Oscar Wilde

The Irish writer Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin on 16 October 1854. His reputation rests on his masterpieces "Lady Windermere's Fan" and "The Importance of Being Earnest". Oscar Wilde was the object of civil and criminal suits involving homosexuality, ending in his imprisonment.

Wilde was educated at Trinity College in Dublin. Later, as a student at the Magdalen University of Oxford, he excelled in classics and wrote poetry. Here he incorporated the Bohemian life-style into a unique way of life. Wilde was impressed by the teachings of the English writers John Ruskin and Walter Pater.

In the early 1880s, Aestheticism was the rage and despair of literary London. Oscar Wilde established himself in social life and artistic circles by his wit and flamboyance. Wilde's first book was "Poems" (1881). His first play "Vera, or the Nihilists" (1882) was produced in New York. After a very successful lecture tour in the United States and Canada, Wilde returned to London and married a wealthy Irish woman in 1884. With Constance Lloyd, the daughter of an Irish barrister, he had two children, Cyril and Vyvyan. Oscar Wilde became a reviewer for the Pall Mall Gazette and then became editor of Woman's World. During this period he published "The Happy Prince and Other Tales" (1888).

After 1890, Wilde wrote and published his major work. "The Picture of Dorian Gray" was published in 1890. In this work Wilde combined the Gothic novel with the sins of French decadent fiction. "Intentions" (1891) consisted of previously published essays and restated the aesthetic attitude toward art. In the same year two volumes of stories and fairy tales appeared: "Lord Arthur Savile's Crime" and "A House of Pomegranates".

Wilde's greatest successes were his society comedies like "Lady Windermere's Fan" and "A Woman of No Importance". Wilde's final plays, "An Ideal Husband" and "The Importance of Being Earnest" were produced at the peak of his career in 1895. The plays sparkle with his clever paradoxes and proverbs.

In 1895 Oscar Wilde became the central figure in one of the most sensational court trials of the nineteenth century. Wilde, who had been a close friend of the young Lord Alfred Douglas, was convicted of sodomy. He was sentenced to two years in prison. While in prison Wilde composed "De Profundis", which is an apology for his life.

After his release in 1897, Wilde was bankrupt and went to France to regenerate himself as a writer. At Berneval-le-Grand he wrote "The Ballad of Reading Gaol", which was published anonymously in England. It is the most powerful of all his poems and reveals his concern for inhumane prison conditions.

An acute meningitis brought on by an ear infection resulted in Wilde's sudden death in 1900.

The Words Of Oscar Wilde

A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?

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.

A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.

All influence is bad, but good influence is the worst in the world.

All repetition is anti-spiritual.

All that one should know about modern life is where the Duchesses are; anything else is quite demoralising.

Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them as much.

A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.

America is the only nation in history which miraculously has gone directly from barbarism to degeneration without the usual interval of civilisation.

Anybody can be good in the country.

Anybody can write a three-volume novel. It merely requires a complete ignorance of both life and literature.

Any preoccupation with ideas of what is right or wrong in conduct shows an arrested intellectual development.

Anything becomes a pleasure if one does it too often.

A poet can survive anything but a misprint.

A really well-made buttonhole is the only link between Art and Nature.

As a rule, I dislike modern memoirs. They are generally written by people who have either entirely lost their memories, or have never done anything worth remembering.

As for modern journalism, it is not my business to defend it. It justifies its own existence by the great Darwinian principle of the survival of the vulgarest.

As for the virtuous poor, one can pity them, of course, but one cannot possibly admire them.

As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular.

As soon as people are old enough to know better, they don't know anything at all.

A truth ceases to be true when more than one person believes in it.

Beautiful sins, like beautiful things, are the privileges of the rich.

Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.

Conscience and cowardice are really the same things. Conscience is the trade-name of the firm. That is all.

Death and vulgarity are the only two facts in the nineteenth century that one cannot explain away.

Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.

Dullness is the coming of age of seriousness.

Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.

