31 August 2008
From The Picture of Dorian Gray -
There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
The one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties. I never know where my wife is, and my wife never knows what I'm doing. When we meet - we do meet occasionaly, when we dine out together, or go down to the Duke's - we tell each other the most absurd stories with the most serious faces. My wife is very good at it - much better, in fact, than I am.
Conscience and cowardice are really the same things. Conscience is the trade-name of the firm. That is all.
It is a sad thing to think of, but there is no doubt that Genius lasts longer than Beauty. That accounts for the fact that we all take such pains to over-educate ourselves. In the wild struggle for existence, we want to have something that endures, and so we fill our minds with rubbish and facts. The thoroughly well-informed man - that is the modern ideal. And the mind of the thoroughly well-informed man is a dreadful thing. It is like a bric-a-brac shop, all monsters and dust, with everything priced above its proper value.
Those who are faithful know only the trivial side of love : it is the faithless who know love's tragedies.
The bravest man amongst us is afraid of himself. The mutilation of the savage has its tragic survival in the self-denial that mars our lives. We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to struggle broods in the mind, and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of pleasure, or the luxury of a regret.
The only to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. 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.
To get back one's youth, one has merely to repeat one's follies.
He was always late on principle, his principle being that punctuality is the thief of time.
Never marry at all, Dorian. Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious; both are disappointed.
There are only two kinds of women, the plain and the coloured. The plain women are very useful. If you want to gain a reputation for respectability, you have merely to take them down for supper. The other women are very charming. They commit one mistake, however. They paint in order to try and look young. Our grandmothers painted in order to try and talk brilliantly. Rouge and Esprit used to go together. That is all over now. As long as a woman can look ten years younger than her own daughter, she is perfectly satisfied.
The people who love only once in their lives are the shallow people. What they call their loyalty, and their fidelity, I call either the lethargy of custom or their lack of imagination. Faithfulness is to the emotional life what consistency is to the life of the intellect - simply confession of failures. Faithfulness! I must analyse it some day. The passion for property is in it. 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. But an actress! How different an actress is! Harry! Why didn't you tell me the only thing worth loving is an actress? -- Because I've loved so many of them, Dorian.
It is only the sacred things that are worth touching.
When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one's self, and one always ends by deceiving others. That is what the worlds calls a romance.
It is personalities, not principles, that move the age.
The only artists that I have ever known, who are personally delightful, are bad artists. Good artists simply exists in what they make, and consequently are perfectly uninteresting in what they are. A great poet, a really great poet, is the most unpoetical of all creatures. But inferior poets are absolutely fascinating. The worse their rhymes are, the more picturesque they look. There mere fact of having published a book of second-rate sonnets makes a man quite irresistible. He lives the poetry he cannot write. The others write the poetry that they dare not realise.
He had always been enthralled by the methods of natural science, but the ordinary subject-matter of that science had seemed to him trivial and of no import. And so he begun by vivisecting himself, as he had ended by vivisecting others. Human life - that appeared to him that one thing worth investigating. Compared to it there was nothing else of any value.
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.
He began to wonder whether we could ever make psychology so absolute a science that each little spring of life would be revealed to us. As it was, we always misunderstood ourselves, and rarely understood others.
Experience was of no ethical value. It was merely the name men gave to their mistakes.
Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.
I never approve, or disapprove, of anything now. It is an absurd attitude to take towards life. We are not sent into the world to air our moral prejudices. I never take any notice of what common people say, and I never interfere with what charming people do. If a personality fascinates me, whatever mode of expression that personality selects is absolutely delightful to me.
Women are wonderfully 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.
There is luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves we feel that no one else has a right to blame us. It is the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution.
Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.
Women give to men the very gold of their lives but they invariably want it back in such very small change. That is the worry.
Pleasure is the only thing worth having a theory about. But the theory belongs to Nature, not me. 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 one's self. Discord is to be forced to be in harmony with others. One's own life - that is the important thing.
It is perfectly monstrous the way people go about, nowadays, saying things against one behind one's back that are absolutely and entirely true.
The only way a woman can reform a man is by boring him so completely that he loses all possible interest in life. If you had married this girl you would have been wretched. Of course you would have treated her kindly. One can always be kind to people about whom one cares nothing.
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.
I admit that I think it is better to be beautiful than to be good. But on the other hand no one is more ready than I am to acknowledge that it is better to be good than to be ugly.
When they make up their ledger, they balance stupidity by wealth, and vice by hypocrisy.
--Still, we have done great things.
-Great things have been thrust on us, Gladys.
--We have carried their burden.
-Only as far as the Stock Exchange.
--I believe in the race.
-It represents the survival of the pushing.
--It has development.
-Decay fascinates me more.
--What of Art?
-It is a malady.
-The fashionable substitute for Belief.
--You are a sceptic.
-Never! Scepticism is the beginning of Faith.
--What are you?
-To define is to limit.
--Give me a clue.
-Threads snap. You would lose your way in the labyrinth.
--You bewilder me. Let us talk of someone else.
We women, as someone says, love with our ears just as you men love with your eyes. if you ever love at all.
The appeal to Antiquity is fatal to us who are romanticists.
Describe us a a sex, was her challenge. Sphinxes without secrets.
The only horrible thing in the world is ennui, Dorian. That is the one sin for which there is no forgiveness.
There is no such thing as an omen. Destiny does not send us heralds. She is too wise or too cruel for that.
Knowledge would be fatal. It is the uncertainty that charms one. A mist makes things wonderful.
Civilization is not my 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.
Death is the only thing that terrifies me. I hate it. One can survive everything nowadays except that. Death and vulgarity are the only two facts in the nineteenth century that one cannot explain away.
Anything becomes a pleasure if one does it too often. That is one of the most important secrets of life.
If a man treats life artistically, his brain is his heart.
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.
Ah! Then it must be an illusion. The things that one feels absolutely certain 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 infront of me. Life has revealed to them her latest wonder. As for the aged, I always contradict the aged. I do it on principle. If you ask them their opinion on something that happened yesterday, they solemnly give you the opinions current in 1820, when people wore high stocks, believed in everything, and knew absolutely nothing.
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 - it is on things like these that our lives depend.