The artist is the creator of beautiful things.
To reveal art and conceal the artist is art's aim.
The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things.
The highest, as the lowest, form of criticism is a mode of autobiography.
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 nineteenth-century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.
The nineteenth-century dislike of Romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass.
The moral life of man forms part of the subject-matter of the artist, but the morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium. No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved.
No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style.
No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything.
Thought and language are to the artist instruments of an art.
Vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art.
From the point of view of form, the type of all the arts is the art of the musician. From the point of view of feeling, the actor's craft is the type.
All Art is at once surface and symbol.
Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.
Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.
It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.
Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital.
When critics disagree the artist is in accord with himself.
We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.
All art is quite useless.
It is silly of you, for there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face. The moment one sits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or something horrid.
There is a fatality about all physical and intellectual distinction, the sort of fatality that seems to dog through history the faltering steps of kings. It is better not to be different from one's fellows. The ugly and the stupid have the best of it in this world. They can sit at their ease and gape at the play. If they know nothing of victory, they are at least spared the knowledge of defeat. They live as we all should live--undisturbed, indifferent, and without disquiet. They neither bring ruin upon others, nor ever receive it from alien hands. Your rank and wealth, Harry; my brains, such as they are--my art, whatever it may be worth; Dorian Gray's good looks--we shall all suffer for what the gods have given us, suffer terribly.
When I like people immensely I never tell their names to anyone. It is like surrendering a part of them. I have grown to love secrecy. It seems to be the one thing that can make modern life mysterious or marvelous to us. The commonest thing is delightful if one only hides it.
You seem to forget that I am married, and the one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties.
Being natural is simply a pose, and the most irritating pose I know.
Conscience and cowardice are really the same things … Conscience is the trade-name of the firm. That is all.
Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is for the best ending for one.
You don't understand what friendship is, or what enmity is, for that matter. You like everyone; that is to say, you are indifferent to everyone.
A man can't be too careful in the choice of his enemies.
I can't help detesting my relations. I suppose it comes from the fact that none of us can stand other people having the same faults as ourselves.
I like persons better than principles, and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world.
An artist should create beautiful things, but should put nothing of his own life into them. We live in an age when men treat art as if it were meant to be a form of autobiography. We have lost the abstract sense of beauty.
It is only the intellectually lost who ever argue.
Genius lasts longer than Beauty.
The worst of having a romance of any kind is that it leaves one so unromantic.
Those who are faithful know only the trivial side of love; it is the faithless who know love's tragedies.
Women have no appreciation of good looks; at least, good women have not.
To influence a person is to give him one's own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of some one else's music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him. The aim of life is self-development. To realize one's nature perfectly--that is what each of us is here for. People are afraid of themselves, nowadays. They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to one's self. Of course, they are charitable. They feed the hungry and clothe the beggar. But their own souls starve, and are naked. Courage has gone out of our race. Perhaps we never really had it. The terror of society, which is the basis of morals, the terror of God, which is the secret of religion--these are the two things that govern us.
The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.
It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also.
Words! Mere words! How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid, and cruel! One could not escape from them. And yet what a subtle magic there was in them! They seemed to be able to give a plastic form to formless things, and to have a music of their own as sweet as that of viol or of lute. Mere words! Was there anything so real as words?
You know more than you think you know, just as you know less than you want to know.
Beauty is a form of genius--is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation. It is of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or spring-time, or the reflection in dark waters of that silver shell we call the moon. It cannot be questioned. It has its divine right of sovereignty. It makes princes of those who have it.
It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearance.
Ah! realize your youth while you have it. Don't squander the gold of your days, listening to the tedious, trying to improve the hopeless failure, or giving away your life to the ignorant, the common, and the vulgar. These are the sickly aims, the false ideals, of our age. 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... A new Hedonism--that is what our century wants.
But we never get back our youth. The pulse of joy that beats in us at twenty becomes sluggish. Our limbs fail, our senses rot. We degenerate into hideous puppets, haunted by the memory of the passions of which we were too much afraid, and the exquisite temptations that we had not the courage to yield to. Youth! Youth! There is absolutely nothing in the world but youth!
Always! That is a dreadful word. It makes me shudder when I hear it. Women are so fond of using it. They spoil every romance by trying to make it last for ever. It is a meaningless word, too. The only difference between a caprice and a lifelong passion is that the caprice lasts a little longer.
