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Critical Apparatus(scene. Morning-room in algernon's flat in Half Moon Street. The room Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatusis luxuriously and artistically furnished. The sound of a piano is heard in the adjoining room) Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus              (lane is arranging afternoon tea on the table, and after the music has Editor’s Note              ceased, algernon enters)
Critical Apparatus1

algernon Did you hear what I was playing, Lane?


lane I didn't think it polite to listen, sir.

Critical Apparatus3

algernon I'm sorry for that, for your sake. I don't play accurately—anyone can

4play accurately—but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is

5concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life.

Critical Apparatus6

lane Yes, sir.

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus7

algernon And, speaking of the science of Life, have you got the cucumber

Critical Apparatus8sandwiches cut for Lady Bracknell?

Critical Apparatus9

lane Yes, sir. (Hands them on a salver)

Critical Apparatus10

algernon (Inspects them, takes two, and sits down on the sofa) Oh! … by the way,

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus11Lane, I see from your book that on Thursday night, when Lord Shoreman and

Critical Apparatus12Mr Worthing were dining with me, eight bottles of champagne are entered as

13having been consumed.

Critical Apparatus14

lane Yes, sir; eight bottles and a pint.

pg 764Editor’s Note15

algernon Why is it that at a bachelor's establishment the servants invariably

Critical Apparatus16drink the champagne? I ask merely for information.

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus17

lane I attribute it to the superior quality of the wine, sir. I have often observed

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus18that in married households the champagne is rarely of a first-rate brand.

Critical Apparatus19

algernon Good Heavens! Is marriage so demoralizing as that?

Critical Apparatus20

lane I believe it is a very pleasant state, sir. I have had very little experience of it

Critical Apparatus21myself up to the present. I have only been married once. That was in conse-

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus22quence of a misunderstanding between myself and a young person.


algernon (Languidly) I don't know that I am much interested in your family

24life, Lane.

Critical Apparatus25

lane No, sir; it is not a very interesting subject. I never think of it myself.

Critical Apparatus26

algernon Very natural, I am sure. That will do, Lane, thank you.

Critical Apparatus27

lane Thank you, sir.

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus(lane goes out)
Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus28

algernon Lane's views on marriage seem somewhat lax. Really, if the lower

Critical Apparatus29orders don't set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them? They seem,

Critical Apparatus30as a class, to have absolutely no sense of moral responsibility.

Critical Apparatus(Enter lane)

Critical Apparatus31

lane Mr Ernest Worthing.

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus(Enter jack)

(lane goes out)

Critical Apparatus32

algernon How are you, my dear Ernest? What brings you up to town?

pg 765Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus33

jack Oh, pleasure, pleasure! What else should bring one anywhere? Eating as

Critical Apparatus34usual, I see, Algy!

Critical Apparatus35

algernon (Stiffly) I believe it is customary in good society to take some slight

Editor’s Note36refreshment at five o'clock. Where have you been since last Thursday?

Critical Apparatus37

jack (Sitting down on the sofa) In the country.

Critical Apparatus38

algernon What on earth do you do there?

Critical Apparatus39

jack (Pulling off his gloves) When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one

Critical Apparatus40is in the country one amuses other people. It is excessively boring.

Critical Apparatus41

algernon And who are the people you amuse?

Critical Apparatus42

jack (Airily) Oh, neighbours, neighbours.

Editor’s Note43

algernon Got nice neighbours in your part of Shropshire?

Critical Apparatus44

jack Perfectly horrid! Never speak to one of them.

Critical Apparatus45

algernon How immensely you must amuse them! (Goes over and takes sandwich)

Critical Apparatus46By the way, Shropshire is your county, is it not?

Critical Apparatus47

jack Eh? Shropshire? Yes, of course. Hallo! Why all these cups? Why cucumber

Critical Apparatus48sandwiches? Why such reckless extravagance in one so young? Who is coming to


Critical Apparatus50

algernon Oh! merely Aunt Augusta and Gwendolen.

Critical Apparatus51

jack How perfectly delightful!

Critical Apparatus52

algernon Yes, that is all very well; but I am afraid Aunt Augusta won't quite

Critical Apparatus53approve of your being here.


jack May I ask why?


algernon My dear fellow, the way you flirt with Gwendolen is perfectly

Critical Apparatus56disgraceful. It is almost as bad as the way Gwendolen flirts with you.

pg 76657

jack I am in love with Gwendolen. I have come up to town expressly to propose

58to her.

Critical Apparatus59

algernon I thought you had come up for pleasure? … I call that business.

Critical Apparatus60

jack How utterly unromantic you are!


algernon I really don't see anything romantic in proposing. It is very romantic

62to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why, one

63may be accepted. One usually is, I believe. Then the excitement is all over. The

Critical Apparatus64very essence of romance is uncertainty. If ever I get married, I'll certainly try to

65forget the fact.


jack I have no doubt about that, dear Algy. The Divorce Court was specially

Critical Apparatus67invented for people whose memories are so curiously constituted.

Critical Apparatus68

algernon Oh! there is no use speculating on that subject. Divorces are made in

Critical Apparatus69Heaven(jack puts out his hand to take a sandwich. algernon at once interferes)

Critical Apparatus70Please don't touch the cucumber sandwiches. They are ordered specially for

71Aunt Augusta. (Takes one and eats it)

Critical Apparatus72

jack Well, you have been eating them all the time.

Critical Apparatus73

algernon That is quite a different matter. She is my aunt. (Takes plate from

74below) Have some bread and butter. The bread and butter is for Gwendolen.

75Gwendolen is devoted to bread and butter.

Critical Apparatus76

jack (Advancing to table and helping himself) And very good bread and butter it

Critical Apparatus77is, too.

Critical Apparatus78

algernon Well, my dear fellow, you need not eat as if you were going to eat it

79all. You behave as if you were married to her already. You are not married to her

80already, and I don't think you ever will be.


jack Why on earth do you say that?

Critical Apparatus82

algernon Well, in the first place girls never marry the men they flirt with. Girls

83don't think it right.

Critical Apparatus84

jack Oh, that is nonsense!


algernon It isn't. It is a great truth. It accounts for the extraordinary number

Critical Apparatus86of bachelors that one sees all over the place. In the second place, I don't give my


Critical Apparatus88

jack Your consent!

pg 767Critical Apparatus89

algernon My dear fellow, Gwendolen is my first cousin. And before I allow you

Critical Apparatus90to marry her, you will have to clear up the whole question of Cecily. (Rings bell)

Critical Apparatus91

jack Cecily! What on earth do you mean? What do you mean, Algy, by Cecily? I

Critical Apparatus92don't know anyone of the name of Cecily.

Critical Apparatus(Enter lane)
Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus93

algernon Bring me that cigarette case Mr Worthing left in the smoking-room

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus94the last time he dined here.


lane Yes, sir.

Critical Apparatus(lane goes out)

jack Do you mean to say you have had my cigarette case all this time? I wish to

Editor’s Note97goodness you had let me know. I have been writing frantic letters to Scotland

Critical Apparatus98Yard about it. I was very nearly offering a large reward.

Critical Apparatus99

algernon Well, I wish you would offer one. I happen to be more than usually

100hard up.

Critical Apparatus101

jack There is no good offering a large reward now that the thing is found.

Critical Apparatus(Enter lane with the cigarette case on a salver. algernon takes it at once)

(lane goes out)

Critical Apparatus102

algernon I think that is rather mean of you, Ernest, I must say. (Opens case and

Critical Apparatus103examines it) However, it makes no matter, for, now that I look at the inscription

Critical Apparatus104inside, I find that the thing isn't yours after all.

Critical Apparatus105

jack Of course it's mine.

Critical Apparatus(Moving to him)

106You have seen me with it a hundred times, and you have no right whatsoever to

Editor’s Note107read what is written inside. It is a very ungentlemanly thing to read a private

108cigarette case.

pg 768Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus109

algernon Oh! it is absurd to have a hard-and-fast rule about what one should

110read and what one shouldn't. More than half of modern culture depends on

Critical Apparatus111what one shouldn't read.

Critical Apparatus112

jack I am quite aware of the fact, and I don't propose to discuss modern culture.

Critical Apparatus113It isn't the sort of thing one should talk of in private. I simply want my cigarette

114case back.


algernon Yes; but this isn't your cigarette case. This cigarette case is a present

116from someone of the name of Cecily, and you said you didn't know anyone of

117that name.

Critical Apparatus118

jack Well, if you want to know, Cecily happens to be my aunt.


algernon Your aunt!

Critical Apparatus120

jack Yes. Charming old lady she is, too. Lives at Tunbridge Wells. Just give it

Critical Apparatus121back to me, Algy.

Critical Apparatus122

algernon (Retreating to back of sofa) But why does she call herself little Cecily

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus123if she is your aunt and lives at Tunbridge Wells? (Reading) 'From little Cecily

124with her fondest love.'

Critical Apparatus125

jack (Moving to sofa and kneeling upon it) My dear fellow, what on earth is there

Critical Apparatus126in that? Some aunts are tall, some aunts are not tall. That is a matter that surely

Critical Apparatus127an aunt may be allowed to decide for herself. You seem to think that every aunt

Critical Apparatus128should be exactly like your aunt! That is absurd! For Heaven's sake give me back

Critical Apparatus129my cigarette case. (Follows algernon round the room)

Critical Apparatus130

algernon Yes. But why does your aunt call you her uncle? 'From little Cecily,

Critical Apparatus131with her fondest love to her dear Uncle Jack.' There is no objection, I admit, to

Critical Apparatus132an aunt being a small aunt, but why an aunt, no matter what her size may be,

Critical Apparatus133should call her own nephew her uncle, I can't quite make out. Besides, your

Critical Apparatus134name isn't Jack at all; it is Ernest.

Critical Apparatus135

jack It isn't Ernest; it's Jack.

pg 769Critical Apparatus136

algernon You have always told me it was Ernest. I have introduced you to

137everyone as Ernest. You answer to the name of Ernest. You look as if your name

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus138was Ernest. You are the most earnest-looking person I ever saw in my life. It is

Critical Apparatus139perfectly absurd your saying that your name isn't Ernest. It's on your cards.

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus140Here is one of them. (Taking it from case) 'Mr Ernest Worthing, B. 4, The

Critical Apparatus141Albany.' I'll keep this as a proof that your name is Ernest if ever you attempt to

Critical Apparatus142deny it to me, or to Gwendolen, or to anyone else. (Puts the card in his pocket)

Critical Apparatus143

jack Well, my name is Ernest in town and Jack in the country, and the cigarette

144case was given to me in the country.


algernon Yes, but that does not account for the fact that your small Aunt

Critical Apparatus146Cecily, who lives at Tunbridge Wells, calls you her dear uncle. Come, old boy,

147you had much better have the thing out at once.


jack My dear Algy, you talk exactly as if you were a dentist. It is very vulgar to

149talk like a dentist when one isn't a dentist. It produces a false impression.

Critical Apparatus150

algernon Well, that is exactly what dentists always do. Now, go on! Tell me the

Editor’s Note151whole thing. I may mention that I have always suspected you of being a con-

Critical Apparatus152firmed and secret Bunburyist; and I am quite sure of it now.

Critical Apparatus153

jack Bunburyist? What on earth do you mean by a Bunburyist?


algernon I'll reveal to you the meaning of that incomparable expression as

155soon as you are kind enough to inform me why you are Ernest in town and Jack

Critical Apparatus156in the country.


jack Well, produce my cigarette case first.

Critical Apparatus158

algernon Here it is. (Hands cigarette case) Now produce your explanation, and

Critical Apparatus159pray make it improbable. (Sits on sofa)

Critical Apparatus160

jack My dear fellow, there is nothing improbable about my explanation at all.

Critical Apparatus161In fact, it's perfectly ordinary. Old Mr Thomas Cardew, who adopted me when

pg 770Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus162I was a little boy, made me in his will guardian to his grand-daughter, Miss

Critical Apparatus163Cecily Cardew. Cecily, who addresses me as her uncle from motives of respect

Critical Apparatus164that you could not possibly appreciate, lives at my place in the country under the

165charge of her admirable governess, Miss Prism.

Critical Apparatus166

algernon Where is that place in the country, by the way?

Critical Apparatus167

jack That is nothing to you, dear boy. You are not going to be invited.… I may

Critical Apparatus168tell you candidly that the place is not in Shropshire.

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus169

algernon I suspected that, my dear fellow! I have Bunburyed all over

Critical Apparatus170Shropshire on two separate occasions. Now, go on. Why are you Ernest in town

171and Jack in the country?


jack My dear Algy, I don't know whether you will be able to understand my real

Critical Apparatus173motives. You are hardly serious enough. When one is placed in the position of

Critical Apparatus174guardian, one has to adopt a very high moral tone on all subjects. It's one's duty

Critical Apparatus175to do so. And as a high moral tone can hardly be said to conduce very much to

Critical Apparatus176either one's health or one's happiness, in order to get up to town I have always

Critical Apparatus177pretended to have a younger brother of the name of Ernest, who lives in the

Critical Apparatus178Albany, and gets into the most dreadful scrapes. That, my dear Algy, is the whole

Critical Apparatus179truth pure and simple.

Editor’s Note180

algernon The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus181tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!

Critical Apparatus182

jack That wouldn't be at all a bad thing.

Editor’s Note183

algernon Literary criticism is not your forte, my dear fellow. Don't try it. You

Critical Apparatus184should leave that to people who haven't been at a University. They do it so well

Editor’s Note185in the daily papers. What you really are is a Bunburyist. I was quite right in say-

186ing you were a Bunburyist. You are one of the most advanced Bunburyists I know.

Critical Apparatus187

jack What on earth do you mean?


algernon You have invented a very useful younger brother called Ernest, in

189order that you may be able to come up to town as often as you like. I have invented

Critical Apparatus190an invaluable permanent invalid called Bunbury, in order that I may be able to

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus191go down into the country whenever I choose. Bunbury is perfectly invaluable.

pg 771Critical Apparatus192If it wasn't for Bunbury's extraordinary bad health, for instance, I wouldn't be

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus193able to dine with you at Willis's to-night, for I have been really engaged to

194Aunt Augusta for more than a week.


jack I haven't asked you to dine with me anywhere to-night.

Critical Apparatus196

algernon I know. You are absurdly careless about sending out invitations. It is

Critical Apparatus197very foolish of you. Nothing annoys people so much as not receiving invitations.


jack You had much better dine with your Aunt Augusta.

Critical Apparatus199

algernon I haven't the smallest intention of doing anything of the kind. To

200begin with, I dined there on Monday, and once a week is quite enough to dine

Critical Apparatus201with one's own relations. In the second place, whenever I do dine there I am

Editor’s Note202always treated as a member of the family, and sent down with either no woman

Critical Apparatus203at all, or two. In the third place, I know perfectly well whom she will place me next

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus204to, to-night. She will place me next Mary Farquhar, who always flirts with her

205own husband across the dinner-table. That is not very pleasant. Indeed, it is

Critical Apparatus206not even decent … and that sort of thing is enormously on the increase. The amount

207of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly scandalous.

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus208It looks so bad. It is simply washing one's clean linen in public. Besides, now that

Critical Apparatus209I know you to be a confirmed Bunburyist I naturally want to talk to you about

Critical Apparatus210Bunburying. I want to tell you the rules.

Critical Apparatus211

jack I'm not a Bunburyist at all. If Gwendolen accepts me, I am going to kill

Critical Apparatus212my brother. Indeed, I think I'll kill him in any case. Cecily is a little too much

Critical Apparatus213interested in him. It is rather a bore. So I am going to get rid of Ernest. And

Critical Apparatus214I strongly advise you to do the same with Mr … with your invalid friend who has

215the absurd name.

Critical Apparatus216

algernon Nothing will induce me to part with Bunbury, and if you ever get

217married, which seems to me extremely problematic, you will be very glad to

Critical Apparatus218know Bunbury. A man who marries without knowing Bunbury has a very tedi-

219ous time of it.


jack That is nonsense. If I marry a charming girl like Gwendolen, and she is the

Critical Apparatus221only girl I ever saw in my life that I would marry, I certainly won't want to know


pg 772Critical Apparatus223

algernon Then your wife will. You don't seem to realize, that in married life

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus224three is company and two is none.

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus225

jack (Sententiously) That, my dear young friend, is the theory that the corrupt

226French Drama has been propounding for the last fifty years.

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus227

algernon Yes; and that the happy English home has proved in half the time.

Critical Apparatus228

jack For heaven's sake, don't try to be cynical. It's perfectly easy to be cynical.

Critical Apparatus229

algernon My dear fellow, it isn't easy to be anything now-a-days. There's such

Critical Apparatus230a lot of beastly competition about. (The sound of an electric bell is heard) Ah! that

Critical Apparatus231must be Aunt Augusta. Only relatives, or creditors, ever ring in that Wagnerian

Critical Apparatus232manner. Now, if I get her out of the way for ten minutes, so that you can have

233an opportunity for proposing to Gwendolen, may I dine with you to-night at



jack I suppose so, if you want to.


algernon Yes, but you must be serious about it. I hate people who are not

Editor’s Note237serious about meals. It is so shallow of them.

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus(Enter lane)
Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus238

lane Lady Bracknell and Miss Fairfax.

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus              (algernon goes forward to meet them. Enter Editor’s Notelady bracknell and gwendolen) Critical Apparatus(lane goes out)
pg 773Critical Apparatus239

lady bracknell Good afternoon, dear Algernon, I hope you are behaving very


Critical Apparatus241

algernon I'm feeling very well, Aunt Augusta.


lady bracknell That's not quite the same thing. In fact, the two things rarely

243go together. (Sees jack and bows to him with icy coldness)

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus244

algernon (To gwendolen) Dear me, you are smart!

Critical Apparatus245

gwendolen I am always smart! Aren't I, Mr Worthing?

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus246

jack You're quite perfect, Miss Fairfax.


gwendolen Oh! I hope I am not that. It would leave no room for develop-

248ments, and I intend to develop in many directions. (gwendolen and jack sit

249down together in the corner)


lady bracknell I'm sorry if we are a little late, Algernon, but I was obliged to

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus251call on dear Lady Harbury.

(Enter lane carrying a teapot which he puts on the tea-table. He then moves up to the desk.)

Critical Apparatus252I hadn't been there since her poor husband's death. I never saw a woman so

Critical Apparatus253altered; she looks quite twenty years younger. And now I'll have a cup of tea, and

254one of those nice cucumber sandwiches you promised me.

pg 774Critical Apparatus255

algernon Certainly, Aunt Augusta. (Goes over to tea-table)


lady bracknell Won't you come and sit here, Gwendolen?


gwendolen Thanks, mamma, I'm quite comfortable where I am.

