Inspirational quotes to feed your soul and brighten your day.

854 Inspiring Quotes by Oscar Wilde

  • Last updated Jun 28 2021

Welcome to our collection of quotes by Oscar Wilde.

Wikipedia Summary for Oscar Wilde

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irish poet and playwright. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, the early 1890s saw him become one of the most popular playwrights in London. He is best remembered for his epigrams and plays, his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the circumstances of his criminal conviction for gross indecency for consensual homosexual acts in "one of the first celebrity trials", imprisonment, and early death from meningitis at age 46.

Wilde's parents were Anglo-Irish intellectuals in Dublin. A young Wilde learned to speak fluent French and German. At university, Wilde read Greats; he demonstrated himself to be an exceptional classicist, first at Trinity College Dublin, then at Oxford. He became associated with the emerging philosophy of aestheticism, led by two of his tutors, Walter Pater and John Ruskin. After university, Wilde moved to London into fashionable cultural and social circles.

As a spokesman for aestheticism, he tried his hand at various literary activities: he published a book of poems, lectured in the United States and Canada on the new "English Renaissance in Art" and interior decoration, and then returned to London where he worked prolifically as a journalist. Known for his biting wit, flamboyant dress and glittering conversational skill, Wilde became one of the best-known personalities of his day. At the turn of the 1890s, he refined his ideas about the supremacy of art in a series of dialogues and essays, and incorporated themes of decadence, duplicity, and beauty into what would be his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). The opportunity to construct aesthetic details precisely, and combine them with larger social themes, drew Wilde to write drama. He wrote Salome (1891) in French while in Paris but it was refused a licence for England due to an absolute prohibition on the portrayal of Biblical subjects on the English stage. Unperturbed, Wilde produced four society comedies in the early 1890s, which made him one of the most successful playwrights of late-Victorian London.

At the height of his fame and success, while The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) was still being performed in London, Wilde prosecuted the Marquess of Queensberry for criminal libel. The Marquess was the father of Wilde's lover, Lord Alfred Douglas. The libel trial unearthed evidence that caused Wilde to drop his charges and led to his own arrest and trial for gross indecency with men. After two more trials he was convicted and sentenced to two years' hard labour, the maximum penalty, and was jailed from 1895 to 1897. During his last year in prison, he wrote De Profundis (published posthumously in 1905), a long letter which discusses his spiritual journey through his trials, forming a dark counterpoint to his earlier philosophy of pleasure. On his release, he left immediately for France, and never returned to Ireland or Britain. There he wrote his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), a long poem commemorating the harsh rhythms of prison life.

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Longer Version:

What is termed Sin is an essential element of progress. Without it the world would stagnate, or grow old, or become colorless. By its curiosity Sin increases the experience of the race. Through its intensified assertion of individualism it saves us from monotony of type. In its rejection of the current notions about morality, it is one with the higher ethics.


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Longer Version:

Yes, I am a thorough republican. No other form of government is so favorable to the growth of art. ...because of the importance it places on the individual, their liberty, self-expression, creativity, and personal responsibility.


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Longer Version:

She is a peacock in everything but beauty!


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Longer Version:

You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you have never had the courage to commit.


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Longer Version:

An artist should create beautiful things, but should put nothing of his own life into them. We live in an age when men treat art as if it were meant to be a form of autobiography. We have lost the abstract sense of beauty.


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Longer Version:

Ultimately the bond of all companionship, whether in marriage or a friendship, is conversation, and conversation must have a common basis, and between two people of widely different culture the only common basis is the lowest level.


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Longer Version:

The way of paradoxes is the way of truth. To test Reality we must see it on the tight-rope. When the Verities become acrobats we can judge them.


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Longer Version:

Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.


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Longer Version:

Good resolutions are useless attempts to interfere with scientific laws. Their origin is pure vanity. Their result is absolutely nil. They give us, now and then, some of those luxurious sterile emotions that have a certain charm for the weak.... They are simply cheques that men draw on a bank where they have no account.


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Longer Version:

We can have in life but one great experience at best, and the secret of life is to reproduce that experience as often as possible.'

'Even when one has been wounded by it, Harry?' asked the duchess after a pause.

'Especially when one has been wounded by it,' answered Lord Henry.


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Longer Version:

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. We all have clouds above us but some see their silver linings. We all face difficulties but some of us are grateful that they aren't worse.


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Longer Version:

All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. Those who read the symbol do so at their peril. It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors. Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital. When critics disagree, the artist is in accord with himself.


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Longer Version:

At every single moment of one’s life one is what one is going to be no less than what one has been. Art is a symbol, because man is a symbol.


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Longer Version:

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.


