Photograph taken in 1882 by Napoleon Sarony
|Born||Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde
16 October 1854
|Died||30 November 1900
|Occupation||Author, poet, playwright|
|Education||Portora Royal School|
|Alma mater||Trinity College, Dublin
Magdalen College, Oxford
|Genre||Drama, short story, criticism, dialogue, journalism|
|Notable works||The Importance of Being Earnest
The Picture of Dorian Gray
|Spouse||Constance Lloyd (m. 1884; d. 1898)|
|Children||Cyril Holland, Vyvyan Holland|
|Relatives||William Wilde (father)
Jane Wilde (mother)
Willie Wilde (brother)
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.
While we look to the dramatist to give romance to realism, we ask of the actor to give realism to romance.
Art is individualism, and individualism is a disturbing and disintegrating force.
The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.
There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating – people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing.
The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything.
The moment you think you understand a great work of art, it's dead for you.
By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.
Women are never disarmed by compliments. Men always are. That is the difference between the sexes.
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.
Society exists only as a mental concept; in the real world there are only individuals.
The mark of all good art is not that the thing done is done exactly or finely, for machinery may do as much, but that it is worked out with the head and the workman's heart.
There is no necessity to separate the monarch from the mob; all authority is equally bad.
The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it… I can resist everything but temptation.
Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.
To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.
Women love us for our defects. If we have enough of them, they will forgive us everything, even our gigantic intellects.
Beauty has as many meanings as man has moods. Beauty is the symbol of symbols. Beauty reveals everything, because it expresses nothing. When it shows us itself, it shows us the whole fiery-coloured world.
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.
America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.
It is only an auctioneer who can equally and impartially admire all schools of art.
Art should never try to be popular. The public should try to make itself artistic.
It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.
Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.
If one plays good music, people don't listen and if one plays bad music people don't talk.
It is a very sad thing that nowadays there is so little useless information.
A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.
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.
Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.
Romance should never begin with sentiment. It should begin with science and end with a settlement.
If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.
Technique is really personality. That is the reason why the artist cannot teach it, why the pupil cannot learn it, and why the aesthetic critic can understand it.
The salesman knows nothing of what he is selling save that he is charging a great deal too much for it.
There should be a law that no ordinary newspaper should be allowed to write about art. The harm they do by their foolish and random writing it would be impossible to overestimate – not to the artist, but to the public, blinding them to all but harming the artist not at all.
It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.
Perhaps, after all, America never has been discovered. I myself would say that it had merely been detected.
Romantic art deals with the exception and with the individual. Good people, belonging as they do to the normal, and so, commonplace type, are artistically uninteresting.
I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.
Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.
There is always something ridiculous about the emotions of people whom one has ceased to love.
Art never harms itself by keeping aloof from the social problems of the day: rather, by so doing, it more completely realises for us that which we desire.
Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
Fathers should be neither seen nor heard. That is the only proper basis for family life.
One can survive everything, nowadays, except death, and live down everything except a good reputation.
In modern life nothing produces such an effect as a good platitude. It makes the whole world kin.
There's nothing in the world like the devotion of a married woman. It's a thing no married man knows anything about.
Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is far the best ending for one.
It is better to be beautiful than to be good. But… it is better to be good than to be ugly.
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.
I suppose society is wonderfully delightful. To be in it is merely a bore. But to be out of it is simply a tragedy.
Bad people are, from the point of view of art, fascinating studies. They represent colour, variety and strangeness. Good people exasperate one's reason; bad people stir one's imagination.
In America the President reigns for four years, and Journalism governs forever and ever.
Men always want to be a woman's first love – women like to be a man's last romance.
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.
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.
Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.
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.
Death and vulgarity are the only two facts in the nineteenth century that one cannot explain away.
The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.
All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. Those who read the symbol do so at their peril. It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors. Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex and vital.
There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
There are many things that we would throw away if we were not afraid that others might pick them up.
In judging of a beautiful statue, the aesthetic faculty is absolutely and completely gratified by the splendid curves of those marble lips that are dumb to our complaint, the noble modelling of those limbs that are powerless to help us.
You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you have never had the courage to commit.
Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.
In designing the scenery and costumes for any of Shakespeare's plays, the first thing the artist has to settle is the best date for the drama. This should be determined by the general spirit of the play more than by any actual historical references which may occur in it.
One's past is what one is. It is the only way by which people should be judged.
Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.
The world has grown suspicious of anything that looks like a happily married life.
A critic should be taught to criticise a work of art without making any reference to the personality of the author.
A man's face is his autobiography. A woman's face is her work of fiction.
If a work of art is rich and vital and complete, those who have artistic instincts will see its beauty, and those to whom ethics appeal more strongly than aesthetics will see its moral lesson. It will fill the cowardly with terror, and the unclean will see in it their own shame.