Critical Apparatus258

algernon (Picking up empty plate in horror) Good heavens! Lane! Why are there

259no cucumber sandwiches? I ordered them specially.

Critical Apparatus260

lane (Gravely) There were no cucumbers in the market this morning, sir. I went

Critical Apparatus261down twice.


algernon No cucumbers!


lane No, sir. Not even for ready money.


algernon That will do, Lane, thank you.


lane Thank you, sir.

(Goes out)

algernon I am greatly distressed, Aunt Augusta, about there being no cucum-

267bers, not even for ready money.

Editor’s Note268

lady bracknell It really makes no matter, Algernon. I had some crumpets

Critical Apparatus269with Lady Harbury, who seems to me to be living entirely for pleasure now.

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus270

algernon I hear her hair has turned quite gold from grief.

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus271

lady bracknell It certainly has changed its colour. From what cause I, of

Critical Apparatus272course, cannot say. (algernon crosses and hands tea) Thank you. I've quite a

Critical Apparatus273treat for you to-night, Algernon. I am going to send you down with Mary

Critical Apparatus274Farquhar. She is such a nice woman, and so attentive to her husband. It's

275delightful to watch them.

Critical Apparatus276

algernon I am afraid, Aunt Augusta, I shall have to give up the pleasure of

Critical Apparatus277dining with you to-night after all.

pg 775Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus278

lady bracknell (Frowning) I hope not, Algernon. It would put my table com-

Critical Apparatus279pletely out. Your uncle would have to dine upstairs. Fortunately he is accus-

280tomed to that.

Critical Apparatus281

algernon It is a great bore, and, I need hardly say, a terrible disappointment to

Editor’s Note282me, but the fact is I have just had a telegram to say that my poor friend Bunbury

Critical Apparatus283is very ill again. (Exchanges glances with jack) They seem to think I should be

284with him.


lady bracknell It is very strange. This Mr Bunbury seems to suffer from

286curiously bad health.

Critical Apparatus287

algernon Yes; poor Bunbury is a dreadful invalid.


lady bracknell Well, I must say, Algernon, that I think it is high time that Mr

Critical Apparatus289Bunbury made up his mind whether he was going to live or to die. This shilly-

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus290shallying with the question is absurd. Nor do I in any way approve of the mod-

291ern sympathy with invalids. I consider it morbid. Illness of any kind is hardly a

Editor’s Note292thing to be encouraged in others. Health is the primary duty of life. I am always

Critical Apparatus293telling that to your poor uncle, but he never seems to take much notice … as far

Critical Apparatus294as any improvement in his ailments goes. I should be much obliged if you would

Critical Apparatus295ask Mr Bunbury, from me, to be kind enough not to have a relapse on Saturday,

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus296for I rely on you to arrange my music for me. It is my last reception, and one

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus297wants something that will encourage conversation, particularly at the end of the

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus298season, when everyone has practically said whatever they had to say, which, in

299most cases, was probably not much.

Critical Apparatus300

algernon I'll speak to Bunbury, Aunt Augusta, if he is still conscious, and I

Critical Apparatus301think I can promise you he'll be all right by Saturday. Of course, the music is a

pg 776Critical Apparatus302great difficulty. You see, if one plays good music, people don't listen, and if one

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus303plays bad music people don't talk. But I'll run over the programme I've drawn

304out, if you will kindly come into the next room for a moment.

Critical Apparatus305

lady bracknell Thank you, Algernon. It is very thoughtful of you. (Rising,

Critical Apparatus306and following algernon) I'm sure the programme will be delightful, after a few

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus307expurgations. French songs I cannot possibly allow. People always seem to think

308that they are improper, and either look shocked, which is vulgar, or laugh, which

309is worse. But German sounds a thoroughly respectable language, and indeed,

310I believe is so. Gwendolen, you will accompany me.


gwendolen Certainly, mamma.

              (lady bracknell and algernon go into the music-room, gwendolen remains behind)

jack Charming day it has been, Miss Fairfax.

Critical Apparatus313

gwendolen Pray don't talk to me about the weather, Mr Worthing. Whenever

Critical Apparatus314people talk to me about the weather, I always feel quite certain that they mean

Critical Apparatus315something else. And that makes me so nervous.

Critical Apparatus316

jack I do mean something else.

Critical Apparatus317

gwendolen I thought so. In fact, I am never wrong.


jack And I would like to be allowed to take advantage of Lady Bracknell's

Critical Apparatus319temporary absence …

pg 777Critical Apparatus320

gwendolen I would certainly advise you to do so. Mamma has a way of coming

Critical Apparatus321back suddenly into a room that I have often had to speak to her about.

Critical Apparatus322

jack (Nervously) Miss Fairfax, ever since I met you I have admired you more

Critical Apparatus323than any girl … I have ever met since … I met you.

Critical Apparatus324

gwendolen Yes, I am quite aware of the fact. And I often wish that in public, at

325any rate, you had been more demonstrative. For me you have always had an

Critical Apparatus326irresistible fascination. Even before I met you I was far from indifferent to you.

327(jack looks at her in amazement) We live, as I hope you know, Mr Worthing, in

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus328an age of ideals. The fact is constantly mentioned in the more expensive monthly

Critical Apparatus329magazines, and has reached the provincial pulpits, I am told: and my ideal has

330always been to love someone of the name of Ernest. There is something in that

331name that inspires absolute confidence. The moment Algernon first mentioned

332to me that he had a friend called Ernest, I knew I was destined to love you.


jack You really love me, Gwendolen?

Critical Apparatus334

gwendolen Passionately!

Critical Apparatus335

jack Darling! You don't know how happy you've made me.

Critical Apparatus336

gwendolen My own Ernest!

Critical Apparatus337

jack But you don't really mean to say that you couldn't love me if my name

338wasn't Ernest?

Critical Apparatus339

gwendolen But your name is Ernest.

Critical Apparatus340

jack Yes, I know it is. But supposing it was something else? Do you mean to say

341you couldn't love me then?

Critical Apparatus342

gwendolen (Glibly) Ah! that is clearly a metaphysical speculation, and like

343most metaphysical speculations has very little reference at all to the actual facts

Critical Apparatus344of real life, as we know them.

Critical Apparatus345

jack Personally, darling, to speak quite candidly, I don't much care about the

Critical Apparatus346name of Ernest … I don't think the name suits me at all.

pg 778347

gwendolen It suits you perfectly. It is a divine name. It has a music of its own.

Editor’s Note348It produces vibrations.


jack Well, really, Gwendolen, I must say that I think there are lots of other much

Critical Apparatus350nicer names. I think Jack, for instance, a charming name.

Critical Apparatus351

gwendolen Jack? … No, there is very little music in the name Jack, if any at all,

Critical Apparatus352indeed. It does not thrill. It produces absolutely no vibrations.… I have known

Critical Apparatus353several Jacks, and they all, without exception, were more than usually plain. Besides,

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus354Jack is a notorious domesticity for John! And I pity any woman who is married to a

Critical Apparatus355man called John. She would probably never be allowed to know the entrancing

356pleasure of a single moment's solitude. The only really safe name is Ernest.

Critical Apparatus357

jack Gwendolen, I must get christened at once—I mean we must get married at

358once. There is no time to be lost.

Critical Apparatus359

gwendolen Married, Mr Worthing?

Critical Apparatus360

jack (Astounded) Well … surely. You know that I love you, and you led me to

361believe, Miss Fairfax, that you were not absolutely indifferent to me.


gwendolen I adore you. But you haven't proposed to me yet. Nothing has been

363said at all about marriage. The subject has not even been touched on.

Critical Apparatus364

jack Well … may I propose to you now?

Critical Apparatus365

gwendolen I think it would be an admirable opportunity. And to spare you any

Critical Apparatus366possible disappointment, Mr Worthing, I think it only fair to tell you quite

Critical Apparatus367frankly beforehand that I am fully determined to accept you.


jack Gwendolen!

Critical Apparatus369

gwendolen Yes, Mr Worthing, what have you got to say to me?

Critical Apparatus370

jack You know what I have got to say to you.


gwendolen Yes, but you don't say it.


jack Gwendolen, will you marry me? (Goes on his knees)

Critical Apparatus373

gwendolen Of course I will, darling. How long you have been about it! I am

374afraid you have had very little experience in how to propose.

Editor’s Note375

jack My own one, I have never loved anyone in the world but you.


gwendolen Yes, but men often propose for practice. I know my brother Gerald

Critical Apparatus377does. All my girl-friends tell me so. What wonderfully blue eyes you have,

pg 779Critical Apparatus378Ernest! They are quite, quite blue. I hope you will always look at me just like

379that, especially when there are other people present.

Critical Apparatus              (Enter lady bracknell)
Critical Apparatus380

lady bracknell Mr Worthing! Rise, sir, from this semi-recumbent posture. It

Critical Apparatus381is most indecorous.

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus382

gwendolen Mamma! (He tries to rise; she restrains him) I must beg you to retire.

Critical Apparatus383This is no place for you. Besides, Mr Worthing has not quite finished yet.

Critical Apparatus384

lady bracknell Finished what, may I ask?

Critical Apparatus385

gwendolen I am engaged to Mr Worthing, mamma. (They rise together)

Critical Apparatus386

lady bracknell Pardon me, you are not engaged to anyone. When you do

Critical Apparatus387become engaged to someone, I, or your father, should his health permit him,

Critical Apparatus388will inform you of the fact. An engagement should come on a young girl as a

Critical Apparatus389surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be. It is hardly a matter that she

Critical Apparatus390could be allowed to arrange for herself.… And now I have a few questions to put

Critical Apparatus391to you, Mr Worthing. While I am making these inquiries, you, Gwendolen, will

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus392wait for me below in the carriage.


gwendolen (Reproachfully) Mamma!

Critical Apparatus394

lady bracknell In the carriage, Gwendolen! (gwendolen goes to the door.

395She and jack blow kisses to each other behind lady bracknell's back. lady

Critical Apparatus396bracknell looks vaguely about as if she could not understand what the noise was.

Critical Apparatus397Finally turns round) Gwendolen, the carriage!

Critical Apparatus398

gwendolen Yes, mamma. (Goes out, looking back at jack)

Critical Apparatus399

lady bracknell (Sitting down) You can take a seat, Mr Worthing. (Looks in her

400pocket for note-book and pencil)

Critical Apparatus401

jack Thank you, Lady Bracknell, I prefer standing.

pg 780402

lady bracknell (Pencil and note-book in hand) I feel bound to tell you that you

Critical Apparatus403are not down on my list of eligible young men, although I have the same list as

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus404the dear Duchess of Bolton has. We work together, in fact. However, I am quite

Critical Apparatus405ready to enter your name, should your answers be what a really affectionate

406mother requires. Do you smoke?

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus407

jack Well, yes, I must admit I smoke.

Editor’s Note408

lady bracknell I am glad to hear it. A man should always have an occupation of

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus409some kind. There are far too many idle men in London as it is. How old are you?

Critical Apparatus410

jack Twenty-nine.

Editor’s Note411

lady bracknell A very good age to be married at. I have always been of opin-

Critical Apparatus412ion that a man who desires to get married should know either everything or

Critical Apparatus413nothing. Which do you know?

Critical Apparatus414

jack (After some hesitation) I know nothing, Lady Bracknell.


lady bracknell I am pleased to hear it. I do not approve of anything that tam-

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus416pers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and

Editor’s Note417the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound.

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus418Fortunately, in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever.

Critical Apparatus419If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus420to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square. What is your income?


jack Between seven and eight thousand a year.

Critical Apparatus422

lady bracknell (Makes a note in her book) In land, or in investments?

Critical Apparatus423

jack In investments, chiefly.

Critical Apparatus424

lady bracknell That is satisfactory. What between the duties expected of one

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus425during one's lifetime, and the duties exacted from one after one's death, land

Critical Apparatus426has ceased to be either a profit or a pleasure. It gives one position, and prevents

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus427one from keeping it up. That's all that can be said about land.

Critical Apparatus428

jack I have a country house with some land, of course, attached to it, about fifteen

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus429hundred acres, I believe; but I don't depend on that for my real income. In fact,

pg 781430as far as I can make out, the poachers are the only people who make anything out

431of it.

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus432

lady bracknell A country house! How many bedrooms? Well, that point can

Critical Apparatus433be cleared up afterwards. You have a town house, I hope? A girl with a simple,

Critical Apparatus434unspoiled nature, like Gwendolen, could hardly be expected to reside in the


Editor’s Note436

jack Well, I own a house in Belgrave Square, but it is let by the year to Lady

Critical Apparatus437Bloxham. Of course, I can get it back whenever I like, at six months' notice.

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus438

lady bracknell Lady Bloxham? I don't know her.


jack Oh, she goes about very little. She is a lady considerably advanced in years.


lady bracknell Ah, now-a-days that is no guarantee of respectability of cha

Editor’s Note441acter. What number in Belgrave Square?


jack 149.

Critical Apparatus443

lady bracknell (Shaking her head) The unfashionable side. I thought there

Critical Apparatus444was something. However, that could easily be altered.

Critical Apparatus445

jack Do you mean the fashion, or the side?

Critical Apparatus446

lady bracknell (Sternly) Both, if necessary, I presume. What are your politics?

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus447

jack Well, I am afraid I really have none. I am a Liberal Unionist.

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus448

lady bracknell Oh, they count as Tories. They dine with us. Or come in the

Critical Apparatus449evening, at any rate. Now to minor matters. Are your parents living?

Critical Apparatus450

jack I have lost both my parents.

pg 782Critical Apparatus451

lady bracknell Both? … That seems like carelessness. Who was your father?

Critical Apparatus452He was evidently a man of some wealth. Was he born in what the Radical papers

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus453call the purple of commerce, or did he rise from the ranks of the aristocracy?

Critical Apparatus454

jack I am afraid I really don't know. The fact is, Lady Bracknell, I said I had lost

455my parents. It would be nearer the truth to say that my parents seem to have lost

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus456me … I don't actually know who I am by birth. I was … well, I was found.


lady bracknell Found!


jack The late Mr Thomas Cardew, an old gentleman of a very charitable and

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus459kindly disposition, found me, and gave me the name of Worthing, because he

Editor’s Note460happened to have a first-class ticket for Worthing in his pocket at the time.

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus461Worthing is a place in Sussex. It is a seaside resort.

Critical Apparatus462

lady bracknell Where did the charitable gentleman who had a first-class

Critical Apparatus463ticket for this seaside resort find you?


jack (Gravely) In a hand-bag.

Critical Apparatus465

lady bracknell A hand-bag?

Critical Apparatus466

jack (Very seriously) Yes, Lady Bracknell. I was in a hand-bag—a somewhat

Critical Apparatus467large, black leather hand-bag, with handles to it—an ordinary hand-bag, in fact.

Critical Apparatus468

lady bracknell In what locality did this Mr James, or Thomas, Cardew come

469across this ordinary hand-bag?

Editor’s Note470

jack In the cloak-room at Victoria Station. It was given to him in mistake for

471his own.


lady bracknell The cloak-room at Victoria Station?

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus473

jack Yes. The Brighton line.

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus474

lady bracknell The line is immaterial. Mr Worthing, I confess I feel some-

Critical Apparatus475what bewildered by what you have just told me. To be born, or at any rate bred,

476in a hand-bag, whether it had handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus477for the ordinary decencies of family life that reminds one of the worst excesses

pg 783478of the French Revolution. And I presume you know what that unfortunate

479movement led to? As for the particular locality in which the hand-bag was

Critical Apparatus480found, a cloak-room at a railway station might serve to conceal a social indis-

Critical Apparatus481cretion—has probably, indeed, been used for that purpose before now—but it

482could hardly be regarded as an assured basis for a recognized position in good


Critical Apparatus484

jack May I ask you then what you would advise me to do? I need hardly say I

485would do anything in the world to ensure Gwendolen's happiness.

Editor’s Note486

lady bracknell I would strongly advise you, Mr Worthing, to try and acquire

Critical Apparatus487some relations as soon as possible, and to make a definite effort to produce at any

488rate one parent, of either sex, before the season is quite over.


jack Well, I don't see how I could possibly manage to do that. I can produce the

Critical Apparatus490hand-bag at any moment. It is in my dressing-room at home. I really think that

Critical Apparatus491should satisfy you, Lady Bracknell.

Critical Apparatus492

lady bracknell Me, sir! What has it to do with me? You can hardly imagine

493that I and Lord Bracknell would dream of allowing our only daughter—a girl

Critical Apparatus494brought up with the utmost care—to marry into a cloak-room, and form an alli-

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus495ance with a parcel? Good morning, Mr Worthing! (lady bracknell sweeps out

496in majestic indignation)

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus497

jack Good morning! (algernon, from the other room, strikes up the Wedding

498March. jack looks perfectly furious, and goes to the door) For goodness' sake don't

Critical Apparatus499play that ghastly tune, Algy! How idiotic you are!

Critical Apparatus              (The music stops, and algernon enters cheerily)
pg 784500

algernon Didn't it go off all right, old boy? You don't mean to say Gwendolen

Critical Apparatus501refused you? I know it is a way she has. She is always refusing people. I think it

502is most ill-natured of her.

Editor’s Note503

jack Oh, Gwendolen is as right as a trivet. As far as she is concerned, we are

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus504engaged. Her mother is perfectly unbearable. Never met such a Gorgon … I

505don't really know what a Gorgon is like, but I am quite sure that Lady Bracknell

Critical Apparatus506is one. In any case, she is a monster, without being a myth, which is rather

Critical Apparatus507unfair … I beg your pardon, Algy, I suppose I shouldn't talk about your own

Critical Apparatus508aunt in that way before you.

Critical Apparatus509

algernon My dear boy, I love hearing my relations abused. It is the only thing

510that makes me put up with them at all. Relations are simply a tedious pack of

Critical Apparatus511people, who haven't got the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus512instinct about when to die.

Critical Apparatus513

jack Oh, that is nonsense!

Critical Apparatus514

algernon It isn't!

Critical Apparatus515

jack Well, I won't argue about the matter. You always want to argue about things.

Critical Apparatus516

algernon That is exactly what things were originally made for.


jack Upon my word, if I thought that, I'd shoot myself … (A pause) You don't

518think there is any chance of Gwendolen becoming like her mother in about a

Critical Apparatus519hundred and fifty years, do you, Algy?

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus520

algernon All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man

Critical Apparatus521does. That's his.


jack Is that clever?

