Oscar Wilde Quotes

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Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was a nineteenth century Irish poet and playwright.

He excelled as a Classicist at Trinity College Dublin and Oxford University, before moving to London and circulating in the most learned and fashionable circles.

Fascinated by the emerging philosophy of Aestheticism, he published a book of poems, lectured across North America on the ‘English Renaissance in Art,’ and worked as a journalist.

Oscar Wilde became one of the best-known personalities of his day, wowing the fashionable London circles with his flamboyant dress, biting wit, and impressive conversational skill.

In 1890, Wilde drew on his interest in art and the themes of decadence, duplicity, and beauty to produce his only novel: The Picture of Dorian Gray.

He would find his true calling, however, as a playwright. Wilde wrote four society comedies in the 1890s, including The Importance of Being Earnest.

We’ve collected the best and wittiest Oscar Wilde quotes on love, life, education, and more.

150+ Oscar Wilde Quotes

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

It takes great deal of courage to see the world in all its tainted glory, and still to love it.

Women have a much better time than men in this world; there are far more things forbidden to them.

Life is not complex. We are complex. Life is simple, and the simple thing is the right thing.

I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.

After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.

“Work is the curse of the drinking classes.” – Oscar Wilde

A pessimist is somebody who complains about the noise when opportunity knocks.

Hear no evil, speak no evil, and you won’t be invited to cocktail parties.

There are many things that we would throw away if we were not afraid that others might pick them up.

Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.

“Some things are too important to be taken seriously.” – Oscar Wilde

Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.

The Canterville Ghost

I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.

No good deed goes unpunished.

All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.

Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.

“I like men who have a future and women who have a past.” – Oscar Wilde

The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

They’ve promised that dreams can come true – but forgot to mention that nightmares are dreams, too.

I like persons better than principles, and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world.

The mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death.

Life is too short to learn German.

“I don’t say we all ought to misbehave. But we ought to look as if we could.” – Oscar Wilde

Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.

In old days books were written by men of letters and read by the public. Nowadays books are written by the public and read by nobody.

Popularity is the one insult I have never suffered.

I have no objection to anyone’s sex life as long as they don’t practice it in the street and frighten the horses.

Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit.

“Memory is the diary we all carry about with us.” – Oscar Wilde

Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.

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

Lady Windemere’s Fan

Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. The consciousness of loving and being loved brings a warmth and a richness to life that nothing else can bring.

The public is wonderfully tolerant. It forgives everything except genius.

“The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly – that is what each of us is here for.” – Oscar Wilde

Everything popular is wrong.

The basis of optimism is sheer terror.

A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.

Men marry because they are tired, women, because they are curious: both are disappointed.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Art is the only serious thing in the world. And the artist is the only person who is never serious.

“Crying is for plain women. Pretty women go shopping.” – Oscar Wilde

Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.

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

Lady Windemere’s Fan

Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.

Women are meant to be loved, not to be understood.

Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.

“Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.” – Oscar Wilde

My own business always bores me to death; I prefer other people’s.

People who count their chickens before they are hatched act very wisely because chickens run about so absurdly that it’s impossible to count them accurately.

If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.

Wickedness is a myth invented by good people to account for the curious attractiveness of others.

How else but through a broken heart may Lord Christ enter in?

“You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” – Oscar Wilde

Ultimately the bond of all companionship, whether in marriage or in friendship, is conversation, and conversation must have a common basis, and between two people of widely different culture the only common basis possible is the lowest level.

One should always be in love. That’s the reason one should never marry.

I never put off till tomorrow what I can possibly do – the day after.

Consistency is the hallmark of the unimaginative.

He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.

“The world was my oyster but I used the wrong fork.” – Oscar Wilde

Hearts are made to be broken.

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

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

A passion for pleasure is the secret of remaining young.

Appearance blinds, whereas words reveal.

“A flower blossoms for its own joy.” – Oscar Wilde

If you want to be a doormat you have to lay yourself down first.

