The Wildest Quotes from Oscar Wilde

June 14, 2024

By Brian Boone

As we mark Pride Month here at Portable Press, our attention, adulation, and respect falls on Irish novelist, poet, playwright, and LGBT icon Oscar Wilde (1854-1900). Wilde’s affair with Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas resulted in three infamous criminal trials and a brutal prison sentence. But he will forever get the last laugh as a purveyor of the pithiest, wittiest, most savagely true and hilarious quips and quotes of maybe any author, before or since.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

“It is silly of you, for there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

“But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face.”

“You know more than you think you know, just as you know less than you want to know.”

“I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects.”

“She behaves as if she was beautiful. Most American women do. It is the secret of their charm.”

The Importance of Being Earnest

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

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

“If I am occasionally a little overdressed, I make up for it by being always immensely overeducated.”

“I am sick to death of cleverness. Everybody is clever nowadays.”

“To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up.”

“No woman should ever be quite accurate about her age. It looks so calculating.”

“I don’t like novels that end happily. They depress me so much.”

An Ideal Husband

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”

“Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people we personally dislike.”

“I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.” 

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

“Questions are never indiscreet. Answers sometimes are.”

“Never mind what I say. I am always saying what I shouldn’t say. In fact, I usually say what I really think. A great mistake nowadays. It makes one so liable to be misunderstood.”

“I love talking about nothing. It is the only thing I know anything about.”

Lady Windermere’s Fan

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

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

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

“It takes a thoroughly good woman to do a thoroughly stupid thing.”

“There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.”

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

Possibly apocryphal, but widely attributed to Oscar Wilde

When asked if he had anything “to declare” at customs upon arriving in New York to begin a lecture tour in 1882, Wilde supposedly quipped: “I have nothing to declare but my genius!”

As he lay dying in bed in 1900, Wilde remarked, “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or other of us has got to go.”

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