On the whole, the great success of marriage in the States is due partly to the fact that no American man is ever idle, and partly to the fact that no American wife is considered responsible for the quality of her husband's dinners.
(Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Anglo-Irish playwright, author. "The American Man," Court and Society Review (London, April 13, 1887). In the same article, Wilde called marriage one of America's most popular institutions: "The American man marries early, and the American woman marries often; and they get on extremely well together.")
The critic has to educate the public; the artist has to educate the critic.
A man's very highest moment is, I have no doubt at all, when he kneels in the dust, and beats his breast, and tells all the sins of his life.
Women are never disarmed by compliments. Men always are. That is the difference between the two sexes.
The mere mechanical technique of acting can be taught, but the spirit that is to give life to lifeless forms must be born in a man. No dramatic college can teach its pupils to think or to feel. It is Nature who makes our artists for us, though it may be Art who taught them their right mode of expression.
Society often forgives the criminal; it never forgives the dreamer.
A kiss may ruin a human life.
She wore far too much rouge last night and not quite enough clothes. That is always a sign of despair in a woman.
My experience is that as soon as people are old enough to know better, they don't know anything at all.
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.
There is nothing so difficult to marry as a large nose.
The amount of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly scandalous. It looks so bad. It is simply washing one's clean linen in public.
An excellent man; he has no enemies; and none of his friends like him.
A man can be happy with any woman, as long as he does not love her.
The well-bred contradict other people. The wise contradict themselves.
It is better to be beautiful than to be good. But ... it is better to be good than to be ugly.
We who live in prison, and in whose lives there is no event but sorrow, have to measure time by throbs of pain, and the record of bitter moments.
One can always be kind to people about whom one cares nothing.
People sometimes inquire what form of government is most suitable for an artist to live under. To this question there is only one answer. The form of government that is most suitable to the artist is no government at all.
Thinking is the most unhealthy thing in the world, and people die of it just as they die of any other disease. Fortunately, in England at any rate, thought is not catching. Our splendid physique as a people is entirely due to our national stupidity.
The crude commercialism of America, its materialising spirit, its indifference to the poetical side of things, and its lack of imagination and of high unattainable ideals, are entirely due to that country having adopted for its national hero a man who, according to his own confession, was incapable of telling a lie, and it is not too much to say that the story of George Washington and the cherry-tree has done more harm, and in a shorter space of time, than any other moral tale in the whole of literature.
(Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Anglo-Irish playwright, author. Vivian, in "The Decay of Lying," Intentions (1891).)
There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating—people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing.
Anybody can write a three-volume novel. It merely requires a complete ignorance of both life and literature.
The State is to make what is useful. The individual is to make what is beautiful.
Popularity is the only insult that has not yet been offered to Mr. Whistler.
In America the President reigns for four years, and Journalism governs for ever and ever.
Time is waste of money.
There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
It is because Humanity has never known where it was going that it has been able to find its way.
The true critic is he who bears within himself the dreams and ideas and feelings of myriad generations, and to whom no form of thought is alien, no emotional impulse obscure.
Few parents nowadays pay any regard to what their children say to them. The old-fashioned respect for the young is fast dying out.
I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.
Talk to every woman as if you loved her, and to every man as if he bored you, and at the end of your first season you will have the reputation of possessing the most perfect social tact.
Thirty-five is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years.
There is no such thing as morality or immorality in thought. There is immoral emotion.
As long as a woman can look ten years younger than her own daughter, she is perfectly satisfied.
We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities.
The strength of women comes from the fact that psychology cannot explain us. Men can be analysed, women ... merely adored.
Experience is the name every one gives to their mistakes.
The mind of the thoroughly well-informed man is a dreadful thing. It is like a bric-à-brac shop, all monsters and dust, with everything priced above its proper value.
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
I love London society! I think it has immensely improved. It is entirely composed now of beautiful idiots and brilliant lunatics. Just what Society should be.
Cecil Graham: What is a cynic?
Lord Darlington: A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
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.... Without them we would judge a man simply by his work; but at present the newspapers are trying hard to induce the public to judge a sculptor, for instance, never by his statues but by the way he treats his wife; a painter by the amount of his income and a poet by the colour of his necktie.
We can have in life but one great experience at best, and the secret of life is to reproduce that experience as often as possible.
All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling. To be natural is to be obvious, and to be obvious is to be inartistic.
Personality must be accepted for what it is. You mustn't mind that a poet is a drunk,
I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.
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.
No, Ernest, don't talk about action.... It is the last resource of those who know not how to dream.
One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted; and a community is infinitely more brutalised by the habitual employment of punishment than it is by the occasional occurrence of crime.
That is what the highest criticism really is, the record of one's own soul. It is more fascinating than history, as it is concerned simply with oneself. It is more delightful than philosophy, as its subject is concrete and not abstract, real and not vague. It is the only civilised form of autobiography.
A poet can survive everything but a misprint.
Where there is no exaggeration there is no love, and where there is no love there is no understanding. It is only about things that do not interest one, that one can give a really unbiased opinion; and this is no doubt the reason why an unbiased opinion is always valueless.
I don't like Switzerland; it has produced nothing but theologians and waiters.
Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.
In America the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience.
The sick do not ask if the hand that smoothes their pillow is pure, nor the dying care if the lips that touch their brow have known the kiss of sin.
As for begging, it is safer to beg than to take, but it is finer to take than to beg.