Every great man nowadays has his disciples, and it is always Judas who writes the biography.

Experience is the name everyone gives to his mistakes.

Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.

Fashionable is what one wears oneself. What is unfashionable is what other people wear.

Good people do a great deal of harm in this world. Certainly the greatest harm that they do is that they make badness of such extraordinary importance.

Good resolutions are useless attempts to interfere with scientific laws.

Hesitation of any kind is a sign of mental decay in the young, of physical weakness in the old.

Humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the world�s original sin.


I adore political parties. They are the only place left to us where people don�t talk politics.


I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.

I am always astonishing myself. It is the only thing that makes life worth living.

I am not young enough to know everything.

I can believe anything, provided that it is quite incredible.

I can resist anything but temptation.

I can't help detesting my relations. I suppose that it comes from the fact that none of us can stand people having the same faults as ourselves.

I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects.

Ideals are dangerous things. Realities are better.

I don't like principles. I prefer prejudices.

If one tells the truth, one is sure, sooner or later, to be found out.

If the poor only had profiles there would be no difficulty in solving the problem of poverty.

If there was less sympathy in the world there would be less trouble in the world.


If you pretend to be good, the world takes you very seriously. If you pretend to be bad, it doesn't. Such is the astounding stupidity of optimism.

If you want to mar a nature, you have merely to reform it.

Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it, and the bloom is gone.


I know, of course, how important it is not to keep a business engagement, if one wants to retain any sense of the beauty of life.

I love hearing my relations abused. It is the only thing that makes me put up with them at all.

I love scandals about other people, but scandals about myself don�t interest me. They have not got the charm of novelty.

I love scrapes. They are the only things that are never serious.

Imagination is a quality given a man to compensate him for what he is not, and a sense of humour was provided to console him for what he is.

In all unimportant matters, style, not sincerity, is the essential. In all important matters, style, not sincerity, is the essential.

In a Temple everyone should be serious, except the thing that is worshipped.

Industry is the root of all ugliness.

I never quarrel with anyone. My one quarrel is with words. That is the reason I hate vulgar realism in literature. The man who could call a spade a spade should be compelled to use one.

I never take any notice of what common people say, and I never interfere with what charming people do.

I never talk during music, at least during good music. If one hears bad music, it is one�s duty to drown it in conversation.

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.

In examinations the foolish ask questions that the wise cannot answer.

Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face.

I quite admit that modern novels have many good points. All I insist on is that they, as a class, are quite unreadable.

I sometimes think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.

I suppose society is wonderfully delightful. To be in it is merely a bore. But to be out of it is simply a tragedy.

It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.

It is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth.

It is a very sad thing that nowadays there is so little useless information.

It is a very dangerous thing to listen. If one listens one may be convinced; and a man who allows himself to be convinced by an argument is a thoroughly unreasonable person.

It is better to be beautiful than to be good. But on the other hand no one is more ready than I am to acknowledge that it is better to be good than to be ugly.

It is only by not paying one�s bills that one can hope to live in the memory of the commercial classes.


It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.

It is only shallow people who require years to get rid of an emotion. A man who is master of himself can end a sorrow as easily as he can invent a pleasure.

It is only the intellectually lost who ever argue.

It is only the superficial qualities that last. Man's deeper nature is soon found out.

It is perfectly monstrous the way people go about nowadays saying things behind one�s back that are absolutely and entirely true.

Land has ceased to be either a profit or a pleasure. It gives one position, and prevents one from keeping it up.

Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and is far the best ending for one.

Learned conversation is either the affectation of the ignorant or the profession of the mentally unemployed.

London is too full of fogs and serious people. Whether the fogs produce the serious people or whether the serious people produce the fogs, I don�t know.

Lying for a monthly salary is, of course, well known in Fleet Street.

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.

Manners before morals!

Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.

Modern morality consists in accepting the standard of one�s age. I consider that for any man of culture to accept the standard of his age is a form of the grossest immorality.

