The The Wit and Wisdom of Oscar Wilde Wit and Wisdom of Oscar Wilde

The The Wit and Wisdom of Oscar Wilde Wit and Wisdom of Oscar Wilde

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by Oscar Wilde
     
 

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"I have put my genius into my life," declared Oscar Wilde, adding, "I have put only my talent into my works." This gift edition of the renowned poet and playwright's aphorisms draws upon both realms. Hundreds of sparkling jests and epigrams include quips from Wilde's personal letters and conversations as well as his fiction, essays, lectures, and plays. The most… See more details below

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"I have put my genius into my life," declared Oscar Wilde, adding, "I have put only my talent into my works." This gift edition of the renowned poet and playwright's aphorisms draws upon both realms. Hundreds of sparkling jests and epigrams include quips from Wilde's personal letters and conversations as well as his fiction, essays, lectures, and plays. The most comprehensive collection of Wilde's witticisms, it will delight both longtime fans and new readers.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780486168425
Publisher:
Dover Publications
Publication date:
05/05/2014
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
359,108
File size:
3 MB

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The Wit and Wisdom of Oscar Wilde


By Bob Blaisdell, Odette Blaisdell

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-16842-5



CHAPTER 1

Rules to Live By


Life is not complex. We are complex. Life is simple, and the simple thing is the right thing. —Letter from prison [April 1, 1897]

Life's aim, if it has one, is simply to be always looking for temptations. There are not nearly enough. I sometimes pass a whole day without coming across a single one. —Lord Illingworth, A Woman of No Importance, Act 3

* * *

"The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful." —Lord Henry, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Ch. 2

* * *

Life is never fair ... And perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not. —Lord Goring, An Ideal Husband, Act 2

* * *

... you've lost your figure and you've lost your character. Don't lose your temper; you have only got one. —Cecil Graham, Lady Windermere's Fan, Act 3

* * *

To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance ... —Lord Goring, An Ideal Husband, Act 3

* * *

One should always be a little improbable. —"Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young"

* * *

"It is always a silly thing to give advice, but to [take] good advice is absolutely fatal. I hope you will never fall into that error. If you do, you will be sorry for it." —Erskine, "The Portrait of Mr. W. H."

* * *

I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself. —Lord Goring, An Ideal Husband, Act 1

* * *

You know what beautiful, wise, sensible schemes of life people bring to one: there is nothing to be said against them: except that they are not for oneself. —Letter [November 16, 1897]

* * *

... it is absurd to have a hard-and-fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn't. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read. —Algernon, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1

* * *

... the truth isn't quite the sort of thing one tells to a nice, sweet, refined girl. —Jack, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1

* * *

A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal. —Gilbert, The Critic as Artist, Part 2

* * *

"I can sympathize with everything, except suffering.... I cannot sympathize with that. It is too ugly, too horrible, too distressing. There is something terribly morbid in the modern sympathy with pain. One should sympathize with the colour, the beauty, the joy of life. The less said about life's sores the better." —Lord Henry, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Ch. 3

* * *

It is always with the best intentions that the worst work is done. —Gilbert, The Critic as Artist, Part 2

* * *

"Had I been treated differently by the newspapers in England and in this country, had I been commended and endorsed, for the first time in my life I should have doubted myself and my mission." —Wilde, as quoted in conversation [OW]

... there are moments when one has to choose between living one's own life, fully, entirely, completely—or dragging out some false, shallow, degrading existence that the world in its hypocrisy demands. —Lord Darlington, Lady Windermere's Fan, Act 2

* * *

To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. —"The Soul of Man under Socialism"

* * *

"To realize one's nature perfectly—that is what each of us is here for." —Lord Henry, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Ch. 2

* * *

One should never take sides in anything ... Taking sides is the beginning of sincerity, and earnestness follows shortly afterwards, and the human being becomes a bore. —Lord Illingworth, A Woman of No Importance, Act 1

The Philistine may ... object that to be absolutely perfect is impossible. Well, that is so: but then it is only the impossible things that are worth doing nowadays! —"Mrs. Langtry as Hester Grazebrook"

* * *

To ask whether Individualism is practical is like asking whether Evolution is practical. Evolution is the law of life, and there is no evolution except towards Individualism. —"The Soul of Man under Socialism"