Critical Apparatus523

algernon It is perfectly phrased! And quite as true as any observation in

Critical Apparatus524civilized life should be.

pg 785525

jack I am sick to death of cleverness. Everybody is clever now-a-days. You can't

526go anywhere without meeting clever people. The thing has become an absolute

527public nuisance. I wish to goodness we had a few fools left.


algernon We have.

Critical Apparatus529

jack I should extremely like to meet them. What do they talk about?

Critical Apparatus530

algernon The fools? Oh! about the clever people, of course.

Critical Apparatus531

jack What fools!

Critical Apparatus532

algernon By the way, did you tell Gwendolen the truth about your being

Critical Apparatus533Ernest in town, and Jack in the country?


jack (In a very patronising manner) My dear fellow, the truth isn't quite the sort

Critical Apparatus535of thing one tells to a nice, sweet, refined girl. What extraordinary ideas you have

Critical Apparatus536about the way to behave to a woman!

Critical Apparatus537

algernon The only way to behave to a woman is to make love to her, if she is

Critical Apparatus538pretty, and to someone else if she is plain.

Critical Apparatus539

jack Oh, that is nonsense.

Critical Apparatus540

algernon What about your brother? What about the profligate Ernest?

Critical Apparatus541

jack Oh, before the end of the week I shall have got rid of him. I'll say he died

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus542in Paris of apoplexy. Lots of people die of apoplexy, quite suddenly, don't



algernon Yes, but it's hereditary, my dear fellow. It's a sort of thing that runs in

Critical Apparatus545families. You had much better say a severe chill.

Critical Apparatus546

jack You are sure a severe chill isn't hereditary, or anything of that kind?

Critical Apparatus547

algernon Of course it isn't!

Critical Apparatus548

jack Very well, then. My poor brother Ernest is carried off suddenly in Paris, by a

Critical Apparatus549severe chill. That gets rid of him.

Critical Apparatus550

algernon But I thought you said that … Miss Cardew was a little too much

Critical Apparatus551interested in your poor brother Ernest? Won't she feel his loss a good deal?

pg 786Critical Apparatus552

jack Oh, that is all right. Cecily is not a silly romantic girl, I am glad to say. She

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus553has got a capital appetite, goes long walks, and pays no attention at all to her


Critical Apparatus555

algernon I would rather like to see Cecily.


jack I will take very good care you never do. She is excessively pretty, and she is

557only just eighteen.

Critical Apparatus558

algernon Have you told Gwendolen yet that you have an excessively pretty

Critical Apparatus559ward who is only just eighteen?

Critical Apparatus560

jack Oh! one doesn't blurt these things out to people. Cecily and Gwendolen are

Critical Apparatus561perfectly certain to be extremely great friends. I'll bet you anything you like that

562half an hour after they have met, they will be calling each other sister.

Critical Apparatus563

algernon Women only do that when they have called each other a lot of other

Critical Apparatus564things first. Now, my dear boy, if we want to get a good table at Willis's, we really

Critical Apparatus565must go and dress. Do you know it is nearly seven?

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus566

jack (Irritably) Oh! it always is nearly seven.


algernon Well, I'm hungry.

Critical Apparatus568

jack I never knew you when you weren't .…

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus569

algernon What shall we do after dinner? Go to a theatre?

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus570

jack Oh, no! I loathe listening.

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus571

algernon Well, let us go to the Club?

Critical Apparatus572

jack Oh, no! I hate talking.

Editor’s Note573

algernon Well, we might trot round to the Empire at ten?

Critical Apparatus574

jack Oh, no! I can't bear looking at things. It is so silly.

Critical Apparatus575

algernon Well, what shall we do?

pg 787Critical Apparatus576

jack Nothing!

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus577

algernon It is awfully hard work doing nothing. However, I don't mind hard

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus578work where there is no definite object of any kind.

Critical Apparatus(Enter lane)

lane Miss Fairfax.

Critical Apparatus              (Enter gwendolen) (lane goes out)
Critical Apparatus580

algernon Gwendolen, upon my word!


gwendolen Algy, kindly turn your back. I have something very particular to

582say to Mr Worthing.

Critical Apparatus583

algernon Really, Gwendolen, I don't think I can allow this at all.


gwendolen Algy, you always adopt a strictly immoral attitude towards life. You

Critical Apparatus585are not quite old enough to do that. (algernon retires to the fireplace)

Critical Apparatus586

jack My own darling!


gwendolen Ernest, we may never be married. From the expression on mam-

588ma's face I fear we never shall. Few parents now-a-days pay any regard to what

Critical Apparatus589their children say to them. The old-fashioned respect for the young is fast dying

Critical Apparatus590out. Whatever influence I ever had over mamma, I lost at the age of three. But

Critical Apparatus591although she may prevent us from becoming man and wife, and I may marry

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus592someone else, and marry often, nothing that she can possibly do can alter my

Critical Apparatus593eternal devotion to you.

Critical Apparatus594

jack Dear Gwendolen!

Critical Apparatus595

gwendolen The story of your romantic origin, as related to me by mamma,

596with unpleasing comments, has naturally stirred the deeper fibres of my nature.

Critical Apparatus597Your Christian name has an irresistible fascination. The simplicity of your

pg 788Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus598character makes you exquisitely incomprehensible to me. Your town address at

599the Albany I have. What is your address in the country?

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus600

jack The Manor House, Woolton, Hertfordshire.

Critical Apparatus(algernon, who has been carefully listening, smiles to

Editor’s Notehimself, and writes the address on his shirt-cuff. Then picks

Editor’s Noteup the Railway Guide)


gwendolen There is a good postal service, I suppose? It may be necessary to do

Critical Apparatus602something desperate. That of course will require serious consideration. I will

603communicate with you daily.

Critical Apparatus604

jack My own one!

Critical Apparatus605

gwendolen How long do you remain in town?

Critical Apparatus606

jack Till Monday.


gwendolen Good! Algy, you may turn round now.


algernon Thanks, I've turned round already.

Critical Apparatus609

gwendolen You may also ring the bell.

Critical Apparatus610

jack You will let me see you to your carriage, my own darling?

Critical Apparatus611

gwendolen Certainly.

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus612

jack (To lane, who now enters) I will see Miss Fairfax out.

pg 789613

lane Yes, sir.

Critical Apparatus(jack and gwendolen go off) Critical Apparatus(lane presents several letters on a salver to algernon. It is to be surmised that they are bills, as algernon, after looking at Editor’s Notethe envelopes, tears them up)
Editor’s Note614

algernon A glass of sherry, Lane.

Critical Apparatus615

lane Yes, sir.

Critical Apparatus616

algernon To-morrow, Lane, I'm going Bunburying.

Critical Apparatus617

lane Yes, sir.


algernon I shall probably not be back till Monday. You can put up my dress

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus619clothes, my smoking jacket, and all the Bunbury suits …

Critical Apparatus620

lane Yes, sir. (Handing sherry)

Critical Apparatus621

algernon I hope to-morrow will be a fine day, Lane.

Critical Apparatus622

lane It never is, sir.

Critical Apparatus623

algernon Lane, you're a perfect pessimist.

Editor’s Note624

lane I do my best to give satisfaction, sir.

Critical Apparatus(lane goes off) Critical Apparatus(Enter jack)
Critical Apparatus625

jack There's a sensible, intellectual girl! The only girl I ever cared for in my life.

Critical Apparatus626(algernon is laughing immoderately) What on earth are you so amused at?

Critical Apparatus627

algernon Oh, I'm a little anxious about poor Bunbury, that is all.

Critical Apparatus628

jack If you don't take care, your friend Bunbury will get you into a serious

Critical Apparatus629scrape some day.

pg 790Critical Apparatus630

algernon I love scrapes. They are the only things that are never serious.

Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus631

jack Oh, that's nonsense, Algy. You never talk anything but nonsense.

Critical Apparatus632

algernon Nobody ever does.

              (jack looks indignantly at him, and leaves the room. algernon lights a cigarette, reads his shirt-cuff, and smiles) act-drop.