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I am jealous of everything whose beauty does not die. I am jealous of the portrait you have painted of me. Why should it keep what I must lose? Every moment that passes takes something from me and gives something to it. Oh, if it were only the other way! If the picture could change, and I could be always what I am now! Why did you paint it? It will mock me some day—mock me horribly!


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I have grown to love secrecy. It seems to be the one thing that can make modern life mysterious or marvellous to us. The commonest thing is delightful if one only hides it. When I leave town now I never tell my people where I am going. If I did, I would lose all my pleasure. It is a silly habit, I dare say, but somehow it seems to bring a great deal of romance into one's life.


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Longer Version:

Pleasure is Nature's test, her sign of approval. When man is happy, he is in harmony with himself and his environment.


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Longer Version:

It was a fatal day when the public discovered that the pen is mightier than the paving-stone, and can be made as offensive as the brickbat. They at once sought for the journalist, found him, developed him, and made him their industrious and well-paid servant. It is greatly to be regretted, for both their sakes.


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Longer Version:

Words! Mere words! How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid, and cruel! One could not escape from them. And yet what a subtle magic there was in them! They seemed to be able to give a plastic form to formless things, and to have a music of their own as sweet as that of viol or of lute. Mere words! Was there anything so real as words?


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Longer Version:

Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in the beautiful things are the cultivated.


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Out of the unreal shadows of the night comes back the real life that we had known. We have to resume it where we had left off, and there steals over us a terrible sense of the necessity for the continuance of energy in the same wearisome round of stereotyped habits, or a wild longing, it may be, that our eyelids might open some morning upon a world that had been refashioned anew in the darkness for our pleasure, a world in which things would have fresh shapes and colours, and be changed, or have other secrets, a world in which the past would have little or no place, or survive, at any rate, in no conscious form of obligation or regret, the remembrance even of joy having its bitterness and the memories of pleasure their pain.


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Longer Version:

Ah, on what little things does happiness depend! I have read all that the wise men have written, and all the secrets of philosophy are mine, yet for want of a red rose is my life made wretched.


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Longer Version:

Suffering is one very long moment. We cannot divide it by seasons. We can only record its moods, and chronicle their return. With us time itself does not progress. It revolves. It seems to circle round one center of pain.


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Longer Version:

One should absorb the colour of life, but one should never remember its details. Details are always vulgar.


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Longer Version:

It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.


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Longer Version:

I don't want to see him alone. He says things that annoy me. He gives me good advice." Lord Henry smiled. "People are very fond of giving away what they need most themselves. It is what I call the depth of generosity.


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With an evening coat and a white tie, as you told me once, anybody, even a stock-broker, can gain a reputation for being civilized. Well, after I had been in the room about ten minutes, talking to huge overdressed dowagers and tedious academicians, I suddenly became conscious that some one was looking at me.


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Longer Version:

Each time that one loves is the only time one has ever loved. Difference of object does not alter singleness of passion. It merely intensifies it. We can have but one great experience at best, and the secret of life is to reproduce that experience as often as possible.


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Longer Version:

A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. Its beauty comes from the fact that the author is what he is. It has nothing to do with the fact that other people want what they want.


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Longer Version:

Do not be afraid of the past. If people tell you that it is irrevocable, do not believe them. The past, the present and the future are but one moment in the sight of God, in whose sight we should try to live. Time and space, succession and extension, are merely accidental conditions of thought. The imagination can transcend them.


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For the canons of good society are, or should be, the same as the canons of art. Form is absolutely essential to it. It should have the dignity of a ceremony, as well as its unreality, and should combine the insincere character of a romantic play with the wit and beauty that make such plays delightful to us.


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Longer Version:

Beauty is the only thing that time cannot harm. Philosophies fall away like sand, creeds follow one another, but what is beautiful is a joy for all seasons, a possession for all eternity.


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A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.


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Youth! There is nothing like youth. The middle-aged are mortgaged to Life. The old are in Life's lumber-room. But youth is the Lord of Life. Youth has a kingdom waiting for it. Every one is born a king, and most people die in exile.


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Fashion is what one wears oneself. What is unfashionable is what other people wear. Just as vulgarity is simply the conduct of other people. And falsehoods the truths of other people. Other people are quite dreadful. The only possible society is oneself. To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.


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Romance should never begin with sentiment. It should begin with science and end with a settlement. Nothing spoils romance so much as a sense of humor in the woman. When one is in love one always begins by deceiving oneself, and one always ends by deceiving others. This is what the world calls a romance.


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There is a 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.


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I am sick to death of cleverness. Everybody is clever nowadays. You can’t go anywhere without meeting clever people. The thing has become an absolute public nuisance. I wish to goodness we had a few fools left.