Young men want to be faithful, and are not; old men want to be faithless, and cannot: that is all one can say.
Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic. Worlds had to be in travail, that the meanest flower might blow.
The advantage of the emotions is that they lead us astray, and the advantage of Science is that it is not emotional.
Humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the world's original sin. If the caveman had known how to laugh, history would have been different.
To get back one's youth, one has merely to repeat one's follies.
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.
Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious; both are disappointed.
Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly. Women represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as men represent the triumph of mind over morals.
A grand passion is the privilege of people who have nothing to do.
There are many things that we would throw away if we were not afraid that others might pick them up.
Ordinary women never appeal to one's imagination. They are limited to their century. No glamour ever transfigures them. One knows their minds as easily as one knows their bonnets. One can always find them. There is no mystery in any of them. They ride in the park in the morning and chatter at tea-parties in the afternoon. They have their stereotyped smile and their fashionable manner. They are quite obvious.
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.
Most people become bankrupt through having invested too heavily in the prose of life. To have ruined one's self over poetry is an honour.
I want to make Romeo jealous. I want the dead lovers of the world to hear our laughter and grow sad. I want a breath of our passion to stir the dust into consciousness, to wake their ashes into pain.
People are very fond of giving away what they need most themselves. It is what I call the depth of generosity.
Ordinary people waited till life disclosed to them its secrets, but to the few, to the elect, the mysteries of life were revealed before the veil was drawn away. Sometimes this was the effect of art, and chiefly of the art of literature, which dealt immediately with the passions and the intellect. But now and then a complex personality took the place and assumed the office of art, was indeed, in its way, a real work of art, life having its elaborate masterpieces, just as poetry has, or sculpture, or painting.
Experience was of no ethical value. It was merely the name men gave to their mistakes.
Then she paused. A rose shook in her blood and shadowed her cheeks. Quick breath parted the petals of her lips. They trembled. A southern wind of passion swept over her and stirred the dainty folds of her dress. "I love him", she said simply.
Her eyes caught the melody and echoed it in radiance, then closed for a moment, as though to hide their secret. When they opened, the mist of a dream had passed across them.
She was free in her prison of passion.
Women defend themselves by attacking, just as they attack by sudden and strange surrenders.
Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.
To be in love is to surpass one's self.
Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.
If a personality fascinates me, whatever mode of expression that personality selects is absolutely delightful to me.
The reason we all like to think so well of others is that we're all afraid for ourselves. The basis of optimism is sheer terror.
Women are wonderful practical, much more practical than we are. In situations of that kind we often forget to say anything about marriage, and they always remind us.
Pleasure is Nature's test, her sign of approval. When we are happy, we are always good, but when we are good, we are not always happy.
To be good is to be in harmony with oneself. Discord is to be forced to be in harmony with others.
I should fancy that the real tragedy of the poor is that they can afford nothing but self-denial. Beautiful sins, like beautiful things, are the privilege of the rich.
But then the only things that one can use in fiction are the things that one has ceased to use in fact. Believe me, no civilized man ever regrets a pleasure, and no uncivilized man ever knows what a pleasure is.
Nothing is ever quite true.
Women, as some witty Frenchman once put it, inspire us with the desire to do masterpieces, and always prevent us from carrying them out.
Yes, Dorian, you will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you have never had the courage to commit.
There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating -- people who know absolutly everything, and people who know absolutely nothing.
The secret of remaining young is never to have an emotion that is unbecoming.
There is always something ridiculous about the emotions of people whom one has ceased to love.
One can always be kind to people about whom one cares nothing.
The one charm of the past is that it is the past.
I am afraid that women appreciate cruelty, downright cruelty, more than anything else. They have wonderful primitive instincts. We have emancipated them, but they remain slaves looking for their masters, all the same.
It is only shallow people who require years to get rid of an emotion. A man who is master of himself can end a sorrow as easily as he can invent a pleasure. I don't want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.
Perhaps in nearly every joy, as certainly in every pleasure, cruelty has its place.
Each of us has heaven and hell in him.
Youth smiles without any reason. It is one of its chiefest charms.
There were sins whose fascination was more in the memory than in the doing of them, strange triumphs that gratified the pride more than the passions, and gave to the intellect a quickened sense of joy, greater than any joy they brought, or could ever bring, to the senses.
Nobody ever commits a crime without doing something stupid.
