The Wit and Humor of Oscar Wilde

The Wit and Humor of Oscar Wilde

by Oscar Wilde
     
 

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More than 1000 ripostes, paradoxes, and epigrams on sin, society, genius, wealth, men, women, religion, America, education, and smoking: "Work is the curse of the drinking classes," "I can resist everything except temptation," etcetera. Also excerpts from his trial testimony, where the tragedy implicit in Wilde's humor is nowhere more vivid.
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More than 1000 ripostes, paradoxes, and epigrams on sin, society, genius, wealth, men, women, religion, America, education, and smoking: "Work is the curse of the drinking classes," "I can resist everything except temptation," etcetera. Also excerpts from his trial testimony, where the tragedy implicit in Wilde's humor is nowhere more vivid.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780486122434
Publisher:
Dover Publications
Publication date:
06/14/2012
Series:
Dover Humor
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
258
Sales rank:
1,013,790
File size:
2 MB

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The Wit and Humor of Oscar Wilde


By Alvin Redman

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1959 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-12243-4



CHAPTER 1

MEN


Oscar Wilde lived in an age of fainting femininity and masculine muscularity. Men exerted the dominance of their sex and relegated women to a position of quiescent inactivity and idealistic purity.

In this period, Shaw the Socialist, was a prominent figure of Fabianism and social reform, whilst Wilde the Hedonist, led the revolt against middle-class equanimity and Victorian respectability. Oscar Wilde, with his preoccupation with beauty and aestheticism, was the direct opposite of the current ideal of Victorian manhood; yet he, who was so unlike the period, has come to represent it.

* * *

Men become old, but they never become good.

Lady Windermere's Fan.

* * *

MRS. ALLONBY: I delight in men over seventy, they always offer one the devotion of a lifetime.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

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

In Conversation.

* * *

How many men there are in modern life who would like to see their past burning to white ashes before them?

An Ideal Husband.

* * *

Bachelors are not fashionable any more. They are a damaged lot. Too much is known about them.

An Ideal Husband.


Formerly we used to canonize our heroes. The modern method is to vulgarize them. Cheap editions of great books may be delightful, but cheap editions of great men are absolutely detestable.

The Critic as Artist.

* * *

No man is rich enough to buy back his past.

An Ideal Husband.

* * *

MRS. ALLONBY: Man, poor, awkward, reliable, necessary man belongs to a sex that has been rational for millions and millions of years. He can't help himself. It is in his race. The History of Woman is very different. We have always been picturesque protests against the mere existence of common sense. We saw its dangers from the first.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

The evolution of man is slow. The injustice of man is great.

The Soul of Man Under Socialism.

* * *

... one is tempted to define man as a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of his reason.

The Critic as Artist.

* * *

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

Lady Windermere's Fan.

* * *

He must be quite respectable. One has never heard his name before in the whole course of one's life, which speaks volumes for a man, nowadays.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

By persistently remaining single, a man converts himself into a permanent public temptation. Men should be more careful; this very celibacy leads weaker vessels astray.

The Importance of Being Earnest.


CECILY: A man who is much talked about is always attractive. One feels there must be something in him, after all.

The Importance of Being Earnest.

* * *

Rich bachelors should be heavily taxed. It is not fair that some men should be happier than others.

In Conversation.

* * *

Men are horribly tedious when they are good husbands, and abominably conceited when they are not.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

A man cannot always be estimated by what he does. He may keep the law, and yet be worthless. He may break the law and yet be fine.

The Soul of Man Under Socialism.

* * *

When a man acts he is a puppet. When he describes he is a poet.

In Conversation.

* * *

LADY WINDERMERE: ... I don't like compliments, and I don't see why a man should think he is pleasing a woman enormously when he says to her a whole heap of things that he doesn't mean.

Lady Windermere's Fan.

* * *

He has one of those terribly weak natures that are not susceptible to influence.

An Ideal Husband.

* * *

On a view from an hotel window:

Oh, that is altogether immaterial, except to the proprietor, who of course charges it in the bill. A gentleman never looks out of the window.

In Conversation.


A bad man is the sort of man who admires innocence, and a bad woman is the sort of woman a man never gets tired of.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

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

The Picture of Dorian Gray.

* * *

The husbands of very beautiful women belong to the criminal classes.

The Picture of Dorian Gray.