Notes Settings


Critical Apparatus
0.1 sceneStreet.] scene: algy's rooms in Piccadilly. Doors r.u. and door l.c. Fireplace r.c. LC; scene: algy's room in Half Moon Street. Door r.u. and door l. Fireplace c. AF; scene:—Algy's rooms in Half Moon Street. Door up r.c. and door l. Fireplace c. HD, AD; /Morning room in\ algy's <rooms> /flat\ in Half Moon Street. <Door up r.c. and door l. Fireplace c.> ADa
Critical Apparatus
0.2–.3 The sound … room] LC omits; A piano is heard off l. Curtain rises. AF; Piano heard off l. The Curtain then rises. HD, AD; /The sound of a piano is heard in the adjoining room.\<Piano heard off l. The Curtain then rises.> ADa
Editor’s Note
IBE 763.0.2 The sound of a piano is heard: symbols of domesticity and marks of a society's insatiable appetite for music and song, pianos were ubiquitous in Victorian parlours from the threadbare to the comfortable. Competent playing counted as one of the most important 'accomplishments' for a young woman who wished to marry well and raise a happy family. Algy's musical abilities, perhaps less usual for a male member of Society, were sketched by W in the 1 November typescript (see Appendix 1, 491) and specified more exactly in the Arents–Dolan typescript addition to his second line, below ('I'm sorry for that'): 'I don't play accurately—anyone can play accurately—but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte.' Algy's pun on forte may suggest the volume of sound emanating from offstage at the rise of the curtain—possibly a tactic introduced at Alexander's suggestion to capture the audience's attention and ensure the comic impact of Algy's entrance speech. Algy's preference for sentiment and expressiveness hints at a predilection for the kind of romantic solo piano music represented by Chopin's preludes, available in a number of contemporary editions. Near the beginning of W's essay in dialogue form, 'The Critic as Artist', Part I, Gilbert offers Ernest some music: 'And now, let me play Chopin to you, or Dvořák? Shall I play you a fantasy by Dvořák? He writes passionate, curiously-coloured things.' Then, rising from the piano, as Algy does at the beginning of the play, Gilbert remarks, 'After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own' (Criticism, 127). Published in September 1894 (English Catalogue of BooksJanuary 1890 to December 1897 (1898; rpt. Millwood, NY: Kraus, 1976), 409), Robert Hitchens's satirical novel The Green Carnation (1894) contains a passage on expressive piano playing that W may be echoing in the Arents–Dolan revision: 'Lord Reggie and Mr Amarinth [the Lord Alfred Douglas and Oscar Wilde characters] both played the piano in an easy, tentative sort of way, making excess of expression do duty for deficiencies of execution, and covering occasional mistakes with the soft rather than with the loud pedal' (37).
Critical Apparatus
0.4 lane] butler LC; Discovered: lane AF
Critical Apparatus
0.4–5 the tableenters] table. algy is standing close by LC; table and algy enters l. AF; table and after the piano has ceased, algy enters l. HD, AD; /the\ table and after the piano has ceased, algy enters <l.> ADa; the table, and after the <piano> /music\ has ceased, algernon enters Sp
Editor’s Note
LL 193.0.2 butler | IBE 763.0.4 lane: in a bachelor's establishment like Algy's, where only occasional entertaining such as small catered dinners for male friends might occur, even young men of means might have no more than a single servant. Algy's butler, henceforth identified as Lane in both four-act and three-act texts, combines the duties of a butler and a man-servant—the terms used here more or less interchangeably. In either case, the servant was required to keep an account book noting consumables and other expenses subject to review by the master of the house, as indicated in Algy's reference a few lines later to Lane's 'book'. It is evident that Algy and his servant have a frank and open relationship, as in the current instance, in which Lane keeps accurate, honest records of the prodigious consumption of champagne by the servants of the dinner guests as well as the guests themselves.
Editor’s Note
LL 193.0.3 (standing close by) | IBE 763.0.5 (algernon enters): 'What an admirable opening!' Max Beerbohm wrote in his copy of the first edition. 'You are instantly held—and prepared. Cf. Hamlet!—and plays by born men of the theatre' (qtd. Ellmann, Wilde, 430n.).
Editor’s Note
IBE 763.0.5 algernon enters: ' … I must insert a word of expostulation to Mr Allan Aynesworth for the weirdly ugly collar or collars he affects throughout the play. They may be the "latest thing" in masculine haberdashery, but they are uncommonly unbecoming. Also, why that dun-coloured waistcoat revealing a fearful expanse of magenta-red necktie?' ('A.M.I.', Lady, 21 Feb. 1895, 218). Another reviewer, more appreciative, described him as 'that admirable anachronism who moves through the evening like some Sir Fopling Flutter of his native eighteenth century' (Sunday Times, 17 Feb. 1895).
Critical Apparatus
1–7 algernon Did … of Life,] LC omits; Did you hear what I was playing, Lane? (Crossing back to table to c.) lane I don't think it polite to listen, sir. algy I'm sorry for that. AF
Critical Apparatus
3 for that,] for that^/,\ Sp
Critical Apparatus
3–7 for that … of Life,] for that. HD, AD; for that, /for your sake. I don't play accurately—anyone can <do that> /play accurately\—but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life. lane Yes, Sir. algy And, speaking of the science of Life,\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
6–7 lane Yes … of Life,] /lane Yes, sir. algernon And, speaking of the science of Life,\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
7 have you got the] Have you had those LC; Have you got the AF, HD, AD
Editor’s Note
193.1 | IBE 763.7–8 cucumber sandwiches: the Family Herald (18 Aug. 1894) offers a recipe: 'Cut slices of bread-and-butter, placing a layer of cucumber with a dust of pepper and salt, then a layer of hard-boiled egg in slices with a dust of pepper and salt. Cut into neat sandwiches, and arrange on a dish with finely-shred lettuce in the centre' (254).
Critical Apparatus
8 Bracknell] Brancaster LC throughout
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9–10 (Hands them … sofa)] algy Ahem. Where are they? lane Here, sir. (Shews plate) algy (takes one and eats it) LC; (Hands them) algy (Takes two and goes r. and sits on sofa) AF; Yes, sir. (Hands them) algy (l.c.) (Takes two and goes r. and sits on sofa) HD, AD; (Hands them /on a salver\) <(l.c.)> /(Inspects them,\ Takes two and <goes c. and> sits /down\ on /the\ sofa) ADa
Critical Apparatus
10 by the way] By the way LC, AF
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11 night,] ~^ AF, HD, AD; ~/,\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
11 Shoreman] Shoreham LC
Editor’s Note
LL 193.5 | IBE 763.11 your book: 'There are men who keep cellar books,' says T. T. Greg, 'ear-marking every bottle of every bin, so that at a glance they can see how much remains of that '75 Lafitte, and how many bottles of the '74 Pommery are still for self and friends; but we would put our butler on his honour, and inculcate him with the pride of cellarage, and the artistry of drinking. It may be that we err on the side of credulity, but while we remain in ignorance, we live in bliss' (Through a Glass Lightly (London: J. M. Dent, 1897), 114). Algy evidently prefers acknowledged monitoring of Lane's book to living in blissful ignorance, and he blithely takes it for granted that his servant, along with any visiting domestics, will help themselves.
Editor’s Note
LL 193.6 Lord Shoreham | IBE 763.11 Lord Shoreman: there is no English place name of Shoreman (Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales [1894?], VI, 21). In his edition of the three-act play, Russell Jackson emends to 'Shoreham' (Jackson, ed., Earnest), conjecturing that W intended, as was his frequent custom in inventing character names, to use a place name, in this case the name of the town in Sussex on the western extension of the London Brighton & South Coast Railway (see 873 below; see also below, 'Lancing', 995). It is of course possible that 'Shoreman' is a slip, perhaps a typist's error, for 'Shoreham'. In using the name 'Shoreham', as he does in the texts of Lady Lancing, W could have had in mind the village and parish of that name in Kent, but the reference is more likely to the town and two parishes in Sussex named Shoreham, 55 miles from London and close to Worthing—'one of the healthiest seaside resorts in the kingdom, having a remarkably low death rate … ' (Seaside Watering Places: A Description of Holiday Resorts on the Coasts of England and Wales, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man … , 7th edn. (London: L. Upcott Gill, 1895), 170). It is noteworthy that Lady Lancing's father is identified as Lord Shoreham in Act IV of the manuscript draft and in early typescripts, and the repeated use of the name may indicate that W had a target for an inside joke. W himself may have come to see the Act IV reference as too pointed, however, for by the end of October, when he sent Alexander a 'first copy' of the play ([c.25 Oct. 1894], H & H-D, 376), he had deleted it. All the same, he presumably considered the Act I reference innocuous enough to retain. Alexander may have insisted on more caution, since the name is changed to Shoreman in the unannotated Harvard–Dickens and Arents–Dolan typescripts. Because Arents–Frohman, Arents–Dolan, and Harvard–Dickens all give 'Shoreman', this seems clearly the 1895 production reading. Moreover, in his later revision of the Arents–Dolan typescript W had the opportunity to change 'Shoreman' back to 'Shoreham', but did not do so.
Critical Apparatus
12 dining with me,] ~^ HD
Critical Apparatus
12 entered] ~, LC
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14 Yes, sir; eight] Yes, sir. Eight LC; (Up stage c. table) Yes, sir; eight AF; (r.c. up stage) Yes, sir; eight HD, AD; <(r.c. up stage)> Yes, sir; eight ADa
Critical Apparatus
14 pint.] ~! LC
Editor’s Note
LL 193.9–10 | IBE 764.15–16 invariably drink the champagne: explaining the peculiar requirements of butlering, T. T. Greg concedes that 'opportunity, the Parent of Crime, is more exclusively the Butler's prerogative than that of any other living man. By what process it is hard to say; but he has acquired a subterranean Headship, a cellared monarchy, from which it will need a bloody revolution to depose him.… His first duty is to give the cup into his Pharoah's hands, his next to see that it be full and brimming, and his third to keep it shining and bright as the sheen on a summer sea.… He should have a large sympathy with thirst; the void that nature and art alike abhor, he should ever be ready to fill; and if he cracks a bottle of your best Burgundy with your friend's "man", it may well be pardoned him, so that he sees you suffer no worse a fate. He should thieve in the grand style, and never condescend to take the heart out of a flask and fill the eviscerated shell with water … ' (Through a Glass Lightly (1897), 110–13). Gertrude Pearce, tutor to W's son Vyvyan, recalled high times living with the family at Goring-on-Thames in 1893 while W was beginning work on An Ideal Husband: 'We absolutely lived in the most luxurious style, there were 8 servants and everything done on a lavish scale. The servants I believe used to drink champagne in the kitchen, he told me how amusing it had been to him as he engaged all the servants and paid them very high wages' (private notebook, qtd. Ellmann, Wilde, 413).
Critical Apparatus
16 information.] ~? LC
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17 I attribute] (Arranging cup and saucers at l.c. table) I attribute AF
Critical Apparatus
17 wine] wine LC
Critical Apparatus
17 sir.] ~, HD
Editor’s Note
LL 193.11–12 | IBE 764.17–18 wine, married, rarely, et seq.: W's play manuscripts and typescripts bear many instances of verbal emphasis, often laid on unexpected rather than more logical or obvious words, as in Algy's 'slight refreshment' below, capturing the music and effete rhythms, sometimes ironic or supercilious, of upper-class speech. As a conversationalist, W was well known for his habit of placing unusual emphasis on certain words, sometimes other than obvious ones, and so opening up possibilities of understanding or insight otherwise unavailable to his auditors.
Critical Apparatus
18 married] married LC, AF, HD, AD; <married> /married\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
18 rarely] rarely AF, HD, AD; <rarely> /rarely\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
18 first-rate] first rate LC, AF
Editor’s Note
LL 193.12 | IBE 764.18 first-rate brand: according to a later newspaper article, an account book kept by W for three years immediately preceding April 1895 indicates that W 'paid 5s. 6d. a quart for champagne, the same for a bottle of 1869 brandy, 18s. for a dozen claret and £1 19s. a dozen for hock. Hock with seltzer (soda) water was his favourite drink' (clipping [?Standard, 16 Dec. 1962], M&M). 'It is said that, even in Paris, two bottles out of every three sold for genuine champagne are spurious; and certainly this is the case with the wine sold in England. A very large proportion of imported champagne which is sold for 7s. 6d. per bottle is nothing but sparkling gooseberry or rhubarb wine, skilfully manufactured from fruit grown not far from the place where it is sold, and perfectly innocent of ripening on the vine-clad hills of Epernay. The fact that the sale of champagne is both large and remunerative has, of course, led to its being extensively adulterated. Bad champagne is particularly injurious, and therefore experience and judgment are required in the selection of this wine' (s.v. 'Champagnes, British'; 'Champagnes, Foreign', CDD, 263–4).
At the first of W's three trials in spring 1895 he was asked by the opposing counsel Edward Carson about his preferences for drink: ' "Do you drink champagne yourself?" "Yes. Iced champagne is a favourite drink of mine—strongly against my doctor's order." "Never mind your doctor's orders, sir!" Carson rapped out. "I never do," Wilde answered sweetly' (H. Montgomery Hyde, The Trials of Oscar Wilde (rpt. New York: Dover, 1973, republication of Famous Trials, Seventh Series: Oscar Wilde, 2nd edn. (1962), with appendices and illustrations from 1st edn. (1948), 129). Merlin Holland's transcription of the first trial is more literally accurate and may be studied for comparison; see, e.g., the passage about champagne in Holland, Irish Peacock, 170).
Critical Apparatus
19 Heavens!] heavens! LC, AF; Heavens: HD
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19 as that?] ~. LC
Critical Apparatus
20 I believe it is] (Gravely) I believe it is LC; (Gravely) I believe it is HD, AD; <(Gravely)> I believe it <is> /is\ ADa; I believe it <is> /is\ Sp
Critical Apparatus
21 once] once AF, HD, AD; <once> /once\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
22 myself] ~, LC, AF 23 (Languidly) I] I LC, AF; (l.c.) I HD, AD; <(l.c.)> /(Languidly)\ I ADa
Editor’s Note
IBE 764.22 young person: W's Trinity College, Dublin tutor, the Revd. J. P. Mahaffy, recalled, 'I remember when the word girl was thought rather improper in religious Dublin society, you should say young person … ' (Principles of the Art of Conversation (London: Macmillan, 1887), 148). In polite society the term was more frequently used to describe someone of indeterminate or unacceptably low social position, as in the deprecating remark of W. S. Gilbert's Pooh-Bah about Yum-Yum and her two schoolgirl companions, who have '[c]ome from a ladies' seminary': 'They are not young ladies, they are young persons' (The Mikado, or The Town of Titipu, in Savoy Operas, 2 vols., Oxford World's Classics (London: Oxford University Press, 1962), 2: 18, 20).
Critical Apparatus
25 No, sir;] No, sir, LC; (l.) No, sir; AF, HD, AD; <(l.c.)> No, sir; ADa
Critical Apparatus
26 sure.] sure.… LC
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26 will do] will do AF, HD, AD; will <do> /do\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
27 you, sir] you, sir LC, AF, HD, AD; <you> /you\, sir ADa
Critical Apparatus
27.1 (lane goes out)] (false exit) algy Ah! … just give me another cucumber sandwich. lane Yes, sir. (Returns and hands plate) (Exit lane) LC; (Exits r.) AF, HD, AD; <(Exits r.)> /(lane goes out)\ ADa
Editor’s Note
IBE 764.27.1 lane goes out: F. Kinsey Peile recalled, 'I was cast for Lane, the man-servant, a small part, but a telling one. The play was received with roars of merriment from beginning to end. George Alexander came up to me when I went off, and said laughingly: "You will always have the pleasure of remembering that you got the first laugh in The Importance of Being Earnest" ' (Candied Peel: Tales without Prejudice (London: A. & C. Black, 1931), 137).
Critical Apparatus
28 Lane's views] (Rising and crossing l.) Lanes's views AF, HD, AD; <(Rising and crossing l.)> ADa
Critical Apparatus
28 seem somewhat] are somewhat LC
Editor’s Note
LL 194.23–4 | IBE 764.28–9 lower orders … good example: the first of many instances of witty Wildean inversion in the play, and so the first example of a pattern of social observation and light-hearted but incisive critique of social mores and assumptions that targets the upper class particularly but the middle and lower classes as well. Algy's heartless inversion serves to call attention to broadly discussed issues of class privilege and obligation. In his widely read tract Thrift, published in 1875, Samuel Smiles points out the duty of the upper orders: 'If masters fully understood the immense amount of influence which they possess, they would extend their sympathy and confidence to their workmen,—which would cost them so very little, and profit them so very much' (179). In the same vein, George Gilbert Scott calls for conscientious scrutiny of the position of privilege: 'Providence has ordained the different orders and gradations into which the human family is divided, and it is right and necessary that it should be maintained; yet it is well, from time to time, to fall back upon first principles, as a check upon the extremes into which these differences are apt to run, and as a wholesome suggestion to the rich man, that his luxuries and his state cease to be morally right if he has not first provided for the just and reasonable requirements of his dependants; and that they become actually immoral if their cost prevents his performing to the full the duties inherent upon his position … ' (Remarks on Secular & Domestic Architecture, Present and Future, 2nd edn. (London: John Murray, 1858), 142–3). Looking back on the circumstances of English life in late 1894 and early 1895 and on the climate they set for W's trials in the spring of that year, Ford Madox Ford explained that 'London parents of adolescent male children … saw "perverters" lurking in all the shadows.… And, beneath the comfortable strata of Society, growled the immense, frightening quicksand of the Lower Classes and the underworld, with ears all pricked up to hear details of the encounters of their own Fighting Marquis [of Queensberry], a toff called Wilde, and the riffraff of the Mews' ('Memories of Oscar Wilde', Saturday Review, 27 May 1939, rpt. The Golden Age: The Saturday Review 50th Anniversary Reader, ed. Richard L. Tobin (New York: Bantam, 1974), 266).
W was himself fascinated with the 'lower orders', as well as seriously concerned with the plight of the starving and destitute. In his essay 'The Soul of Man under Socialism' (first published in the Fortnightly Review, Feb. 1891) he explains the demoralizing sense of duty conferred by the possession of private property: 'Some years ago people went about the country saying that property has duties. They said it so often and so tediously that, at last, the Church has begun to say it. One hears it now from every pulpit. It is perfectly true. Property not merely has duties, but has so many duties that its possession to any large extent is a bore. It involves endless claims upon one, endless attention to business, endless bother. If property had simply pleasures, we could stand it; but its duties make it unbearable. In the interest of the rich we must get rid of it. The virtues of the poor may be readily admitted, and are much to be regretted. We are often told that the poor are grateful for charity. Some of them are, no doubt, but the best amongst the poor are never grateful. They are ungrateful, discontented, disobedient, and rebellious. They are quite right to be so' (The Soul of Man under Socialism, in Criticism, 234).
