The Ramblings of Lord Henry Wotton

I've just finished The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Most of the quotes that one finds from him are actually the ramblings of a character, Lord Henry Wotton, who has a bad influence on Dorian Gray. They are so many gems, that I want to reproduce them here.

We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely. All art is quite useless.

But I can’t help detesting my relations. I suppose it comes from the fact that none of us can stand other people having the same faults as ourselves.

Those who are faithful know only the trivial side of love: it is the faithless who know love’s tragedies.

There is no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray. All influence is immoral—immoral from the scientific point of view.

We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle 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 a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret. The only way 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.

You know more than you think you know, just as you know less than you want to know.

He watched it with that strange interest in trivial things that we try to develop when things of high import make us afraid, or when we are stirred by some new emotion for which we cannot find expression, or when some thought that terrifies us lays sudden siege to the brain and calls on us to yield.

Examinations, sir, are pure humbug from beginning to end. If a man is a gentleman, he knows quite enough, and if he is not a gentleman, whatever he knows is bad for him.

He was always late on principle, his principle being that punctuality is the thief of time.

Experience was of no ethical value. It was merely the name men gave to their mistakes.

It was the passions about whose origin we deceived ourselves that tyrannized most strongly over us. Our weakest motives were those of whose nature we were conscious. It often happened that when we thought we were experimenting on others we were really experimenting on ourselves.

The real drawback to marriage is that it makes one unselfish. And unselfish people are colorless. They lack individuality.

As for a spoiled life, no life is spoiled but one whose growth is arrested.

Besides, women were better suited to bear sorrow than men. They lived on their emotions. They only thought of their emotions. When they took lovers, it was merely to have some one with whom they could have scenes. Lord Henry had told him that, and Lord Henry knew what women were.

Is insincerity such a terrible thing? I think not. It is merely a method by which we can multiply our personalities.

What nonsense people talk about happy marriages! A man can be happy with any woman, as long as he does not love her.

Yet, after all, what did it matter to him? 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.

Every effect that one produces gives one an enemy. To be popular one must be a mediocrity.

Of course, married life is merely a habit—a bad habit. But then one regrets the loss even of one’s worst habits. Perhaps one regrets them the most. They are such an essential part of one’s personality.

Oh! anything becomes a pleasure if one does it too often. That is one of the most important secrets of life.

To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable.

As for being poisoned by a book, there is no such thing as that. Art has no influence upon action. It annihilates the desire to act. It is superbly sterile. The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame. That is all.

Other quotes

I didn’t say I liked it, Harry. I said it fascinated me. There is a great difference.

The ticking of the clock on the mantelpiece seemed to him to be dividing Time into separate atoms of agony, each of which was too terrible to be borne.