Speech Given by Oscar Wilde on Worthing Pier on 13 September 1894


On 13 September 1894 a so-called Venetian Fete was held in Worthing. Afterwards a concert was held in the pavilion at the sea-end of the pier, following which Oscar Wilde gave away the prizes for the best decorated boats and delivered a short speech.

The report in the Worthing Gazette of 19 September uses indirect speech. This reconstruction into direct speech was prepared for the visit to Worthing of members of the Oscar Wilde Society on 12 August 2012, when Antony Edmonds spoke Wilde’s words for the first time for nearly 120 years within a few yards of where they were first delivered.

I congratulate Worthing on the extremely beautiful scene of this evening.

Worthing has already arranged some extremely pretty shows. I have been much struck at the Regatta, at the Lifeboat Demonstration, and other festivals with the beauty and grace of everything I have seen.

There was, however, there was one thing that marred the Regatta. There was a sailing boat, not belonging to Worthing, but coming from some wicked, tasteless spot [probably the rival resort of Brighton], bearing a huge advertisement of a patent pill. I hope that boat will never be allowed to enter Worthing again. (Much laughter.)

I cannot help feeling the change that has taken place this year in the town, and expressing the great pleasure it gives visitors to return. I consider that such a charming town will become one of the first watering places on the South Coast. It has beautiful surroundings and lovely long walks – which I recommend to other people, but do not take myself. (Laughter.)

Above all things I am delighted to observe in Worthing one of the most important things, having regard to the fashion of the age – the faculty of offering pleasure. To my mind few things are as important as a capacity for being amused, feeling pleasure, and giving it to others. I hold that whenever a person is happy he is good – although, perhaps, when he is good he is not always happy. (Laughter.) There is no excuse for anyone not being happy in such surroundings.

This is my first visit, but it will certainly not be my last. (Applause.)