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Withering wit and words of wisdom: Oscar Wilde's best quotes

17 April 2019

The Importance of Being Oscar on BBC Two explores Wilde's glittering and controversial career, with performances of his comedies and insights from Wilde enthusiasts and experts. To celebrate we've selected some of our favourite examples of the legendary Wildean wit.

Nicholas Rowe as Oscar Wilde in The Importance of Being Oscar | Photo: BBC/IWC Media
Wilde enjoys a cigarette, circa 1870. Photo by Roger Viollet Collection | Getty Images.
I think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.

Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.



Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.

I can resist everything except temptation.
Lady Windermere's Fan

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) | Photo: Historica Graphica Collection/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.


The truth is rarely pure and never simple.
The Importance of Being Earnest
Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.

The caped crusader: Oscar Wilde, date unknown. Photo © Corbis | Getty Images.
When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is.

Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.

Ambition is the last refuge of the failure

There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
The Picture of Dorian Gray

Mrs Arbuthnot (Alice Orr-Ewing) and Lord Illingworth (Ed Stoppard) in A Woman of No Importance | Photo: BBC/IWC Media

The Importance of Being Oscar

The Importance of being Oscar features highlights from Wilde’s work including The Importance of Being Earnest, The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Canterville Ghost, performed by a cast including Freddie Fox, Claire Skinner, Anna Chancellor and James Fleet.

Wilde enthusiasts and experts, including Stephen Fry, Wilde’s grandson Merlin Holland and his latest biographers, provide revelatory accounts of how his own life informed his work. Wilde's Irish roots, his early career, his marriage and the importance of women as well as men in his life all combine in a complex and compelling characterisation of the great writer.

The Importance of Being Oscar is on BBC Two at 21:00 on Saturday 20 April, then available on iPlayer.

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