Someone recently said they would love to have Oscar Wilde over for dinner, which raised the question of whether he would have actually made a good dinner guest. Having a little bit of my own bias, in this case, I looked for objective advice on what makes a good dinner guest and have measured Wilde according to seven basic standards.
- Show up: Wilde dined at many dinner tables, including one in "in the earth's bowels," a silver mine in Colorado. If he accepted a dinner invitation, I imagine he generally arrived... eventually.
- Show up ten minutes late: “I am always late on principle, my principle being that punctuality is the thief of time.” So, Wilde will show up, but we can't be sure when.
- Dietary limitations: I don’t believe Wilde had any dietary limitations. If he had any food issues, they might have come from being raised on sugar (literally the profits his dad made buying and selling sugar) and listening to his dad talk about the diseases that sprung out of the Irish Potato Famine.
- Don’t bring your kids: Wilde seldom brought his wife or children anywhere. “It is most dangerous nowadays for a husband to pay any attention to his wife in public. It always makes people think that he beats her when they are alone.”
- Have a drink: At dinner with Walt Whitman, Wilde shared a bottle of Whitman’s "notoriously vile elderberry wine." Sharing a bottle is a bit more than having a drink. Wilde could put back a lot of liquor without appearing drunk, this would make his drinking expensive, but not obnoxious.
- Step away from the kitchen: Wilde ate at restaurants far too often to want to set foot in a kitchen. In a letter to Bosie from Reading Jail, Wilde writes: “One of the most delightful dinners I remember ever having had is one Robbie and I had together in a little Soho café, which cost about as many shillings as my dinners to you used to cost pounds. Out of my dinner with Robbie came the first and best of all my dialogues. Idea, title, treatment, mode, everything was struck out at a 3 franc 50 c. table-d'hôte. Out of the reckless dinners with you nothing remains but the memory that too much was eaten and too much was drunk.” From this, I would guess that, if you really wanted to have Wilde over for dinner, you shouldn’t buy him the most expensive food, but make sure you buy an awful lot of it.
- Be amusing: If you are reading this, you would probably find Wilde to be an entertaining dinner guest. He once said that: "After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations." However, he was one of those people who seemed to enjoy the sound of his own voice and would probably have a lot more to say than any of your other guests.
In conclusion, I would say that Wilde would be an excellent dinner guest, if you've got a lot of good wine, cheap food, don't mind when dinner gets started and are ready to listen to him talk. It's only one evening, right?