The husbands of very beautiful women belong to the criminal classes.
It is perfectly monstrous the way people go about nowadays saying things against one behind one's back that are absolutely and entirely true.
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.
Women love us for our defects. If we have enough of them, they will forgive us everything, even our intellects.
A man can be happy with any woman as long as he does not love her.
I like men who have a future, and women who have a past.
Moderation is a fatal thing. Enough is as bad as a meal. More than enough is as good as a feast.
One's days were too brief to take the burden of another's errors on one's shoulders. Each man lived his own life and paid his own price for living it. The only pity was one had to pay so often for a single fault. One had to pay over and over again, indeed. In her dealings with man, destiny never closed her accounts.
For all sins, as theologians weary not of reminding us, are sins of disobedience. When that high spirit, that morning-star of evil, fell from heaven, it was as a rebel that he fell.
It is a sad truth, but we have lost the faculty of giving lovely names to things. Names are everything. I never quarrel with actions; my one quarrel is with words. That is the reason I hate vulgar realism in literature. A man who could call a spade a spade should be compelled to use one.
Scepticism is the beginning of faith.
To define is to limit.
Every effect that one produces gives one an enemy. To be popular one must be a mediocrity.
We women, as some one says, love with our ears, just as you men love with your eyes, if you ever love at all.
Romance lives by repetition, and repetition converts an appetite into an art. Besides, each time that one loves is the only time one has ever loved. Difference of object does not alter singleness of passion. It merely intensifies it. We can have in life but one great experience at best, and the secret of life is to reproduce that experience as often as possible.
I have never searched for happiness. Who wants happiness? I have searched for pleasure.
"Describe us as a sex," was her challenge. "Sphinxes without secrets".
It was the imagination that set remorse to dog the feet of sin. It was the imagination that made each crime bear its misshapen brood. In the common world of fact the wicked were not punished, nor the good rewarded. Success was given to the strong, failure thrust upon the weak. That was all.
Shallow sorrows and shallow loves live on. The loves and sorrows that are great are destroyed by their own plenitude.
The only horrible thing in the world is ennui.
Destiny does not send us heralds. She is too wise or too cruel for that.
"How fond women are of doing dangerous things!" laughed Lord Henry. "It is one of the qualities in them that I admire most. A woman will flirt with anybody in the world as long as other people are looking on".
The basis of every scandal is an immoral certainty.
"Are you very much in love with him?" he asked. She did not answer for some time, but stood gazing at the landscape. "I wish I knew," she said at last. He shook his head. "Knowledge would be fatal. It is the uncertainty that charms one. A mist makes things wonderful".
"All ways end at the same point, my dear Gladys." "What is that?" "Disillusion".
"My dear boy," said Lord Henry, smiling, "anybody can be good in the country. There are no temptations there. That is the reason why people who live out of town are so absolutely uncivilized. Civilization is not by any means an easy thing to attain to. There are only two ways by which man can reach it. One is by being cultured, the other by being corrupt. Country people have no opportunity of being either, so they stagnate".
Death and vulgarity are the only two facts in the nineteenth century that one cannot explain away.
Of course, married life is merely a habit, a bad habit. But then one regrets the loss even of one's worst habits. Perhaps one regrets them the most. They are such an essential part of one's personality.
"The soul is a terrible reality. It can be bought, and sold, and bartered away. It can be poisoned, or made perfect. There is a soul in each one of us. I know it." "Do you feel quite sure of that, Dorian?" "Quite sure." "Ah! then it must be an illusion. The things one feels absolutely certain about are never true. That is the fatality of faith, and the lesson of romance.
To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable. Youth! There is nothing like it. It's absurd to talk of the ignorance of youth. The only people to whose opinions I listen now with any respect are people much younger than myself. They seem in front of me. Life has revealed to them her latest wonder.
The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is young.
Life is not governed by will or intention. Life is a question of nerves, and fibres, and slowly built-up cells in which thought hides itself and passion has its dreams. You may fancy yourself safe and think yourself strong. But a chance tone of colour in a room or a morning sky, a particular perfume that you had once loved and that brings subtle memories with it, a line from a forgotten poem that you had come across again, a cadence from a piece of music that you had ceased to play--I tell you, Dorian, that it is on things like these that our lives depend.
The world is changed because you at made of ivory and gold. The curves of your lips rewrite history.