Schmidgall focuses on Wilde's adult life. He makes much of Wilde's association with the Aesthetic movement at the end of the century in England and the reaction of the more conservative and even mainstream elements of society to his flamboyant persona–his extravagant dress and his homosexuality. His marriage to Constance Lloyd in May of 1884 is discussed as a tragedy waiting to happen because of his homosexuality, despite the births of their sons Cyril in 1885 and Vyvyan in 1886. Most of the book, however concerns Wilde's rather blatant willingness to exposes his various dalliances with young men in a society that generally preferred to keep such things hidden.
The central events of Wilde's life, as Schmidgall presents it, revolve around his sexual relationship with Bosie, Lord Alfred Douglas whom he met in 1891. Bosie's father, the Marquess of Queensberry, objecting to their relationship left an insulting card at Wilde's club and Wilde sued him for libel in 1895. When that case collapsed, Wilde was put on trial for his sexual relationships with several young men. The first trial ended in a hung jury, but a retrial got him convicted and sentenced to hard labor. Wilde spent about two years in prison and died in 1900.
This report prepared by Jack Goodstein