Oscar Wilde was, and is, one of my favorite writers. The reason is simple.
I love the way he writes.
Whether or not you’ve read much Wilde, you probably love the way he writes too. That’s because many of the adages that we take for granted today were actually quips Oscar Wilde used in the dialog in his novels.
“I have the simplest taste. I am always satisfied with the best.”
“Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”
“Life is too important to be taken seriously.”
“I am not young enough to know everything.”
“There is only one thing in the world that is worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
Oscar Wilde was so talented and prescient he may have even written about this very blog post. He said: “Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit.”
The next time you have a few minutes, Google quotes by Oscar Wilde and spend a few very pleasant moments scrolling through his genius. If you have more time, pick up one of Wilde’s books; A Picture of Dorian Gray would be a great place to start. Besides exposing yourself to the pleasure of Wilde’s prose you’ll get a great overview of the vibe of the extravagant Edwardian English culture he lived in.
Throughout his works Wilde gave his readers privileged insight into who he was. He wrote around his own life and personality – his privileged upbringing, his belief in the philosophy of aestheticism, his interest in mythology and biblical lore, and even the time he spent in prison for the then-punishable crime of being an outed homosexual.
Oscar Wilde’s life ended about as tragically as it could. He spent his penultimate years in prison in England and after his release lived in exile in various towns and cities around France. He spent the very last years of his life suffering the indignities that came with alcoholism and abject poverty. Finally, Wilde died from syphilitic cerebral meningitis. It’s tough to see how his life could have ended up much worse.
But today Wilde is remembered both for the fascination his life inspires and as England’s most popular playwright and classicist. What Wilde was most adept at was expressing his authentic truth and his view of life in his work as a playwright, poet, and novelist. In terms more relevant to this blog, Wilde created his own powerfully personal brand.
Today’s most popular celebrity entrepreneurs have built their businesses around the same practices Oscar Wilde employed.
Like Wilde, well-known recent cults of personality such as Anthony Bourdain, Kim Kardashian, Donald Trump, and others have also built their reputations by promoting what it is that makes each of them special. Chances are your business — and your brand — could benefit from this same level of personal promotion.
It’s easy to disregard Oscar Wilde and other celebrities because of our dislike of whichever of the things they do we find distasteful. But you do so at your peril. Because there’s still a lot to learn — and a lot to employ in our own lives — from their successes.
Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde died on November 30th, 1900 in Paris, France. He was still well known almost 30 years later when Dorothy Parker wrote about him in Life Magazine: