A copy of a signed photograph of Oscar Wilde at the Sotheby’s auction house in London, photographed October 25, 2004.
If you think Shakespeare was the biggest of all British literary giants, the Brits don’t seem to think so.
And, no, it’s not J.K. Rowling either, despite the humongous popularity of her Harry Potter brainwork.
In fact Shakespeare and Rowling were not even named in a survey revealed on Monday on what Britons consider to be their greatest wit.
For the Brits, the “Wild” man topped them all. They named playwright Oscar Wilde, who even managed to mutter on his death bed “Either those curtains go or I do,” as Britain’s greatest wit.
He captured 20 percent of the vote, just two points ahead of comedian Spike Milligan, who had engraved on his tombstone the epitaph “I told you I was ill.”
In the Top 10 of famous wits, wartime leader Winston Churchill made it to number five for his notorious putdowns.
When accused by Labour parliamentarian Bessie Braddock of being drunk, he said: “Bessie, you’re ugly. And tomorrow morning I will be sober but you will still be ugly.”
The playwright Noel Coward comes in at number seven, saying of humor: “Wit ought to be a glorious treat like caviar. Never spread it about like marmalade.”
Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, more renowned for her steely personality than her roustabout humor, was the highest ranked woman in the poll, taking 12th place.
She once quipped: “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”
The poll of 3,000 comedy fans was conducted to mark the launch of a new UKTV digital television channel called Dave under the banner “The home of witty banter.”
Going back to Wilde, his full name is Oscar Fingal O’Flaherty Wills Wilde (October 16, 1854 – November 30, 1900). He was actually an Irish dramatist, novelist, and poet. He was the author of such plays as “The Importance of Being Earnest,” “Lady Windermere’s Fan,” “An Ideal Husband,” and the novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”
Known for his barbed wit, he was one of the most successful playwrights of late Victorian London, and one of the greatest celebrities of his day. As the result of a famous trial, he suffered a dramatic downfall and was imprisoned for two years of hard labor after being convicted of the offence of gross indecency.
Here are some of Oscar Wilde’s famous quotes:
A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.
A man can be happy with any woman as long as he does not love her.
Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.
Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.
Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.
Genius is born–not paid.
I always like to know everything about my new friends, and nothing about my old ones.
I am not young enough to know everything.
I think that God in creating Man somewhat overestimated his ability.
If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.
Illusion is the first of all pleasures.
It is always a silly thing to give advice, but to give good advice is fatal.
Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.
Most modern calendars mar the sweet simplicity of our lives by reminding us that each day that passes is the anniversary of some perfectly uninteresting event.
Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.
Music makes one feel so romantic – at least it always gets on one’s nerves – which is the same thing nowadays.
One can survive everything, nowadays, except death, and live down everything except a good reputation.
One should always play fairly when one has the winning cards.
Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious.