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Oscar Wilde's Quotes

Oscar Wilde's QuotesOscar Wilde's quotes, wit and quips

'I have nothing to declare but my genius'.

Examples of Oscar Wilde's Wit

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Oscar Wilde

Born Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie, on 16th October 1854, he died on 30th November 30, 1900.  His mother Jane was a poet, while his father, Sir William Wilde, was prominent Irish surgeon.  Both parents were prolific authors so it was no surprise that he inherited such literary talent.

One can only guess how he delivered his quips, but we can be sure that they gained extra power from Oscar Wilde's own delivery of his pithy wit.

A Selection of Oscar Wilde Quotations to Get you Started

  • My own business always bores me to death; I prefer other people's.
  • The English country gentleman galloping after a fox - The unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.
  • Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast.
  • We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.
  • There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book.  Books are well written or badly written.
  • But what is the difference between literature and journalism?
    Journalism is unreadable and literature is not read.  That is all.
  • America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.
  • Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.
  • It is absurd to divide people into good and bad.  People are either charming or tedious.
  • Arguments are to be avoided: they are always vulgar and often convincing.
  • Seriousness is the only refuge of the shallow.
  • Who, being loved, is poor?
  • I always pass on good advice.  It is the only thing to do with it.  It is never of any use to oneself.

New Oscar Wilde Quote

After being lost for over 120 years, this Oscar Wilde quote turned up in the cover of an old book:
'One can exist without art, but one cannot live without it.'

Oscar Wilde's WitOscar Wilde's Wit

From the above quotes, clearly Oscar Wilde was not a stand-up comedian.  Instead of jokes, what you find amongst Oscar Wilde quotes are witty one liners and repartee, for example:

A pompous speaker who had a great opinion of himself gave a long after-dinner speech.  He then made the mistake of turning to his neighbour on the top table, who happened to be Oscar Wilde, and asked, 'How would you have delivered that speech?'  Under an assumed name', came the reply from Oscar Wilde.

What surprises Will and Guy is when we track down a witticism, I find that the source was an Oscar Wilde quotation, or a character in one of his plays.  For example:

Work is the curse of the drinking classes.
or:
One should always play fairly when one has the winning cards.

Oscar Wilde On the Subject of Women

...(vr3)
  • Women are never disarmed by compliments.  Men always are. That is the difference between the sexes.
  • All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy.
    No man does.  That's his.
  • Men always want to be a woman's first love - women like to be a man's last romance.
  • A man can be happy with any woman as long as he does not love her.
  • If we men married the woman we deserve, we should have a very tedious time of it.
  • In married life three is company and two is none.
  • A man who desires to get married should know either everything or nothing.
  • Bigamy is having one wife too many.  Monogamy is the same.
  • Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious; both are disappointed.
  • As long as a woman can look ten years younger than her own daughter, she is perfectly satisfied.
  • A woman will flirt with anyone in the world, so long as other women are looking on.
  • She wore far too much rouge last night and not quite enough clothes. That is always a sign of despair in a woman.
  • A man's face is his autobiography.  A woman's face is her work of fiction.

More Oscar Wilde Quotations

  • A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing.
  • Moderation is a fatal thing.  Nothing succeeds like excess.
  • There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating: people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing.
  • To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.
  • We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
  • An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.
  • Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
  • One should absorb the colour of life, but one should never remember its details. Details are always vulgar.
  • The truth is rarely pure and never simple.
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An Extra Batch of Oscar Wilde's Witticisms

Will and I tried to select ten of Oscar Wilde's best, and most witty quotes.  The reason that we failed that our opinion changed from one day to the next.  It was just so difficult to leave out any of his quotes, they all have a place where they sum up a situation succinctly.  This is why we have stayed with this long list of witty sayings.

  • A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal. oscar wilde's quotes
  • A poet can survive everything but a misprint.
  • I am not young enough to know everything.
  • I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.
  • A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.
  • A true friend stabs you in the front.
  • All art is quite useless.
  • Always forgive your enemies - nothing annoys them so much.
  • As yet, Bernard Shaw hasn't become prominent enough to have any enemies, but none of his friends like him.
  • A man can be happy with any woman as long as he does not love her.
  • Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.
  • Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.
  • Illusion is the first of all pleasures.
  • All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.
    ...(v3r)
  • It is better to be beautiful than to be good. But... it is better to be good than to be ugly.
  • There is nothing so difficult to marry as a large nose.
  • Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.
  • Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is far the best ending for one.
  • There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
  • Now that the House of Commons is trying to become useful, it does a great deal of harm.
  • The difference between literature and journalism is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read.
  • Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life.
  • It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you place the blame.
  • The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything.
  • America had often been discovered before Columbus, but it had always been hushed up.
  • There is no sin except stupidity.
  • It is only the modern that ever becomes old-fashioned.
  • A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?
  • Only the shallow know themselves.
  • Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.
  • He hadn't a single redeeming vice.
  • A pessimist is one who, when he has a choice of two evils, chooses both.
  • Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong.
  • When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.
  • Scandal is gossip made tedious by morality.  (School for Scandal was written by Sheridan not Oscar Wilde)
  • Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.
  • I put all my genius into my life; I put only my talent into my works.
  • Genius is born - not paid.
  • See more witticisms

Oscar Wilde's StatueOscar Wilde's Statue - Dublin

While I knew that Oscar Wilde was buried in France, I was surprised to find a statue to the great man in Dublin's Archbishop Ryan Park.  It looks just like a modern day dandy posing on a rock.