I beg your pardon I didn’t recognize you – I’ve changed a lot.

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.

A Woman of No Importance

Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing.

Humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the world’s original sin. If the cave-man had known how to laugh, History would have been different.

“Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast.” – Oscar Wilde

If you are not long, I will wait for you all my life.

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

The Importance of Being Earnest

Friendship is far more tragic than love. It lasts longer.

Between men and women there is no friendship possible. There is passion, enmity, worship, love, but no friendship.

I love to talk about nothing. It’s the only thing I know anything about.

“One should always play fairly when one has the winning cards.” – Oscar Wilde

A man who does not think for himself does not think at all.

When a woman marries again, it is because she detested her first husband. When a man marries again, it is because he adored his first wife. Women try their luck; men risk theirs.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

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

To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.

An Ideal Husband

The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.

The Importance of Being Earnest
“A good friend will always stab you in the front.” – Oscar Wilde

I think God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.

Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.

With freedom, flowers, books, and the moon, who could not be perfectly happy?

They get up early, because they have so much to do, and go to bed early, because they have so little to think about.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.

“Never love anyone who treats you like you’re ordinary.” – Oscar Wilde

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

When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one’s self, and one always ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.

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

The Happy Prince & Other Stories

A bore is someone who deprives you of solitude without providing you with company.

To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.

The Importance of Being Earnest
“We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities.” – Oscar Wilde

One should never trust a woman who tells one her real age. A woman who would tell one that would tell one anything.

America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.

Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.

Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.

An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.

“Everything in moderation, including moderation.” – Oscar Wilde

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

We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.

The world is a stage and the play is badly cast.

Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong.

Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.

De Profundis
“Every woman is a rebel.” – Oscar Wilde

There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating: people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing.

Men always want to be a woman’s first love. That is their clumsy vanity. We women have a more subtle instinct about these things. What (women) like is to be a man’s last romance.

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

How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being?

“The nicest feeling in the world is to do a good deed anonymously-and have somebody find out.” – Oscar Wilde

I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself.

Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.

The Critic As Artist

Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.

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

A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.

“To define is to limit.” – Oscar Wilde

The truth is rarely pure and never simple.

The Importance of Being Earnest

The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.

I am too fond of reading books to care to write them.

Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

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

Who, being loved, is poor?

“Society often forgives the criminal; it never forgives the dreamer.” – Oscar Wilde

You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Indeed I have always been of the opinion that hard work is simply the refuge of people who have nothing to do.

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

Some things are more precious because they don’t last long.

Paradoxically though it may seem, it is none the less true that life imitates art far more than art imitates life.

There is no sin except stupidity.

“I have nothing to declare except my genius.” – Oscar Wilde

The suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.

The very essence of romance is uncertainty.

The Importance of Being Earnest

In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.

Lady Windemere’s Fan

Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is by far the best ending for one.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing.

The Soul of Man Under Socialism
“It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.” – Oscar Wilde

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.

I can resist anything except temptation.

Anybody can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathize with a friend’s success.

Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty. There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

The Picture of Dorian Gray
“I am not young enough to know everything.” – Oscar Wilde

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

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

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

A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.

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

Life is never fair, and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not.

No man is rich enough to buy back his past.

Music makes one feel so romantic – at least it always gets on one’s nerves – which is the same thing nowadays.

The one charm about the past is that it is the past.

“Life has been your art. You have set yourself to music. Your days are your sonnets.” – Oscar Wilde

We hope you’ve enjoyed this great selection of Oscar Wilde quotes. If your favorite is missing, just let us know.

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Natalie Seale

Natalie Seale is a writer, researcher, and editor for keepinspiring.me. She holds an MA, MSc, and PhD in History from the University of Edinburgh, and has started two businesses since 2011. Natalie is an avid reader, a keen traveller, and enjoys cooking and walking with her English Spaniel. Her posts focus on inspiring others to live healthy, happy, and active lives.