A Few Maxims – Oscar Wilde


A Few Maxims For The Instruction Of The Over-Educated by Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)


  • Education is an admirable thing.  But it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
  • Public opinion exists only where there are no ideas.
  • The English are always degrading truths into facts.  When a truth becomes a fact it loses all its intellectual value.
  • It is a very sad thing that nowadays there is so little useless information.
  • The only link between Literature and Drama left to us in England at the present moment is the bill of the play.
  • In old days books were written by men of letters and read by the public.  Nowadays books are written by the public and read by nobody.
  • Most women are so artificial that they have no sense of Art.  Most men are so natural that they have no sense of Beauty.
  • Friendship is far more tragic than love.  It lasts longer.
  • What is abnormal in Life stands in normal relations to Art.  It is the only thing in Life that stands in normal relations to Art.
  • A subject that is beautiful in itself gives no suggestion to the artist.  It lacks imperfection.
  • The only thing that the artist cannot see is the obvious.  The only thing that the public can see is the obvious.  The result is the Criticism of the Journalist.
  • Art is the only serious thing in the world.  And the artist is the only person who is never serious.
  • To be really mediæval one should have no body.  To be really modern one should have no soul.  To be really Greek one should have no clothes.
  • Dandyism is the assertion of the absolute modernity of Beauty.
  • The only thing that can console one for being poor is extravagance.  The only thing that can console one for being rich is economy.
  • One should never listen.  To listen is a sign of indifference to one’s hearers.
  • Even the disciple has his uses.  He stands behind one’s throne, and at the moment of one’s triumph whispers in one’s ear that, after all, one is immortal.
  • The criminal classes are so close to us that even the policemen can see them.  They are so far away from us that only the poet can understand them.
  • Those whom the gods love grow young.

Bibliographic Notes:  First published, anonymously, in the 1894 November 17 issue of Saturday Review.