Life is far too important to ever talk seriously about.

-Oscar Wilde

What does this mean? Is it something like "life is very important, so we can never ever talk about it seriously?"


This is a quotation from Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan, and is a typical Wildean epigram.

DUCHESS OF BERWICK: Dear Lord Darlington, how thoroughly depraved you are!
LADY WINDERMERE: Lord Darlington is trivial.
LORD DARLINGTON: Ah, don't say that, Lady Windermere.
LADY WINDERMERE: Why do you talk so trivially about life, then?
LORD DARLINGTON: Because I think that life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it.

The character who utters it, Lord Darlington, believes that what most people mean by ‘serious talk’ is worn-out platitudes which reflect social convention rather than genuine thought. He regards life as too important a subject for that: he prefers (like Wilde) to discuss life with provocative paradoxes which appear trivial but reveal genuine significance by challenging conventional wisdom.

  • It's worth mentioning that the OP's literal analysis ("life is very important, so...") is correct; the line is striking because we would expect the opposite sentiment: "Life is so important that we should never talk lightly about it." – Tim Pederick May 4 '14 at 13:59
  • @TimPederick Yes; or as Lady D says, trivially. – StoneyB on hiatus May 4 '14 at 14:11
  • @StoneyB By the way, what is this "it" at the end? I think it is ungrammatical with "it." If not, why? – user4550 May 4 '14 at 15:46
  • @user4550 It's a slightly different use of the construction to mean "so serious that one should not talk seriously about it" rather than "too serious to be talked about seriously". The use is much rarer now than in Wilde's time. – StoneyB on hiatus May 4 '14 at 15:55
  • 1
    @user4550 Yes - "I would never talk about life that way." – StoneyB on hiatus May 5 '14 at 0:39

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