Oscar Wilde

Quotations

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.

A Woman of No Importance

A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.

The Portrait of Mr. W. H. (1889).

To be great is to be misunderstood.

Letter to James McNeill Whistler (23 February 1885).

Over the piano was printed a notice: Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best.

Personal Impressions of America (Leadville) (1883)

Appearance blinds, whereas words reveal.

Personal Impressions of America (Leadville) (1883).

I’ll be a poet, a writer, a dramatist. Somehow or other I’ll be famous, and if not famous, I’ll be notorious. Or perhaps I’ll lead the life of pleasure for a time and then—who knows?—rest and do nothing. What does Plato say is the highest end that man can attain here below? To sit down and contemplate the good. Perhaps that will be the end of me too.

Quoted in "In Victorian days and other papers" By Sir David Oswald Hunter-Blair (1939)

I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.

Quoted in "Oscar Wilde, an idler's impression" By Edgar Saltus (1917)

Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.

A Few Maxims For The Instruction Of The Over-Educated (1894)

Seriousness is the only refuge of the shallow.

This quote is attributed / unsourced.

Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The koward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!

The Ballad of Reading Gaol

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

The Critic as Artist (1891)

ALGERNON. Literary criticism is not your forte, my dear fellow. Don’t try it. You should leave that to people who haven’t been at a University. They do it so well in the daily papers. What you really are is a Bunburyist. I was quite right in saying you were a Bunburyist. You are one of the most advanced Bunburyists I know.

Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.

Relations are simply a tedious pack of people who haven’t got the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die.

Every woman grows up to be her mother: it is her curse. No man does, and that is his.

This quote is attributed / unsourced.

ALGERNON. The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!
JACK. That wouldn’t be at all a bad thing.

To be good is to be in harmony with oneself. Discord is to be forced to be in harmony with others.

CECILY. I have never met any really wicked person before. I feel rather frightened. I am so afraid he will look just like every one else.

Disobedience is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion.

Men marry because they are tired; women because they are curious; both are disappointed.

Such idle dreams belong
To souls of lesser depth than mine;
I feel that I am half devine;
I know that I am great and strong.

Lotus Leaves (poem)

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.

Nobody of any real culture, for instance, ever talks nowadays about the beauty of sunset. Sunsets are quite old fashioned…. To admire them is a distinct sign of provincialism of temperament. Upon the other hand they go on.

The Decay of Lying

I can’t help detesting my relations. I suppose it comes from the fact that none of us can stand other people having the same faults as ourselves.

A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.

This quote is attributed / unsourced.