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The Ever Quotable Oscar Wilde

Updated on December 7, 2014

“Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit.” -- Oscar Wilde


Quote of the day

The day I graduated my best friend gave me a copy of Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett. I laughed, gave her a hug and put it on my already overflowing bookshelf. After that I kind of forgot about it until one wet fall afternoon. The rain was coming down in sheets, turning the woods behind our farmhouse into an orchestra; the rushing purr of the stream and the steady beat of the dripping leaves was soothing. So I curled up in my favorite chair and paged through the book. I found myself laughing, nodding in agreement and occasionally tearing up (don't judge). Before I knew it an hour had passed.

What is it about snappy little one liners that get us? It is a talent few posess; the art of cuttting through all the retoric to the core of the issue while still managing to sound flippant and witty. Oscar Wilde was the king of this art, and though I'm not a huge fan of "hang it on your wall" quotes of the day and cheesy overused cliches I do appreciate a nice turn of phrase.

The Works of Oscar Wilde


  • The Decay of Lying
  • The Soul of Man under Socialism
  • The Critic as Artist
  • De Profundis


  • The Picture of Dorian Gray


  • Vera; or, The Nihilists
  • The Duchess of Padua
  • Lady Windermere's Fan
  • A Florentine Tragedy
  • A Woman of No Importance
  • Salome
  • La Sainte Courtisane
  • An Ideal Husband
  • The Importance of Being Earnest


  • The Ballad of Reading Gaol

Short stories

  • The Canterville Ghost
  • The Portrait of Mr W.H.
  • Lord Arthur Savile's Crime and Other Stories
  • The Happy Prince and Other Stories
  • A House of Pomegranates

Some of My Favorites

  • "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."
  • “Indeed I have always been of the opinion that hard work is simply the refuge of people who have nothing to do.”
  • "I am not young enough to know everything."
  • "Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative."
  • “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
  • "If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you."
  • The suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.”
  • "To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable."
  • "Only the shallow know themselves."
  • "We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities."
  • “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
  • "Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast."
  • “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.”
  • “Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.”
  • “I am so clever that sometimes I don't understand a single word of what I am saying.”
  • “It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.”
  • “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”
  • “The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing.”
  • “Society often forgives the criminal; it never forgives the dreamer.”
  • “Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.”
  • “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.”
  • “Never love anyone who treats you like you're ordinary.”
  • “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”
  • “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”
  • “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”


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    • brownella profile image

      brownella 4 years ago from New England

      Thanks Thomas, I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I love dry british humor. Thanks for commenting :)

    • Thomas Swan profile image

      Thomas Swan 4 years ago from New Zealand

      Haha love these, especially the first one, and "only the shallow know themselves". His wit and looks appear similar to Stephen Fry!

    • brownella profile image

      brownella 4 years ago from New England

      Docmo, it's always nice to find a fellow bibliophile who understands. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Oscar Wilde is always good for a laugh (or at the very least a wry smile). Thanks for reading :)

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 4 years ago from UK

      Brownella -you have me smiling at the 'already overflowing bookshelf' - I pause when I read that, look around my study and nod knowingly to myself. OScar wilde is one of my favorites and thanks for this compendium of his word-nuggets.

    • brownella profile image

      brownella 4 years ago from New England

      Ooh, I haven't heard that one, I may have to add it to the list. Thanks for reading :)

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 4 years ago from California

      Good idea for a hub, Oscar Wilde is one of the most quotable writers in English literature. My favorite quote of his if the following: "All art is essentially worthless." Later!