• Beauty of Soul: Oscar Wilde & Anton Chekhov

    By Stephen Fry

    Everything we know about people is wrong.

    Well, perhaps that’s going a little far. But, really. Take Oscar. Oscar Wilde. He stands for one thing and one thing only. Wit. Sharp wit. Glittering wit. Keen, wicked, penetrating wit. Camp. Clever. Crushing. Proud, peacocky and impertinent.

    Recording Oscar Wilde and Anton Chekhov. © Samfry Ltd 2008

    Recording Oscar Wilde and Anton Chekhov. © Samfry Ltd 2008

    Wrong. Wrong, wronger, wrongest.

    Certainly Wilde was witty, certainly he is remembered for firing off epigrams like a belt-fed mortar. But look properly at the man and his works and you will see that the spirits that most animated him were in fact those of sympathy and imagination., which are really one spirit. Wilde was an artist; he was of course prince among artists in his time. He championed art above everything. But that is because he understood that art is the product, not of intellect, wit or superior faculties of understanding, but of imagination. As it happens he had intellect, wit and superior faculties of understanding and he had them in spades. Such qualities can make a critic, a businessman, a lawyer, a politician, a scholar or a general. They can fit a person to be almost anything; anything, that is, but an artist. To be sure they are fine qualities for an artist to have, but they are not necessary or sufficient for the making of an artist. For that what is needed is imagination.

    We know that imagination is about making things up. About pretending. About creating worlds, pictures, situations and characters all out of our head.

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