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7.1 Quotations: Who said "..."? Oscar Wilde




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This article is from the Quotations FAQ, by Sir Hans dok@fwi.uva.nl Jason Newquist jrnewquist@ucdavis.edu with numerous contributions by others.

7.1 Quotations: Who said "..."? Oscar Wilde


Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
+---+ +---+ +---------+

On his ``last words'': The oft-quoted

Ah, well, then, I suppose that I shall have to die beyond my means.
in R.H. Sherard "Life of Oscar Wilde" (1906) p. 421
When a huge fee for an operation was mentioned

as it appears in "TODoMQ" is not regarded as very accurate by Wilde
scholar Richard Ellman; his report in "Oscar Wilde" (1988) runs thus:

To Willie's widow, Lily, and her new husband, Teixeira de Mattos,
Wilde said, ``I am dying beyond my means. I will never outlive the
century. The English people would not stand for it. I am responsible
for the failure of the Exhibition: the English went away when they saw
me there so well-dressed and happy. The English know this too, and
they will not stand me any more.'' . . . To Alice Rothenstein Oscar
remarked, ``I can't even afford to die.''

Ellman's sources are "St James's Gazette" 6 My 1905; [Raymonds and]
Rickets "Oscar Wilde: Recollections" (1932) 59; A. [Douglas] "St
James's Gazette" 3 March 1905; Housman "Echo de Paris" 32; M. Ross
"Friend of Friends"

All this took place around October 1900, at least a full month before
Wilde's death. Another frequently (mis-)quoted line is

My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the
other of us has to go.
in Frank Harris "Oscar Wilde: His Life and Confessions" (1930) p. 572
To Claire de Pratz, 29 October 1900

Which was in fact said a month before his death on 30 November 1900.
So, no Famous Last Words for Oscar. In fact, about the last quotable
thing that Wilde said (excepting the case that your idea of
``quotable'' includes stuff like ``Aaaaaaghaaaaaaaaaaaarhrghhgl''), is
as far as I know

``You ought to be a doctor,'' he said to Turner, ``as you always
want people to do what they don't want to.''
28 November 1900

Two days before his death, when he was already rather ill. It's not
very dramatic though.

 

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