* * *

Complex people waste half their strength in trying to conceal what they do. Is it any wonder they should always come to grief? —Letter from prison [April 6, 1897]

It was horrid of me not to answer before, but a nice letter is like a sunbeam and should not be treated as an epistle needing a reply. —Letter [c. July, 1883]

* * *

Cultivated idleness seems to me to be the proper occupation for man. —Letter [August 13, 1890]

* * *

If a man needs an elaborate tombstone in order to remain in the memory of his country, it is clear his living at all was an act of absolute superfluity. Keats's grave is a hillock of green grass with a plain headstone, and is to me the holiest place in Rome. —Letter [January 14, 1885]

* * *

To undress is romance, to dress, philanthropy. —Letter [c. November 23, 1898]

He was always late on principle, his principle being that punctuality is the thief of time. —The Picture of Dorian Gray, Ch. 4

* * *

... it is always nice to be expected, and not to arrive. —Lord Goring, An Ideal Husband, Act 3

* * *

At every single moment of one's life one is what one is going to be no less than what one has been. —De Profundis

* * *

"When we are happy we are always good, but when we are good we are not always happy." —Lord Henry, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Ch. 6

A man whose desire is to be something separate from himself, to be a member of Parliament, or a successful grocer, or a prominent solicitor, or a judge, or something equally tedious, invariably succeeds in being what he wants to be. That is his punishment. —De Profundis

* * *

In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. —Dumby, Lady Windermere's Fan, Act 3

* * *

... "too late now" are in art and life the most tragical words. —Letter [March 23, 1883]

* * *

I am one of those who are made for exceptions, not for laws. —De Profundis

CHAPTER 2

Men versus Women


"A man's face is his autobiography. A woman's face is her work of fiction." —Wilde, as quoted in conversation [OW]

Wicked women bother one. Good women bore one. That is the only difference between them. —Cecil Graham, Lady Windermere's Fan, Act 3

* * *

... the strength of women comes from the fact that psychology cannot explain us. Men can be analysed, women ... merely adored. —Mrs. Cheveley, An Ideal Husband, Act 1

* * *

A man who moralizes is usually a hypocrite, and a woman who moralizes is invariably plain. —Cecil Graham, Lady Windermere's Fan, Act 3

* * *

"We women, as someone says, love with our ears, just as you men love with your eyes, if you ever love at all." —Duchess of Monmouth, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Ch. 17

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. —Mrs. Allonby, A Woman of No Importance, Act 2

* * *

... the Ideal Man should talk to us as if we were goddesses, and treat us as if we were children. He should refuse all our serious requests, and gratify every one of our whims. He should encourage us to have caprices, and forbid us to have missions. He should always say much more than he means, and always mean much more than he says. —Mrs. Allonby, A Woman of No Importance, Act 2

* * *

I don't mind plain women being Puritans. It is the only excuse they have for being plain. —Lord Illingworth, A Woman of No Importance, Act 1

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

Lord Goring: Quite so. And we men are so self-sacrificing that we never use it, do we, Father? —An Ideal Husband, Act 3

* * *

Do you know, I don't believe in the existence of Puritan women? 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. —Lord Illingworth, A Woman of No Importance, Act 1

* * *

"... no woman is a genius. 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." —Lord Henry, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Ch. 4

... women are never disarmed by compliments. Men always are. That is the difference between the two sexes. —Mrs. Cheveley, An Ideal Husband, Act 3

* * *

All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his. —Algernon, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1

* * *

Women defend themselves by attacking, just as they attack by sudden and strange surrenders. —The Picture of Dorian Gray, Ch. 5

* * *

... don't be led astray into the paths of virtue. Reformed, you would be perfectly tedious. That is the worst of women. They always want one to be good. And if we are good, when they meet us, they don't love us at all. They like to find us quite irretrievably bad, and to leave us quite unattractively good. —Cecil Graham, Lady Windermere's Fan, Act 3

"... the only way a woman can ever reform a man is by boring him so completely that he loses all possible interest in life." —Lord Henry, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Ch. 8

* * *

"Women love us for our defects. If we have enough of them they will forgive us everything, even our intellects." —Lord Henry, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Ch. 15

"Being adored is a nuisance. Women treat us just as humanity treats its gods. They worship us, and are always bothering us to do something for them." —Lord Henry, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Ch. 6

