Summer Nights

“The exquisite art of idleness, one of the most important things that any University can teach.” – Oscar Wilde

After transferring to Northwest Missouri State last fall, I moved into a one-room apartment in early July. With only a part-time job to occupy my time, and a longing for my vast yard back at home, I made my way outside in the evenings to explore the new campus. Of course I would take my book with me in case I found a new place to relax. After my second or third venture on my bicycle, I discovered Colden Pond. Among the beautiful scenery of Northwest – and right near the ‘Kissing Bridge’ – the little pond became my go-to spot. One of my first nights there, I even predicted the engagement of a nearby couple. Now, spending another summer working part-time in Maryville, I find myself coming back to the familiar oasis. And although it’s not being taught in the classroom, I’m doing my best to practice that exquisite art of idleness.

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Wisdom of a Wilde One

To compensate for my slight underestimation of Oscar Wilde’s cleverness, here are some of my favourite quotes from my most recent read…

“Yes; she is a peacock in everything but beauty,” said Lord Henry.

“In the wild struggle for existence, we want to have something that endures, and so we fill our minds with rubbish and facts, in the silly hope of keeping our place.” – Lord Henry

“Women have no appreciation of good looks; at least good women have not.” – Lord Henry

“They spoil every romance by trying to make it last for ever.” – Lord Henry

“She behaves as if she was beautiful. Most American women do. It is the secret of their charm.” “Why can’t these American women stay in their country? They are always telling us that it is the paradise for women.” “It is. That is the reason why, like Eve, they are so excessively anxious to get out of it.” – Exchange between Lord Henry and his Uncle George

“…I want to make Romeo jealous. I want the dead lovers of the world to hear our laughter and grow sad. I want a breath of our passion to stir their dust into consciousness, to wake their ashes into pain…” – Dorian Gray

“; and you have often told me that it is personalities, not principles, that move the age.” – Dorian Gray

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

“…Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.” – Lord Henry

“Veil after veil of thin dusky gauze is lifted and by degrees the forms and colours of things are restored to them, and we watch the dawn remaking the world in its antique pattern. The wan mirrors get back to their mimic life. The flameless tapers stand where we had left them, and beside them lies the half-cut book that we had been studying, or the wired flower that we had worn at the ball, or the letter that we had been afraid to read, or that we had read too often. Nothing seems to us changed. Out of the unreal shadows of the night comes back the real life 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 of 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 of even joy having its bitterness and the memories of pleasure their pain.”

“…Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man’s face. It cannot be concealed. People talk sometimes of secret vices. There are no such things. If a wretched man has a vice, it shows itself in the lines of his mouth, the droop of his eyelids, the moulding of his hands even.” – Basil Hallward

“But youth smiles without any reason. It is one of its chiefest charms.”

“Gradually the events of the preceding night crept with silent, blood-stained feet into his brain and reconstructed themselves there with terrible distinctness.”

“You will never marry again, Lady Narborough,” broke in Lord Henry. “You were far too happy. When a woman marries again, it is because she detested her first husband. When a man marries again, it is because he adored his first wife. Women try their luck; men risk theirs.” – Lord Henry

“I like men who have a future and women who have a past.” – Lord Henry

“Every effect that one produces gives one an enemy. To be popular one must be a mediocrity.” “Not with women,” said the Duchess, shaking her head; “and women rule the world. I assure you we can’t bear mediocrities. We women, as some one says, love with our ears, just as you men love with your eyes, if you ever love at all.” – Exchange between Lord Henry and Duchess Monmouth

“I am so glad that you have never done anything, never carved a statue, or painted a picture, or produced anything outside yourself. Life has been your art. You have set yourself to music. Your days are your sonnets.” – Lord Henry

“The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.” – Lord Henry

The Picture of Dorian Gray

I love it when I underestimate the quality of a book. Needless to say, that’s exactly what I did with Mr. Wilde’s writing, even after a recommendation from a best friend. I’ve come to terms that many of you reading this may not get around to the books I post about. No big deal. And those of you who have won’t mind if I spoil the ending. I’m going to do it just this once anyway.

The story starts off with Mr. Basil Hallward, a very whimsical and introspective creature in my mind. Mr. Hallward is a painter, and his favourite subject as of late is the young Dorian Gray. Dorian is his favourite not only in the sense of art, but in personality, innocence and society as well. Hallward has a sociable acquaintence, Lord Henry who becomes interested in Dorian, too.

Early on, the audience discovers that Lord Henry is completely and utterly full of hot air, and occasionally shares some clever insight on topics from a different perspective. During Dorian and Lord Henry’s first meeting, Hallward creates is greatest masterpiece to date, a portrait of Dorian. Despite Hallward’s best efforts, Dorian soon becomes corrupted by Lord Henry. All three of them are struck by the beauty of the painter’s latest work, which influences Dorian’s growing infatuation with youth and beauty, society and self-importance.

“Some day, when you are old and wrinkled and ugly, when thought has seared your forehead with its lines, and passion branded your lips with its hideous fires, you will feel it. You will feel it terribly.” – Lord Henry

Before Mr. Gray becomes completely consumed with himself, he falls in love with a brilliant, young actress, Sibyl Vane. Once he approaches her and proposes, Sibyl realizes how fake her world of scenes and stories really is. The same night she experiences this epiphany, Hallward and Lord Henry join Dorian at the theatre, only to watch a dreadful performance. Dorian is horribly embarrassed and breaks his engagement with Sibyl. She is heartbroken and takes her life that very night.

Throughout the story, Basil’s infamous portrait of Dorian Gray bears the ugliness of Dorian’s soul. After his life of vanity, rumours and even murder, Hallward’s canvas becomes the home of Dorian’s deception, anger, and shallow actions. A marvelous tale, full of extraordinary and humourous quotes, with a sobering finish. I’m considering a post on quotations alone. Could be fun. Excellent read. Go find out for yourself. Share your opinions!

Oh, I just wanted to throw this in there. I almost considered the title, ‘Girls Gone Wilde’ but I figured it didn’t relate. Maybe next time.