Morality is simply the attitude we adopt to people whom we personally dislike.

Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else�s opinions, their life a mimicry, their passions a quotation.

Musical people are so absurdly unreasonable. They always want one to be perfectly dumb when one is longing to be absolutely deaf.

Music makes one feel so romantic � at least it always gets on one�s nerves.

My own business always bores me to death. I prefer other people's.

Never speak disrespectfully of society. Only people who can�t get into it do that.

No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved.

No civilised man ever regrets a pleasure, just as no uncivilised man ever knows what a pleasure is.

No crime is vulgar, but all vulgarity is crime. Vulgarity is the conduct of others.

No gentleman ever has any money.


No gentleman ever takes exercise.

No life is spoiled but one whose growth is arrested.

Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.

Nothing is so aggravating as calmness. There is something positively brutal about the good temper of most modern men.

Nothing that actually occurs is of the smallest importance.


Nowadays people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover too late that the only things one never regrets are one�s mistakes.

Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Nowadays to be intelligible is to be found out.

Oh, I like tedious, practical subjects. What I don't like are tedious, practical people. There is a wide difference.

One can always be nice to people about whom one cares nothing.

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

One must have some occupation nowadays. If I hadn�t my debts I shouldn�t have anything to think about.

One regrets the loss of one�s worst habits. Perhaps one regrets them the most. They are such an essential part of one�s personality.

One should always absorb the colour of life, but one should never remember the details. Details are always vulgar.

One should always be a little improbable. The improbable is always in bad, or at any rate, questionable taste.

One should be thankful that there is any fault of which one can be unjustly accused.

One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.

One should never do anything that one cannot talk about after dinner.

One should never listen. To listen is a sign of indifference to one's hearers.

One should read everything. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read.

Only people who look dull ever get into the House of Commons, and only people who are dull ever succeed there.

Only the great masters of style ever succeeded in being obscure.

Only the shallow know themselves.

Philanthropic people lose all sense of humanity. It is their distinguishing characteristic.

Pleasure is the only thing one should live for. Nothing ages like happiness.

Pleasure is the only thing worth having a theory about.

Public opinion exists only where there are no ideas.

Punctuality is the thief of time.

Questions are never indiscreet. Answers sometimes are.

Really, if the lower orders don�t set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them?

Really, now that the House of Commons is trying to become useful, it does a great deal of harm.

Relations are simply a tedious pack of people, who haven't the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die.

Religion is the fashionable substitute for belief.

Religions die when they are proved to be true. Science is the record of dead religions,

Sentimentality is merely the Bank Holiday of cynicism.

Sentiment is all very well for the buttonhole. But the essential thing for a necktie is style. A well-tied tie is the first serious step in life.

Sin is the only real colour element left in modern life.

Society, civilised society at least, is never very ready to believe anything to the detriment of those who are both rich and fascinating.

Taking sides is the beginning of sincerity, and earnestness follows shortly afterwards, and the human being becomes a bore.

Talk to every woman as if you loved her, and to every man as if he bored you, and at the end of your first season, you will have the reputation of possessing the most perfect social tact.

The ages live in history through their anachronisms.

The basis of every scandal is an immoral certainty.


The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.

The condition of perfection is idleness: the aim of perfection is youth.

The English country gentleman galloping after a fox - the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.

The English have a miraculous power of turning wine into water.

The first duty in life is to be as artificial as possible. What the second duty is no one has yet discovered.

The man who sees both sides of a question is a man who sees absolutely nothing at all.

The old believe everything: the middle-aged suspect everything: the young know everything.

The only difference between a saint and a sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.

The only way to atone for being occasionally a little over-dressed is by always being absolutely over-educated.

The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.

The problem with conversation is that the clever people never listen, and the stupid people never talk.

The public is wonderfully tolerant. It forgives everything except genius.

There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating � people who know absolutely everything and people who know absolutely nothing.

There are only two ways a man can reach civilisation. One is by being cultured, the other is by being corrupt.