As long as a woman can look ten years younger than her own daughter, she is perfectly satisfied.
The difference between literature and journalism is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read.
I can stand brute force, but brute reason is quite unbearable. There is something unfair about its use. It is hitting below the intellect.
Let us have no machine-made ornament at all; it is all bad and worthless and ugly.
Literature must rest always on a principle, and temporal considerations are no principle at all. For, to the poet, all times and places are one; the stuff he deals with is eternal and eternally the same: no theme is inept, no past or present preferable.
Beauty is the only thing that time cannot harm. Philosophies fall away like sand, creeds follow one another, but what is beautiful is a joy for all seasons, a possession for all eternity.
There is always something infinitely mean about other people's tragedies.
One of the many lessons that one learns in prison is, that things are what they are and will be what they will be.
The world is divided into two classes, those who believe the incredible, and those who do the improbable.
Woman begins by resisting a man's advances and ends by blocking his retreat.
The one charm about marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties.
I see when men love women. They give them but a little of their lives. But women when they love give everything.
Between men and women there is no friendship possible. There is passion, enmity, worship, love, but no friendship.
In England, an inventor is regarded almost as a crazy man, and in too many instances, invention ends in disappointment and poverty. In America, an inventor is honoured, help is forthcoming, and the exercise of ingenuity, the application of science to the work of man, is there the shortest road to wealth.
Perhaps one of the most difficult things for us to do is to choose a notable and joyous dress for men. There would be more joy in life if we were to accustom ourselves to use all the beautiful colours we can in fashioning our own clothes.
Ordinary riches can be stolen; real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.
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.
No object is so beautiful that, under certain conditions, it will not look ugly.
It is through art, and through art only, that we can realise our perfection.
When a man has once loved a woman he will do anything for her except continue to love her.
What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist.
It is only by not paying one's bills that one can hope to live in the memory of the commercial classes.
There is a luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves we feel no one else has a right to blame us.
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.
Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.
No better way is there to learn to love Nature than to understand Art. It dignifies every flower of the field. And, the boy who sees the thing of beauty which a bird on the wing becomes when transferred to wood or canvas will probably not throw the customary stone.
If one could only teach the English how to talk, and the Irish how to listen, society here would be quite civilized.
Now that the House of Commons is trying to become useful, it does a great deal of harm.
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written.
The critic has to educate the public; the artist has to educate the critic.
I sometimes think that God in creating man somewhat overestimated his ability.
In America the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience.
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.
What we have to do, what at any rate it is our duty to do, is to revive the old art of Lying.
In its primary aspect, a painting has no more spiritual message than an exquisite fragment of Venetian glass. The channels by which all noble and imaginative work in painting should touch the soul are not those of the truths of lives.
Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.
Life is never fair, and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not.
I like persons better than principles, and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world.
Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his.
There is nothing in the world like the devotion of a married woman. It is a thing no married man knows anything about.
I am so clever that sometimes I don't understand a single word of what I am saying.
Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.
Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.
If there was less sympathy in the world, there would be less trouble in the world.
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.
America had often been discovered before Columbus, but it had always been hushed up.
I think it is perfectly natural for any artist to admire intensely and love a young man. It is an incident in the life of almost every artist.
Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike.
I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.
I would have a workshop attached to every school, and one hour a day given up to the teaching of simple decorative arts. It would be a golden hour to the children.
'The Lady's World' should be made the recognized organ for the expression of women's opinions on all subjects of literature, art and modern life, and yet it should be a magazine that men could read with pleasure.
Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason.
I have a dining room done in different shades of white, with white cushions embroidered in yellow silk: the effect is absolutely delightful and the room beautiful.
There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.
The typewriting machine, when played with expression, is no more annoying than the piano when played by a sister or near relation.
How marriage ruins a man! It is as demoralizing as cigarettes, and far more expensive.
Sometimes the poor are praised for being thrifty. But to recommend thrift to the poor is both grotesque and insulting. It is like advising a man who is starving to eat less.
The spirit of an age may be best expressed in the abstract ideal arts, for the spirit itself is abstract and ideal.
No woman should ever be quite accurate about her age. It looks so calculating.
Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious; both are disappointed.
Nothing, indeed, is more dangerous to the young artist than any conception of ideal beauty: he is constantly led by it either into weak prettiness or lifeless abstraction: whereas to touch the ideal at all, you must not strip it of vitality.
The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.
Arguments are extremely vulgar, for everyone in good society holds exactly the same opinion.
Yes, there is a terrible moral in 'Dorian Gray' – a moral which the prurient will not be able to find in it, but it will be revealed to all whose minds are healthy. Is this an artistic error? I fear it is. It is the only error in the book.