A Dandy’s Guide to a Good Life

Oscar Wilde once said: “I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.”

When I first read that, I presumed he was simply being clever, making a witty statement just for the fun of it. But since then I have wondered if he wasn’t actually giving away one of his secrets for a successful life. 

Choosing your friends for their looks instead of, say, their sense of loyalty, seems impossibly superficial — and yet there is a sort of resigned brilliance in it. You can imagine Wilde wanting to surround himself with beautiful people – and I’m sure he meant beautiful in manner too. For him, friends are there to make your life amusing, to help you pass the time.

Choosing your acquaintances for their good characters… that’s interesting. At first blush the idea of being selective about one’s acquaintances seems unnecessary. These are not your friends. So does their character really matter? In fact, it does. Because more often than not it is our acquaintances we rely on when we need help — our neighbors and local tradespeople, not our friends.

As for choosing your enemies for their intellects… can’t argue with Wilde’s logic on that one, can we?