Oscar Wilde in As We Were by E.F. Benson

In lauding the great society hostesses of the 1890s (including the Duchess of Devonshire of the time, who sounds just fabulous) E.F. Benson recalls a late-night supper hosted by the Marchioness of Ripon (oh, to know these people!). He mentions casually that Oscar Wilde was present at the party, and recounts this wonderful Wildeanism:

"Oscar Wilde came drifting largely along, and caught sight of some new arrival. 'Oh, I'm so glad you've come,' he said. 'There are a hundred things I want not to say to  you.'"

E.F. Benson, As We Were, p.181

One of the things that has just dawned on me, rather late in the piece, is that the successful memoirist and diarist needs to record interactions with famous people and reactions to timely events. These are the things that later generations will be looking for. Of course, we are mostly obsessed with the minutiae of our own lives and the portentousness of our own words and anxieties, and we can often forget to allow the imposition of the outside world. A perusal of my own old diaries proves the truth of this. Unfortunately, this lack of recording of the great events of the age can begin to take on a slightly Pooterish quality.

Must remember to keep more of an ear to the news and write down my reactions.


Popular Posts