A Libertine’s Guide To Love And Betrayal
By Oscar Wilde and Dorothy Parker (as told to Christopher Rama Rao)
In getting through the tough times, it’s wise to never lose your sense of humor. In case you might have misplaced it, I invite you to spend a few minutes with Oscar and Dorothy, who despite heartbreak and tragedy, were never caught without their wit.
Despite a few filler lines to make it seem a bit more like dialogue, this is, in essence, a list of quotes. Still, if liberties have been taken at times, well our mea culpa is that it’s simply appropriate to the subjects.
Dorothy: Thank you so much for meeting me here at the old Algonquin. It is truly an honor.
Oscar: I love New York, and the boldness of the United States. America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.
BEAUTY OR GENIUS?
Dorothy: I had been fed, in my youth, a lot of old wives’ tales about the way men would instantly forsake a beautiful woman to flock around a brilliant one. It is but fair to say that, after getting out in the world, I had never seen this happen… .
Oscar: Beauty is a form of genius—is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation. It is one of the great facts in the world like sunlight, or springtime, or the reflection in dark water of that silver shell we call the moon.
Dorothy: In other words, men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.
Oscar: A man who moralizes is usually a hypocrite, and a woman who moralizes is invariably plain.
A WOMAN OF SWELL REPUTE
Oscar: Did you see the Countess? She wore far too much rouge last night and not quite enough clothes. That is always a sign of despair in a woman.
Dorothy: That woman speaks eighteen languages, and can’t say no in any of them.
Oscar: Your banter, Dorothy, is divine. It brings my mind to the philosophies. The book of life begins with a man and a woman in a garden. It ends in Revelations.
Dorothy: Well, you can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.
VANITY, THY NAME IS MAN
Dorothy: It’s such an honor to meet you. If, I am impelled to try an epigram, I never seek to take the credit; we all assume that Oscar said it.
Oscar: Oh thank you, Dorothy, but being adored is a nuisance. Women treat us just as Humanity treats its Gods. They worship us and are always asking us to do something for them.
Dorothy: You mistake worship for nobility. Oh, men don’t like nobility in woman. Not any men. I suppose it is because the men like to have the copyrights on nobility — if there is going to be anything like that in a relationship.
Oscar: You have a point there. I sometimes think that God in creating man somewhat overestimated his ability.
Dorothy: I require only three things of a man. He must be handsome, ruthless and stupid.
Oscar: High standards indeed. As for me, I am sick of women who love me. Women who hate me are much more interesting.
Dorothy: That, at least, you should be able to find.
THE ENIGMA OF WOMAN
Oscar: Women are made to be loved, not understood.
Oscar: A man’s face is his autobiography. A woman’s face is her work of fiction.
Dorothy: Is that so?
Oscar: Woman begins by resisting a man’s advances and ends by blocking his retreat.
Dorothy: Let’s not pretend about this, dear. Neither you nor I has much interest in the subject of women.
LOVE AND SINCERITY
Oscar: Dorothy my dear, what a silly thing love is! It is not half as useful as logic, for it does not prove anything and it is always telling one things that are not going to happen, and making one believe things that are not true.
Dorothy: Too right, Oscar. Four be the things I’d have been better without: Love, curiosity, freckles, and doubt.
Oscar: One should always be in love. That is the reason one should never marry.
Dorothy: That is just the opposite of what you said a moment ago.
Oscar: Exactly! Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
Dorothy: And sincerity?
Oscar: A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.
Indeed. By the time you swear you’re his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Lady, make a note of this—
One of you is lying.
Oscar: Deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.
MARRIAGE AND ELEPHANTS
Oscar: The man who says his wife can’t take a joke, forgets that she took him.
Dorothy: On the other hand, women and elephants never forget.
Oscar: How marriage ruins a man! It is as demoralizing as cigarettes, and far more expensive.
Dorothy: Love is like quicksilver in the hand, Leave the fingers open and it stays, Clutch it, and it darts away.
Oscar: Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same.
Oscar: Children begin by loving their parents.. After a time they judge them. Rarely if ever do they forgive them.
Dorothy: The best way to keep children home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant – and let the air out of the tires.
THE THRILL IS GONE
Oscar: There is one thing infinitely more pathetic than to have lost the woman one is in love with, and that is to have won her and found out how shallow she is.
Dorothy: Then if my friendships break and bend,
There’s little need to cry
The while I know that every foe
Is faithful till I die.
Oscar: I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.
Dorothy: Four things I am wiser to know: Idleness, sorrow, a friend, and a foe.
Oscar: A true friend stabs you in the front.
Dorothy: It’s not the tragedies that kill us, it’s the messes.
Oscar: Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.
Dorothy: The sweeter the apple, the blacker the core — Scratch a lover, and find a foe!
Dorothy: Some men tear your heart in two,
Some men flirt and flatter,
Some men never look at you,
And that clears up the matter.
Oscar: I see when men love women. They give them but a little of their lives. But women when they love give everything.
Dorothy: Her mind lives tidily, apart
From cold and noise and pain,
And bolts the door against her heart,
Out wailing in the rain.
Oscar: Ah, Dorothy. Men always want to be a woman’s first love – women like to be a man’s last romance.
Dorothy: It serves me right for keeping all my eggs in one bastard.
Dorothy: Razors pain you,
Rivers are damp,
Acids stain you,
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful,
Gas smells awful.
You might as well live.
Oscar: I am always astonishing myself. It is the only thing that makes life worth living.
IS MONEY A FOUR LETTER WORD?
Dorothy: If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.
Oscar: 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.
Dorothy: Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves.
Oscar: Ah, well, then I suppose I shall have to die beyond my means.
Dorothy: Money cannot buy health, but I’d settle for a diamond-studded wheelchair.
Oscar: I rely on you to misrepresent me.
Dorothy: I don’t care what is written about me so long as it isn’t true.
DON’T MISTAKE EXPERIENCE FOR MISTAKES
Dorothy: The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.
Oscar: Experience is one thing you can’t get for nothing. Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.
Dorothy: That would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.
Dorothy: Travel, trouble, music, art
A kiss, a frock, a rhyme -
I never said they feed my heart
But still they pass the time.
Oscar: The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast.
Dorothy: Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song, A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong; And I am Marie of Romania.
These quotes here are culled from various sources, and though they are all attributed to either Oscar Wilde or Dorothy Parker, in truth we have been more careful in the selection of these quotes than in checking the attributions.