The reason why we all like to think so well of others is that we are all afraid for ourselves. The basis of optimism is sheer terror.

There is a fatality about all good resolutions. They are invariably made too soon.

There is always something infinitely mean about other people's tragedies.

There is hardly a single person in the House of Commons worth painting; though many of them would be better for a little white-washing.

There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

There is no reason why a man should show his life to the world. The world does not understand things.

There is no secret of life. Life's aim, if it has one, is simply to be always looking for temptation.

There is no sin except stupidity.

There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

There is something tragic about the enormous number of young men there are in England at the present moment who start life with perfect profiles, and end by adopting some useful profession.

The secret of remaining young is never to have an emotion that is unbecoming.

The soul is born old but grows young. That is the comedy of life. And the body is born young and grows old. That is life's tragedy.

The terror of society is the basis of morals.

The things one feels absolutely certain about are never true.

The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is young.

The well-bred contradict other people. The wise contradict themselves.

The world has been made by fools that wise men should live in it.

The world is simply divided into two classes � those who believe the incredible, like the public � and those who do the improbable.

The youth of America is their oldest tradition. It has been going on now for three hundred years. To hear them talk one would imagine that they were in their first childhood. As far as civilisation goes they are in their second.

The youth of the present day are quite monstrous. They have absolutely no respect for dyed hair.

� They say that when good Americans die they go to Paris. � Really! And where do bad Americans go when they die? � They go to America.

Thinking is the most unhealthy thing in the world, and people die of it just as they do of any other disease. Fortunately, in England at any rate, thought is not catching. Our splendid physique as a people is entirely due to our national stupidity.

Those whom the gods love grow young.

Those who see any difference between soul and body have neither.

Time is waste of money.

To be good is to be in harmony with one�s self. Discord is to be forced to be in harmony with others.

To be modern is the only thing worth being nowadays.

To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up.

To be popular one must be a mediocrity.

To be premature is to be perfect.

To be really medieval one should have no body. To be really modern one should have no soul.

To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable.

To have been well brought up is a great drawback nowadays. It shuts one out from so much.

To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.

To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.

We can have in life but one great experience at best, and the secret of life is to reproduce that experience as often as possible.

We in the House of Lords are never in touch with public opinion. That makes us a civilised body.

We live in an age that reads too much to be wise, and thinks too much to be beautiful.

We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities.

What a pity that in life we only get our lessons when they are of no use to us.

What are American dry goods? American novels.

Whatever music sounds like, I am glad to say that it does not sound in the smallest degree like German.

What is said of a man is nothing. The point is, who says it.

� What is the difference between literature and journalism? � Oh! journalism is unreadable, and literature is not read. That is all.

What people call insincerity is simply a method by which we can multiply our personalities.

When a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.

When a man says that he has exhausted Life, one knows that life has exhausted him.

Whenever people agree with me, I always feel that I must be wrong.

When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the country one amuses other people. It is excessively boring.

When the gods choose to punish us, they merely answer our prayers.

When we are happy we are always good, but when we are good we are not always happy.

When we blame ourselves we feel that no one else has a right to blame us.


Wickedness is a myth invented by good people to account for the curious attraction of others.


Work is the curse of the drinking classes of this country.

Young people nowadays imagine that money is everything, and when they grow older they know it.

*** Men, Women, Love... ***

All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That is his.

A man can be happy with any woman, as long as he does not love her.

A man who moralises is usually a hypocrite and a woman who moralises is invariably plain.

American girls are as clever at concealing their parents as English women are at concealing their past.

An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be.

Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same.

Crying is the refuge of plain women, but the ruin of pretty ones.

Each time one loves is the only time one has ever loved. Difference of object does not alter singleness of passion. It merely intensifies it.

Faithfulness is to the emotional life what consistency is to the life of the intellect, simply a confession of failure.

Friendship is far more tragic than love. It lasts longer.

Good women have suck limited views of life, their horizon is so small, their interests are so petty.

