Oscar Wilde Offers Practical Advice on the Writing Life in a Newly-Discovered Letter from 1890

Oscar-Wilde_LetterAccord­ing to The Tele­graph, experts rum­mag­ing through a dusty box recent­ly uncov­ered a let­ter penned by Oscar Wilde in 1890 (or there­abouts). Addressed to a “Mr. Mor­gan,” the let­ter runs 13 pages, and it offers what amounts to prac­ti­cal advice for an aspir­ing writer. Details on the let­ter’s con­tents remain scarce, although we will prob­a­bly know more when the doc­u­ment gets auc­tioned off in two weeks time. But, so far, we know that Wilde offered Mr. Mor­gan two points to con­sid­er:

“Make some sac­ri­fice for your art, and you will be repaid, but ask of art to sac­ri­fice her­self for you and a bit­ter dis­ap­point­ment may come to you,”

“The best work in lit­er­a­ture is always done by those who do not depend on it for their dai­ly bread and the high­est form of lit­er­a­ture, Poet­ry, brings no wealth to the singer.”

It’s essen­tial­ly the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry ver­sion of what Charles Bukows­ki lat­er said in much more sim­ple terms: “if you’re doing it for mon­ey or fame, don’t do it.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

So You Want to Be a Writer?: Charles Bukows­ki Explains the Dos & Don’ts

William Faulkn­er Explains Why Writ­ing is Best Left to Scoundrels … Prefer­ably Liv­ing in Broth­els (1956)

Writ­ing Tips by Hen­ry Miller, Elmore Leonard, Mar­garet Atwood, Neil Gaiman & George Orwell

by | Permalink | Comments (3) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (3)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • hel­lo, I was won­der­ing if you knew where one could obtain a copy of this let­ter. I’m extreme­ly inter­est­ed. any­one?

  • Seb Morgan says:

    Fun­ny! My great grand­dad Robert Edmund Hul­bert Mor­gan was a friend of Mr Wilde and in our fam­i­ly it has always been known that he had many let­ters from him that my dad’s cusin sold off with­out any­body know­ing and to every­body’s great dis­gust! I won­der if one of them is this one..

  • Rho says:

    ..” ‘Experts’…, uncov­ered a let­ter penned by Oscar Wilde in 1890…” …, and what do they do with it ? Auc­tion it off to the high­est bid­der.. Ugh.., (Sic Tran­sit Glo­ria Mun­di..!..)

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.