In Brief

Oscar Wilde: ten best quotes

From The Picture of Dorian Gray to The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde’s writing is full of literary gems

Oscar Wilde is having something of a resurgence in 2018. Born 164 years ago today, his real-life story continues to resonate for many.

Rupert Everett paid tribute to the literary idol earlier this year with The Happy Prince, a biopic that covered the period after Wilde’s imprisonment in Reading Gaol for “gross indecency” in a time when homosexuality was illegal.

There have also been three books out about the author and the Vaudeville Theatre in London is holding an Oscar Wilde Season. Even his flashy clothing style is back in fashion.

Born on 16 October 1854, in Dublin, Wilde became one of the world’s most prolific writers, producing plays and poetry to essays and fiction.

A large number of Wilde’s plays were satirical comedies. Many of his comic dramas ridiculed the Victorian culture, mocking London’s social chain of importance.

Drama and tragedy marred Wilde's private life, according to the BBC: “He married Constance Lloyd in 1884 and they had two sons, but in 1891 Wilde began an affair with Lord Alfred Douglas, nicknamed 'Bosie'. In April 1895, Wilde sued Bosie's father, the Marquis of Queensberry, for libel, after the Marquis accused him of being homosexual.”  

Wilde lost the case and was later arrested and tried for gross indecency, a law that prohibited sexual activity between men, which was not overturned until 1967. 

He was sentenced to two years of hard labour on 25 May 1895, and went into exile in France upon his release. Wilde “wrote very little during these last years”, and died of meningitis on 30 November 1900 at the age of 46, Biography.com reports. He died something of a tragic figure, the site adds, moving between cheap hotels in Paris with little money.

But his legacy remains. “Oscar Wilde did not dive very deeply below the surface of human nature, but found, to a certain extent rightly, that there is more on the surface of life than is seen by the eyes of most people,” wrote contemporary drama critic JT Grein shortly after Wilde’s death.

Throughout his career, Wilde was obsessed with aestheticism - “art for art’s sake” - and thus produced some of the most widely quoted literary art today. From The Picture of Dorian Gray to The Importance of Being Earnest, here are some of his best quotes in the gallery above.

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