terrible angels

Saturday, March 10, 2007

oscar wilde

NOTE: This is part of my series on alternative ways of thinking about the Irish for Saint Patrick's Day. That is, the Irish are the storytellers, poets and wits of the English language and yet for some reason on the day that we celebrate the Irish we don trucker hats and t-shirts with moronic slogans like: "Drink Til Yer Green"; "Irish Drinking Team"; "Irish I was Drunk"; "Kiss/Spank/Fight/Bite/Blow Me I'm Irish" or any other variation on that theme including the (I kid you not) historically idiotic "Kiss Me I'm English." [fyi: my shop has items with book of kells images if you feel like getting festive for St P Day you only have the weekend to order something from my shop (it takes several days for them to print the items plus delivery).]

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wilde
October 16, 1854 -
November 30, 1900


The official site of Oscar Wilde
This is a great resource but if we know anything about oscar wilde it is that one will not have the whole picture of him from anything that has the word "official" in its title.

CELT chronology and links to Wilde's writings

Fireblade Coffeehouse resources

The Trials of Oscar Wilde
By Douglas O. Linder at the UMKC School of Law. Documents from Wilde's trial and imprisonment with links to the larger issues of homosexuality and the law. These resources are part of Linder's fantastic Famous Trials project. Warning: you could spend a lot of time there at that site.

Wilde and His Circle : Photographs of Oscar Wilde and His Circle at the Clark Library.

Oscar Wilde action figure

Wilde Quotes
Oscar Wilde is one of the greatest wits that ever lived (Mark Twain and Groucho Marx!) There are a myriad of quotation sites for perusing Wilde's wonderful quips. However, be wary of sites that do not list the sources for the quotes. The best place I have found for Wilde quotations is Wikiquote's Oscar Wilde page. Also, since many of Wilde's writings are on line (at CELT) it is easy to confirm the quotations.

from Lady Windermere's Fan
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

I can resist everything except temptation.

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

Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.

What a pity that in life we only get our lessons when they are of no use to us.

from Phrases and Philosophies for the use of the Young
Ambition is the last refuge of failure.

Religions die when they are proved to be true. Science is the record of dead religions.

If one tells the truth, one is sure, sooner or later, to be found out.

Only the shallow know themselves.

On Art & Fashion
And, after all, what is a fashion? From the artistic point of view, it is usually a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.
from Literary and Other Notes

Art never expresses anything but itself.
from The Decay of Lying

The difference between literature and journalism is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read.
from The Critic as Artist
On War
As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular.
from The Critic as Artist

A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.
from The Portrait of Mr. W. H.

Famous Last Words:
My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.
[Wilde reportedly said this in the Paris hotel room where he died on November 30, 1900.]

This is my favorite image of him. He was the apex of the dandy. Everything before was a prelude; everything after, homage. *Coming soon: related information on the history of the dandy. Keep checking the "fresh hell" postings on the home page for updates.

Tomorrow's writer: Samuel Beckett. He is one of my greatest inspirations.
Fail better.


lotusgreen said...

one can't help but admire wilde, but i'm not sure i like him. i realized sometime in this last year that he often meant nothing by his clever phrases; they often sound startlingly truthful, but i think it's all smoke and mirrors.

no of course he didn't deserve his many punishments, and of course, a brilliant and courageous man, but one who took less of a stand with each statement than he appeared to be doing.

trixie said...

Many of these sayings are not just tongue-in-cheek but they are actually said by characters in his novels or plays!

lotusgreen said...

so you don't think he means them himself when he puts them in the mouth of a character. (what was i just watching on tv?; every sentence was an aphorism.)

trixie said...

Ah -- that's the devil with irony!

With Wilde, the surface level of witty reparte is very deceptive.

Certainly a character is not the same as the author. We can never assume that the narrator is the same as the author either.

Wilde's characters often voice debates about ideas. Sometimes it is obvious what side of the debate Wilde would take -- in the more absurd comedic scenes. But other times Wilde's own views are not easy to determine. The debates on art in Dorian Grey are very complicated.

On the other hand it is Dorian Grey who says "The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it." And we know what happens to him.

lotusgreen said...

very interesting trix. thanks. it's interesting; i'm betting all these people with qoute pages with his quotes all think he meant all of them too.

you've opened my eyes.

Anonymous said...

Lotusgreen cannot appreciate Oscar's subtle charm and wit
As I can.