* * *

MRS. ALLONBY: The Ideal Man ... he should always say much more than he means, and always mean much more than he says.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

What on earth should we men do going about with purity and innocence? A carefully thought-out buttonhole is much more effective.

Lady Windermere's Fan.

* * *

MRS. ALLONBY: The Ideal Man ... should never run down other pretty women. That would show he had no taste or make one suspect that he had too much.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

When a man is old enough to do wrong he should be old enough to do right also.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

What a man really has, is what is in him. What is outside of him should be a matter of no importance.

The Soul of Man Under Socialism.


... one of Nature's gentlemen, the worst type of gentleman I know.

Lady Windermere's Fan.

* * *

Men who are trying to do something for the world, are always insufferable, when the world has done something for them, they are charming.

In Conversation.

* * *

MRS. ALLONBY: He should invariably praise us for whatever qualities he knows we haven't got. But he should be pitiless, quite pitiless, in reproaching us for the virtues we have never dreamed of possessing.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

MRS. ALLONBY: Nothing is so aggravating as calmness. There is something positively brutal about the good temper of most modern men. I wonder we women stand it as well as we do.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

When men give up saying what is charming, they give up thinking what is charming.

Lady Windermere's Fan.

* * *

Man can believe the impossible, but man can never believe the improbable.

The Decay of Lying.

* * *

The true perfection of man lies, not in what man has, but in what man is.

The Soul of Man Under Socialism.

CHAPTER 2

WOMEN


Men are appealed to through their eyes—women through their ears. It was inevitable, therefore, that women should find Oscar Wilde attractive. They were charmed by his conversation, his understanding, his flattery, his sympathy and his apparent interest in them.

On his return from America Wilde, talking of the fuss made of him by the American women, said he had employed two secretaries, one being responsible for the autographs, the other for the locks of his hair, and that in six months the first had died of writer's cramp—the other was completely bald.

* * *

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

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

Women—Sphinxes without secrets.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

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

Lady Wandermere's Fan.

* * *

Women know life too late. That is the difference between men and women.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

Women are meant to be loved, not to be understood.

The Sphinx Without a Secret.


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

Lady Windermere's Fan.

* * *

Never trust a woman who wears mauve, whatever her age may be, or a woman over thirty-five who is fond of pink ribbons. It always means they have a history.

The Picture of Dorian Gray.

* * *

I don't know that women are always rewarded for being charming. I think they are usually punished for it!

An Ideal Husband.

* * *

If a woman really repents, she never wishes to return to the society that has made or seen her ruin.

Lady Windermere's Fan.

* * *

I don't think there is a woman in the world who would not be a little flattered if one made love to her. It is that which makes women so irresistibly adorable.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

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

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

She'll never love you unless you are always at her heels; women like to be bothered.

Vera, or The Nihilists.

* * *

A woman will flirt with anybody in the world as long as other people are looking on.

The Picture of Dorian Gray.


Plain women are always jealous of their husbands. Beautiful women never have time. They are always so occupied in being jealous of other people's husbands.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

Thirty-five is a very attractive age, London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years.

The Importance of Being Earnest.

* * *

It is perfectly brutal the way most women nowadays behave to men who are not their husbands.

Lady Windermere's Fan.

* * *

Women forgive adoration; that is quite as much as should be expected from them.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

MRs. ALLONBY: We women adore failures. They lean on us.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

Women defend themselves by attacking, just as they attack by sudden and strange surrender.

The Picture of Dorian Gray.

* * *

No woman, plain or pretty, has any common sense at all. Common sense is the privilege of our sex.

An Ideal Husband.

* * *

Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly. Women represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as men represent the triumph of mind over morals.

The Picture of Dorian Gray.


I don't mind plain women being Puritans. It is the only excuse they have for being plain.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

Women love us for our defects. If we have enough of them, they will forgive us everything, even our own gigantic intellects.

A Woman o of No Importance.

* * *

My dear young lady, there was a great deal of truth, I dare say, in what you said, and you looked very pretty while you said it, which is much more important.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

I don't believe in women thinking too much. Women should think in moderation, as they should do all things in moderation.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

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

The Picture of Dorian Gray.

* * *

Women have no appreciation of good looks; at least good women have not.

The Picture of Dorian Gray.

* * *

How hard good women are!

How weak bad men are!