To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.
Ambition is the last refuge of the failure.
Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious; both are disappointed.
Anybody can make history. Only a great man can write it.
I have found that all ugly things are made by those who strive to make something beautiful, and that all beautiful things are made by those who strive to make something useful.
It is he who has broken the bond of marriage—not I. I only break its bondage.
(Yes agreed that poets are drunkit is important to remember that drunks are not always poets.)
The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.
The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it.
It is the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution.
There is only one real tragedy in a woman's life. The fact that her past is always her lover, and her future invariably her husband.
The nineteenth century is a turning point in history, simply on account of the work of two men, Darwin and Renan, the one the critic of the Book of Nature, the other the critic of the books of God. Not to recognise this is to miss the meaning of one of the most important eras in the progress of the world.
He must have a truly romantic nature, for he weeps when there is nothing at all to weep about.
Moderation is a fatal thing.... Nothing succeeds like excess.
In going to America one learns that poverty is not a necessary accompaniment to civilisation.
When we are happy we are always good, but when we are good we are not always happy.
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.
It is very vulgar to talk about one's business. Only people like stockbrokers do that, and then merely at dinner parties.
For his mourners will be outcast men,
And outcasts always mourn.
How clever you are, my dear! You never mean a single word you say.
Don't tell me that you have exhausted Life. When a man says that, one knows that life has exhausted him.
Nowadays, all the married men live like bachelors, and all the bachelors like married men.
Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.
All charming people, I fancy, are spoiled. It is the secret of their attraction.
In this world there are two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. The last is much the worst.
(Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Anglo-Irish playwright, author. Dumby, in Lady Windermere's Fan, act 3. George Bernard Shaw expressed a similar idea in act 4, Man and Superman, published ten years after Lady Windermere's Fan, when Mendoza says: "There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart's desire. The other is to gain it.")
We become lovers when we see Romeo and Juliet, and Hamlet makes us students. The blood of Duncan is upon our hands, with Timon we rage against the world, and when Lear wanders out upon the heath the terror of madness touches us. Ours is the white sinlessness of Desdemona, and ours, also, the sin of Iago.
He thinks like a Tory, and talks like a Radical, and that's so important nowadays.
She lacks the indefinable charm of weakness.
In his very rejection of art Walt Whitman is an artist. He tried to produce a certain effect by certain means and he succeeded.... He stands apart, and the chief value of his work is in its prophecy, not in its performance. He has begun a prelude to larger themes. He is the herald to a new era. As a man he is the precursor of a fresh type. He is a factor in the heroic and spiritual evolution of the human being. If Poetry has passed him by, Philosophy will take note of him.
If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life.
There is no country in the world where machinery is so lovely as in America.
(Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), AngloIrish playwright, author. Lecture 10, July 1883. "Personal Impressions of America." Wilde continued: "It was not until I had seen the water-works at Chicago that I realised the wonders of machinery; the rise and fall of the steel rods, the symmetrical motion of the great wheels is the most beautiful rhythmic thing I have ever seen.")
Yes; the public is wonderfully tolerant. It forgives everything except genius.
People who love only once in their lives are ... shallow people. What they call their loyalty, and their fidelity, I call either the lethargy of custom or their lack of imagination. Faithfulness is to the emotional life what consistency is to the life of the intellect—simply a confession of failures.
We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.
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 trials are trials for one's life, just as all sentences are sentences of death.
When a man has once loved a woman, he will do anything for her, except continue to love her.
When the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers.
I never approve, or disapprove, of anything now. It is an absurd attitude to take towards life. We are not sent into the world to air our moral prejudices. I never take any notice of what common people say, and I never interfere with what charming people do.
Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
The daisies grow.
His style is chaos illumined by flashes of lightning. As a writer he has mastered everything except language
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.
From the point of view of literature Mr. Kipling is a genius who drops his aspirates. From the point of view of life, he is a reporter who knows vulgarity better than any one has ever known it.
We Irish are too poetical to be poets; we are a nation of brilliant failures, but we are the greatest talkers since the Greeks.
Whatever harsh criticisms may be passed on the construction of her sentences, she at least possesses that one touch of vulgarity that makes the whole world kin.
The husbands of very beautiful women belong to the criminal classes.
The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast.
Wordsworth went to the Lakes, but he was never a lake poet. He found in stones the sermons he had already hidden there.
I like to do all the talking myself. It saves time, and prevents arguments.
To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.
Religions die when they are proved to be true. Science is the record of dead religions.
Work is the curse of the drinking classes.
To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune ... to lose both seems like carelessness.
He rides in the Row at ten o'clock in the morning, goes to the Opera three times a week, changes his clothes at least five times a day, and dines out every night of the season. You don't call that leading an idle life, do you?
Alas! it is a fearful thing
To feel another's guilt!
Nothing is impossible in Russia but reform.
Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.
Art is not to be taught in Academies. It is what one looks at, not what one listens to, that makes the artist. The real schools should be the streets.
I can stand brute force, but brute reason is quite unbearable. There is something unfair about its use. It is hitting below the intellect.
The old believe everything; the middle-aged suspect everything; the young know everything.
It often happens that the real tragedies of life occur in such an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack of style.
Conversation should touch everything, but should concentrate itself on nothing.
The fact is, the public make use of the classics of a country as a means of checking the progress of Art. They degrade the classics into authorities. They use them as bludgeons for preventing the free expression of Beauty in new forms.