At the first trial, in early April, under cross-examination by Queensberry's counsel Edward Carson, W was asked about his connections with various young men including Alphonse Conway, a young man of eighteen whose mother kept a lodging house and whom W had met on the beach at Worthing and had invited to come for a sail with him and Lord Alfred Douglas. Evidence was produced to show that W had bought Conway a blue serge suit and straw hat; W acknowledged having done so because 'I did not want him to be ashamed of his shabby clothes.' W went on to declare, 'I delight in the society of people much younger than myself. I recognize no social distinctions at all of any kind … ' 'Do I understand that even a young boy you might pick up in the street would be a pleasing companion?' Carson asked. 'I would talk to a street arab, with pleasure,' W responded, ' … if he would talk to me' (Hyde, Trials of Oscar Wilde, 121–3, 129–30; not in Holland, Irish Peacock).
Critical Apparatus
29 example,] ~— LC
Critical Apparatus
29 use of them?] ~. AF
Critical Apparatus
29–30 seem, … class,] seem^ as a class^ LC; seem^ as a class, AF
Critical Apparatus
30 of moral responsibility] of their responsibility LC; of their moral 'sponsibility AF; of their moral responsibility HD, AD; of <their> moral responsibility ADa
Critical Apparatus
30.1 Enter lane] Enter lane r. AF, HD, AD; Enter lane <r.> ADa
Critical Apparatus
31 Mr Ernest Worthing] Mr Worthing AF, HD, AD; Mr /Ernest\ Worthing ADa
Critical Apparatus
31.1–2 (Enter jack) (lane goes out)] (Exit lane) (Enter jack) LC; (Enter jack r. Exit lane r.) AF; (Enter jack r. lane Exits r.) HD, AD; (Enter jack <r.>) (lane <Exits r.> /goes out\) ADa
Editor’s Note
IBE 764.31.1 (Enter jack): George Alexander's initial impression on the audience is described by the Sunday Times reviewer: 'I must draw attention to Mr. Alexander's perfectly enchanting clothes in the first act; his light suit, later on, is a very nice light suit, but I don't think he ever quite recaptures those first fine careful raptures—as Browning meant to say' (17 Feb. 1895).
Critical Apparatus
32 dear Ernest?] ~! LC
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32 brings you] brings you LC, AF, HD, AD; brings <you> /you\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
32 to town] to Town AD
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33 Oh, pleasure] (r.c.) Oh, pleasure AF, HD, AD; <(r.c.)> Oh, pleasure ADa
Critical Apparatus
33 Eating] (Putting his hand on algy's shoulder) Eating LC; (Putting hat on table r.) Eating AF; (Putting hat on table) Eating HD, AD; <(Putting hat on table)> Eating ADa
Editor’s Note
LL 194.28 | IBE 765.33 pleasure, pleasure: Samuel Smiles, inveighing against self-seeking pleasure in Thrift, points out that 'the middle and upper classes are equally guilty with the lower class. They live beyond their means. They live extravagantly. They are ambitious of glare and glitter—frivolity and pleasure. They struggle to be rich, that they may have the means of spending,—of drinking rich wines, and giving good dinners' (17). In September additions to Act II of the holograph manuscript, W has Cecily say, in response to Algy's hope that they will be very poor when they are married, 'From what Uncle Jack has said to me from time to time, I fear not, dear. But with a little care we could always live above our income. I shouldn't like not to be fashionable.' Lunching with his sister-in-law (the widow of W's elder brother Willy) and her second husband, Texeira de Mattos, in Paris a short time before his death, W is reported to have remarked when the champagne appeared, 'I am dying, as I have lived, beyond my means' (Pearson, Wilde, 374). The association of a life of pleasure with a commitment to art was for W an instinctive one, setting his values at fundamental variance from the staunch morality espoused by even such an artist as Robert Louis Stevenson. Stevenson's advice to a young gentleman bent on an artistic career is to 'desist from art, and follow some more manly way of life': 'I speak of a more manly way of life, it is a point on which I must be frank. To live by a pleasure is not a high calling: it involves patronage, however veiled; it numbers the artist, however ambitious, along with dancing girls and billiard markers. The French have a romantic evasion for one employment, and call its practitioners the Daughters of Joy. The artist is of the same family, he is of the Sons of Joy, chose his trade to please himself, gains his livelihood by pleasing others, and has parted with something of the sterner dignity of man' ('Letter to a Young Gentleman Who Proposes to Embrace the Career of Art', The Lantern Bearers and Other Essays, ed. Jeremy Treglown (London: Chatto & Windus, 1998), 248). In An Ideal Husband Lord Caversham accuses his dandiacal son Lord Goring of 'living entirely for pleasure'. 'What else is there to live for, father?' Goring replies. 'Nothing ages like happiness' (Society Comedies, 150). W himself insisted, perhaps perversely, on the principle. ' "My duty to myself," he would say,' André Gide recalled, ' "is to amuse myself terrifically." Nietzsche astonished me less, later on, because I had heard Wilde say: "Not happiness! Above all, not happiness. Pleasure! We must always want the most tragic … " ' (André Gide, Oscar Wilde: In Memoriam (Reminiscences) De Profundis, trans. Bernard Frechtman (New York: Philosophical Library, 1949), 15).
Critical Apparatus
34 Algy!] ~? LC; ~. AF
Critical Apparatus
35 (Stiffly)] (l.c. stiffly) AF; (l.c.—stiffly) HD, AD; (<l.c.>stiffly) ADa
Critical Apparatus
35 it is] it is LC, AF, HD, AD; it <is> /is\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
35 customary in good society] customary LC, AF, HD, AD; customary /in good society\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
35 slight] slight LC
Editor’s Note
LL 194.30–1 | IBE 765.36 refreshment at five o'clock: one of the most important and characteristic of all English social rituals, tea time, customarily at the long-standing hour of five o'clock, offered welcome refreshment in the form of food and drink towards the end of a long afternoon that stretched out until dinner time, whose hour had advanced—inexorably, it would seem—from the early afternoon in English Restoration times to the early evening hour of seven o'clock, by the late Victorian age. Indeed, by a complex calculus based on social factors, any event that occurred before dinner was considered to be happening in the 'morning' (hence, the theatrical term 'matinee' for a performance that in fact began in the early afternoon), and tea time gradually emerged as an intermediary meal, usually a lighter repast but sometimes heavier and accompanied by meat (a 'meat tea'). Towards the end of Act III of Lady Lancing Algy declares his absolute refusal to leave Jack's house before he has finished his 'tea'—not merely the beverage, but the meal of which it is a part. In Act I of the three-act version of the play, Lady Bracknell's indignant last words to Jack as she exits are 'Good morning, Mr Worthing!' (495), thus reminding him of her high social status and the fashionable hours that such persons keep, as well as her refusal to admit him into their company.
Critical Apparatus
37 (Sitting … country.] (Sitting down) Oh! In the country! LC; (Sitting down on sofa r.) Oh, in the country. AF; (Sitting down on sofa r.) Oh! in the country. HD, AD; (Sitting down on /the\ sofa <r.> <Oh!> <in> /In\ the country. ADa
Critical Apparatus
38 you do] you do LC, AF, HD, AD; <do> /do\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
39 oneself] oneself LC, AF, HD, AD; <oneself > /oneself\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
40 other people] other people LC; other people AF, HD, AD; <other> /other\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
41 amuse?] ~. LC
Critical Apparatus
42 Oh, neighbours,] ~! LC
Editor’s Note
LL 195.38 | IBE 765.43 Shropshire: a county in the west of England, more northerly than Herefordshire but about equally distant from London, Herefordshire being the location of Jack's manor house in Lady Lancing. W (or perhaps George Alexander) changed the location of the country house for the three-act version to Hertfordshire, as the audience of the production will have gathered from reading the list of dramatis personae in their programmes. (See the entry above on Hertfordshire, 858.)
Critical Apparatus
44 horrid!] ~. LC, AF
Critical Apparatus
45 them!] ~. LC
Critical Apparatus
46 By the … is] Shropshire is LC, AF; By the way, Shropshire is HD, AD; By the way, Shropshire, <is> /is\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
46 your county, is it not?] your county, Ernest, isn't it? LC; your country? AF; your county? HD, AD; your county<?>/,\ /is it not?\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
47 Eh? Shropshire? Yes] (going over to table) Eh? … Shropshire? … Yes LC; Eh? Shropshire?—Yes HD, AD
Critical Apparatus
47 of course.] of course. (Rising and crossing c.) HD, AD; <(Rising and crossing c.)> ADa
Critical Apparatus
47 Hallo!] (Rising and crossing c.) Hallo! AF, HD, AD; <(Rising and crossing c.)> Hallo! ADa
Critical Apparatus
48 sandwiches … Who] sandwiches. Who LC, AF, HD; sandwiches? Who AD; sandwiches? /Why such reckless extravagance in one so young?\ Who ADa
Critical Apparatus
50 Oh! merely] Oh, merely AF
Critical Apparatus
51 delightful!] ~. LC
Critical Apparatus
52 very well;] ~, LC, AF, HD, AD
Critical Apparatus
53 of your] of your LC
Critical Apparatus
56 disgraceful. It] disgraceful—it HD, AD; disgraceful<—it> /. It\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
59 pleasure? …] pleasure— LC
Critical Apparatus
59 business.] business. (Sitting l.) AF, HD, AD; <(Sitting l.)> ADa
Critical Apparatus
60 you are!] you are! (Sitting l.c.) AF, HD, AD; <(Sitting l.c.)> ADa
Critical Apparatus
64 married,] ~^ LC
Critical Apparatus
67 curiously] peculiarly LC
Critical Apparatus
68 Oh! there] There AF, HD, AD; /Oh!\ <There> /there\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
68 that subject] the subject AD; <the> /that\ subject ADa
Critical Apparatus
69–70 Heaven … Please] Heaven … please LC; Heaven—(jack makes as if to take a sandwich) please AF; Heaven … (jack makes as if to take sandwich. algy takes up plate and puts it on his knee) Please HD, AD; jack <makes as if > /puts out his hand\ to take /a\ sandwich. algernon <takes up plate and puts it on his knee> /at once interferes\) ADa
Critical Apparatus
70 ordered specially] specially ordered AF
Critical Apparatus
72 you have] you have LC, HD, AD; <you> /you\ have ADa
Critical Apparatus
72 all the time.] all the time. (Rising and moving c.) HD, AD; all the time. <(Rising and moving c.> ADa
Critical Apparatus
73 quite] quite AF, HD
Critical Apparatus
73–4 aunt.… below)] Aunt. LC, AF; Aunt^ (Takes plate from below) HD
Critical Apparatus
76 (Advancing … himself)] (Eating bread and butter) LC; (Rising and eating bread and butter) AF
Critical Apparatus
77 is, too] LC; looks too HD, AD; <looks> /is\ too Sp; is^ too S
Critical Apparatus
78–9 not eat … it all.] not eat it all. LC; not eat it as if you were going to eat it all. AF
Critical Apparatus
82 Well, in] Well^ in LC
Critical Apparatus
82 first place] ~, LC, AF, HD
Critical Apparatus
84 Oh, that] Oh! That LC
Critical Apparatus
84 nonsense!] ~. LC, AF
Critical Apparatus
86 over the place] over Town LC; over town AF, HD; over the town AD; over the /place\ <town> ADa
Critical Apparatus
86 second place,] ~^ LC
Critical Apparatus
88 consent!] consent. What utter nonsense you talk! LC
Critical Apparatus
89 fellow,] fellow. (Rising and going back of table to door r.c.) AF; fellow, (rising, and going back of table to door r.c.) HD, AD; fellow, <(Rising and going back of table to door r.c.)> ADa
Critical Apparatus
89 cousin. And] cousin, and LC
Critical Apparatus
90 marry her,] ~^ LC
Critical Apparatus
90 Cecily. (Rings bell)] Cecily. LC
Critical Apparatus
91 Cecily!] Cecily! (Moving l.) HD, AD; Cecily; <(Moving l.)> ADa
Critical Apparatus
91 do you mean?] do you mean? (algy goes to bell and rings it. Then returns to tea-table and eats another sandwich) LC
Critical Apparatus
91 by Cecily?] ~. LC
Critical Apparatus
92 of Cecily.] ~.… LC
Critical Apparatus
92.1 (Enter lane)] (Enter lane r.c. door) AF; (Enter lane r. flat door) HD, AD; (Enter lane <r. flat door>) ADa
Critical Apparatus
93 smoking-room] hall LC, AF, HD, AD; <hall> /smoking-room\ ADa
Editor’s Note
LL 197.82 | IBE 767.93 cigarette case: cigarettes and the cases in which they were placed for easy and stylish access constituted a significant aspect of material culture in the polite society of W's time. The wide and various literary and other cultural remnants and reflections of smoking preserved in the George Arents Tobacco Collection in the New York Public Library testify to the ubiquitous importance of tobacco in western European and American culture (as also to the cultures of other countries and regions around the globe). One of the most remarkable examples of the extent to which the collector George Arents perceived the culture of tobacco to penetrate was his purchase of valuable literary manuscripts in which tobacco smoking is alluded to or indulged in one way or another, sometimes only in ostensibly insignificant ways. The chiefest of these, in the context of the present play, are several manuscripts of The Importance of Being Earnest itself, in which references to Jack's engraved cigarette case, a gift from his ward Cecily Cardew, figure in the plot of the play in a significant way. (See the Historical Editorial Introduction, 50n., for a full list of these documents, now in the Arents Collection or elsewhere.) In the course of the first trial, it came out that W had given engraved cigarette cases to such young men as Parker, Atkins, Scarfe, Mavor, and many another (Holland, Irish Peacock, 173, 191, 199, 203, and passim).
While at Worthing in the summer of 1894, W gave Alphonse Conway, the youth he had met on the strand and with whom he formed a friendship, an engraved cigarette case inscribed 'Alphonso from his friend Oscar Wilde' (Antony Edmonds, 'Alphonse Conway—The "Bright, Happy Boy" of 1894', The Wildean 38 (Jan. 2011), 27; see also Edmonds, Oscar Wilde's Scandalous Summer: The 1894 Worthing Holiday and the Aftermath (Stroud, Gloucestershire: Amberly, 2014), 76ff.). At his first trial W remarked, 'I have given so many cigarette cases I cannot verify them' (Holland, Irish Peacock, 200–1). (See 'private cigarette case', below, 875.)
Critical Apparatus
94 dined here.] dined here. (Goes down r.c.) AF; dined here. (Remains up r.c.) HD, AD; dined here. <(Remains up r.c.)> ADa
Editor’s Note
LL 197.82–3 | IBE 767.94 the last time he dined here: in both four-act and three-act plays W fixes the interval as the previous Thursday, when Jack, customarily masquerading as 'Ernest', left his cigarette case behind when dining with Algy and Lord Shoreham (see the comment on Lord Shoreham above, 867). It is now two days later, a Saturday (as the audience gradually realizes), and Jack has come back up to town, seemingly on short notice (in Act II of LL Miss Prism recalls that Jack 'laid particular stress' on Cecily's German as he was departing for town 'yesterday' for the (undeclared) purpose of proposing to Gwendolen, as he explains to Algy later in the scene). In these two references to Algy's recent dinner party W begins to establish a carefully managed sequence of events, referred to explicitly, if ostensibly only incidentally, amounting to not much over twenty-four hours in aggregate, during which the entire course of action will unfold. (The progress of this action will continue to be traced in the Commentary as well.) By the late afternoon of the Sunday, the very next day, Jack will have discovered his true identity, his full Christian name, and his relationship to the other important people in his life. Of course, the audience of the St James's Theatre has no idea at this very early point that such astounding revelations are in the offing. They know only that it is nearly tea time and that guests may soon be arriving, including Algy's Aunt Augusta, Lady Brancaster (in the four-act play) or Lady Bracknell (in the three-act play) and, not incidentally, her daughter, Gwendolen, to whom Jack intends to propose marriage.
Critical Apparatus
95.1 (lane goes out)] (Exit) LC; (Exit r.) AF, HD, AD; <(Exits r.)> (lane goes out) ADa
Editor’s Note
LL 198.86–7 | IBE 767.97–8 Scotland Yard: 'For a long time the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police were in an insignificant court near Charing Cross, known as Scotland Yard, but in 1891 the present spacious premises were opened on the Thames Embankment, near the Houses of Parliament. The lower portion of the building … is of Portland stone, prepared—strange irony of fate!—by convicts, and the upper portion of red brick, with stone facings. At New Scotland Yard is the office of Col. Sir Edward Bradford, the Chief Commissioner, who wields authority over 32 superintendents, 584 inspectors, 1,902 sergeants, and 12,864 constables— 15,382 men, all told' (The Queen's London: A Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Great Metropolis in the Year of Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee (London, Paris, and Melbourne: Cassell, 1897), 95). W had made jokes about the incompetence of Scotland Yard detectives (a common topic at the time, in e.g. the figure of Lastrade in the Sherlock Holmes stories) in 'Lord Arthur Savile's Crime' and mentioned the need for detectives to be sent down to the home counties in 'The Canterville Ghost' (see Short Fiction, 70 and 100).
Critical Apparatus
98 large reward] reward LC, AF, HD, AD; /large\ reward Sp
Critical Apparatus
99 Well,] (Crossing r.) Well, HD, AD; <(Crossing r.)> Well, ADa
Critical Apparatus
99 would] would LC, AF, HD, AD; <would> /would\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
101 a large reward] a reward LC, AF, HD, AD; /large\ reward Sp
Critical Apparatus
101.1–2 Enter lanegoes out] Enter lane, with cigarette case on salver. algy takes it LC; Enter lane with cigarette case on salver. algy moves up, takes it AF; Enter lane with cigarette case on salver. algy takes it and moves down r. HD, AD; Enter lane with /the\ cigarette case on /a\ salver. algy takes it <and moves down r.> /at once. lane goes out)\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
102 rather mean] rather horrid LC, AF, HD, AD; <horrid> /mean\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
102 Ernest, I must] Ernest. (Moves r.) I must AF
Critical Apparatus
103 matter, for, now] matter; for now LC; matter, for now AF, HD, AD; matter, for/,\ now ADa
Critical Apparatus
104 inside,] ~^ LC
Critical Apparatus
105 it's mine] it is mine LC, AF, HD
Critical Apparatus
105.1 (Moving to him)] LC omits
Editor’s Note
LL 198.94–5 | IBE 767.107 ungentlemanly thing: Hippolyte Taine, the canny French observer of English manners and mores, writing in 1872, offers a comprehensive view of the English gentleman: 'The vital question concerning a man always takes this form: "Is he a gentleman?" … "Gentleman" expresses all the distinctive features of the English upper class, in the first place the most apparent, those which appeal to the simpler minds—for example, a large private fortune, a considerable household of servants, a certain outward appearance and bearing, habits of ease and luxury; often enough in the eyes of the common people and especially of the servant class, these outward semblances are all that is necessary. Add to them, for more cultivated minds, a liberal education, travel, information, good manners and ease in society. But for real judges the essential quality is one of heart; … a real "gentleman" is a truly noble man, a man worthy to command, a disinterested man of integrity, capable of exposing, even sacrificing himself for those he leads; not only a man of honour, but a conscientious man, in whom generous instincts have been confirmed by right thinking and who, acting rightly by nature, acts even more rightly from good principles. In this idealized portrait you will recognize the accomplished leader. To it must be added specifically English features—complete self-mastery, constantly maintained sang-froid, perseverance in adversity, serious-mindedness, dignity of manners and bearing, the avoidance of all affectation or swaggering. You will then have the model which, copied as nearly as possible or at least aspired to, produces the man who commands obedience here' (Notes sur l'Angleterre (1872), qtd. The English Ruling Class, ed. Guttsman, 38–9). Debrett's Peerage (1895) takes a historical view: 'The question is not who is above it, but who is below it; for the highest in the land is proud of being a true gentleman; and it was regarded as the highest compliment ever paid to King George IV, when, as Prince Regent, he was called "the first gentleman in Europe." But if the true gentleman stand at so exalted an elevation, the assumption of the word has become so common as to have marred its meaning' (Pref., xxxi).
Samuel Smiles, the Victorian apostle of self-help, describes the latter-day decline of the gentleman: 'To be a "gentleman" nowadays, is to be a gambler, a horse-racer, a card-player, a dancer, a hunter, a roué‚—or all combined. The "gentleman" lives fast, spends fast, drinks fast, dies fast. The old style of gentleman has degenerated into a "gent" and a "fast" man' (Thrift, 246). Writing to Robert Ross about Alfred Douglas's offensive conduct, W observed, 'What he must be made to feel is that his vulgar and ridiculous assumption of social superiority must be retracted and apologised for. I have written to him to tell him that quand on est gentilhomme on est gentilhomme, and that for him to try and pose as your social superior because he is the third son of a Scotch marquis and you the third son of a commoner is offensively stupid. There is no difference between gentlemen' (20 July [1897], H & H-D, 624).