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I know not whether Laws be right,

Or whether Laws be wrong;

All that we know who be in jail

Is that the wall is strong;

And that each day is like a year,

A year whose days are long.


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A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias.


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For us there is only one season, the season of sorrow. The very sun and moon seem taken from us. Outside, the day may be blue and gold, but the light that creeps down through the thickly-muffled glass of the small iron-barred window beneath which one sits is grey and niggard. It is always twilight in one's cell, as it is always twilight in one's heart. And in the sphere of thought, no less than in the sphere of time, motion is no more.


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Longer Version:

Genius lasts longer than Beauty. That accounts for the fact that we all take such pains to over-educate ourselves.


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I can stand brute force, but brute reason is quite unbearable. There is something unfair about its use. It is hitting below the intellect.


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Remember that the fool in the eyes of the gods and the fool in the eyes of man are very different. One who is entirely ignorant of the modes of Art in its revolution or the moods of thought in its progress, of the pomp of the Latin line or the richer music of the vowelled Greeks, of Tuscan sculpture or Elizabethan song may yet be full of the very sweetest wisdom. The real fool, such as the gods mock or mar, is he who does not know himself. I was such a one too long. You have been such a one too long. Be so no more. Do not be afraid. The supreme vice is shallowness. Everything that is realised is right.


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Because to influence a person is to give him one's own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of some one else's music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him. The aim of life is self-development. To realize one's nature perfectly -- that is what each of us is here for. People are afraid of themselves, nowadays. They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to oneself. Of course they are charitable. They feed the hungry, and clothe the beggar. But their own souls starve, and are naked. Courage has gone out of our race. Perhaps we never really had it. The terror of society, which is the basis of morals, the terror of God, which is the secret of religion -- these are the two things that govern us.


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--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde

Longer Version:

Where there is sorrow there is holy ground. Some day people will realise what that means. They will know nothing of life till they do,—and natures like his can realise it.


--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
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--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
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--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
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--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde

Longer Version:

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live; it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. And unselfishness is letting other people's lives alone, not interfering with them. Selfishness always aims at uniformity of type. Unselfishness recognizes infinite variety of type as a delightful thing, accepts it, acquiesces in it, enjoys it.


--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
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--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde

Longer Version:

It is always a silly thing to give advice, but to give good advice is absolutely fatal. I hope you will never fall into that error. If you do, you will be sorry for it.


--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde

Longer Version:

I am but too conscious of the fact that we are born in an age when only the dull are treated seriously, and I live in terror of not being misunderstood. Don't degrade me into the position of giving you useful information. Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.


--Oscar Wilde

Longer Version:

Nothing is so aggravating as calmness. There is something positively brutal about the good temper of most modern men.


--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde

Longer Version:

I don’t regret for a single moment having lived for pleasure. I did it to the full, as one should do everything that one does. There was no pleasure I did not experience. I threw the pearl of my soul into a cup of wine.


--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
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--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
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--Oscar Wilde
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--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde

Longer Version:

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.


--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde

Longer Version:

Most people live for love and admiration. But it is by love and admiration that one should live. If any love is shown us we should recognize that we are quite unworthy of it. Nobody is worthy to be loved... or if that phrase is a bitter one to bear, let us say that everyone is worthy of love, except him who thinks he is. Love is a sacrament that should be taken kneeling..


--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde

Longer Version:

Thinking is the most unhealthy thing in the world, and people die of it just as they die of any other disease. Fortunately, in England at any rate, thought is not catching. Our splendid physique as a people is entirely due to our national stupidity.


--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
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--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde

Longer Version:

There is only one class in the community that thinks more about money than the rich, and that is the poor. The poor can think of nothing else.


--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde

Longer Version:

When I like people immensely, I never tell their names to any one. It is like surrendering a part of them. I have grown to love secrecy. It seems to be the one thing that can make modern life mysterious or marvellous to us. The commonest thing is delightful if one only hides it. When I leave town now I never tell my people where I am going. If I did, I would lose all my pleasure.


--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde

Longer Version:

The mere mechanical technique of acting can be taught, but the spirit that is to give life to lifeless forms must be born in a man. No dramatic college can teach its pupils to think or to feel. It is Nature who makes our artists for us, though it may be Art who taught them their right mode of expression.


--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde

Longer Version:

Bad artists always admire each other's work. They call it being large-minded and free from prejudice. But a truly great artist cannot conceive of life being shown, or beauty fashioned, under any conditions other than those he has selected.


--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde

Longer Version:

Those who try to lead the people can only do so by following the mob. It is through the voice of one crying in the wilderness that the ways of the gods must be prepared.


--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde
--Oscar Wilde

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