Intentions
by Oscar Wilde

page 1  (60 pages)
to previous section
2to next section





Intentions, by Oscar Wilde
Scanned and proofed by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk





Intentions




Contents

The Decay of Lying
Pen, Pencil, and Poison
The Critic as Artist
The Truth of Masks



THE DECAY OF LYING



A DIALOGUE. Persons: Cyril and Vivian. Scene: the Library of a
country house in Nottinghamshire.

CYRIL (coming in through the open window from the terrace). My
dear Vivian, don't coop yourself up all day in the library. It is
a perfectly lovely afternoon. The air is exquisite. There is a
mist upon the woods, like the purple bloom upon a plum. Let us go
and lie on the grass and smoke cigarettes and enjoy Nature.

VIVIAN. Enjoy Nature! I am glad to say that I have entirely lost
that faculty. People tell us that Art makes us love Nature more
than we loved her before; that it reveals her secrets to us; and
that after a careful study of Corot and Constable we see things in
her that had escaped our observation. My own experience is that
the more we study Art, the less we care for Nature. What Art
really reveals to us is Nature's lack of design, her curious
crudities, her extraordinary monotony, her absolutely unfinished
condition. Nature has good intentions, of course, but, as
Aristotle once said, she cannot carry them out. When I look at a
landscape I cannot help seeing all its defects. It is fortunate
for us, however, that Nature is so imperfect, as otherwise we
should have no art at all. Art is our spirited protest, our
gallant attempt to teach Nature her proper place. As for the
infinite variety of Nature, that is a pure myth. It is not to be
found in Nature herself. It resides in the imagination, or fancy,
or cultivated blindness of the man who looks at her.

CYRIL. Well, you need not look at the landscape. You can lie on
the grass and smoke and talk.

VIVIAN. But Nature is so uncomfortable. Grass is hard and lumpy
and damp, and full of dreadful black insects. Why, even Morris's
poorest workman could make you a more comfortable seat than the
whole of Nature can. Nature pales before the furniture of 'the
street which from Oxford has borrowed its name,' as the poet you
love so much once vilely phrased it. I don't complain. If Nature
had been comfortable, mankind would never have invented
architecture, and I prefer houses to the open air. In a house we
all feel of the proper proportions. Everything is subordinated to
us, fashioned for our use and our pleasure. Egotism itself, which
is so necessary to a proper sense of human dignity, is entirely the
result of indoor life. Out of doors one becomes abstract and
impersonal. One's individuality absolutely leaves one. And then
Nature is so indifferent, so unappreciative. Whenever I am walking
in the park here, I always feel that I am no more to her than the
cattle that browse on the slope, or the burdock that blooms in the
ditch. Nothing is more evident than that Nature hates Mind.
Thinking is the most unhealthy thing in the world, and people die
of it just as they die of any other disease. Fortunately, in
England at any rate, thought is not catching. Our splendid
physique as a people is entirely due to our national stupidity. I
only hope we shall be able to keep this great historic bulwark of
our happiness for many years to come; but I am afraid that we are
beginning to be over-educated; at least everybody who is incapable
of learning has taken to teaching - that is really what our
enthusiasm for education has come to. In the meantime, you had
better go back to your wearisome uncomfortable Nature, and leave me
to correct my proofs.