Editor’s Note
LL 198.95 | IBE 767.107–8 private cigarette case: 'No one likes to have his private letters read,' W asserted at his second trial, in April 1895 (Hyde, Trials of Oscar Wilde, 204). The evident analogy between private letters and private inscriptions in cigarette cases adds a substratum of seriousness to what may seem, in the present dramatic circumstances, relatively harmless or even trivial intrusiveness. Indeed, Jack's protest at Algy's ungentlemanly behaviour might have held autobiographical significance for intimates of W who could have been in the St James's audience. The gift of a silver cigarette case, usually inscribed on the inside, seems to have been almost habitual for W in establishing associations with male companions. The 1895 catalogue for Harrod's Stores, in the Brompton Road, appealed to what was evidently a popular fashion by offering cigarette cases in various leathers—morocco, calf, Russia, seal, crocodile, lizard—at prices ranging from 2s 3d for morocco to the flush frame case in lizard at 8s 11d. For 2s 9d extra a silver shield could be affixed to the case; engraving was 6d per letter. Also available were silver-plated cases at 6s 11d and 7s 9d (Harrod's Stores Limited … Price List, May 1895, 140–4). Reporting on the Green Room Dinner on 5 January 1895, the Era described a sumptuous affair chaired by Sir Henry Irving and in honour of Beerbohm Tree, on the occasion of Tree and his Haymarket company's departure to America on tour; the commemorative gift to Tree was 'a very handsome silver cigarette case' (Era, 12 Jan. 1895, 10).
W's preference was evidently for silver plate or perhaps even sterling silver. As we have seen, evidence produced at the first trial indicated that he had presented his young friend Alphonse Conway with an engraved cigarette case. At the second trial it came out that he had given 'a silver cigarette case and a gold ring' to Charles Parker, a silver cigarette case to Fred Atkins, and another to Sidney Mavor, inscribed 'Sidney from O.W. October 1892'. Asked at the first trial to identify what was in fact Mavor's case, W exclaimed, 'No, really, I could not! I have given so many I could not recognize it.' The case was produced again as evidence at the second trial, and (notwithstanding the private character attached to such gifts by Jack's protest to Algy) was handed up to the judge on the bench and then passed through the jury, whose members examined it with interest. A representative of a firm of Bond Street jewellers testified that he had supplied W with Mavor's case, engraved, and with additional silver cigarette cases and other articles. 'I have a weakness for presenting my acquaintances with cigarette cases', W confessed (Hyde, Trials of Oscar Wilde, 122, 133, 172, 186, 189, 193). Merlin Holland's transcription of the stenographic records of the first trial includes the following sequence: 'carson: You never gave [Ernest] Scarfe any money or any presents? wilde: Oh, yes, I gave him a cigarette case. It is my custom to present cigarette cases. (Laughter) carson: This was it? (He produces it) wilde: I have given so many cigarette cases I cannot verify them. It was a cigarette case. Whether it is that or no, I don't know. Yes, for a Christmas present I gave it to him' (Holland, Irish Peacock, 200). In a letter to Robert Ross from H. M. Prison, Reading, W asked Ross to recover from Douglas all presents W had given him, 'such as the gold cigarette-case, pearl chain and enamelled locket I gave him last Christmas' ([?23 or 30 May 1896] H & H-D, 400).
Critical Apparatus
109 Oh! it is] Oh! It is LC; Oh, it is AF
Critical Apparatus
109 hard-and-fast] hard and fast LC, AF, HD; hard^/-\and-fast Sp
Editor’s Note
LL 198.96 | IBE 768.109–10 what one should read: in a short piece entitled 'To Read or Not to Read' (1886), W divided books into three classes: books to read, books to reread, and '[b]ooks not to read at all', the last category including 'all the Fathers except St Augustine, all John Stuart Mill, except the essay on Liberty, all Voltaire's plays without any exception, … all argumentative books, and all books that try to prove anything.' The third class, he explains, is 'by far the most important. To tell people what to read is as a rule either useless or harmful, for the appreciation of literature is a question of temperament not of teaching, to Parnassus there is no primer, and nothing that one can learn is ever worth learning. But to tell people what not to read is a very different matter, and I venture to recommend it as a mission to the University Extension Scheme' (Journalism 2, 62).
Critical Apparatus
111 what one] what HD
Critical Apparatus
112 the fact] that fact LC
Critical Apparatus
113 isn't the sort] is not quite the sort LC
Critical Apparatus
118 to know,] ~^ AF
Critical Apparatus
120 Yes. Charming] Yes, charming LC
Critical Apparatus
120 is, too] ~^ ~ AF, HD, AD
Critical Apparatus
121 me, Algy.] me, Algy. (Goes across stage to take it) LC; me, Algy. (Moves to him) HD, AD; <(Moves to him)> ADa
Critical Apparatus
122 Retreating … sofa] Retreating LC
Critical Apparatus
122 little Cecily] little Cecily, LC, AF, HD; little Cecily HD, AD; <little> /little\ Cecily Sp
Critical Apparatus
123 Wells? (Reading)] Wells. (Reads) LC
Critical Apparatus
123 From little] From little LC, AF, HD, AD; From <little> /little\ ADa
Editor’s Note
LL 198.106 | IBE 768.123 Tunbridge Wells: 'Tunbridge Wells (Kent)—A well-built and handsome town, and said to resemble in appearance Jerusalem, and distant from London 46 miles …' (Dictionary of Watering Places, Seaside and Inland, at Home and Abroad, Part I: British Watering Places (London: L. Upcott Gill, 1881), 103). The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales (1894?) summarizes the history of the town: it 'rose to pre-eminent celebrity in connection with visits by Cibber, Johnson, Garrick, Richardson, and other leaders of the [eighteenth- century] literary world; was visited in 1834 by the Princess Victoria and the Duchess of Kent, and in 1849 by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert; assumed after the commencement of the nineteenth century the proportions of a town; was materially improved in 1847 by the erection of a portico or piazza in front of its chief spring, and by the formation there of a broad and handsome parade called the "Pantiles" ' (VI, 213). 'Climate and Season.—The air is bracing and healthy, and the place is partly sheltered from north-east winds. Very little rain falls. The mortality rate is 20 per 1000. The season is a summer one. Waters.—The chalybeate springs and pump room are on the parade. The water is powerfully tonic, of a steely taste, clear and bright, and almost without smell. Cold, hot, and vapour baths can be had at the pump room' (Dictionary of Watering Places, 103). CDD elaborates on the taste of the waters: 'Chalybeate waters are natural waters which contain iron in solution. They have a very disagreeable inky taste, or, as Mr Weller, in Dickens's The Pickwick Papers, expressed it, "a particklery unpleasant and wery strong flavour o' warm flat-irons" ' (262). Taste notwithstanding, the anonymous Inland Watering Places (1891) idealizes the town's attractions—and indicates some of the prejudices of its clientele: 'It is singularly free from the noise and bustle which are characteristic of many watering-places, especially our seaside health resorts, with their crowds of excursionists, nigger minstrels, and similar purveyors of boisterous mirth. It is pre-eminently a restful place. The quiet beauty of its undulating landscape, the peaceful stillness of the picturesque lanes surrounding it, have an influence upon the jaded body and overtaxed brain which is especially refreshing' (196, 198, 206).
Critical Apparatus
125 (Moving … upon it)] LC omits; (Moves to sofa, and leaning upon it) AF
Critical Apparatus
126 in that] in that AF, AF, HD, AD; in <that> /that\ Sp
Critical Apparatus
127 You seem] You seem LC, AF, HD, AD; <You> /You\ Sp
Critical Apparatus
128 your aunt!] ~. LC, AF
Critical Apparatus
128 absurd!] ~. LC, AF
Critical Apparatus
128 Heaven's sake] heaven's sake AF; heaven's sake, HD; Heaven's sake, AD
Critical Apparatus
129 Follows algernonroom] (Advances) LC; AF omits; (Bends across sofa) HD, AD; <(Bends across sofa)> Follows ernest round the room ADa, Sp, S
Critical Apparatus
130 Yes. But] (Sheltering himself behind a table) Yes, but LC; Yes, but AF
Critical Apparatus
130–1 Cecily, with] Cecily with LC
Critical Apparatus
131 to her dear] to dear LC, AF, HD, AD; to /her\ dear Sp
Critical Apparatus
132 matter what] matter what/ever\ ADa; what<ever> Sp
Critical Apparatus
133 her uncle,] ~^ LC
Critical Apparatus
133 can't quite] can't LC, AF
Critical Apparatus
134 Jack at all; it is] Jack, at all. It is LC; Jack at all. It is AF, HD, AD
Critical Apparatus
135 isn't Ernest;] isn't Ernest—LC; isn't Ernest, AF, HD, AD
Critical Apparatus
135 it's Jack.] it's Jack. (Moves l.) AF, HD, AD; it's Jack. <(Moves l.)> ADa
Critical Apparatus
136 You have] (Going round back of sofa to r.c.) You have AF, HD, AD; <(Going round back of sofa to r.c.)> You have ADa
Critical Apparatus
136 was Ernest] were Ernest AF
Critical Apparatus
138 earnest-looking] Ernest looking LC; earnest looking HD, AD
Editor’s Note
LL 199.122 Ernest looking person | IBE 769.138 earnest-looking person: the name of Ernest, the Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names explains, derives from 'Old German Ernust, Modern German Ernst' meaning 'vigour' and 'earnestness' (105). Algy puns on Jack's assumed name in a tone of blithe jocularity, reducing to mere semantic dissonance the predilection of an age that appeared to value earnestness above all other virtues save belief in God. Deeply embedded in the language, the term earnest, CDD points out, derives 'from the Saxon word eornest' and is defined as 'a sum paid by the buyer of goods to bind the seller to the terms of the contract' (452). As applied to persons the adjective has consistently denoted the meanings of 'serious, as opposed to trifling', 'gravely impassioned', or 'sincerely zealous' (OED); but Fitzjames Stephen, writing in the Edinburgh Review in 1858, attributed to Thomas Arnold and his students at Rugby School the voguish substitution of 'earnest' for the more traditional 'serious' (qtd. Walter E. Houghton, The Victorian Frame of Mind 1830–1870 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1956), 220). 'Dr Arnold was the embodiment of earnestness', the anonymous author of Men Who Were Earnest (1862) explains. 'In his eye nothing was trivial: sports, diet, books, conversations, manners, education, religion—everything was important; and he viewed them not as separate entities, but as the parts of a whole which were to be subordinated to law, in order to any of them effectually gaining its purpose' (Men Who Were Earnest: The Springs of their Action and Influence (London: James Hogg & Sons, 1862), 11). Looking back on the earlier days of the century just before Victoria's reign commenced, Samuel Butler fixed the emergence of the pun W here repeats: 'Next day [in Sept. 1835] the author of all this hubbub was actually christened. Theobald had proposed to call him George after old Mr Pontifex, but strange to say, Mr. Pontifex over-ruled him in favour of the name Ernest. The word "earnest" was just beginning to come into fashion, and he thought the possession of such a name might, like his having been baptised in water from the Jordan, have a permanent effect upon the boy's character, and influence him for good during the more critical periods of his life' (The Way of all Flesh, ed. R. A. Streatfeild (London: Grant Richards, 1903; written 1872–84), 78). In his early twenties W expressed a forlorn wish that conversion to Roman Catholicism were productive of earnestness: 'If I could hope that the Church would wake in me some earnestness and purity,' he wrote to William Ward in early March 1877, 'I would go over as a luxury, if for no better reasons. But I can hardly hope it would, and to go over to Rome would be to sacrifice and give up my two great gods "money and Ambition" ' (H & H-D, 39). Later, W gave Lord Illingworth in A Woman of No Importance a more cynical view: 'One should never take sides in anything, Mr. Kelvil. Taking sides is the beginning of sincerity, and earnestness follows shortly afterwards, and the human being becomes a bore' (Society Comedies, 26).
The pun on Jack's assumed name, together with the vibrations that in Gwendolen's (and, as we later learn, Cecily's) view are set up by the name, establishes a private as well as a public frame of reference. W knew several persons of the name of Ernest—Ernest Leverson, husband of his close friend Ada Leverson, Ernest Dowson the poet, and the French littérateur Ernest La Jeunesse, for example— but he surely must have been aware of a volume of poems published in 1892 whose very title invoked the pun he would himself employ two years later. The title of J. G. F. Nicholson's collection of sonnets, ballades, and lyrics, Love in Earnest, contains a concealed pun glossed by a ballade in the collection entitled 'Of Boys' Names', whose every stanza ends with a variation on the line 'And Ernest sets my heart a-flame.' The second stanza reads:
  • One name can make my pulses bound,
  • No peer it owns, nor parallel,
  • By it is Vivian's sweetness drowned,
  • And Roland, full as organ-swell;
  • Though Frank may ring like silver bell,
  • And Cecil softer music claim,
  • They cannot work the miracle,—
  • 'Tis Ernest sets my heart a-flame.
  • (61)
In a modern study of 'Uranian' poets (pederasts, an interest distinguished from adult male homosexuality), Timothy d'Arch Smith, in a book taking its title from Nicholson's, explains that 'Ernest' was Nicholson's actual lover (Love in Earnest: Some Notes on the Lives and Writings of English 'Uranian' Poets from 1889 to 1930 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970), 71). Nicholson and W both appeared as authors in John Francis Bloxam's ill-fated Oxford magazine Chameleon (see the entry on Lady Bloxham below, 913), a conjunction which, though ostensibly fortuitous, symbolizes the intricate web of connections that characterizes the homosexual subculture of the period, to which such men as Theodore Wratislaw, John Gray, André Raffalovich, Lionel Johnson, and George Cecil Ives, along with W's Oxford acquaintance Bloxam and W's friend and lover Lord Alfred Douglas, belonged, as did Robert Ross and numerous other friends and acquaintances of W's (see Ellmann, Wilde, passim; Hyde, Trials of Oscar Wilde, passim; and Holland, Irish Peacock, passim).
These men would undoubtedly have known of an earlier Ernest as well, whose character as a transvestite may well be invoked through veiled reference in the title of W's own play. In 1870 Ernest Boulton, aged twenty-two, and Frederic William Park, aged twenty-five, both sometime actors, were arrested and charged with being found in public in women's attire—specifically, for appearing in women's dress at the Strand Theatre, where they were at first taken as 'two fresh stars about to shine in the firmament of the demi-monde', but were subsequently exposed as 'men in masquerade'. Their behaviour caused a furore and much outcry in the popular press, owing especially to Park's entry into the ladies' retiring room at the Strand, where he asked a female attendant to help him fasten up the gathers of his skirt—an act that, an inflammatory pamphlet alleged, 'ruthlessly violated' the 'sacred privacy' of 'mother, sister, wife, or daughter' (The Lives of Boulton and Park: Extraordinary Revelations (London: George Clarke, [1870]), 3, 2). As the clandestine references to the Albany chambers of George Ives on Ernest Worthing's visiting card and to John Francis Bloxam make clear (see the next entry, 'E.4', below), W was perfectly capable of building into his play a series of veiled references to homosexual persons and even to notorious events of a homosexual cast. The veiled allusion to the Boulton–Park affair, a quarter-century old though it was (an allusion the dowager helps to enliven through her reference to 'the dear Duchess of Bolton'—see below, 906), allows the title of W's play to argue for the importance of leading a double life; the meaning is recaptured, with blithe assurance of covert intent, in Algy's description of Jack as 'the most earnest looking person I ever saw in my life.'
Critical Apparatus
139 It's on] Why it's on LC
Critical Apparatus
140 (Taking it from case)] LC omits
Critical Apparatus
140–1 'Mr … The Albany.'] /"\Mr.… <t>/T\he Albany. /"\ Sp, S
Critical Apparatus
140–1 Worthing, B. 4, The Albany] Worthing. E. 4 the Albany LC, AF; Worthing, E. 4, the Albany HD; Worthing^ E. 4, the Albany AD; Worthing^ <E.> /B.\ 4, the Albany ADa; Worthing, B. 4, <t>/T\he Albany/'\ Sp
Editor’s Note
LL 199.124 E.4 The Albany | IBE 769.140–1 B.4 The Albany: 'Between Nos. 46 and 47 Piccadilly is the Albany,' Herbert Fry's London: Illustrated by Twenty Bird's-Eye Views of the Principal Streets (1895) points out, 'planned and built as suites of chambers for the residence of single gentlemen, and named after the Duke of York and Albany, to whom it once belonged … ' (112). ' "Chambers" may be considered "flats" in small', explains Pascoe, adding that 'chambers in Piccadilly rent from £65 to £175 per year' (Charles Eyre Pascoe, ed., London of To-Day: An Illustrated Annual Publication, 10th edn. (London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent, 1894), 85). As a prospectus of 1802 described it, the Albany consisted of 'elegant and convenient Sets of independent Freehold Apartments' (Survey of London, Vol. XXXII: The Parish of St. James's Westminster, Part II: North of Piccadilly (London: London County Council, 1963), 374). Stretching north from the entrance in Piccadilly, the Albany's two ranges of chambers on either side of a 'curious covered passage-way' (E. Beresford Chancellor, Wanderings in Piccadilly, Mayfair and Pall Mall (London: Alston Rivers, [1908]), 81) were traditionally occupied by bachelors or other men living alone, including such illustrious writers and men of affairs as 'Monk' Lewis, Lord Byron, Gladstone, Macaulay, and Bulwer (Sheila Birkenhead, Peace in Piccadilly: The Story of Albany (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1958), 80, 86, 116, 123, 152). Macaulay thought it afforded 'a college life at the West End of London' (qtd. Chancellor, Wanderings, 81). Asked directions to Curzon Street, W is said to have replied: 'I am pleased … that I should be asked to direct you to so eminently desirable an address. Personally, I am unacquainted with any part of London east of Albany' (n.s., qtd. Harry Furniss, Paradise in Piccadilly: The Story of Albany (London: John Lane, 1925), 128). Pascoe's London of To-Day (1894) calls the Albany 'a dingy-looking, secluded building' whose 'snuggeries are generally reserved to bachelors' but which are 'still tenanted by gentlemen of position' (386, 85). In Chapter III of the 1891 edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Lord Henry Wotton strolls from Curzon Street to the Albany to visit his bachelor uncle Lord Fermor (Dorian Gray, 194).
As W evidently knew, however, by the 1890s the Albany (sometimes referred to simply as 'Albany', perhaps to avoid embarrassing confusion with the name of a public house) had fallen on difficult times and had acquired a questionable reputation. Some fifteen sets of chambers were empty and in use only as 'luggage and lumber rooms' by about 1893 (Times, 8 May 1929, qtd. Survey of London, XXXII, 377), and in 1894 nine proprietors complained to the trustees of their dissatisfaction with 'the present condition of the property' (Survey of London, XXXII, 377). Arthur Wing Pinero may have had the current reputation in mind when he installed Aubrey Tanqueray, the luckless hero of his problem play The Second Mrs. Tanqueray (1893), in 'No. 2x The Albany' (programme, St James's Theatre, 27 May 1893, HTC); '2x' is a non-existent designation. Joel Kaplan points out that Pinero's stage directions describe a cosy, sumptuous domicile appropriate for male gatherings, but they are bachelors' quarters about to be evacuated; Kaplan believes the St James's audience, many of them veterans of the long run of Pinero's play, would have remembered the setting and have thought higher of Ernest's in-town digs than the wider evidence of Albany's condition warrants (Joel H. Kaplan, 'Ernest Worthing's London Address: A Reconsideration', Canadian Journal of Irish Studies 11, no. 1 (June 1985), 53–4). Its reputation had reached the provinces as well, to judge from Miss Prism's comment on the moral character of Jack's fictitious brother Ernest in the first ms. draft of Act II:

