A Little Happier: Like Oscar Wilde, Do You Find It Hard to Live Up to Your Blue China? I Do.

Oscar Wilde was a very well-known Irish poet and playwright who lived from 1854-1900 and had a brilliant, colorful, difficult life of glory and persecution. He was a witty, gifted, flamboyant aesthete.

Among his many accomplishments, Wilde is particularly well-known today for his epigrams and witty sayings. That’s one reason I love his work—I love his epigrams, aphorisms, and paradoxes. For instance, he said, “I can resist everything except temptation.”

He makes many thought-provoking observations. Here are some of my favorites: “Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.” “A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at.” “There are many things that we would throw away if we were not afraid that others would pick them up.

In his acclaimed biography of Oscar Wilde, Richard Ellmann recounts how as a student, Oscar Wilde was very interested in furnishing his rooms at Oxford, and he bought two large vases of blue china to hold lilies. Ellman notes, “These vases may have inspired the remark which reverberated first round the university, then round the country, ‘I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china.’”

Ellman remarks, “It remains one of Wilde’s most memorable assertions, and the earliest to gain currency.” He adds, “No one else could have said it.” This remark caused a huge sensation at the time. It made its way into Punch magazine and was denounced in a sermon.

I’m fascinated by this remark because—what, exactly, does it mean? What does Oscar Wilde mean when he said, “‘I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china?”

I think he means that beautiful objects make us feel like we must rise to their level, that in ourselves, we must be worthy of their beauty.

Even Oscar Wilde felt that to be a difficult aim. I certainly do!

What do you think he meant by it? “‘I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china.




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