Oscar Wilde was one of the greatest wits to grace our planet. He has (unlike other writers) remained relevant in every age and is well known for his quotes and epigrams that highlight his wit.
He lived and embraced life indulging in all pleasures, living life to the fullest as it were and unfortunately was tried by the state for homosexuality (it was a crime during that period).
His masterpiece letter to Lord Alfred Douglas, titled De Profundis brings out his genius.
He contemplates on the purpose of life and almost every line in De Profundis is worth quoting.
The letter begins with suffering for during this period, Oscar Wilde had been incarcerated in prison. His relatives and friends had abandoned him. His wife had to change her name and his mother had died.
Wilde writes, “Suffering is one very long moment. We cannot divide it by seasons. We can only record its moods, and chronicle their return.”
Much of De Profundis deals with religion, suffering and Oscar Wilde’s repentance. But it is the last line that is par excellence and he ends it by saying, “Society, as we have constituted it, will have no place for me, has none to offer; but Nature, whose sweet rains fall on unjust and just alike, will have clefts in the rocks where I may hide, and secret valleys in whose silence I may weep undisturbed. She will hang the night with stars so that I may walk abroad in the darkness without stumbling, and send the wind over my footprints so that none may track me to my hurt: she will cleanse me in great waters, and with bitter herbs make me whole.”
In The Model Millionaire, Wilde spins a tale around a struggling young man who needs a handsome dowry in order to get married. He helps another millionaire who is being painted as a beggar by his artist friend. The story ends with the famous quote, “Millionaire models,’ remarked Alan, ‘are rare enough; but, by Jove, model millionaires are rarer still!”
Perhaps the most misunderstood story is The Selfish Giant. Widely popular as a children’s tale, it was not written for the young population. In fact, it is full of Christian symbolism and is meant as an allegorical tale. The good deed of the giant leads him to the promised heaven which is a central theme in Christianity. However, this is perhaps the beauty of this story for it is relevant for a child and when you grow up, you read it and realise how deep the writing is meant to be.
Some of his other notable quotes are:
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
― Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan
“Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.”
― Oscar Wilde
“I have nothing to declare except my genius.”
― Oscar Wilde (while crossing American customs)
Oscar Wilde also excelled at poetry though his poems are not as well known as his other works. Sample this poem:
To My Wife – With A Copy Of My Poems
I can write no stately proem
As a prelude to my lay;
From a poet to a poem
I would dare to say.
For if of these fallen petals
One to you seem fair,
Love will waft it till it settles
On your hair.
And when wind and winter harden
All the loveless land,
It will whisper of the garden,
You will understand.
The greatest tribute to Mr. Wilde has been paid by the readers. If you search the internet, you are likely to come across thousands of quotes that are wrongly attributed to Oscar Wilde. People also spin his quotes for pleasure. His mannerisms remain unmatched and the man remains an enigma long after he is gone.
He also remains one of the few people in history to tell the truth of jail as it is. He says, “one of the many lessons that one learns in prison is, that things are what they are and will be what they will be.”