Comment To Customs Officers "I Have Nothing To Declare Except My Genius"
by Oscar Wilde

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"I Have Nothing To Declare Except My Genius"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: No one ever characterized the Dublin-born wit Oscar Wilde as a modest person. Friends continually quoted his boasting, sometimes with a basis in fact. Said E. F. Benson: "How like was his talk to the play of a sunlit fountain." Once, along with an invitation to dinner, the host expressed uncertainty about what would be served. "Oh, anything," Wilde assured him. "I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best." About his writing, he declared: "Would you like to know the grand drama of my life? It is that I have put my genius into my life–I have put only my talent into my works." One of his most-quoted quips came at the end of his voyage to New York in 1881 to lecture and press for a production of his drama Vera. As his friend Frank Harris described the episode:

It was on the cards that he might succeed in his new adventure. The taste of America in letters and art is still strongly influenced, if not formed, by English taste, and, if Oscar Wilde had been properly accredited, it is probable that his extraordinary gift of speech would have won him success in America as a lecturer.
His phrase to the Revenue Officers on landing: "I have nothing to declare except my genius," turned the limelight full upon him and excited comment and discussion all over the country. But the fuglemen of his caste whose praise had brought him to the front in England were almost unrepresented in the States, and never bold enough to be partisan. . .