Sepia colored photo of Oscar Wilde sitting on a rock with a book in his hand

Oscar Wilde

(1854 - 1900)

Oscar Wilde welcomed the satirical portrait of himself in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience—“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about”—and the play’s producer arranged an American lecture tour for him in 1882: “Nothing, except my genius,” he is said to have replied when asked if he had anything to declare at customs. He published his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, in 1891. Convicted of charges of gross indecency in 1895, Wilde was sentenced to two years of servitude with hard labor.

All Writing

Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.

- Oscar Wilde,1890

One should always play fairly when one has the winning cards.

- Oscar Wilde,1895

Spies are of no use nowadays. Their profession is over. The newspapers do their work instead.

- Oscar Wilde,1895

One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.

- Oscar Wilde,1894

Miscellany

At the end of his American lecture tour in 1882, Oscar Wilde was given money by a young man who claimed to be the son of a Wall Street banker and who invited him to then play in a game of dice. Wilde ended up losing over $1,000, writing three checks to cover the expense. “I’ve just made a damned fool of myself,” Wilde later confessed to a police captain, having stopped payment of the checks. From a series of mug shots, Wilde identified the swindler: it was notorious banco scammer Hungry Joe Lewis.

To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable.

- Oscar Wilde,1891

Voices In Time

1897 | Reading

Notorious

Dispatches from inmate Wilde. More

There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

- Oscar Wilde,1891

To do nothing at all is the most difficult thing in the world, the most difficult and the most intellectual.

- Oscar Wilde,1891

Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.

- Oscar Wilde,1893

All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.

- Oscar Wilde,1895

Miscellany

While on his American lecture tour in 1882, Oscar Wilde drank elderberry wine with Walt Whitman; saw Niagara Falls, later noting, “Every American bride is taken there, and the sight of the stupendous waterfall must be one of the earliest, if not the keenest, disappointments in American married life”; read aloud passages from Benvenuto Cellini’s autobiography to miners in Colorado; and witnessed a lynching in Louisiana.

We have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.

- Oscar Wilde,1887

Miscellany

While on his American speaking tour in 1882, Oscar Wilde visited Leadville, Colorado, where he went into a saloon. There was a piano player in the corner with a sign over him that said: DON'T SHOOT THE PIANIST; HE'S DOING THE BEST HE CAN. It was, observed Wilde, “the only rational method of art criticism I have ever come across.” He also visited a nearby mine where, upon reaching the bottom, the miners implored him to stay for supper: “the first course being whiskey, the second whiskey, and the third whiskey.”

Miscellany

“I am not exactly pleased with the Atlantic,” Oscar Wilde is said to have remarked to a fellow passenger aboard the Arizona in 1881. “The sea seems tame to me. The roaring ocean does not roar.” A newspaper subsequently ran the headline: “Mr. Wilde Disappointed with Atlantic.”

Death and vulgarity are the only two facts in the nineteenth century that one cannot explain away.

- Oscar Wilde,1891

Voices In Time

1890 | London

Golden Days

Oscar Wilde on the only thing that matters. More

Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made—through disobedience and through rebellion.

- Oscar Wilde,1891

Issues Contributed