Ephemeral Art

In the opening to The Wit and Humor of Oscar Wilde, the editor writes that                          “[c]onversation is an ephemeral art, and as the autumn breezes blow the brown leaves to eternity, the spring green freshness becomes only a memory.”

Ephemeral art::art of the ephemeral:

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;                                                                                      Petals on a wet, black bough. ~Ezra Pound

The exalting joy, yet the terrible fate, of conversation is that it is nothing more than leaves blown to eternity. This serves us well; for the most part, we do not want our conversations recorded and remembered and replayed. However, what about those rare instances in which we land the perfect zinger (as opposed to constructing a witty rejoinder days after someone has already made fun of us), find ourselves on the receiving end of a well-deserved compliment, or finally admit our true feelings for someone who has haunted our hearts?

I suppose that is one way that smartphones may actually benefit humanity. Maybe. (I did have a dear friend who had the irritating habit of recording me when I was unaware and, often, inebriated.)

Speaking of Oscar Wilde, the dandy genius, let us relish a few of his witticisms–perhaps they may linger longer than leaves blown in the wind.

“A man who moralizes is usually a hypocrite, and a woman who moralizes is invariably plain.”

“Rich bachelors should be heavily taxed. It is not fair that some men should  be happier than others.”

“Women are meant to be loved, not to be understood.”  (soooooo true)

“A woman will flirt with anybody in the world as long as other people are looking on.”

“American girls are as clever at concealing their parents as English women are at concealing their past.”

“She looks like a woman with a past. Most pretty women do.”

“Women have a wonderful instinct about things. They can discover everything except the obvious.” (damnnnnnnn)

“Women, as some witty Frenchman once put it, inspire us with the desire to do masterpieces, and always prevent us from carrying them out.”

“Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I always feel certain that they mean something else.”

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”

“Ambition is the last refuge of failure.”

“I am not in favor of long engagements. They give people the opportunity of finding out each other’s character before marriage, which I think is never advisable.” (so fucking true–take it from me, never allow an engagement to persist for three years without some move)

“How marriage ruins a man! It’s as demoralizing as cigarettes, and far more expensive.”

“To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.”

“Prayer must never be answered: if it is, is ceases to be prayer and become correspondence.”

“Skepticism is the beginning of Faith.”

“[M]y duty is a thing I never do, on principle.”

“One should always play fairly–when one has the wining card.”

“The Americans are certainly hero-worshipers, and always take heroes from the criminal classes.”  (*slides shiv between the ribs*)

“Oh, I’m so glad you’ve come. There are a hundred things I don’t want to say to you.”

“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”

“A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite and it leaves one unsatisfied.” (for the win!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

“The old believe everything; the middle-aged suspect everything; the young know everything.”

“I can resist everything except temptation.” (heh heh heh)

“If your sins find you out, why worry! It is when they find you in, that trouble begins.”

“The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” (gospel truth)



About Bourbon Apocalypse: A Whiskey Son of Sorrow

"If you can't annoy somebody, there's little point in writing." ~ Kingsley Amis
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3 Responses to Ephemeral Art

  1. Philologos says:

    Socrates would perhaps disagree with your assertion that conversation is “nothing more than” leaves in the wind.

    On Wilde, Chesterton, as usual, has very wise things to say, particularly the distinctions he makes between Wilde’s wise and empty witticisms.

  2. I’d be interested in reading Chesterton’s take on Wilde, as I believe him to be a rhetorical child of Wilde.

  3. Philologos says:

    A superficial resemblance—rhetorical, as you say. Not substantial: Wilde is primarily about Wilde, which is to say about nothing much; Chesterton is about the world.

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