Lady Windermere's Fan.

* * *

No woman should have a memory. Memory in a woman is the beginning of dowdiness.

A Woman of No Importance.


The three women I have most admired are Queen Victoria, Sarah Bernhardt and Lily Langtry. I would have married any one of them with pleasure. The first had great dignity, the second a lovely voice, the third a perfect figure.

In Conversation.

* * *

The one charm of the past is that it is past. But women never know when the curtain has fallen.

The Picture of Dorian Gray.

* * *

I am afraid that women appreciate cruelty, downright cruelty, more than anything else. They have wonderfully primitive instincts. We have emancipated them, but they remain slaves looking for their masters all the same.

The Picture of Dorian Gray.

* * *

Every woman is a rebel, and usually in wild revolt against herself.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

Every woman does talk too much.

Vera, or The Nihilists.

* * *

The English young lady is the dragon of good taste.

An Ideal Husband.

* * *

What have women who have not sinned to do with me, or I with them ? We do not understand each other.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

Women are not meant to judge us, but to forgive us when we need forgiveness Pardon not punishment, is their mission.

An Ideal Husband.


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

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

She looks like a woman with a past. Most pretty women do.

An Ideal Husband.

* * *

Women are the most reliable as they have no memory for the important.

Letter to Robert Ross written from Reading Prison.

* * *

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

An Ideal Husband.

* * *

GERALD: ... there are many different kinds of women, aren't there?

LORD ILLINGWORTH: Only two kinds in society: the plain and the coloured.

GERALD: But there are good women in society, aren't there?

LORD ILLINGWORTH: Far too many.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

The history of women is the history of the worst form of tyranny the world has ever known. The tyranny of the weak over the strong. It is the only tyranny that lasts.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

Women give to men the very gold of their lives. But they invariably want it back in small change.

In Conversation.

* * *

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

An Ideal Husband.


Immoral women are rarely attractive. What made her quite irresistible was that she was unmoral.

In Conversation.

* * *

LORD ILLINGWORTH: ... What a typical woman you are! You talk sentimentally, and you are thoroughly selfish the whole time.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

It is said, of course, that she ran away twice before she was married. But you know how unfair people often are. I myself don't believe she ran away more than once.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

I have met hundreds of good women. I never seem to meet any but good women. The world is perfectly packed with good women. To know them is a middle-class education.

Lady Windermere's Fan.

* * *

Women, as some witty Frenchman once put it, inspire us with the desire to do masterpieces, and always prevent us from carrying them out.

The Picture of Dorian Gray.

* * *

She was made to be an ambassador's wife. She certainly has a wonderful faculty of remembering people's names, and forgetting their faces.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

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

The Picture of Dorian Gray.

* * *

No man has any real success in this world unless he has got women to back him, and women rule society.

In Conversation.


There is one thing infinitely more pathetic than to have lost the woman one is in love with, and that is to have won her and found out how shallow she is.

In Conversation.

* * *

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

The Importance of Being Earnest.

* * *

GERALD: It is very difficult to understand women, is it not?

LORD ILLINGWORTH: You should never try to understand them. Women are pictures. Men are problems.

A Woman of No Importance.

* * *

I don't think now that people can be divided into the good and the bad as though they were two separate races or creatures. What are called good women may have terrible things in them, mad moods of recklessness, assertion, jealousy, sin. Bad women, as they are termed, may have in them sorrow, repentance, pity, sacrifice.

Lady Windermere's Fan.

* * *

The most important consolation that women find in modern life is taking someone else's admirer when one loses one's own. In good society that always whitewashes a woman.

The Picture of Dorian Gray.

* * *

MRS. CHEVELEY: The strength of women comes from the fact that psychology cannot explain us. Men can be analysed and women ... merely adored.

An Ideal Husband.

* * *

Repentance is quite out of date and besides, if a woman really repents, she has to go to a bad dressmaker, otherwise no one believes her.

Lady Windermere's Fan.

Being adored is a nuisance. Women treat us just as Humanity treats its Gods. They worship us and are always asking us to do something for them.

The Picture of Dorian Gray.

* * *

She is a peacock in everything but beauty.

The Picture of Dorian Gray.

* * *

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

An Ideal Husband.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Wit and Humor of Oscar Wilde by Alvin Redman. Copyright © 1959 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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