Born to be Wilde

The man behind the epigrams

“To live is the rarest thing in the world.
Most people exist, that is all.”

On October 16, 1854, Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland. He would go on to become one of the world’s most prolific writers, dabbling in everything from plays and poetry to essays and fiction. Whatever the medium, his wit shone through.

Wilde’s experienced life — he was even incarcerated from 25 May 1895 to 18 May 1897 for on charges of sodomy and gross indecency — has been the subject of numerous biographies since his death. The earliest were memoirs by those who knew him: often they are personal or impressionistic accounts which can be good character sketches, but are sometimes factually unreliable. In 1916, Frank Harris, his friend and editor, published a biography, Oscar Wilde: His Life and Confessions, which, though prone to exaggeration and sometimes factually inaccurate, it offers a good literary portrait of the poet. Anyway, besides the circumstances of his imprisonment and early death — he died of meningitis on 30 November 1900, at the age of 46, after spending his last three years impoverished and in exile —, Wilde is best known for his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray and, today more than ever, for his epigrams which, despite the passing of time, never cease to amaze.

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell the truth.”

“I can resist everything except temptation.”

“A man’s face is his autobiography. A woman’s face is her work of fiction.”

“True friends stab you in the front.”

“Always forgive your enemies, nothing annoys them so much.”

“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.”

“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

“Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.”

“You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes or their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear.”

“I am not young enough to know everything.”

“The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.”

“I have the simplest of tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.”

“I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.”

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

“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”

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

“You can never be overdressed or overeducated.”

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

“I don’t want to go to heaven. None of my friends are there.”

“I can never travel without my diary,
one should always have something sensational to read on the train.”


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