Wilding

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It is fitting that the year ends with holidays. This allows us a brief rest from our labors and serious pursuits before we begin a new year. Our year-end interlude is appropriately called the “season to be jolly.” So, as a way of thanking you for reading and commenting on my columns, I want to provide you with a few laughs to add to the jollity of the season.

Ordinary humor won’t suffice for the erudite readers of LewRockwell.com so I offer you the epigrams of Irish playwright, Oscar Wilde. Some of his witty observations will be familiar to you but they are just as amusing the second time around. Others, I hope you will be discovering for the first time. So forget about the job and the mortgage and relax into Wilde’s bon mots.

“Some people cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.”

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

“Work is the enemy of the drinking class.”

“I often have long conversations all by myself, and I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.”

“I sometimes think that God in creating man somewhat overestimated his ability.”

“Anybody can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathize with a friend’s success.”

“To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose both looks like carelessness.”

“I can resist everything except temptation.”

“It is only the shallow people who do not judge by appearances.”

Like most writers, Wilde was not averse to appropriating witticisms from others, but to his credit, his revised versions were better than the originals. Upon hearing a clever remark at a social gathering, Wilde whispered to his companion: “I wish I had said that.” To which his friend replied: “You will, Oscar, you will.”

“The book of life begins with a man and a woman in a garden. It ends with Revelations.”

“A man’s face is his autobiography. A woman’s face is her work of fiction.”

“A woman begins by resisting a man’s advances and ends by blocking his retreat.”

“Women are to be loved, not understood.”

“Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same.”

“The proper basis for marriage is a mutual misunderstanding.”

“The only difference between a caprice and a lifelong passion is that the caprice lasts a little longer.”

In 1882, Oscar Wilde made an extended lecture tour of America. Upon arrival in New York, he gave this famous response to a customs officer’s question: “I have nothing to declare except my genius.”

“We have really everything in common with America, except, of course, language.”

“America was discovered several times before Columbus but it had always been hushed up.”

“It is an error to suppose that America was discovered. It was merely detected.”

During his tour of America, Wilde was taken to see Niagara Falls. Unimpressed, he remarked; “This must be the second biggest disappointment for a new bride.”

“America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.”

“In America, the President reigns for four years, and Journalism governs forever.”

(A brief digression. Among the people Oscar Wilde expressed an interest in meeting while in America was former Confederate president Jefferson Davis. During his tour of the Southern states, Wilde was an overnight guest of Jefferson Davis at Beauvoir. In the discussions between the two men, Wilde was struck by the similarity between the Southern Confederacy and Ireland: both had fought to attain self-rule and both had lost. This prompted him to say; “The principles for which Jefferson Davis and the South went to war cannot suffer defeat.”)

“The form of government that is most suitable to the artist is no government at all.”

“If there was less sympathy in the world, there would be less trouble in the world.”

I cannot read Wilde’s comments on history and historians without thinking of some of today’s revisionists.

“To give an accurate description of what has never occurred is the proper occupation of the historian.”

“History never repeats itself. The historians repeat each other.”

“Always forgive your enemies, nothing annoys them so much.”

“To win back my youth there is nothing I wouldn’t do except take exercise, get up early, or be a useful member of the community.”

“Young men want to be faithful and are not, old men want to be faithless and cannot.”

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”

In his final years, Oscar Wilde experienced social and financial decline. But he did not lose his sense of humor. As he lay on his deathbed, his last wish was to taste again an expensive brand of champagne he had once enjoyed but could no longer afford. As Wilde watched the costly wine being poured into a glass, his last words were reported to be: “I might have known. I am dying beyond my means.”

I hope Wilde’s quips have helped brighten the ending of this anxious year. And, although 2003 will also begin on an apprehensive note, you should resist the defeatism of the herd. Remember the words of Oscar Wilde: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

Gail Jarvis [send him mail], a CPA living in Beaufort, SC, is an advocate of the voluntary union of states enumerated by the founders.

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