I am not in favour of long engagements. They give people the opportunity to find out each other's characters before marriage, which I think is never advisable.

I am sick of women who love me. Women who hate me are much more interesting.

If a man is a gentleman, he knows quite enough, and if he is not a gentleman, whatever he knows is bad for him.

If a woman really repents, she has to go to a bad dressmaker, otherwise no one believes in her.

If a woman wants to hold a man, she has merely to appeal to the worst in him.

If we men married the woman we deserve, we should have a very tedious time of it.

I have often observed that in married households the champagne is rarely of a first-rate brand.

I like men who have a future and women who have a past.

In married life affection comes when people thoroughly dislike each other.

In married life three is company and two is none.

It is most dangerous nowadays for a husband to pay any attention to his wife in public. It always makes people think that he beats her when they are alone.

It takes a thoroughly good woman to do a thoroughly stupid thing.

London is full of women who trust their husbands. One can always recognise them. They look so thoroughly unhappy.

Men become old, but they never become good.

Men know life too early.

Men marry because they are tired; women because they are curious; both are disappointed.

More women grow old nowadays through the faithfulness of their admirers than through anything else.

Most women in London, nowadays, seem to furnish their rooms with nothing but orchids, foreigners, and French novels.

Mothers, of course, are all right. They pay a chap�s bills and don�t bother him. But fathers bother a chap and never pay his bills.

No married man is ever attractive except to his wife.

Nowadays all the married men live like bachelors, and all the bachelors like married men.

No woman should ever be quite accurate abuot her age. It looks so calculating.

One should always be in love. That is the reason why one should never marry.

One should never trust a woman who tells one her real age. A woman who would tell one that, would tell one anything.

Plain women are always jealous of their husbands, beautiful women never are. They are always so occupied in being jealous of other people�s husbands.

Romance should never begin with sentiment. It should begin with science and end with a settlement.

Talk to every woman as if you loved her, and to every man as if he bored you, and at the end of your first season, you will have the reputation of possessing the most perfect social tact.

The amount of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly scandalous. It looks so bad. It is simply washing one�s clean linen in public.

The Book of Life begins with a man and a woman in a garden. It ends with Revelations.

The one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties.

The only way a woman can ever reform a man is by boring him so completely that he loses all possible interest in life.

The only way to behave to a woman is to make love to her, if she is pretty, and to someone else, if she is plain.

The real drawback to marriage is that it makes one unselfish, and unselfish people are colourless. They lack individuality.

There is always something ridiculous about the emotions of people whom one has ceased to love.

There is nothing in the world like the devotion of a married woman. It is a thing no married man ever knows anything about.

There is only one real tragedy in a woman�s life. The fact that the past is always her lover, and her future invariably her husband.

The worst of having a romance of any kind is that it leaves one so unromantic.

Those who are faithful know only the trivial side of love; it is the faithless who know love's tragedies.

Twenty years of romance make a woman look like a ruin, but twenty years of marriage make her something like a public building.

� What do you call a bad man? � The sort of man who admires innocence. � And a bad woman? � The sort of woman a man never gets tired of.

When a woman marries again it is because she detested her first husband. When a man marries again, it is because he adored his first wife. Women try their luck, men risk theirs.

When one is in love one always begins by deceiving one�s self, and one always ends up by deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.

Wicked women bother one. Good women bore one. That is the only difference between them.

Women are never disarmed by compliments. Men always are. That is the difference between the two sexes.

Women have a wonderful instinct about things. They can discover everything except the obvious.

Women inspire us with the desire to do masterpieces, and always prevent us from carrying them out.

Women love us for our faults. If we have enough of them, they will forgive us anything, even our intellects.

Women represent the triumph of matter over mind; men represent the triumph of mind over morals.

Women treat us just as humanity treats its gods. They worship us, and are always bothering us to do something for them.

Women who have common sense are so curiously plain.

Young men want to be faithful, and are not; old men want to be faithless, and cannot.

Serendipity of the Alphabet