Oscar Wilde quotes

Quotation MarksWilde, Oscar (1854 – 1900), Irish dramatist, novelist, & poet

Nowadays 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.

The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly – that is what each of us is here for.

But what is the difference between literature and journalism?… Journalism is unreadable and literature is not read. That is all.

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

I love acting. It is so much more real than life.

Wisdom comes with winters.

The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself.

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

America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.

Most modern calendars mar the sweet simplicity of our lives by reminding us that each day that passes is the anniversary of some perfectly uninteresting event.

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

Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.

It is only an auctioneer who can equally and impartially admire all schools of art.

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

The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of an expanding bureaucracy.

I never change except in my affections.

One’s real life is often the life that one does not lead.

Anybody can sympathise with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathise with a friend’s success.

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

Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.

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

I suppose that I shall have to die beyond my means. Oscar Wilde, upon being told the cost of an operation.

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

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

Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience and rebellion that progress has been made.

He was a man of peace except in his domestic life.

Work is the curse of the drinking classes.

Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast.

The advantage of the emotions is that they lead us astray, and the advantage of science is that it is not emotional.

Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.

I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.

Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.

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

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

Behaving well and feeling well rarely go together.

The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

Only people who can’t get into society speak disrespectfully of it.

To give an accurate description of what has never occurred is not merely the proper occupation of the historian, but the inalienable privilege of any man of parts and culture.

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

There are many things that we would throw away if we were not afraid that others might pick them up.

In America the President reigns for four years, and Journalism governs for ever and ever.

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

Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about.

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.

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

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

It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.

Morality, like art, means drawing a line someplace.

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

To disagree with three-fourths of the British public is one of the first requisites of sanity.

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

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

Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious.

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

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

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

I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.

The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.

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.

It’s very romantic to be in love, but there’s nothing romantic about a definite proposal. The very essence of romance is uncertainty.

Scandal is gossip made tedious by morality.

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.

There is a luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves, we feel that no one else has a right to blame us. It is the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution.

Seriousness is the only refuge of the shallow.

Only the shallow know themselves.

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

I don’t sing in tune. Anyone can sing in tune.

Do not speak ill of society, Algie. Only people who can’t get in do that.

On an occasion of this kind, it becomes more than a moral duty to speak one’s mind, it becomes a pleasure.

Nothing succeeds like excess.

Suffering is one very long moment. We cannot divide it by seasons.

We teach people how to remember, we never teach them how to grow.

I can resist anything but temptation.

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.

If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.

Pity’s long-broken urn,

For his mourners will be outcast men,
And outcasts always mourn.

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

The world was my oyster… Unfortunately, I just used the wrong fork.

I am not young enough to know everything.

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

I don’t play accurately. Anyone can play accurately. But I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life.

It is always a silly thing to give advice, but to give good advice is fatal.

We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.

Perhaps, after all, America never has been discovered. I myself would say that it had merely been detected.

Arguments are to be avoided; they are always vulgar and often convincing.

Biography lends to death a new terror.

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

One should always play fairly when one has the winning cards.

The only thing that sustains one through life is the consciousness of the immense inferiority of everybody else, and this is a feeling that I have always cultivated. “The Remarkable Rocket”

Why was I born with such contemporaries?

What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

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

I always like to know everything about my new friends, and nothing about my old ones.

Genius is born, not paid.

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

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

The secret of life is to appreciate the pleasure of being terribly, terribly deceived.

Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.

I like persons better than principles, and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world.

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

Music makes one feel so romantic – at least it always gets on one’s nerves – which is the same thing nowadays.

Illusion is the first of all pleasures.

Vile deeds like poison weeds bloom well in prison air, it is only what is good in man, that wastes and withers there.

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 reason.

The truth is rarely pure and never simple.

At twilight, nature is not without loveliness, though perhaps its chief use is to illustrate quotations from the poets.

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

Robert Ross speaking about Oscar Wilde: Later on I think everyone will recognise his achievements; his plays and essays will endure. Of course you may think with others that his personality and conversation were far more wonderful than anything he wrote, so that his written works give only a pale reflection of his power. Perhaps that is so, and of course it will be impossible to reproduce what is gone forever. Robert Ross, 23 December 1900

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