A Month of Short Stories 2014, Day 22 – The Nightingale and the Rose

A year ago, for the month of June, I wrote about an online short story each day for the month. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day Twenty Two – The Nightingale and the Rose, by Oscar Wilde

Read it online here:

The Nightingale and the Rose

There is no wittier writer in the history of the world than Oscar Wilde. I remember reading The Portrait of Dorian Gray as a kid and staring in wonder across the pages at the pithy quotes and aphorisms sprinkled throughout the text. These nuggets of wisdom and bile were a second story concealed within the main book – I had a feeling that Wilde was pouring his real beliefs and feelings into these witticisms as much as into the events of the main text.

The novel feels like it was written by compiling a long, long list of witty barbs – and only then constructing a story as a framework or trellis to display them on.

  • there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about
  • But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins.
  • You seem to forget that I am married, and the one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties.
  • Being natural is simply a pose, and the most irritating pose I know.
  • As for believing things, I can believe anything, provided that it is quite incredible.
  • Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.
  • I can’t help detesting my relations. I suppose it comes from the fact that none of us can stand other people having the same faults as ourselves.
  • genius lasts longer than beauty.
  • The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.
  • The bravest man amongst us is afraid of himself.
  • It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also.
  • I always like to know everything about my new friends, and nothing about my old ones.
  • Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.
  • He was always late on principle, his principle being that punctuality is the thief of time.
  • I never talk during music–at least, during good music. If one hears bad music, it is one’s duty to drown it in conversation.
  • Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
  • Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious: both are disappointed.
  • She was free in her prison of passion.
  • Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.
  • To be in love is to surpass one’s self.
  • Women … inspire us with the desire to do masterpieces, and always prevent us from carrying them out.
  • There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating — people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing.
  • There is always something ridiculous about the emotions of people whom one has ceased to love.
  • We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities.
  • One can always be kind to people about whom one cares nothing.
  • It often seems to me that art conceals the artist far more completely than it ever reveals him.
  • Is insincerity such a terrible thing? I think not. It is merely a method by which we can multiply our personalities.
  • Each of us has heaven and hell in him.
  • I love scandals about other people, but scandals about myself don’t interest me. They have not got the charm of novelty.
  • 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.
  • Each of us has heaven and hell in him.
  • Nobody ever commits a crime without doing something stupid.
  • The husbands of very beautiful women belong to the criminal classes.
  • It is perfectly monstrous the way people go about nowadays saying things against one behind one’s back that are absolutely and entirely true.
  • Women love us for our defects. If we have enough of them, they will forgive us everything, even our intellects.
  • A man can be happy with any woman, as long as he does not love her.
  • I like men who have a future and woman who have a past.
  • Moderation is a fatal thing. Enough is as bad as a meal. More than enough is as good as a feast.
  • I admit that I think that it is better to be beautiful than to be good. But on the other hand, no one is more ready than I am to acknowledge that it is better to be good than to be ugly.
  • Scepticism is the beginning of faith.
  • The only horrible thing in the world is ennui,
  • To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable.
  • The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is young.

Over the years I have become a big fan of quotations. Oscar Wilde is the never ending fount of the pithy quote. For that, if nothing else, I am grateful.

Today’s story is very short and simple tale – not enough room for any extraneous worlds of wisdom. Alas.

But it starts out as a romantic fairy tale and appears to be so until you reach the final, dying words. Never fear, though – Wilde’s bitter cynicism will not be denied.

“No red rose in all my garden!” he cried, and his beautiful eyes filled with tears. “Ah, on what little things does happiness depend! I have read all that the wise men have written, and all the secrets of philosophy are mine, yet for want of a red rose is my life made wretched.”