‘For that – for that – I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!” – Registered The Picture of Dorian Gray
‘The good ended happily and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.’
Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.
Experience is one thing you can’t get for nothing.
If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life.
When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is.
Women are made to be loved, not understood.
Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
Experience is simply the name we give out mistakes.
Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.
I see when men love women. How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being.
I see when men love women. They give them but a little of their lives. But women when they love give everything.
How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being.
Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.
No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist.
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.
Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is far the best ending for one.
I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.
Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.
Society exists only as a mental concept in the real world there are only individuals.
I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.
Our ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one of us; and true progress is to know more, and be more, and to do more.
The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.
Between men and women there is no friendship possible. There is passion, enmity, worship, love, but not friendship.
Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with us.
Men always want to be a woman’s first love – women like to be a man’s last romance.
Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.
True friends stab you in the front.
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.
There is nothing in the world like the devotion of a married woman. It is a thing no married man knows anything about.
To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.
The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it… I can resist everything but temptation.
Selfish is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.
To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.
Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.
A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally.
The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.
It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.
Life is never fair, and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not.
I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.
There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.
This suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.
You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you have never had the courage to commit.
It is better to be beautiful than to be good. But… it is better to be good than to be ugly.
The world is divided into two classes, those who believe the incredible, and those who do the improbable.
The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.
Work is the curse of the drinking glasses.
Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike.
Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about.
Women love us for our defects. If we have enough of them, they will forgive us everything, even our gigantic intellects.
Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.
Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.
A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.
Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
When a man has once loved a woman he will do anything for her except continue to love her.
A man who does not think for himself does not think at all.
Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the result.
Hatred is blind, as well as love.
Ordinary riches can be stolen; real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.
I am not young enough to know everything.
Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong.
Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.
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.
Woman begins by resisting a man’s advances and ends by blocking his retreat.
Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
In modern life nothing produces such an effect as a good platitude. It makes the whole world kin.
A man can be happy with any woman, as long as he does not love her.
The difference between literature and journalism is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read.
Nothing is so aggravating than calmness.
There is something terribly morbid in the modern sympathy with pain. One should sympathise with the colour, the beauty, the joy of life. The less said about life’s sores the better.
The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.
If one could only teach the English how to talk, and the Irish how to listen, society here would be quite civilized.
She is a peacock in everything but beauty.
There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
Ridicule is the tribute paid to the genius by the mediocrities.
There is only one class in the community that thinks more about money than the rich, and that is the poor. The poor can think of nothing else.
Seriousness is the only refuge of the shallow.
All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.
In America the President reigns for four years, and Journalism governs forever and ever.
He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.
The typewriting machine, when played with expression, is no more annoying than the piano when played by a sister or near relation.
A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament.
The basis of optimism is sheer terror.
There are many things that we would throw away if we were not afraid that others might pick them up.
Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same.
Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.
If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.
The salesman knows nothing of what he is selling save that he is charging a great deal too much for it.
I think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.
Ambition is the germ from which all of nobleness proceeds.
The truth is rarely pure and never simple.
Man can believe the impossible, but man can never believe the improbable.
I can resist everything but temptation.
Do you really think it is weakness that yields to temptation? I tell you that there are terrible temptations which it requires strength, strength and courage to yield to.
Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.
One should always be in love. That is the reason one should never marry.
No man is rich enough to buy back his past.
Romance should never begin with sentiment. It should begin with science and end with a settlement.
There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating – people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing.
The one charm about marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties.
An excellent man; he has no enemies; and none of his friends like him.
Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life.
Most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.
Pessimist: One who, when he has the choice of two evils, chooses both.
It is through art, and through art only, that we can realise our perfection.
The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything.
An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.
All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.
Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious.
As long as a woman can look ten years younger than her own daughter, she is perfectly satisfied.
I sometimes think that God in creating man somewhat overestimated his ability.
What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious; both are disappointed.
Who, being loved, is poor?
It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.
There is a luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves we feel no one else has a right to blame us.
To lose one parent may be regarded as misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.
America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.
One should always play fairly when one has the winning cards.
Questions are never indiscreet, answers sometimes are.
A man’s face is his autobiography. A woman’s face is her work of fiction.
When the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers.
The man who can dominate a London dinner-table can dominate the world.
Deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.
Ambition is the last refuge of the failure.
Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.
The public is wonderfully tolerant. It forgives everything except genius.
I like persons better than principles, and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world.
One can survive everything, nowadays, except death, and live down everything except a good reputation.
America had often been discovered before Columbus, but it had always been hushed up.
There is nothing so difficult to marry as a large nose.
There is no sin except stupidity.
Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.
The moment you think you understand a great work of art, it’s dead for you.
A poet can survive everything but a misprint.
