Wilde on America

Shamelessly filched from the tinterwebby on a grey, damp and windy Margate morning.

Oscar Wilde: 20 great quotes about America


Oscar Wilde was 27 when he arrived in New York in January 1882. The playwright and poet, who was born in Dublin on October 16th 1854, visited 150 cities during his talking tour. When he arrived at the Hudson River dock, so the legend goes, a federal customs agent asked him whether he had anything to declare. “Nothing . . . nothing but my genius”. Here are some of the best quotes about the United States from the author of The Importance of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Gray, who was the subject in 2015 of a book called Wilde in America. Wilde died in Paris, aged 46, on November 30 1900.

Oscar Wilde quotes about the United States

1) “America had often been discovered before Columbus, but it had always been hushed up.”

2) “America has never quite forgiven Europe for having been discovered somewhat earlier in history than itself.”

3) “America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilisation in between.”

4) “In America the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience.”

5) “When good Americans die, they go to Paris.” “Where do bad Americans go?” “They stay in America”  (The Picture of Dorian Gray)

6) “I was very much disappointed in the Atlantic Ocean.”


7) “She behaves as if she was beautiful. Most American women do. It is the secret of their charm.”

8) “The youth of America is their oldest tradition. It has been going on now for three hundred years.”

9) “I don’t think I should like America.” “I suppose because we have no ruins and no curiosities,” said Virginia satirically. “No ruins! no curiosities!” answered the Ghost; “you have your navy and your manners.”

(The Canterville Ghost)

10) “We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.”

Oscar Wilde

11) “In America the President reigns for four years, and journalism governs for ever and ever.”

12) “Walt Whitman and Emerson are the poets who have given the world more than anyone else. Perhaps Whitman is not so widely read in England, but England never appreciates a poet until he is dead.”

13) “The beautiful, passionate, ruined South, the land of magnolias and music, of roses and romance . . . living on the memory of crushing defeats”

14) “Everybody in American seems in a rush to catch a train.”

15) “The first thing that struck me on landing in America was that if the Americans are not the most well-dressed people in the world, they are the most comfortably dressed.”

16) “America is the noisiest country that ever existed. One is waked up in the morning, not by the singing of the nightingale, but by the steam whistle.”


17) “In one dancing saloon I saw the only rational method of art criticism I have ever come across. Over the piano was printed a notice: ‘Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best.'”

18) “Every American Bride is taken there, and the sight of that tremendous waterfall must be one of the earliest, if not the keenest, disappointments in American married life.” (on Niagara Falls)

19) “I wonder that no criminal has ever pleaded the ugliness of your city as an excuse for his crimes.” (on Cincinnati)

20) “America is not a country, it is a world.”

About allatsea

Sixty year old master-mariner. Absolutely gorgeous. Well wedged.....when compared to a Nairobi street urchin. Sorted, in that I haven't been in court recently. Hopelessly optimistic, terminally disappointed. Good with cats and other fluffy things. No musical talent. Generous to a fault provided it's someone else's round. Political centreist with far right and left viewpoints. A green activist from the hydrocarbon position with nuclear leanings. Averse to avarice but always happy to receive lottery wins, gifts, windfalls, legacies, prizes and wet sloppy kisses.
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