Why can't you women love us, faults and all? Why do you place us on monstrous pedestals? We have all feet of clay, women as well as men: but when we men love women, we love them knowing their weaknesses, their follies, their imperfections, love them all the more, it may be, for that reason. It is not the perfect, but the imperfect, who have need of love. —Sir Robert Chiltern, An Ideal Husband, Act 2

* * *

If a woman wants to hold a man, she has merely to appeal to what is worst in him. —Lady Windermere, Lady Windermere's Fan, Act 3

* * *

Between men and women there is no friendship possible. There is passion, enmity, worship, love, but no friendship. —Lord Darlington, Lady Windermere's Fan, Act 2

Women have a wonderful instinct about things. They can discover everything except the obvious. —Lord Goring, An Ideal Husband, Act 2

"I like men who have a future and women who have a past." —Lord Henry, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Ch. 15

* * *

Most women in London, nowadays, seem to furnish their rooms with nothing but orchids, foreigners, and French novels. —Lady Hunstanton, A Woman of No Importance, Act 4

Lady Stutfield: Ah! The world was made for men and not women.

Mrs. Allonby: Oh, don't say that, Lady Stutfield. We have a much better time than they have. There are far more things forbidden to us than are forbidden to them. —A Woman of No Importance, Act 1

* * *

Crying is the refuge of plain women but the ruin of pretty ones. —Duchess of Berwick, Lady Windermere's Fan, Act 1

* * *

... men can love what is beneath them—things unworthy, stained, dishonoured. We women worship when we love; and when we lose our worship, we lose everything. —Lady Chiltern, An Ideal Husband, Act 1

I am disgraced: he is not. That is all. It is the usual history of a man and a woman as it usually happens, as it always happens. And the ending is the ordinary ending. The woman suffers. The man goes free. —Mrs. Arbuthnot, A Woman of No Importance, Act 4

* * *

Lady Windermere: Are all men bad?

Duchess of Herwick: Oh, all of them, my dear, all of them without exception. And they never grow any better. Men become old, but they never become good. —Lady Windermere's Fan, Act 1

* * *

We make gods of men and they leave us. Others make brutes of them and they fawn and are faithful. —Lady Windermere, Lady Windermere's Fan, Act 3

"How fond women are of doing dangerous things! ... It is one of the qualities in them that I admire most. A woman will flirt with anybody in the world as long as other people are looking on." —Lord Henry, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Ch. 18

* * *

Lord Illingworth: We men know life too early.

Mrs. Arbuthnot: And we women know life too late. That is the difference between men and women. —A Woman of No Importance, Act 4

CHAPTER 3

Definitions


Art is the only serious thing in the world. And the artist is the only person who is never serious. —"A Few Maxims for the Instruction of the Over-Educated"

Action! What is action? It dies at the moment of its energy. It is a base concession to fact. The world is made by the singer for the dreamer. —Gilbert, The Critic as Artist, Part 1

* * *

"Always! That is a dreadful word. It makes me shudder when I hear it. Women are so fond of using it. They spoil every romance by trying to make it last for ever. It is a meaningless word, too. The only difference between a caprice and a life-long passion is that the caprice lasts a little longer." —Lord Henry, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Ch. 2

* * *

Beauty has as many meanings as man has moods. Beauty is the symbol of symbols. Beauty reveals everything, because it expresses nothing. —Gilbert, The Critic as Artist, Part 1

"... beauty is a form of genius—is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation." —Lord Henry, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Ch. 2

* * *

"A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied." —Lord Henry, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Ch. 6

* * *

... consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. —"The Relation of Dress to Art: A Note in Black and White on Mr. Whistler's Lecture"

* * *

The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things. —The Picture of Dorian Gray, Preface

Cecil Graham: What is a cynic?

Lord Darlington: A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. —Lady Windermere's Fan, Act 3

Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation. —Lord Illingworth, A Woman of No Importance, Act 2

* * *

Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man's original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion. —"The Soul of Man under Socialism"

* * *

... duty is what one expects from others, it is not what one does oneself. —Lord Illingworth, A Woman of No Importance, Act 2

Our most fiery moments of ecstasy are merely shadows of what somewhere else we have felt, or of what we long some day to feel. —Letter [c. January–February, 1886]


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Wit and Wisdom of Oscar Wilde by Bob Blaisdell, Odette Blaisdell. Copyright © 2012 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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