I loved Dorian Gray but I was irritated by Basil, whom I took to task
in my review of that book; so I was a little horrified to realize that everyone in Earnest talks like that. I don't think Wilde's bon mots
are as clever as everyone else thinks they are.
I don't think Wilde thinks they are, either. Wilde despises most of the characters he writes; and I suspect the fact that he himself talked like them was more out of some deep irony than anything else.
I got to visit Merrion Square in Dublin last week, where there's a garishly painted statue of a foppish Wilde reclining over some of his best-known phrases. I think he knew that's how he'd be remembered, but I don't think it's who he was.
Ugh, okay, I can't totally get his back. I think he also thought his characters said clever, nihilistically astute things, and that part of him - his smugness - was insufferable. But at least he had the sense to mask it with irony; and he always wrote a terrific story, as floral as it might have been.
I dig this, but I dig Dorian Gray more.