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Oscar Wilde 1854–1900
Irish dramatist and poet

  1. Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.
    De Profundis (1905)
  2. I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.
    An Ideal Husband (1895)
  3. We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.
    The Canterville Ghost (1887)
  4. Really, if the lower orders don't set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them?
    The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) act 1
  5. The truth is rarely pure, and never simple.
    The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) act 1
  6. I have invented an invaluable permanent invalid called Bunbury, in order that I may be able to go down into the country whenever I choose.
    The Importance of Being Earnest (1899) act 1
  7. In married life three is company and two none.
    The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) act 1
  8. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately, in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever.
    The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) act 1
  9. If one plays good music, people don't listen and if one plays bad music people don't talk.
    The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) act 1
  10. To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.
    The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) act 1
  11. lady bracknell: A handbag?
    The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) act 1
  12. 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.
    The Importance of Being Earnest (1899) act 1
  13. All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his.
    The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) act 1
  14. The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.
    The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) act 2; see Stoppard
  15. I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time. That would be hypocrisy.
    The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) act 2
  16. I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.
    The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) act 2
  17. On an occasion of this kind it becomes more than a moral duty to speak one's mind. It becomes a pleasure.
    The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) act 2
  18. 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.
    The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) act 3
  19. Every great man nowadays has his disciples, and it is always Judas who writes the biography.
    Intentions (1891) ‘The Critic as Artist’ pt. 1
  20. Meredith's a prose Browning, and so is Browning.
    Intentions (1891) ‘The Critic as Artist’ pt.1
  21. The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it.
    Intentions (1891) ‘The Critic as Artist’ pt. 1
  22. Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
    Intentions (1891) ‘The Critic as Artist’ pt. 1
  23. It is through Art, and through Art only, that we can realise our perfection; through Art, and through Art only, that we can shield ourselves from the sordid perils of actual existence.
    Intentions (1891) ‘The Critic as Artist’ pt. 2
  24. A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.
    Intentions (1891) ‘The Critic as Artist’ pt. 2
  25. All that I desire to point out is the general principle that Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.
    Intentions (1891) ‘The Decay of Lying’
  26. I can resist everything except temptation.
    Lady Windermere's Fan (1892) act 1
  27. We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
    Lady Windermere's Fan (1892) act 3
  28. A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
    definition of a cynic
    Lady Windermere's Fan (1892) act 3
  29. Experience is the name every one gives to their mistakes.
    Lady Windermere's Fan (1892) act 3
  30. There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written.
    The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) preface
  31. The nineteenth century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in the glass.
    The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) preface
  32. The moral life of man forms part of the subject matter of the artist, but the morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium.
    The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) preface
  33. There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
    The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) ch. 1
  34. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.
    The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) ch. 1
  35. It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.
    The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) ch. 2
  36. A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?
    The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) ch. 6
  37. It is better to be beautiful than to be good. But…it is better to be good than to be ugly.
    The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) ch. 17
  38. Anybody can be good in the country.
    The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) ch. 19
  39. The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is young.
    The Picture of Dorian Grey (1891) ch. 19
  40. To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable.
    The Picture of Dorian Grey (1891) ch. 19
  41. A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.
    The Portrait of Mr W. H. (1901)
  42. mrs allonby: They say, Lady Hunstanton, that when good Americans die they go to Paris.
    lady hunstanton: Indeed? And when bad Americans die, where do they go to?
    lord illingworth: Oh, they go to America.
    A Woman of No Importance (1893) act 1; see Appleton
  43. One must have some occupation nowadays. If I hadn't my debts I shouldn't have anything to think about.
    A Woman of No Importance (1893) act 1
  44. The English country gentleman galloping after a fox—the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.
    A Woman of No Importance (1893) act 1
  45. One should never trust a woman who tells one her real age. A woman who would tell one that, would tell one anything.
    A Woman of No Importance (1893) act 1
  46. lord illingworth: The Book of Life begins with a man and a woman in a garden.
    mrs allonby: It ends with Revelations.
    A Woman of No Importance (1893) act 1
  47. Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.
    A Woman of No Importance (1893) act 2
  48. Moderation is a fatal thing, Lady Hunstanton. Nothing succeeds like excess.
    A Woman of No Importance (1893) act 3
  49. The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.
    A Woman of No Importance (1893) act 3
  50. He did not wear his scarlet coat,
    For blood and wine are red,
    And blood and wine were on his hands
    When they found him with the dead.
     
    The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898) pt. 1, st. 1
  51. I never saw a man who looked
    With such a wistful eye
    Upon that little tent of blue
    Which prisoners call the sky.
     
    The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898) pt. 1, st. 3
  52. 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 coward does it with a kiss,
    The brave man with a sword!
     
    The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898) pt. 1, st. 7
  53. For he who lives more lives than one
    More deaths than one must die.
     
    The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898) pt. 3, st. 37
  54. And alien tears will fill for him
    Pity's long-broken urn,
    For his mourners will be outcast men,
    And outcasts always mourn.
     
    inscribed on Wilde's tomb in Père Lachaise cemetery
    The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898) pt. 4, st. 23
  55. How else but through a broken heart
    May Lord Christ enter in?
     
    The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898) pt. 5, st. 14
  56. What captivity was to the Jews, exile has been to the Irish. America and American influence has educated them.
    in Pall Mall Gazette 13 April 1889
  57. Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.
    in Fortnightly Review February 1891 ‘The Soul of Man under Socialism’; see Lincoln
  58. I don't wish to sign my name, though I am afraid everybody will know who the writer is: one's style is one's signature always.
    letter to the Daily Telegraph, 2 February 1891
  59. to a waiter:
    When I ask for a watercress sandwich, I do not mean a loaf with a field in the middle of it.
    Max Beerbohm, letter to Reggie Turner, 15 April 1893
  60. I summed up all systems in a phrase, and all existence in an epigram.
    letter, from Reading Prison, to Lord Alfred Douglas, January–March 1897
  61. Ah, well, then, I suppose that I shall have to die beyond my means.
    at the mention of a huge fee for a surgical operation
    R. H. Sherard Life of Oscar Wilde (1906) ch. 18
  62. Chaos, illumined by flashes of lightning.
    on Robert Browning's ‘style’
    Ada Leverson Letters to the Sphinx (1930)
  63. Do you want to know the great drama of my life? It's that I have put my genius into my life; all I've put into my works is my talent.
    André Gide Oscar Wilde (1910) ‘In Memoriam’
  64. Shaw has not an enemy in the world; and none of his friends like him.
    letter from Bernard Shaw to Archibald Henderson, 22 February 1911
  65. I have nothing to declare except my genius.
    at the New York Custom House
    Frank Harris Oscar Wilde (1918)
  66. One must have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing.
    Ada Leverson Letters to the Sphinx (1930)
  67. Work is the curse of the drinking classes.
    H. Pearson Life of Oscar Wilde (1946) ch. 12
  68. One of us must go.
    of the wallpaper in the room where he was dying
    attributed, probably apocryphal

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