Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative… – Oscar Wilde

I really admire this man for his thoughts. Actually his convoluted thinking which is so true. I must say Oscar Wilde is a big inspiration for me. Actually having read only his quotes, I can say I am an authority on him. The day I read his works that might not be true anymore. Well since that sounds so profound, it is probably true.

I became a fan of Oscar Wilde the day I read this:

“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every 6 months.”

This filled me with intrigue and I started searching for more. I realized that this man has been a literary genius of his times with thoughts so profound that it holds true even today. If you are interested in more of his witty quotes you can check the Quotations page

Well if you look at consistency it is true that they are usually by the book people. They never deviate from the rules and walk a straight road. I guess that can be boring if not for them but the ones who watch them. Consistency and the right be bored to death belongs to the purists I think.

As a true Aquarian…I believe the factor of unpredictability is the spice of life. So its important to let your imagination run wild and surprise yourself with a dash of behavior not consistent to you. Letting your hair down is as important as washing your bum after a visit…(urgh…I couldn’t think of something shittier).

I will hate to be a robot programmed to function the same way everyday, every minute of your life…look at my blog…how inconsistent I am with my posts…wow…I just found a great excuse…I love imagination πŸ™‚

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  1. I agree that consistency is the “last” resort of the unimaginative, but that in no way implies that the first resort is inconsistency. The first resort could be a lot of things; it could be imagination, but imagination takes effort. The unimaginative, as a last resort, fall into consistency or routine because it’s easy, and it’s what they know is safe.

  2. This whole argument is ridiculous. Agargara’s interpretation is hair-splitting, point-missing twaddle of exactly the kind one can *consistently* expect from the *unimaginative*. Honestly, do you really believe Oscar Wilde was the type to go around extolling the virtues of consistency?

  3. While semantically, I can see Agagara’s point; my interpretation also rests with the idea that the quote was intended to showcase the confines of the unimaginative mind. As the unimaginative mind seeks imagination, and fails, the last refuge for that mind is a routine; a means of bringing relevance and meaning into it; a euphemism for “unimaginative”.

  4. I love this quote :: can’t get enough of it actually. All of your comments here prodded this thinking:

    “Here we get back to Wilde, with his ‘Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.’ With this definition of poetry and semantic creation it is natural to understand imaginative (original, creative) semantic construction as outside of and beyond consistency. And it shows that mere consistency does not actually ever involve creation, or invention. Consistency, in light of this way of seeing translation and the poetic, is well suited by the idea of refuge…it is, in this model, the safe place where nothing new is happening, where nothing is being invented, where nothing is being created, where nothing is being defined.”

    Here’s another Wilde quote I can’t get enough of:

    β€œOne should always play fairly when one has the winning cards.”

    And some extended thoughts on that quote:

    Wilde is the man.

  5. I know this is really late, but I want to say that the original interpretation was correct, and the statement is semantically correct. When Mr. Wilde said it is the last refuge, he did not mean they go to it after all others. He meant that it is the last one left because other refuges are not available to an unimaginative mind. See?
    Note, however, that he was not talking about holding inconsistent beliefs simultaneously, but of changing beliefs over time. It boils down to, “Unimaginative people follow habits.”

    • @Rodger: It is never too late…and I must say Wilde is still such a sensation on my blog that this is the highest commented post on my blog. I appreciate your vote on the interpretation but as I have been consistently πŸ™‚ interpretation is finally that…a “personal” point of view…believed to be the true meaning of what was said.

  6. Hi Tom

    I relate to your point. I used to have trouble with perceptions too. I used to write poetry in school. The thing was when my friends, relatives or even my teachers used to read them, they used to come up with amazing interpretations that I never even remotely thought of.

    That is why I completely agree with the writer Robert McCloskey when he said: β€œI know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

  7. Just an unrelated comment about interpreting dead people’s writings. One of my English courses in college included reading several short stories, poetry, and plays, and writing papers on them. College is allegedly a place where a student first gets to “think”. Let me tell you that Hell hath no fury like an English Teacher scorned, especially one whose thesis was on Emily Dickinson, and you dare to interpret one her poems in any way different then the “theology” dictates that it should be.

  8. Hi Matthew

    Thank you for taking the time to comment. I am the author and was a little lazy to log in as administrator πŸ™‚ to reply so commenting directly.

    I am so intrigued to notice that this is the most commented post on my blog. Oscar Wilde does have some influence even in the modern times.

    I will try to write something on more of his quotes.

  9. “Oscar Wilde is saying that unimaginative people are inconsistent to make up for their lack of imagination.”

    I think he’s saying that imagination operates in a broader playground than what would be the playground for everything that is consistent. That when unimaginative people are unable to operate in that broader playground, that they can find refuge in that fact that they are consistent. Of course, people with that limitation laud the virtue of consistency over imagination–consistency is hard and logical while the imaginative is fluffy and arbitrary. I think Wilde is subverting the dominant idea that consistency is to be valued over imagination.

    Just my two cents on this great quote…

  10. I totally agree with you. Though we need to keep the context of the quote in mind, we should not let the semantics get in the way to how we perceive it. I was writing a blog on this quote of Oscar Wilde and thought of researching what people on web think about it. Well, I found infinite interpretations. Luckily, I found the text from where the quote is picked. It gave me a good idea of Wilde was thinking when he said it. You are invited to read my perspective on the quote in my blog
    Let me know what you feel about it.

