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Happy birthday, John Gray - the real life Dorian Gray

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 2, 2013 01:01pm | Post a Comment
Today is the birthday of English poet and Dandy, John Gray. As a writer, Gray is best-known for Silverpoints,The Long Road, and Park: A Fantastic Story. Though celebrated in his day, today he is perhaps best known for being the rumored inspiration for Oscar Wilde’s fictional character and literature's most famous Decadent and Dandy, Dorian Gray.

English Poet John Gray

John Gray was born on 2 March, 1866 in Bethnal Green, London, the first of nine children. Like most people with great taste, he came from a working class background. At thirteen he quit school and began working as an apprentice metal-worker (continuing his education with evening classes). In 1882 he passed the Civil Service exams and five years later passed the University of London matriculation exams. He subsequently joined the Foreign Office and became a librarian. Gray’s evening classes had included (among other foreign languages) the study of French and he translated the work of Symbolists Arthur Rimbaud, Jules Laforgue, Paul Verlaine, and Stéphane Mallarmé into English -- some for the first time.

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Happy Birthday, Simeon Solomon

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 9, 2012 02:26pm | Post a Comment
Simeon Solomon was a Jewish Pre-Raphaelite painter. He was born 9 October, 1840 at No. 3 Sandys Street, Bishopsgate, London, England. Were he alive today he'd be turning 172.

Solomon was the eighth and last child Michael (Meyer) Solomon, manufacturer of Leghorn hats, and artist Catherine Levy. Two of his older siblings, Abraham and Rebecca, were also painters. It was Abraham, in fact, who first gave painting instruction to Solomon around 1850.

In 1852 he began attending the Royal Academy where, that same year, his sister's work was being exhibited. At the Academy, Solomon became friends with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the other Pre-Raphaelites, their associates, and Dandy and Decadent poet, Algernon Charles Swinburne.

His first exhibition at the Academy took place in 1858 and, until 1872, he continued exhibiting -- also at the Dudley Gallery. The subject matter of his work was in many ways typical of the Pre-Raphaelites although also drawn from The Tanakh. In 1865 he contributed illustrations to Swinburne's posthumously-published pornographic novel, Lesbia Brandon. Some of his high-profile patrons included Eleanor Tong ColtartJames Leathart, and Lord Battersea.

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Happy Birthday, Oscar Wilde!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 16, 2010 03:00pm | Post a Comment

Wilde Reclining

The second most-read writer in the English language is also, in my opinion, the funniest. Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born on October 16th, 1854 in Dublin, Eire. He is probably the most quotable figure in the English language as well, having coined too many clever epigrams to choose just one to represent his wit.

Oscar Wilde was a married man with two children but an affair with Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas led to his imprisonment for homosexuality. After two years of hard labor, he was released a broken and broke man. He moved to Paris where he died at 46 years old in 1900 from acute meningitis, following an ear infection. By some accounts, his final quip was “Either these curtains [or wallpaper, by other accounts] go or I do!”

Oscar Wilde statue in Dublin

Our greatest comic, whose life was as much (if not more of) a work of art than his plays and short stories, Wilde’s been the source, subject or merely inspiration for many films in many languages. Consider these many films, most of which formerly were gathered together in an Oscar Wilde section at the end of comedy but now float around Amoeba Hollywood’s mezzanine in various locations. If you can't find them, ask at the info counter.

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