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Last Updated: Monday, 15 October 2007, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
Oscar Wilde 'UK's greatest wit'
Oscar Wilde
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854
Playwright Oscar Wilde has been named Britain's greatest wit in a survey - ahead of Stephen Fry, who played him on screen, and Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson.

His aphorisms include: "I can resist everything except temptation" and "Work is the curse of the drinking classes".

Late comedian Spike Milligan came second in the poll of 3,000 people, with Fry and Clarkson third and fourth.

Noel Coward and Sir Winston Churchill also feature among the 10 British wits cited by digital TV channel Dave.

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars
Oscar Wilde
Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854, when Ireland formed part of the United Kingdom.

A Dave spokeswoman told the BBC News website he was considered an "honorary Brit" for the purposes of the poll.

Wilde died in Paris in 1900, with the reported final words: "Either those curtains go or I do."

Fry once quoted him as he passed through airport security, announcing: "I have nothing to declare but my genius."

'Embarrassing itch'

He played the writer in the 1997 film Wilde, landing a Golden Globe nomination in the process.

Stephen Fry beside Oscar Wilde statue
Fellow wit Stephen Fry played Wilde in a 1997 film
Fry's own witticisms include "It is a cliche that most cliches are true, but then like most cliches, that cliche is untrue."

Milligan, whose headstone contains the immortal line "I told you I was ill", once joked that all he wanted was "the chance to prove that money can't make me happy".

Top Gear host Clarkson, meanwhile, once compared driving an Alfa Romeo to "having really great sex that leaves you with an embarrassing itch."

William Shakespeare came in eighth place. Former PM Margaret Thatcher was the highest ranked woman, coming in at 12.

'Dave' channel targets young men
20 Sep 07 |  Entertainment
Wilde collection sells at auction
29 Oct 04 |  Entertainment
Oscar Wilde's wit and wisdom
15 Oct 04 |  Entertainment


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