His last resting place is now the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France.  Will reports that Oscar's tomb in Père Lachaise, Paris was designed by sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein.  When Will was there he could not find an traces of lipstick that others report seeing on Oscar Wilde's tomb.

Oscar Wilde's Quotes Sent in by Readers

  • The basis of optimism is sheer terror. (Barry W)
  • If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you.  (Lorraine J)
  • 'One can always be kind to people about whom one cares nothing.'  (Jerry P)
  • Most modern calendars mar the sweet simplicity of our lives by reminding us that each day that passes is the anniversary of some perfectly uninteresting event. (Darius H)
  • The only thing that sustains one through life is the consciousness of the immense inferiority of everybody else and this is a feeling that I have always cultivated.  (John M)
  • To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable. (Edith J)
  • Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man's original virtue. It is through disobedience and rebellion that progress has been made.  (Jane K)
  • I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again. (Maggie B)
    ...(videVfl2)
  • I am so clever that sometimes I don't understand a single word of what I am saying'. (Oscar Wilde!!)
  • The public is wonderfully tolerant. It forgives everything except genius. (Another from Oscar Wilde!)
  • I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train. (Sara W)
  • If one could only teach the English how to talk, and the Irish how to listen, society here would be quite civilized. (Sara W)  See more Irish quotes.
  • Life is far too important to be taken seriously. (Sara W)
  • A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.  (Jeremy T)
  • To disagree with three-fourths of the British public is one of the first requisites of sanity. (Tony K)
  • One's real life is often the life that one does not lead.  (Ken H)
  • The only thing that sustains one through life is the consciousness of the immense inferiority of everybody else, and this is a feeling that I have always cultivated.  (Doris K)
  • I like persons better than principles, and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world. (Isfan K)
  • I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.  (Shivangi)

Quotes from Oscar Wilde Plays Include:Oscar Wilde's plays

  • The Importance of Being Earnest
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • Lady Windermere's Fan
  • An Ideal Husband
  • A Woman of No Importance
  • The Ballad of Reading Gaol
  • The Duchess of Padua

Oscar Wilde's Downfall

Back in 1891 homosexuality was illegal and Oscar formed an illicit relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas (known as 'Bosie').  They probably would have got away with it if Oscar had not sued Bosie's father for libel.  As always, the truth is an absolute defence to libel, therefore Oscar lost his case.  Worse was to follow when the police felt they had to take an interest; after all homosexuality was illegal, and Oscar's activity was now public knowledge.  It was a forgone conclusion that his prosecution for 'Gross indecent acts' would lead to conviction and a goal sentence resulted.  Even in prison he continued to exercise his literary skill and wrote 'De Profundis' A book about his relationship with 'Bosie', also the famous 'The Ballade of Reading Gaol'.

Then as As Oscar was standing in handcuffs in the rain, waiting to be taken to Reading Gaol after his court conviction, he was heard to say: "If this is how Queen Victoria treats her prisoners, then she doesn't deserve to have any."

After Oscar Wilde was imprisoned, his wife Constance changed her name to Holland.  She felt it best to move abroad where she was less likely to be recognised and humiliated.

Oscar Wilde Rises Again

In July 2009 there was an unlikely twist to the Oscar Wilde saga, Paolo Gulisano, L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, now says that Wilde was much more than "an aesthete and a lover of the ephemeral".  He had been "one of the personalities of the 19th century who most lucidly analysed the modern world in its disturbing as well as its positive aspects", Gusilano wrote.

This was a surprising turn of events, because while Oscar Wilde converted to Catholicism on his deathbed in 1900, during his lifetime he had written many acerbic words about the church, for example:

  • Religion? The fashionable substitute for belief.
  • I sometimes think that God, in creating men, somewhat overestimated his ability.
  • When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.

Oscar Wilde's Final Words - Kindly Sent by Lora Chacon and Also Andrea Greenwood

...(videVfl2)

Biography lends to death a new terror.

One can survive everything, nowadays, except death, and live down everything except a good reputation.

As Oscar lay dying, penniless in a French hotel, he looked around at the room and said:
'My wall paper and I are in a battle to the death, one or the other must go'. 

Those were his final words.

 

 

Footnote:
Please write to Will and Guy if you have a good Oscar Wilde quote or a witty one-liner.

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