Dorothy "Dolly" Wilde (1895-1941) was Oscar Wilde's niece and bore a striking resemblance to her famous uncle. She occasionally dressed as him and would go by the name "Oscaria." The only child of Oscar Wilde's older brother Willie, Dolly Wilde was born just after her uncle's arrest. She led a life as scandalous and glittering as her uncle's.
Dolly Wilde was regarded as a “born writer” and storyteller, but she never came through on her promise and her gifts. Unfortunately for Dolly's posthumous reputation, she was "an artist of the spoken word" whose only written legacy was her marvelous correspondence. Charming, sophisticated, and radiating sexual allure, Wilde was the star of many salons and counted among her lovers some of London’s and Paris’s most interesting men and women.
Wilde was famous for her witty conversation, even in a social circle that was known for its fabulous talkers. Her longest romantic relationship was with American heiress Natalie Clifford Barney, who was host of the most important Parisian literary salon of the 20th century.
Natalie Clifford Barney
Wilde played "second lover" to Barney, after artist Romaine Brooks, and was friends with journalist Janet Flanner, novelist Djuna Barnes, and artist Mina Loy. But unlike her peers, Wilde was an artist of the spoken word. She had talent but left no work. Her only written legacy were her letters, leaving her to become a vibrant footnote at the bottom of published lives.
The sad loneliness of her death happened in London. Wilde was addicted to drugs and alcohol and died (possibly from a drug overdose) at age 45. According to playwright Joan Schenkar, Dolly Wilde died as she lived: "vividly, rather violently, and at a very good address."
Schenkar has written a biography of Wilde called Truly Wilde. "I couldn't bear that someone as vital as Dolly could so easily vanish from history," said Schenkar. "And I reject the notion that she wasn't an artist. She was."