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Oscar Wilde
1854 - 1900

Internationally acclaimed playwright of Lady Windermere's Fan (1892) and other plays, author of The Picture of Dorian Grey (1890) and other books, Wilde was equally renowned for his wit and conversation. Wilde spent two years in Reading Gaol at hard labour for the crime of gross indecency (related to his homosexuality) which helped ruin his health and hasten his death two years after he was released from prison.


It is only an auctioneer who should admire all schools of art.

Feb. 8, 1886 - from "To Read, or Not to Read", published in the Pall Mall Gazette
The well-bred contradict other people. The wise contradict themselves.

1894 - from Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young
There is always more books than brains in an aristocracy.

1883 - from Vera, or the Nihilists
There is no essential incongruity between crime and culture. We cannot re-write the whole of history for the purpose of gratifying our moral sense of what should be.

1888 - from The Critic as Artist
Indifference is the revenge the world takes on mediocrities.

1883 - from Vera, or the Nihilists
An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.

1888 - from The Critic as Artist
The public is wonderfully tolerant. It forgives everything except genius.

1888 - from The Critic as Artist
Arguments are to be avoided; they are always vulgar and often convincing.

1895 - from The Importance of Being Earnest
Every effect that one produces gives one an enemy. To be popular, one must be a mediocrity.

He pretends to be devoted to the people, and lives in a palace, preaches socialism, and draws a salary that would support a province.

1883 - from Vera, or the Nihilists
A man who does not think for himself does not think at all. It is grossly selfish to require of one's neighbour that he should think in the same way.

1895 - from The Soul of a Man Under Socialism
All great ideas are dangerous.

1905 - from De Profundis
While to the claims of charity a man may yield and yet be free, to the claims of conformity no man may yield and remain free at all.

1891 - from The Soul of a Man Under Socialism
If one tells the truth one is sure, sooner or later, to be found out.

1894 - from Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young
The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing. Journalism, conscious of this, and having tradesman-like habits, supplies their demands.

1895 - from The Soul of a Man Under Socialism
In America the president reigns for four years, and journalism governs for ever and ever.

1895 - from The Soul of a Man Under Socialism
To be good is to be in harmony with oneself. Discord is to be forced to be in harmony with others.

What we want are unpractical people who see beyond the moment and think beyond the day. Those who try to lead the people can only do so by following the mob. It is through the voice crying in the wilderness that the ways of the gods must be prepared.

1891 - from The Critic as Artist
The truth is rarely pure and never simple.

1895 - from The Importance of Being Earnest, Act I
... Journalism... justifies its own existence by the great Darwinian principle of the survival of the vulgarest.

1891 - from The Critic as Artist
Socialism annihilates family life, for instance. With the abolition of private property, marriage in its present form must disappear.

1891 - from The Soul of a Man Under Socialism
Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live. It is asking other people to live as one wishes to live.

Nothing is impossible in Russia but reform.

1883 - from Vera
Agitators are a set of interfering meddling people, who come down to some perfectly contented class of the community and sow the seeds of discontent amongst them. That is the reason why agitators are so absolutely necessary.

1891 - from The Soul of a Man Under Socialism
All authority is quite degrading. It degrades those who exercise it, and it degrades those over whom it is exercised.

1891 - from The Soul of a Man Under Socialism
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

1892 - from Lady Windermere's Fan
A Russian who lives happily under the present system of government in Russia must either believe that man has no soul, or that, if he has, it is not worth developing.

1891 - from The Soul of a Man Under Socialism
Wherever there is a man who exercises authority, there is a man who resists authority!

1891 - from The Soul of a Man Under Socialism
It is to be regretted that a portion of our community should be practically in slavery, but to propose to solve the problem by enslaving the entire community is childish.

1891 - from The Soul of a Man Under Socialism
In the old days men had the rack, now they have the Press.

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.

To know everything about oneself one must know all about others.

He thinks like a Tory and talks like a Radical, and that's so important now-a-days.

1892 - from Lady Windermere's Fan
What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

1892 - from Lady Windermere's Fan Act III
Only people who look dull ever get into the House of Commons, and only people who are dull ever succeed there.

1895 - from An Ideal Husband
There is hardly a single person in the House of Commons worth painting; though many of them would be better for a little whitewashing.

1890 - from The Picture of Dorian Gray
You can't make people good by Act of Parliament.

It is always with the best intentions that the worst work is done.

1891 - from The Critic as Artist
Formerly we used to canonize our heroes. The modern method is to vulgarize them. Cheap editons of great books may be delightful, but cheap editions of great men are absolutely detestable.

1891 - from The Critic as Artist
Instead of monopolizing the seat of judgement, journalism should be apologizing in the dock.

Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.

Whenever a community ... or a government of any kind attempts to dictate to the artist what he is to do, art either entirely vanishes or becomes stereotyped, or degenerates into a low and ignoble form of craft.

1891 - from The Soul of a Man Under Socialism
It is often said that force is no argument. That, however, depends entirely on what one wants to prove.

Man can believe the impossible, but man can never believe the improbable.

1891 - from The Decay of Lying
... the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience.

Modern journalism... by giving us the opinions of the un-educated, keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.

1891 - from The Critic as Artist