, the country used to be very conservative which unfortunately led Wilde to the same fate.

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