The popular quote “Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination” is NOT by Oscar Wilde.
Anyone who really takes the trouble to verify this quote, then they don’t have to suffer in embarrassment.
While I was searching the source of this quote, I found out that Oscar Wilde used the phrase “lack of imagination” many a times in his writings.
I have written a blog post featuring Oscar Wilde works, where he used the phrase “lack of imagination“.
Anyone Lives Within Their Means Not Oscar Wilde
Anyway, this quote is actually by the late actor Lionel Stander.
He was popularly known as Max, the butler, cook and chauffeur to Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers on the 1979–1984 mystery television series “Hart to Hart“.
The series was created by novelist and television writer Sidney Sheldon.
This very quote is from an interview conducted by the late Helen Lawrenson for the Esquire magazine back in the Sixties.
“Anyone who lives within his means suffers from a lack of imagination.” – Lionel Stander
(Lionel Stander…that’s who By Helen Lawrenson, Esquire: The Magazine For Men, December 1967, P. 182) source
In fact, I have already written two other posts earlier, highlighting the correct attribution of this particular anyone lives within their means quote.
Citing Wrong Source
There is another erroneous issue with this quote.
People credited it correctly to Lionel Stander, but cited the source wrong.
As I have just mentioned above, this quote “Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination” is from the December 1967 issue of Esquire magazine.
There are still people who stated it as from Playboy magazine.
The key problem with rampant misquotes is the proverbial the blind leading the blind.
People just copied the quotes blindly, without checking or verifying the authenticity of the sources.
They trust all those popular quotation websites and published books.
Quotes Wrongly Attributed To Oscar Wilde
There are many quotes misattributed to Oscar Wilde.
For example, these three (3) quotes:
I am not young enough to know everything.
Lately, the other culprits equally ill-famed for proliferating misquotes are the social media: Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook.
The correct attribution is James Matthew Barrie aka J. M. Barrie.
The Scottish novelist and playwright, best remembered as the creator of the fictional character Peter Pan.
This line is found in one of his notable works, a 1902 comic 4-act play titled, “The Admirable Crichton“.
“I’m not young enough to know everything.” – J. M. Barrie, The Admirable Crichton
(The Admirable Crichton: A Fantasy in Four Acts By James Matthew Barrie, Library of Alexandria, 1902, Act I) source
In 1957, this comic stage play was adapted into a south seas adventure comedy romance film directed by Lewis Gilbert.
The late Lewis Gilbert went on to direct three James Bond films: “You Only Live Twice“, “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Moonraker“.
You can watch the free film “The Admirable Crichton” aka “Paradise Lagoon” in United States over here.
Why was I born with such contemporaries?
This quote is actually by the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw.
It is found in the “Preface To The Dark Lady Of The Sonnets“.
The Dark Lady Of The Sonnets is Shaw’s 1910 short comedy play.
“Why was I born with such contemporaries?” – George Bernard Shaw, The Dark Lady of the Sonnets
(The Dark Lady Of The Sonnets By George Bernard Shaw, Preface To The Dark Lady Of The Sonnets, Shakespear And The British Public) source
These are the variants of the truth-funny-laugh-kill quote:
If you tell people the truth, make them laugh or they’ll kill you.
If you’re going to tell people the truth, be funny or they’ll kill you.
If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.
Again this quote is wrongly ascribed to Oscar Wilde, and it is widely shared, especially in Pinterest.
Strangely it is also found in Oscar Wilde: Reminiscences by André Gide.
It is written as: “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.” source
But this aphorism was alleged to had been uttered by George Bernard Shaw.
It was mentioned or rather written by the film reviewer Cecile Starr in American weekly men’s lifestyle and health magazine, The Saturday Review back in 1951. (see image below)
“If you want to tell people the truth, you’d better make them laugh or they’ll kill you” – George Bernard Shaw
(Ideas on Film: Eyewitnessing the World of the 16mm Motion Picture. Edinburgh’s Documentary Festival by Cecile Starr, The Saturday Review, October 13, 1951, P. 60) source
It is just like the popular retort that is attributed to Oscar Wilde.
I have nothing to declare except my genius.
It was claimed that Wilde said this quip to American customs agents when he arrived at the port of New York on the morning of January 3, 1882.
At that time, Oscar Wilde was on his lecture tour in America.
No one actually heard him say it. It is just hearsay, as mentioned in various books.
There’s no proper evidence to prove conclusively that he said it, and it doesn’t appear in print until 1912.
(Oscar Wilde: A Critical Study By Arthur Ransome, New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1912, IV, Aestheticism, P. 64) source
By the way, there are many so-called Oscar Wilde quotes are not actually quotations by Mr. Wilde per se.
For instance there are many witticism credited to Oscar Wilde in the book “Epigrams Of Oscar Wilde“, edited by Alvin Redman are NOT verified.
These supposed quotes by Wilde are cited as “In Conversation“.
They could most probably not even true at all.
Anyway, I am dead serious that this wisecrack is certainly by Oscar Wilde.
“…murder is always a mistake. One should never do anything that one cannot talk about after dinner.” – Oscar Wilde, The Picture Of Dorian Gray
(The Picture Of Dorian Gray By Oscar Wilde, London: Simpkin, Marshall Hamilton, Kent And Co. Ltd, 1931, Ch. XIX, P. 236) source
(The quote is also found here.)
So, remember, the quote: “Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination” is NOT by Oscar Wilde!