I should fancy that he was as bad as any young man who has chambers in the Albany, /[pencil] or indeed even in the vicinity of Piccadilly, [end pencil]\ can possibly be. And that is saying a good deal nowadays, [pencil] when Sin, I am told, has reached the suburbs. [end pencil] (Lady Lancing, A2, [6])

Undaunted (or perhaps innocent of the knowledge), in 1894 John Lane, W's publisher, purchased the lease of Apartment G.1 and re-established there his publishing house, the Bodley Head (founded with his former partner Elkin Mathews in 1887), then engaged in bringing out the early numbers of the Yellow Book. The character of that publication in the popular mind was such that, when W was arrested prior to the second trial and was seen to have in hand a yellow book (which in fact was a copy of Pierre Louÿs's novel Aphrodite), it was widely concluded from the headlines in the popular press ('ARREST OF OSCAR wilde, YELLOW BOOK UNDER HIS ARM') to be an issue of Lane's magazine. W in fact had no connection with it (see Hyde, Trials of Oscar Wilde, 154n.). Henry Arthur Jones later lived near the Bodley Head, in G.3 (1898–1901; Furniss, Paradise in Piccadilly, 207).
The chambers occupied by 'Mr Ernest Worthing', designated as 'E.4' on his calling card, would thus have shared the Albany's reputation of elegance gone to seed and of an exclusiveness tinged with raciness, a reputation uncharacteristic of Algernon Moncrieff 's address a short walk away, in Half Moon Street. A complete list of the occupants provided in an appendix to Furniss's history of the Albany, Paradise in Piccadilly, indicates that E.4 was unoccupied between 1890 and 1894, and that in 1895 George Cecil Ives became the listed occupant (Appendix, 203, 206). Furniss's information is in this instance inaccurate, however. According to an entry in his diary for 30 June [1894], Ives was living in 'The Albany, Piccadilly', occupying 'New quarters—I am in E4. The rooms seem very quiet and being dimly lighted, look quite ghostly.' On 17 July he comments, 'I don't know how long we have been here, somewhere about a fortnight, probably.' (The other occupant of E.4, implied in Ives's 'we', is not identified in Ives's diary.) And in a later entry, for 30 December, he notes, 'The Albany Piccadilly … am still here' (George Cecil Ives, diary, IV, no. xx: 100/2332; V, no. xxi: 1/2366, no. xxii: 83/2553, Ransom). Sometime in the latter part of 1894, Richard Ellmann notes, W met an Oxford undergraduate, John Francis Bloxam, founder of the short-lived magazine the Chameleon, in George Ives's Albany rooms; Ellmann is vague about the date. It was while Bloxam was visiting Ives in his Albany chambers that Ives suggested the name of Bloxam's magazine. Although it clearly preceded the publication of the Chameleon in December 1894, the meeting could perhaps have occurred as early as the summer, when W was beginning Earnest. Ellmann describes Ives as 'a proselytizer for sexual deviation' whom W had met at the Authors' Club in June 1892 (Ellmann, Wilde, 427–8, 171, 386n.). It appears certain that W knew of Ives's residence in the Albany in the latter half of 1894, to judge from the letter he wrote Ives in late October ([p.m. 22 Oct. 1894], H & H-D, 619) as well as from the meeting with Bloxam, whom W appears to have put into his play in the guise of 'Lady Bloxham', a lady 'considerably advanced in years' (see LL 214, and IBE 781). The acquaintance with Ives continued beyond the period of W's incarceration; Ives sent him a copy of his poems, A Book of Chains (1897), and corresponded with him in Paris on homosexuality (H & H-D, 980n., 1044). One must conclude that the reference to 'E.4' in the play had important private significance for W; indeed, he is, in a sense, casting George Ives as the 'profligate Ernest'. Ives records in his diary that he went to see the production of the play at the St James's on opening night: '14 Feb [1895]. Have just been to O's last play which is immensely funny and had various topical allusions including Lady Bloxam and this my address occurring; it will last a long time I should think: no doubt I shall be considerably ragged about my exact address being given'. In a later insertion Ives says: 'mine was E.4. I fancy the play said B.4.'—but he misremembers what was spoken. (One feels confident that Alexander had no idea about the present occupant of E.4. on opening night.)
In a detailed study of Ives's diary, John Stokes comments on what W may have had in mind in designating Ives's chambers in the Albany as Ernest Worthing's London habitation. As Stokes explains, when W was writing The Importance of Being Earnest in the summer of 1894, 'he thought of Ives's homosexual menage at E4 Albany, Piccadilly, and originally had Ernest Worthing occupy those chambers, thereby converting a den of simmering conspiracy into the beleaguered home of a heterosexual dandy. The joke was at everybody's expense, including the author's, since Ives embodied a movement and a mood which Wilde had sometimes allowed himself to take with uncharacteristic seriousness' (Stokes, 'Wilde at Bay: The Diaries of George Ives', English Literature in Transition, 1880–1920, 26, no. 3 (1983), 176).
All the same, the reference clearly remained a private one. It is significant that no attempt to change the designation of E.4 was made during the run of the first production. All four-act texts give 'E.4', as do the licensing copy and the Arents–Frohman script, and it remained 'E.4' in the St James's house copy from which, at Alexander's direction, Winifred Dolan made a typescript for W three years later, in spring 1898. The emendation of 'E.4' to 'B.4' in W's annotation of the Arents–Dolan script is repeated in the Harvard–Dickens rehearsal book (the result of Alexander's collation with the first edition) and followed in all printed texts. Furniss's Appendix (in Paradise in Piccadilly) further indicates that B.4 was occupied in 1879–94 and 1897–1901. The reason for W's choice of 'B.4' as an alternative to the Arents–Dolan reading is unclear, though one may speculate that it was a way of distancing himself from Ives and his associates. By the time of Leonard Smithers's publication of the first edition, it perhaps made no difference to the author that B.4 was occupied—or, more likely, he had no way of knowing it.
Critical Apparatus
141 is Ernest] is Ernest, LC; is Ernest, AF
Critical Apparatus
142 to me,] to me^ LC
Critical Apparatus
142 to Gwendolen,] ~^ LC
Critical Apparatus
142 anyone] anybody LC
Critical Apparatus
142 (Puts … pocket)] (Puts card in pocket) AF, HD, AD; (Puts /the\ card in /his\ pocket) ADa
Critical Apparatus
143 in town] ~, LC, AF
Critical Apparatus
143 country, and] country. And LC, AF, HD, AD
Critical Apparatus
146 Cecily, … Wells,] Cecily^ who lives at Tunbridge Wells^ AF, HD, AD
Critical Apparatus
146 uncle] Uncle LC, AD
Critical Apparatus
150 always do.] always do. (algy puts case in pocket) AF; always do. (Puts case in pocket) HD, AD; always do. <(Puts case in pocket)> ADa
Critical Apparatus
150 Now, go on! Tell] Now, go on: tell LC; Now go on tell AF
Editor’s Note
LL 200.135–6 | IBE 769.151–2 confirmed and secret Bunburyist: Bunbury, Algy's imaginary perpetual invalid, stands ready to be urgently near death whenever Algy needs an excuse to escape an unwelcome social obligation. For that matter, Algy's imaginary invalid can be invoked to facilitate access to almost any activity otherwise frowned on or forbidden to members of 'good' society. One of W's happiest inventions, the fictional Bunbury lends his name to what may be imagined to constitute an entire way of life. In labelling Jack 'a confirmed and secret Bunburyist', Algy implies that adopting a temporary sub rosa identity at will can serve to license unexplained, uninhibited movement from town to country or from country to town. But the play as a whole goes no further beyond the present fact that each survives by retaining a fictional accomplice available on call—in Algy's case, the imaginary Bunbury; in Jack's, his non-existent younger brother Ernest. Consequently, for both Algy and Jack, the 'explosion' of Bunbury near the end of the play effectively signals their abandonment of a selective secret life in favour of a permanently public married one.
It remains to explore the obscure dramatic pedigree of W's invented name. W once told Frank Harris that he consistently drew his character names from place names. 'Territorial names have always a cachet of distinction', W explained: 'they fall on the ear full toned with secular dignity. That's how I get all the names of my personages, Frank. I take up a map of the English counties, and there they are. Our English villages have often exquisitely beautiful names. Windermere, for instance, or Hunstanton' (Harris, Oscar Wilde: His Life and Confessions (1916; rpt. New York: Horizon Press, 1974), 140). Despite Harris's frequent, notorious embellishments of his narratives, this anecdote appears to bear a reasonable truthfulness (and if it isn't true, it ought to be). Notwithstanding W's predilection for place names to serve as character names, further examples of the name Bunbury are to be found in Victorian life, literature, and the theatre itself.
The surname occurs among the writers of the century, as in the instance of Selina Bunbury, a minor author of children's books (The New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature, Vol. III:, 1800–1900, ed. George Watson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), 1102), and in the aristocracy, as in the case of Lt. Gen. Sir E. H. Bunbury, Bart., KCB, whose will was proved in London on 5 June 1860 by his sons Sir Charles James Fox Bunbury, Bart., Edward Herbert Bunbury, Esq., and Colonel Henry William St. Pierre Bunbury, CB (Illustrated London News, 16 June 1860, 571).
One of the more significant bearers of the name is a fellow Irishman and family friend of the Wildes, Henry S. Bunbury, and his aunt, who lived at Bicknor Cottage, West Coleford, in Gloucestershire. On 16 June 1878, a mere six days after the award had been officially announced, Henry wrote to congratulate W on winning the Newdigate Prize for poetry at Oxford, openly envying W's circumstances of 'pensive study' there and deploring his own location in 'this out of the way spot 3 miles from even a miserable—so called—town, or rather a village'. Bunbury fondly remembers his time at Oxford, where there was only one season, 'spring—with its dreamy promise, its airy enchantments, its energy and infinite repose', and laments his bleak situation, without books and attractions, with 'no pleasant society to refresh or distract us' (Clark Library; see the reproduction of the Bunbury letter in William Green, 'Oscar Wilde and the Bunburys', Modern Drama 21 (1978), 67–80). For W, a Dubliner, Gloucestershire would have carried an almost equal sense of remoteness from London, a basic connotation of the happy coinage 'Bunburyist'. Around this time, W complained to an acquaintance, the Revd. Matthew Russell SJ, that his 'recent success has quite plunged me in business of all kinds, and I have had no time to myself ' (H & H-D, 69). There is no record of a response from W to Henry Bunbury's congratulatory letter; the Complete Letters is silent on the subject. If, after some sixteen years, W still had in mind his erstwhile Gloucestershire clergyman friend when he came to put into Algy's mouth the explanation for his country retreats from onerous social obligations, he would by implication reverse the forlorn tone of Henry Bunbury's letter, making the prospect of a flight into the country synonymous with carefree licence. The term 'Bunburyist' appears in the earliest manuscripts of Earnest—too early to have been suggested by the appearance of Charles Bunbury's privately printed Life, edited by his wife Frances, in view of the date of receipt of the British Library copy on 13 October 1894. Charles Bunbury, naturalist and traveller and a friend of Charles Lyell the geologist, was well known for his research in vegetable palaeontology (Sir Charles J. F. Bunbury, Life, Letters and Journals of Sir Charles J. F. Bunbury, Bart., ed. Frances Joanna Bunbury, 3 vols. (N.p.: priv. pr., [1894]) III, 261). More likely to have caught W's eye was Charles Bunbury's widow's death, whose demise was announced in an obituary in the Morning Post on 23 July 1894, and whose funeral notice appeared the next day in both the Morning Post and The Times. Any one of these notices might have come to W's attention while still in London, preparing to set off to Worthing early the next month to begin writing his play (W. Craven Mackie, 'Bunbury Pure and Simple', Modern Drama 41 (1998), 329).
In any case, the letter from W's self-pitying friend only begins to suggest the numerous namesakes, historical and otherwise, of Algy's imaginary chronic invalid, from Henry William Bunbury (1750–1811), a caricaturist, down to a small crowd of worthies identified in Debrett's, including, most recently, Sir Edward Herbert Bunbury, 9th Baronet (1811–95), a British Liberal Party politician (Debrett's Baronetage, Knightage, and Companionage, Personally Revised by the Nobility, Library Edition (London: Oldham's Press, 1893)). There was also a General Bunbury recorded in the Army List for 1894, on the Indian Supernumerary list (Raby, 'The Persons of the Play', 71).
In the present instance, as in so many others, despite the abundance of persons with the name, W may be following his habit of deriving surnames from place names, giving to Algy's fictitious invalid friend the ancient and somewhat obscure name of 'Bunbury, a village, a township, and a parish in Cheshire' (The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales [?1894] 1, 283–4). The town is the only 'Bunbury' in the British Isles (Gazetteer of the British Isles). And yet the currency of the name in the century is further attested to by the eponymous character in J. Sterling Coyne's mid-century farce Mrs. Bunbury's Spoons (London: National Acting Drama Office, n.d. [1849]). Although the plot concerns a woman whose husband has suddenly died, no real similarity of this Adelphi Theatre farce (15 October 1849; Adelphi Theatre Calendar 1806–1900, on-line database) to W's later work appears; nor is there evidence of a London revival of Coyne's play in the 1890s. A precedent closer to hand, however, may be found in F. C. Philips and Charles Brookfield's farcical comedy Godpapa, which ran at the Comedy Theatre for seventy-two performances beginning on 22 October 1891 (Wearing, London Stage 1890–1899, 91.298). As Kerry Powell points out, the notion of Bunburying could have been suggested by Philips and Brookfield's play, which features an old widower named John Bunbury who unwittingly plays into the subterfuge of the hero, Reginald, to marry Bunbury's daughter Violet (Godpapa, passim; Powell, Wilde and the 1890s, 126–7; see the discussion of influences on W's play in the Introduction to Lady Lancing, 155–65 and the entry for 'found ' in the Commentary below, 917).
Still another possible source, this one by analogy, is the example of the character Belvawney and the transformation of the name into a verbal action in W. S. Gilbert's satirical farce Engaged (Haymarket, 3 October 1877). Belvawney, the villain of the piece, engages in devious stratagems of wooing in order to keep Cheviot Hill from marrying and so to preserve his annual income, which ceases at Cheviot's marriage. In Act III Cheviot, who has become engaged to both Minnie Symperson and Belinda Treherne—both of whom are being courted by Belvawney—tells his fiancées that 'once for all, I'll have nothing of this kind. One of you will be my wife, and until I know which, I will permit no Belvawneying of any kind whatever, or anything approaching thereto. When that is settled, the other may Belvawney until she is black in the face' (Engaged, in Plays by W. S. Gilbert, ed. George Rowell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 163–4). Jack's exasperated ultimatum to Algy in Act II—'You young scoundrel, Algy, you must get out of this place as soon as possible. I don't allow any Bunburying here' is reminiscent of Cheviot's speech—just as W's play in other ways, as many reviewers of the first production noted, appears indebted to Gilbert's.
Since the root idea of 'Bunbury' is that of a place, Algy's coinage 'Bunburyist' suggests not simply a Bunburyite, but someone who makes a kind of profession of being one, or is one from principle or deep-seated habit (as explained above). Of course, the remote location of the geographical Bunbury makes the coinage an appropriate metaphor for someone who makes frequent low-profile excursions out of London to inaccessible locations. All the same, in the context of the clandestine life W was leading at the time of composition of the play, the locution 'confirmed and secret Bunburyist' resonates with a suggestion of homosexual activity. Given W's perennial interest in place names and his Irish birth and background, the combinative Irish form 'bun-' could perhaps have had additional suggestive force. In The Origin and History of Irish Names of Places (1869; 7th edn., Vol. 1 (Dublin: Talbot, n.d. [?1920])), P. W. Joyce explains, Bun means 'the bottom or end of anything', adding that it is 'often applied to the end, that is, the mouth, of a river' as in the instance of Bunratty, in Clare (528). All the same, if the term 'Bunburyist' is indeed a code word for someone who leads a life of illicit sexual pleasure, it appears to be a private coinage of W's; contemporary dictionaries of slang are silent on the point. Whatever the ultimate import of 'Bunburyist', the term has the same apparent aura of innocence as Algy's voracious appetite—for cucumber sandwiches and muffins rather than, like most rakish men about town (and like the Restoration libertines from whom his character descends), for maidens (see James M. Ware, 'Algernon's Appetite: Oscar Wilde's Hero as Restoration Dandy', English Literature in Transition, 1880–1920, 13 (1970), 17–26). The innocence may nevertheless mask a more private Wildean meaning.
Much general knowledge on the significance of the name 'Bunbury' existed for some years, but a new line of inquiry opened up in January 1960. At this time the Revd. Maurice Ridgway, a respected antiquarian in Bunbury, Cheshire, wrote to the Sunday Times, explaining that '[as] vicar of Bunbury I have always been puzzled as to why Oscar Wilde decided to pick on this remote village (if he did) to coin his phrase "Bunburying" in The Importance of Being Earnest.' Ridgway asked if any reader could enlighten him. He was apparently not favoured with an answer. Some years later, however, when the American theatre historian William Green contacted the Revd. Mr Ridgway while on a visit to Cheshire, the clergyman shared with him a sheaf of letters that threw fresh biographical light on the subject. One of the letters had come from Walter Bunbury, the son of Henry S. Bunbury, who in 1878 as we have seen had written from his disadvantageous location in remote Cheshire to congratulate the young poet on his Newdigate Prize. Henry Bunbury's son remembered his father had boasted that it was he whom W had in mind in creating Algy's fictional invalid. Walter's letter explained that his father was living in Dublin, in Merrion Square, just a few doors away from the Wilde family house, which he visited frequently while W was studying at Trinity College, and so often encountered the young student coming home from school. In his letter to the Revd. Mr Ridgway, Walter Bunbury recollected that his father, while visiting in Merrion Square as a regular guest in the Wilde household,

was in rather poor health and inclined to discuss his physical troubles if given a chance. Oscar, I gather, enjoyed pulling his leg about this and often hailed my father with a jocular inquiry about his liver or lights. Although my father's health greatly improved later on he seldom failed to find some ground for complaint.

