Wilde was born in 1854, the son of a prominent Irish doctor, whose mother, Jane Francesca Elgee, wrote writing revolutionary poems under the pseudonym "Speranza" for a weekly Irish newspaper, The Nation. He had an older brother, William, and a younger sister, Isola, who died from a sudden fever in infancy. Oscar was profoundly affected by the loss of his sister, and for his lifetime he carried a lock of her hair sealed in a decorated envelope.
Both the Wilde boys attended the Portora Royal School at Enniskillen, where Oscar excelled at studying the classics, and was awarded the Royal School Scholarship to attend Trinity College in Dublin. Again, he did particularly well in his classics courses, placing first in his examinations in 1872 and earning the highest honor the college could bestow on an undergraduate, a Foundation Scholarship. In 1874, Oscar crowned his successes at Trinity with two final achievements. He won the college's Berkeley Gold Medal for Greek and was awarded a scholarship to Magdalen College in Oxford.
Oscar's father died in 1876, leaving them hard-up. Henry, William's eldest son, paid the mortgage on the family's house and supported them until his sudden death in 1877. Meanwhile, Oscar continued to do well at Oxford. He was awarded the Newdigate prize for his poem, “Ravenna,” and a First Class in both his "Mods" and "Greats" by his examiners. After graduation, Oscar moved to London to live with his friend Frank Miles, a popular high society portrait painter. In 1881, he published his first collection of poetry. “Poems” received mixed reviews by critics, but helped to move Oscar's writing career along.
When he returned from America, Oscar spent three months in Paris before setting off on a lecture tour of Britain and Ireland.
Wilde's first play, “Lady Windermere's Fan,” opened in February 1892. Its financial and critical success prompted him to continue to write for the theater. His subsequent plays included “A Woman of No Importance” (1893), “An Ideal Husband” (1895), and “The Importance of Being Earnest” (1895). These plays were all highly acclaimed and firmly established Oscar as a playwright. Here are the trailers for the film adaptations of these plays...
He died in Paris, of meningitis in 1900 and is buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery. I visited his grave in 2002:
The main scent in Malmaison is, of course, the Malmaison Carnation. It was created in the 19th century, in an era when Malmaison Carnations had become all the rage within the elegant circles of society since their introductions from France in the early 1860s. Named afterJoséphine de Beauharnais’ residence of La Malmaison , they soon intoxicated England. They were commonly displayed by the fashion-conscious as a buttonhole or corsage accessory whose heady spicy scent was but another mark of refinement and distinction. Oscar Wilde is famous for having had a fetish for the bloom, which he liked to dye each day anew in green. Apart from the carnation, it has top notes of Cinnamon, Clove, Lemon, Midtones of Rose and Yland, and base notes of Cedarwood, Musk, Patchouli, and Vanilla.
Here is how the experts describe it...
Malmaison eau de toilette is a rich carnation scent that through the interplay of different layers of secondary notes imposes its main character nevertheless as being carnation throughout. The scent is therefore linear in that sense. But there is also the sense that it rests upon a more complex bouquet of flowers and woods, hence a rather rich feel, if not openly complex. Complexity has in this manner a supporting role rather than a main role. The scent opens on an impression of spicy carnation that is powdery, softly sweet and woody with marked clove nuances bordering on the medicinal, but not quite.There are subtle almond-y undertones, reminiscent of heliotrope, on an aqueous and green background. The progression of the perfume is not dramatic although there are shifts in nuances as next, the powdery character fades into a creamier heart where the piquancy of sandalwood comes more to the fore. Fresher floral notes of narcissus and lily of the valley seem to escape inadvertently from the rich, warm concoction revealing in fact the restrained and balanced personality of the fragrance containing fresher notes in its core. The woody and powdery-musky dry-down is the surprise of the scent. With time, this stage becomes more and more distinctive. It is extremely seductive betraying a dark purple and dark red tonality, an overripe fruity-floral nuance, and a deep sensuality that one did not expect to encounter. For this reason, we would be tempted to classify Malmaison as one of those “closet-musk” scents that we find particularly attractive, as they reveal their deeper and very efficient erotic personalities only after some patient waiting. It mimics in this sense the dynamic of a well-regulated courtship. It makes one feel each time like waiting for that moment of rejoining with the loved one and introduces a structure of secrecy and anticipation in the perfume that is very alluring and sexy.
Josephine Beauharnais (below) bought this manor house in 1799 while Napoléon (then a general) was away fighting in the Egyptian campaign. Malmaison was a run-down estate, eight miles west of Paris that encompassed nearly 150 acres of woods and meadows.
She had paid well over 300,000 francs for the house, which needed extensive renovations and cost her an additional fortune.
Joséphine endeavored to transform the large estate into "the most beautiful and curious garden in Europe, a model of good cultivation". She actively sought out flora and fauna along with rare and exotic animals from around the world. In 1800, Joséphine built a heated orangery large enough for 300 pineapple plants. Five years later, she ordered the building of a greenhouse, heated by a dozen coal-burning stoves. From 1803 until her death in 1814, Josephine cultivated nearly 200 new plants in France for the first time.
The property achieved enduring fame for its rose garden. Empress Joséphine had an artist record her roses. She grew some 250 varieties of roses.
Above: Josephine in her Rose Garden
Birds and animals of all sorts began to enrich her garden, where they were allowed to roam free among the grounds. At the height of her days at Malmaison, Joséphine had the company of kangaroos, black swans, zebras, sheep, gazelles, ostriches, chamois, a seal, antelopes and llamas to name a few.
After her divorce from Napoléon, Joséphine received Malmaison in her own right, along with a pension of 5 million francs a year, and remained there until her death in 1814.
Above and Below: Two Drawing rooms at Malmaison.
In the drawing room above there is a painting showing Tsar Alexander I with Josephine and her two children by her first marriage to Count Alexandre de Beauharnais.
Above: Josephine's Bedroom
Above: Napoleons Bedroom
Below: Napoleon's Library
Chairs in the Empire style at Malmaison...
Details of French Empire Furniture...
A modern take of the Empire Style...
After her divorce from Napoleon in 1809, because she was unable to bear him an heir, Josephine retired to Malmaison, but the couple still remained on friendly terms. In 1814, after the comprehensive defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, the allies entered Paris and the Russian Tsar Alexander I, who had personally led his troops into battle, visited and became friendly with Josephine. More may have come of this friendship, but Josephine died suddenly after catching a chill while out walking.
For my abridged biography of Napoleon and Josephine, see my post tomorrow...