Tag Archives: The Decay of Lying

Imagination and Lying

“The moment Art surrenders it’s imaginative medium, it surrenders everything.  As a method Realism is a complete failure, and the two things that every artist should avoid are modern it of form and modernity of subjectmatter.  To us, who live in the nineteenth century, any century is a suitable subject for art except our own.  The only beautiful things are the things that do not concern us.”

Wilde, Oscar. “The Decay of Lying.” archive.org/stream/intentionsdecayo00wild. April 2008. September 2014.

This passage stuck out because, throughout much of this passage, I found Vivian annoying until the connection is made that imagination and lying are synonymous.  Art is a product of human imagination and it takes some truth bending to accomplish that.

Wilde: The Decay of Lying

“The loss that results to literature in general from this false ideal of our time can hardly be overestimated. People have a careless way of talking about a ‘born liar,’ just as they talk about a ‘born poet.’ But in both cases they are wrong. Lying and poetry are arts—arts, as Plato saw, not unconnected with each other—and they require the most careful study, the most disinterested devotion. Indeed, they have their technique, just as the more material arts of painting and sculpture have, their subtle secrets of form and colour, their craft-mysteries, their deliberate artistic methods. As one knows the poet by his fine music, so one can recognize the liar by his rich rhythmic utterance, and in neither case will the casual inspiration of the moment suffice. Here, as elsewhere, practice must precede perfection.”

Wilde Oscar. The Decay of Lying. 1889. http://literature.proquest.com.proxy.libraries.rutgers.edu/searchFulltext.do?id=Z000731336&divLevel=0&area=prose&DurUrl=Yes&forward=textsFT&queryType=findWork.

In Vivan’s  article, she is trying to say that it takes skill to be “good” liar and nobody is a natural born to these skills. She describes lying and poetry as art and people start out from the beginning. With time and devotion to these arts along with learning the material/secrets that come along with it, they will become the best liars or poets out there.

What makes a character fictional or not?

“In literature we require distinction, charm, beauty, and imaginative power. We don’t want to be harrowed and disgusted with an account of the doings of the lower orders…The only real people are the people who never existed, and if a novelist is base enough to go to life for his personages he should at least pretend that they are creations, and not boast of them as copies. The justification of a character in a novel is not that other persons are what they are, but that the author is what he is. Otherwise the novel is not a work of art.”

Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying. http://literature.proquest.com.proxy.libraries.rutgers.edu/searchFulltext.do?id=Z000731336&divLevel=0&area=prose&DurUrl=Yes&forward=textsFT&queryType=findWork

Here, the character Vivian explains how the “real people” (or characters) in novels are simply based on imagination. However, if the novelist decides to involve a person whom he or she knows within their text, they must “pretend” they are not real, or pretend they are “creations,” since if they include a real person, the novel would not be considered fiction — which, in this case, would not be considered “a work of art.”