  11. Hi
    I know it’s too late for me to join the thread but I found something interesting and thought I should share it. Initially after reading the blog and the comments that came along, I believed Agagara’s interpretation to be true, it made sense. However, recently I realized that Oscar Wilde didn’t go into semantics while writing the quote, and therefore we need to consider the context in which he said the above. After reading the article, I think it’s creativebug’s interpretation that goes well with what Wilde intended. Wilde’s quote is from Pall Mall Gazatte which you can download and read from this link

    • I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to read and respond. I also thank you for the vote πŸ™‚ Actually, my take is very simple. Why should we restrict ourselves to the view of the author. I write stories and love films. I like the ones that make you think on your own rather than accept what has been portrayed.

      I am pleasantly surprised to find that people are interested in Oscar Wilde so much that they have taken time to respond and argue over a post on one of his quotes. I am thinking of an Oscar Wilde section on the blog where I can try to interpret the quotes my way and invite refutations from interested readers.

  12. Oooops I forgot to mention…..contrary to the rubbish quality of English and pathetic writing skills….I am afraid English was my First Language.

    I am glad that my English professors don’t read this blog πŸ™‚

  13. Yepee! I ws missing all the excitement. Now we are going to have a RACE war I guess.

    Well I guess only people with English as their first language can think….others can’t even dare to think out-of-the-box….hmmmm.

    Again as I mentioned in my last comment. I agree with Agagara but as I mentioned again, I chose to interpret the sentence the way I want; its up to the readers to accept what they feel is correct.

    That is why I am not a Wilde Scholar but a bored guy who keeps blabbering on my blog.


  14. I really think Agagara is right.. Oscar Wilde’s quotes don’t need any interpretation unless your first language is not English?…

  15. I yield to thee!

    I prefer my interpretation over his statement though, makes more sense. But I see it this way, now this quote on my blog has 2 interpretations. One the actual (thanks to you) and one mine. So let the readers choose what makes more sense. πŸ™‚

  16. Sorry to double post, but I thought I might be more convincing with examples from other people. A few seconds of quote googling yielded these quotes:

    “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” ~ Samuel Johnson

    “The last refuge of the insomniac is a sense of superiority to the sleeping world.” ~ Leonard Cohen

    “Sex is the last refuge of the miserable.” ~ Quentin Crisp

    “Sarcasm: the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.” ~ Fyodor Dostoevsky

    Now, I’m not saying I agree with Oscar Wilde. In fact, I think Oscar Wilde was an arrogant asshole. I’m just trying to point out that a “last refuge” signifies that all other options have been exhausted.

  17. There are certainly multiple ways to interpret any sentence. But some of them are wrong. For example, if I said “Begging is the last resort of dying men,” somebody might interpret it to mean that dying men are beggars. This is incorrect. It means that dying men do not beg until they are completely out of every option.

    It is preposterous to suggest that every possible interpretation of a sentence is correct. There are cases in which multiple interpretations are correct, and this is when there is ambiguity. This is not one of those cases.

    The meaning of Wilde’s sentence is inherent in the syntactical structure and thus needs no explanation from him. If Oscar Wilde had really meant what you are saying, he would have said “Consistency is the refuge of the unimaginative.” That would support your interpretation. However, by adding the word “last,” he changed the sentence’s meaning completely.

    If Antarctica is the last refuge of the human race, it means that we will try to live in sunnier places before visiting penguins. If death is the last refuge of the brave man, it means he will fight with all his might to stay alive.

  18. But don’t you think that, it is very much possible to interpret a sentence in any way. I would love to see if Wilde did explain this sentence anywhere.

    If he did give an interpretation of this quote then it makes sense. If he did not, well then it must have been interpreted by some one who thought that the interpretation that you give is the one. But then that need not be the only meaning just because a personality interpreted it.

    Well if Wilde did explain this then all of my words are in vain. Please do not take this personally but I appreciate your interest in Wilde and his quotes.

  19. Hey, I’m not the one who wrote the quote. I was only pointing out Oscar Wilde’s semantic meaning: imaginative people know when to be consistent and when not to be. Don’t bother arguing about your worldview; Oscar Wilde’s actual words are what matters here.

  20. Interesting.

    So you meant to say that Unimaginative people are supposed to be Inconsistent by default since they do not have the imagination to be consistent.

    Errr….I think that is what I call misinterpretation.

    People who are not imaginative prefer to be consistent in their ways. They like a set of rules that help them complete their work. They cannot think out of the box. Keeping them pinned down to a routine/consistent set of tasks.

    On the contrary, besides ‘gonads’, a creative mind seeks the route that was never found. They prefer to be inconsistent in their way of life. Nothing is programmed. They are also not consistent in their creative output. Overall, they are inconsistent in all aspects but their creativity speaks for itself.

    If you like cricket I can explain it this way, Dravid is a highly technical player who is consistent and by the book. It makes him…him but then there is no spark. Shewag is a crazy with the bat guy. No consistency but yet when he hits its a treat to watch. Very creative in his shots and awesome.

  21. With all due respect, I believe you are wildly misinterpreting the quote.

    Consistency is the LAST resort of the unimaginative, not the first. Which means that most unimaginative people are INconsistent. Oscar Wilde is saying that unimaginative people are inconsistent to make up for their lack of imagination.

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