I have nothing to declare except my genius.
The critic has to educate the public; the artist has to educate the critic.
The well bred contradict other people. The wise contradict themselves.
When good Americans die they go to Paris.
It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.
One’s real life is so often the life that one does not lead.
What we have to do, what at any rate it is our duty to do, is to revive the old art of Lying.
It is only an auctioneer who can equally and impartially admire all schools of art.
Only the shallow know themselves.
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.
The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast.
A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.
The advantage of the emotions is that they lead us astray.
I am the only person in the world I should like to know thoroughly.
I want my food dead. Not sick, not dying, dead.
If there was less sympathy in the world, there would be less trouble in the world.
While we look to the dramatist to give romance to realism, we ask of the actor to give realism to romance.
I suppose society is wonderfully delightful. To be in it is merely a bore. But to be out of it is simply a tragedy.
I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.
Everybody who is incapable of learning has taken to teaching.
I can stand brute force, but brute reason is quite unbearable. There is something unfair about its use. It is hitting below the intellect.
I put all my genius into my life; I put only my talent into my works.
In America the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience.
If one plays good music, people don’t listen and if one plays bad music people don’t talk.
Arguments are to be avoided: they are always vulgar and often convincing.
There’s nothing in the world like the devotion of a married woman. It’s a thing no married man knows anything about.
The world has grown suspicious of anything that looks like a happily married life.
It is a very sad thing that nowadays there is so little useless information.
A man can’t be too careful in the choice of his enemies.
The imagination imitates. It is the critical spirit that creates.
Arguments are extremely vulgar, for everyone in good society holds exactly the same opinion.
It is only the modern that ever becomes old-fashioned.
How marriage ruins a man! It is ad demoralizing as cigarettes, and far more expensive.
Those whom the gods love grow young.
One of the many lessons that one learns in prison is, that things are what they are and will be what they will be.
In married life three is company and two none.
Charity creates a multitude of sins.
Anybody can be good in the country. There are no temptations there.
Biography lends to death a new terror.
There is always something infinitely mean about other people’s tragedies.
No object is so beautiful that, under certain conditions, it will not look ugly.
Women are never disarmed by compliments. Men always are. That is the difference between the sexes.
Illusion is the first of all pleasures.
There is always something ridiculous about the emotions of people whom one has ceased to love.
No woman should ever be quite accurate about her age. It looks so calculating.
Why was I born with such contemporaries?
There is no necessity to separate the monarch from the mob; all authority is equally bad.
One’s past is what one is. It is the only way by which people should be judged.
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written.
Alas, I am dying beyond my means.
All art is quite useless.
Fathers should be neither seen nor heard. That is the only proper basis for family life.
In all matters of opinion, our adversaries are insane.
Death and vulgarity are the only two facts in the nineteenth century that one cannot explain away.
Now that the House of Commons is trying to become useful, it does a great deal of harm.
Perhaps, after all, America never has been discovered. I myself would say that it had merely been detected.
Mr. Henry James writes fiction as if it were a painful duty.
It is always the unreadable that occurs.
It is only by not paying one’s bills that one can hope to live in the memory of the commercial classes.
It’s certainly true that I was brought up in that British amateur tradition, the one which always held that if you were reasonably good at cricket, knew one or two Latin texts and a few zingy Oscar Wilde quotes for dinner parties, you were pretty much ready to go and run some outpost in Hindustan.
Oscar Wilde turned the world upside down and was able to laugh at it, and hopefully by the time I’m 120 and worn out, that’s what I will achieve. I love being alive so much.
‘Do you mind if I smoke?’ Sarah Bernhardt: ‘I don’t care if you burn.’
Oscar Wilde said the rich and the poor are equal – they can both sleep under the bridge. Right? Do they have a right? You’re damn right they have a right!
Everyone says Oscar Wilde was a dandy, but he wasn’t – he was an aesthete. He took pleasure in food and stuff like that. dandyism is much more austere – much more Calvinistic, more neurotic – it oscillates between narcissism and neurosis.
As Oscar Wilde should have said, when bad ideas have nowhere else to go, they emigrate to America and become university courses.
Oscar Wilde always makes me smile – with respect and admiration. His short stories prove that it is possible to be both sarcastic, even cynical, but deeply compassionate. Just seeing the cover of one of Wilde’s books in a bookshop makes me smile.
I’m sure I’ve been influenced by every fine writer I’ve ever read, from Dickens and Austen to Auden and Jane Hirshfield. And also, the short stories of Updike, Cheever, Munro, Alice Adams, and Doris Lessing. And the plays of Oscar Wilde. And paintings by Alice Neel and Matisse.
Born: 16 October 1854
Died: 30 November 1900