One of the first notes W made, following the rudimentary scenario sent to George Alexander in the summer of 1894, was, as he noted, 'Mr Bunbury—always ill—' (Raby, 'The Origins of The Importance of Being Earnest ', 143). William Green had evidently made an important discovery during his visit to Cheshire. While stopping short of a definitive identification of the Wilde family friend Henry S. Bunbury as the original of Algy's fictitious invalid, Green was evidently persuaded that the congratulatory letter Bunbury sent to the Oxford student and award-winning academic poet Oscar Wilde stuck in W's mind because it reminded him of repeated earlier encounters with the same individual in Merrion Square, in his parents' house, by that time an invalid who constantly complained of his unfortunate state of health. There seems to be, finally, no more likely candidate than the self-centred hypochondriac who later wrote a curiously memorable letter of congratulation to the budding poet studying at the University of Oxford in 1878.
Twenty years after William Green published his note, W. Craven Mackie added some charming specifics to the store of knowledge about W's perpetual invalid. Reviewing Green's research but doubting its relevance, Mackie builds a jocular, sceptical case against previous commentators and argues instead in favour of what W might have gleaned from frequent reading of the front page of the Morning Post, a newspaper mentioned in W's play itself. As reported in the Post, within the last week of July 1894 W would have found information about the demise of three highly relevant persons: the death of Lady Frances Joanne Bunbury; two days later a notice of the death of a second Bunbury, Thomas Charles; and then, five days further on, the announcement of the passing of Captain Philip Mill Bunbury (Mackie, 'Bunbury Pure and Simple', 327–30). In Mackie's opinion these notices tipped the scales for W, persuading him that this combination of current information and the more remote intelligence of which he was already cognizant, brought to bear by previous commentators, confirmed W in his decision to use the magical name of Bunbury as the personification of Algernon's deep desire to escape the inconvenient limits of social constraint. For further discussion of the more particularly Irish dimension of 'Bunburying', see Declan Kiberd, 'Wilde and the English Question', TLS, 16 Dec. 1994, 13–15.
Critical Apparatus
152 Bunburyist; and] Bunburyist, and LC; Bunburyist. And AF, HD, AD
Critical Apparatus
153 Bunburyist? What] What LC
Critical Apparatus
156 country.] country. (Moving to him) AF, HD, AD; country. <(Moving to him)> ADa
Critical Apparatus
158 explanation,] ~^ HD, AD
Critical Apparatus
159 improbable. (Sits on sofa)] remarkable. The bore about most explanations is that they are never half so remarkable as the things they try to explain, that is why modern science is so absolutely tedious. LC; remarkable. (Sits on sofa) AF, HD, AD; <remarkable> /improbable\ (Sits on sofa) ADa
Critical Apparatus
160 My dear fellow] (Sitting c.) My dear fellow AF
Critical Apparatus
160 improbable … explanation] remarkable about this explanation LC; remarkable about my explanation AF, HD, AD; <remarkable> /improbable\ about my explanation ADa
Critical Apparatus
160 at all.] at all. (Sits c.) HD, AD; at all <(Sits c.)> ADa
Critical Apparatus
161 In fact, it's] In fact it is LC; In fact it's AF, HD, AD, S
Critical Apparatus
161 Thomas Cardew,] Cardew^ LC; Thomas Cardew^ HD, AD
Critical Apparatus
162 boy,] ~^ LC
Critical Apparatus
162 me in his will] me, in his will, AF
Critical Apparatus
162 grand-daughter,] ~^ AF
Editor’s Note
LL 200.148 | IBE 770.162 guardian to his grand-daughter: 'A guardian is one appointed, by the wisdom and policy of the law, to take care of a person and his affairs who, by reason of his imbecility and want of understanding, is incapable of acting for his own interest.… Next to the father's right is that of the testamentary or statute guardian, whose authority is hardly to be distinguished from the father's.… The wardship of infants, and the care of infants' estates, are continued to the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice, by the Judicature Acts' (CDD, 594). R. Storry Deans further explains that 'guardianship is an office purely voluntary in its inception, though it cannot be got rid of by a mere voluntary act after it has been once undertaken, it being in the nature of a trust in this respect. The guardian acts for the ward. He may bring suits as his "next friend," and is joined as defendant when the ward is sued. He makes contracts, grants leases, and performs other legal acts for the infant, by virtue of his office' (Deans, The Law of Parent and Child, Guardian and Ward, and of the Rights, Duties and Liabilities of Infants; with the Practice of the High Court of Justice in Relation Thereto (London: Reeves & Turner, 1895), 48).
Critical Apparatus
163–4 respect … appreciate,] respect LC; respect, a thing that you couldn't possibly appreciate, AF; respect— HD, AD; respect /that you could not possibly appreciate\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
164 country] ~, LC
Critical Apparatus
166 country,] ~^ LC
Critical Apparatus
167 invited… .] ~. LC; ~— AF
Critical Apparatus
168 is not] is not LC
Critical Apparatus
169 that, … fellow!] that my dear fellow. LC; that, my dear fellow. AF
Editor’s Note
LL 200.154 | IBE 770.169 Bunburyed: the reviewer of the first production for the St. James's Gazette appraises W's contribution here in high terms: 'He has invented, or—what is probably a still greater virtue in his eyes—popularized, an exquisitely ugly flower [the notorious green carnation]; and now he earns the gratitude of all philologists by enriching the English language with a new verb, which is also a process.' Bunburying may have been invented before, but to W 'must be given the credit of raising a mere expedient to the dignity of a recognized science. It is this, indeed, which forms the motive of his new play; and just as he has brought his public to believe with him that an aphorism is simply the inversion of a familiar sentence, so in the present instance he seeks to convince them that an original situation is in truth but a fresh application of a well-worn stage convention' (15 Feb. 1895). Indeed, the reviewer of Earnest for the Illustrated London News sees the Bunbury device as an echo of former plays, instancing James Albery's Pink Dominos (1877): 'It was the state of the cotton market at Manchester that compelled a flighty gentleman to make a pretence of leaving town on the receipt of a telegram which ran, "Keep your eye on Surats" ' ('A.', 23 Feb. 1895, 227). (See also the commentary on 'confirmed and secret Bunburyist', above, 881.)
Critical Apparatus
170 Now, go] Now go LC, AF
Critical Apparatus
170–1 Ernest … country] Jack in the country and Ernest in town LC, AF
Critical Apparatus
173–4 of guardian,] of a guardian^ LC; of guardian^ AF
Critical Apparatus
174 tone] ~, LC
Critical Apparatus
175 do so. And as] do so, and as LC; do so. And—as AF
Critical Apparatus
175 hardly be said] be hardly said LC, AF, HD
Critical Apparatus
176 or one's happiness,] or happiness if carried to excess, LC; or happiness if carried to excess— AF, HD, AD; or /one's\ happiness <if carried to excess>— ADa
Critical Apparatus
176 to town] ~, LC
Critical Apparatus
177 to have] I have LC
Critical Apparatus
178 Albany,] ~^ LC, AF, HD, AD
Critical Apparatus
179 truth] ~, LC, AF, HD
Editor’s Note
LL 201.165 | IBE 770.180 Modern life: the term 'modern' most commonly means simply 'current' or 'contemporary', but Algy's usage is coloured by a tongue-in-cheek comparison of his own age with the supposedly more virtuous and uncluttered life of a bygone time, implying that his own is more interesting for having degenerated from the earlier, more wholesome standard. The comparison touches on a more serious feeling, characteristic of the 1890s, of cultural decline, a tone articulated a generation earlier in the title of George Meredith's sequence of near-sonnets on the theme of a disintegrating marriage, Modern Love (1862). What links Algy's (and W's) generation with earlier post-Wordsworthian writers like Meredith is a new sensibility, the product of a felt departure of contemporary interests and needs from those of the past. In the critical preface to his Poems (1853) Matthew Arnold disapprovingly quotes a statement in the Spectator: 'The Poet who would really fix the public attention must leave the exhausted past, and draw his subjects from matters of present import, and therefore both of interest and novelty' (qtd. Meredith, Selected Poems, ed. Graham Hough (London: Oxford University Press, 1962), 6). Arnold's purpose was to refute the allegation of an irrelevant past, but the momentum of this new value had grown, by W's time, to the status almost of a received idea, a condition of life. As Graham Hough explains of Meredith's title, 'Modern love is different from love in the past, because it is tormented not by perennial lovers' woes, but by personal nervous conflicts, psychological contradictions unknown or unrecognized in earlier times' (6). The idea had its positive as well as negative features. 'Modern life is complex and relative', W observed in his long letter to Lord Alfred Douglas from prison. '[T]hose are its two distinguishing notes; to render the first we require atmosphere with its subtlety of nuances, of suggestion, of strange perspectives: as for the second we require background. That is why sculpture has ceased to be a representative art and why music is a representative art and why literature is, and has been and always will remain the supreme representative art' (De Profundis, 86). Later, correcting page proof for Smithers's edition of An Ideal Husband (1899), W added a telling description of Lord Goring in Act III: 'His are all the delicate fopperies of fashion. One sees that he stands in immediate relation to modern life, makes it indeed and so masters it. He is the first well-dressed philosopher in the history of thought' (s.d., 121, page proof, Clark Library). The passage echoes W's description of his own place in contemporary life in the letter to Douglas from prison: 'I was a man who stood in symbolic relations to the art and culture of my age. I had realised this for myself at the very dawn of my manhood, and had forced my age to realise it afterwards. Few men hold such a position in their own lifetime, and have it so acknowledged.… With me it was different. I felt it myself, and made others feel it. Byron was a symbolic figure, but his relations were to the passion of his age and its weariness of passion. Mine were to something more noble, more permanent, of more vital issue, of larger scope' (De Profundis, 94–5).
Critical Apparatus
181 were either, and] was either. And LC; were either. And AF, HD, AD
Critical Apparatus
181 impossibility!] ~. LC, AF
Editor’s Note
LL 201.166 | IBE 770.181 modern literature: Algy's cynical comment on the loss of truth and probity in contemporary writing is echoed in a deeply serious tone in George Gissing's outspoken novel on the subject, New Grub Street (1891), in a passage describing young Marian Yule's despairful drudgery as a hack writer set to work in the British Museum by her father Alfred Yule: 'She kept asking herself what was the use and purpose of such a life as she was condemned to lead. When already there was more good literature in the world than any mortal could cope with in his lifetime, here was she exhausting herself in the manufacture of printed stuff which no one even pretended to be more than a commodity for the day's market. What unspeakable folly! To write—was not that the joy and the privilege of one who had an urgent message for the world? Her father, she knew well, had no such message; he had abandoned all thought of original production, and only wrote about writing. She herself would throw away her pen with joy but for the need of earning money. And all these people about her, what aim had they save to make new books out of those already existing, that yet newer books might in turn be made out of theirs? This huge library, growing into unwieldiness, threatening to become a trackless desert of print—how intolerably it weighed upon the spirit!' (ed. Bernard Bergonzi (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968), 137–8). In a petition to the Home Secretary sent from H. M. Prison, Reading, in 1896 requesting books, W described the importance of literature to him: ' … horrible as all the physical privations of modern prison life are, they are as nothing compared to the entire privation of literature to one to whom Literature was once the first thing of life, the mode by which perfection could be realised, by which, and by which alone, the intellect could feel itself alive' (2 July 1896, H & H-D, 657).
Critical Apparatus
182 That wouldn't] That wouldn't HD, AD; <That> /That\ wouldn't ADa
Editor’s Note
LL 201.168 | IBE 770.183 Literary criticism: although Jack, in Algy's opinion, lacks any talent whatsoever for literary criticism, numerous persons were successfully plying what passed for that trade professionally in the daily papers and a variety of other organs of popular information and entertainment. Algy wittily describes their qualifications in a negative way, as persons who 'haven't been at a University'. W himself had seen this occupation as a convenient and increasingly necessary way to supplement the uncertain income he might derive from artistic writing and peripatetic lecturing. His journalism, which he would surely not have considered full-fledged criticism, soon became a major, time-consuming activity, even as he devoted himself primarily to the writing of fiction, poetry, and serious critical essays. (After the comparative failure of The Duchess of Padua and Vera; or, the Nihilists, for the rest of the 1880s he no longer attempted the writing of plays.) W's bibliographer Stuart Mason devotes his first volume of two to a book-length list of serial publications, amounting to something over three dozen separate periodical titles. They include the Court and Society Review (where The Canterville Ghost and Lord Arthur Savile's Crime first appeared), The Fortnightly Review (which published the first version of 'The Soul of Man under Socialism'), Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (which brought out the first version of The Picture of Dorian Gray), and the Pall Mall Gazette, which printed over the course of time virtually a hundred pieces by W, some of which can be seen to straddle a boundary between journalism and literary criticism. Also listed by Mason is The Woman's World, a shilling monthly originally published as The Lady's World, to whose editorship W was appointed in June 1887 and whose title W himself changed, in November of that year, as part of an updating of the magazine's policy with regard to the place of women in society. Active in soliciting stories and articles for publication in his monthly magazine, he immediately began a regular column called 'Literary and Other Notes', later shortened to 'Literary Notes', which continued through June 1889; by October of that year he had left his post (Mason, I, 3–237).
W's journalism, a significant element of his total productivity as a writer over thirteen years, from 1877 through 1890, ranging from slight, sometimes jocular reviews of ephemeral works to the first, serial publication of some of his most important fiction, literary criticism, and theory, has long suffered from comparative neglect as an aspect of Wilde studies—a neglect now remedied by the publication in 2013 in two volumes of the complete journalism, abbreviated as Journalism in the current Oxford English Texts series of the complete works of W.
Critical Apparatus
184 been at] been to LC
Critical Apparatus
184 a University.] a University. (Rises and goes to him) AF, HD, AD; a University. <(Rises and goes to him)> ADa; a <u>/U\niversity. Sp
Editor’s Note
LL 201.170 | IBE 770.185 daily papers: 'In old days men had the rack', W observes in 'The Soul of Man under Socialism' (1891). 'Now they have the press. That is an improvement certainly. But still it is very bad, and wrong, and demoralising. Somebody—was it Burke?—called journalism the fourth estate. That was true at the time, no doubt. But at the present moment it really is the only estate. It has eaten up the other three. The Lords Temporal say nothing, the Lords Spiritual have nothing to say, and the House of Commons has nothing to say and says it. We are dominated by Journalism' (Criticism, 255). In 'A Few Maxims for the Instruction of the Over-Educated' (1894) W defined journalistic criticism: 'The only thing that the artist cannot see is the obvious. The only thing that the public can see is the obvious. The result is the Criticism of the Journalist' (Saturday Review, 17 Nov. 1894, rpt. Letters of Wilde, Appendix B, 869). John Dawson's guide for the would-be journalist explains the nature of newspaper criticism: 'The promising literary aspirant should set himself seriously to work to study the canons of criticism. Our forefathers had a critical genius in Hazlitt, and we are not without our clever critics nowadays, though, as a rule, most of the so-called criticism written in the newspapers is of the flimsiest possible character, and either marked by abuse or fulsome flattery.… Bad writing should certainly be condemned, but I think it is quite possible to discourage incapable writers without resorting to the "sledge-hammer," which many seem to use when they take an indifferent book in hand for review.… It cannot be a pleasant thought to reflect that a hastily written review has given intense pain to a fellow mortal. I am aware that reviews of books are perhaps more often on the side of praise than the reverse. The simple reason is that one need not read a volume to praise it, while one must read through the work before one can discover its faults. Want of time has much to answer for as regards flimsy reviewing, the journalist putting forth the plea that if he were to read the books he has to notice he would be unable to gain a livelihood in his profession' (Dawson, Practical Journalism, How to Enter Thereon and Succeed: A Manual for Beginners and Amateurs (London: L. Upcott Gill, [1885]), 47–8).
Critical Apparatus
187 on earth] LC; an earth S
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190 Bunbury,] ~^ LC, AF
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190–1 may … go] may go LC, AF, HD, AD; may /be able to\ go ADa
Critical Apparatus
191 choose. Bunbury] choose. jack What nonsense. algy It isn't nonsense. Bunbury LC
Critical Apparatus
191 perfectly invaluable] perfectly invaluable LC; perfectly invaluable AF, HD, AD; <perfectly invaluable> /perfectly invaluable\ ADa
Editor’s Note
LL 201.176 | IBE 770.191 whenever I choose: 'Nobody is ever tired of the man who leads a double life,' explained the critic for Lika Joko, 'and to have upon the stage at once two men leading double lives is dramatic extravagance. At the St James's we find a country magistrate inventing a brother, Ernest, to give him an excuse for running up to Town, and a young man about Town inventing a friend called Bunbury to give him an excuse for escaping into the country. We are likely to hear more of the words "Bunburying" and "Bunburyism"; they supply a want in the language, and Mr. Wilde may yet have the credit of adding another word besides "Oscarism" to his mother-tongue' (23 Feb. 1895, 368).
Critical Apparatus
192 health,] ~^ LC
Critical Apparatus
193 at Willis's] at the Savoy LC
Editor’s Note
IBE 771.193 Willis's: 'The piece went splendidly,' W's dear friend Ada Leverson recalled of the opening night, 'and we went after to supper at Willis's, a small restaurant then the fashion, famed for its cooking, its scarlet-leather seats and yellow candleshades, only a few doors from the theatre' (Leverson, 'Reminiscences', in Letters to the Sphinx from Oscar Wilde with Reminiscences of the Author (London: Duckworth, 1930), 34). Willis's Rooms were at 26 King Street, St James's (London Directory 1894–1895 (London Directory, n.d. [And subsequent years through 1910]). An advertisement on the cover of Life for 19 February 1895 captures much of the tone of the place: 'Willis's Restaurant, organised on the French principle, with a complete staff of Chefs fresh from Paris. Dinner a la carte. Dinner Salon Gobelin, 7/6. Luncheon, 4/6. Supper (ready) 4s. Band plays during dinner and supper.' A famously intimate place, Willis's could accommodate only a 'few people' for dining, and its licence for music was subject to careful local scrutiny, as evidenced by a letter from the clerk of the vestry of St James's, Westminster, petitioning 'that the Council would … impose a condition that the band should be removed to some part of the building where it would not cause annoyance to the residents in the surrounding property' (London County Council, Theatres & Music Halls Committee, Minutes (30 May 1894), 219, (28 Sept. 1894), 383). Although W retained the reference to Willis's in the first edition of the play (1899), the 'Rooms' were seeing their last days even as the first production of Earnest was memorializing them. The same issue of Life reports the death on Wednesday, 6 February of Frederick Willis, the last living representative of the family of Willis, 'who gave their name to the celebrated "rooms" ' (4); and the caption of a photograph of the facade of the St James's Theatre taken by the prominent photographer Alfred Ellis, reproduced in Round London (no. 7 (1896), 167), mentions that Willis's Rooms 'stood' near the theatre.
In their day Willis's Rooms and Restaurant were 'a noted home for balls, subscription dances, public dinners, and meetings' (Cook and Cook, London and Environs (1897–8), 363), continuing a tradition begun there by the ancient Almack's Assembly Rooms, erected on the south side of King Street in 1764–5 by William Almack, which offered suppers, teas, dancing, cards, and general amusement. In the nineteenth century the rooms became known as Willis's from the name of the family that managed them from as early as 1792. In 1868 Willis's Rooms had 'the best public cuisine in London' (The Epicure's Year Book and Table Companion (1868), 112). Later times brought substantial change. 'In 1886–7 the business was purchased by a company, Willis's Rooms Limited, and in 1892 the building was considerably altered and the whole of the King Street front was refaced in cement. From 1893 part of the building was occupied by a firm of auctioneers, Messrs. Robinson and Fisher, and on the ground floor there were shops, often occupied by a restaurant and a succession of clubs … ' (Survey of London, XXIX: The Parish of St. James's Westminster, Part I: South of Piccadilly (London: London County Council, 1960), 307). Willis's was also a venue for lectures, such as the two on art by Selwyn Image on which W reported for the Pall Mall Gazette and the Sunday Times ('The Unity of the Arts' (PMG, 12 Dec. 1887); 'Art at Willis's Rooms' (ST, 25 Dec. 1887), (Journalism 2, 33–4, 40–1). Light refreshments were served to the audience, W reported, 'and the five-o'clock-tea school of criticism came very much to the front' (91).
W's close familiarity with Willis's is reflected in his letters. In early July 1894, in a note to Ada Leverson, he regrets that he could not 'eat honey cakes with you at Willis's', but in a telegram promises her 'pomegranates' there a few days later; and in early November he ate supper there and noted 'respectful enquiries after "Lord Douglas" '. In bitter retrospect he wrote in De Profundis of almost routine visits there with Douglas in 1893 while frustratedly engaged in attempting to complete An Ideal Husband, 'as supper at Willis's had to wind up the entrancing day'. And he characterizes Douglas's extravagance at his (W's) expense by complaining of Douglas's view that 'the most perfect way of passing an evening was to have a champagne dinner at the Savoy, a box at a Music-Hall to follow, and a champagne supper at Willis's as a bonne-bouche for the end' (H & H-D, 593, 622; De Profundis, 39, 143).
Critical Apparatus
196 I know. You] I know you LC
Critical Apparatus
197 so much] as much LC
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197–8 invitations. jack You had] invitations. jack Well, I can't dine at the Savoy. I owe them about [space left blank, filled in in pencil: £120] They are always getting judgments and things against me. They bother my life out. algy Why on earth don't you pay them? You have got heaps of money. jack Yes, but Ernest hasn't, and I must keep up Ernest's reputation. Ernest is one of those chaps who never pay a bill. He gets writted about once a week. He is always being writted. algy Well, let us dine at Willis's. jack You had LC
Critical Apparatus
199 I haven't] (Sits r.c.) I haven't AF, HD, AD; <(Sits r.c.)> I haven't ADa
Critical Apparatus
201 place,] ~^ LC
Critical Apparatus
201 dine there] ~, LC
Editor’s Note
LL 202.196 | IBE 771.202 sent down: in many well-appointed Victorian houses the drawing room was on the second floor and the dining room on the first floor (above the ground floor, in prevailing British usage). Dinner guests congregated upstairs until they were 'sent down' with their partners. Alternatively, when both rooms were on the same floor guests were 'sent in'. 'The host communicates to each gentleman the name of the lady he is to take in to dinner. In formal parties a card is given with the name written on.… In order to facilitate the arrangement of the rest of the company, a card is laid on the table before each seat, on which is written the name of the guest by whom it is to be appropriated. Sometimes a plan of the table is laid in the drawing-room, so that the gentleman having studied it may be able at once to lead the lady he escorts to her seat, and thus confusion is avoided' (Manners of Modern Society: Being a Book of Etiquette (London: Cassell, Petter, & Galpin, [1872]), 140–1).
Critical Apparatus
203–4 next to, to-night] next to-night LC, AF
Critical Apparatus
204 Farquhar,] ~^ AF
Editor’s Note
LL 202.198–9 | IBE 771.204–5 flirts with her own husband: 'The goal of a woman is marriage, and flirting is to girls a means of reaching the goal; in the case of married women it is a pastime, a consolation, or a vengeance' (E. C. Grenville Murray, Side-lights on English Society, or Sketches from Life, Social & Satirical, 2 vols. (London: Vizitelly, 1881), 1, 26). W. S. Gilbert's The Mikado, or The Town of Titipu (1885) lampoons the various effects on propriety of the flirting of persons unmarried and married. Pish-Tush's early song describes how Ko-Ko, now Lord High Executioner, had been condemned to death for flirting, by the command of the Mikado, who had 'decreed, in words succinct, / That all who flirted, leered or winked, / (Unless connubially linked), / Should forthwith be beheaded.' The results were catastrophic: 'The youth who winked a roving eye, / Or breathed a non-connubial sigh, / Was thereupon condemned to die' (Savoy Operas 2, 8–9). Considering that he is the object of his own wife's attentions, Mary Farquhar's husband will have a busy time if he attempts to follow what good manners dictate: 'Your first duty is to the lady on your right, and you must keep conversation from flagging during the whole of the dinner. Should she turn, at any time, to pass a few remarks with the gentleman on her right hand, you may then make yourself amiable to the lady on your left, or to the one opposite, should opportunity occur' (Manners for All: A Complete Guide to the Rules and Observances of Good Society (London: Ward, Lock, [1898]), 24).
Critical Apparatus
206 decent …] ~— AF
Critical Apparatus
208 Besides,] ~^ AF
Editor’s Note
LL 202.202 | IBE 771.208 washing one's clean linen in public: Algy cleverly turns on its head the French proverb 'Il faut laver son linge sale en famille.' In a well-known instance, Napoleon Bonaparte cited it in a speech to the French Legislative Assembly on returning from Elba in 1815: 'C'est en famille, ce n'est pas en public, qu'on lave son linge sale.' The currency of the idea in English is confirmed by Anthony Trollope in The Last Chronicle of Barset (1867)—'[T]here is nothing, I think, so bad as washing one's dirty linen in public' (Ch. 44, qtd. Burton Stevenson, Stevenson's Book of Proverbs, Maxims and Familiar Phrases (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1949), 1434)—and, more pointedly for Algy's shocked comment on married love, by E. J. Hardy, author of How to Be Happy Though Married: Being a Handbook to Marriage, By a Graduate in the University of Matrimony (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1885): 'Above all, [a married couple] should remember the proverb about the home-washing of soiled linen' (5). An assistant master at Portora Royal School when W was a pupil there, Hardy came in for some latter-day praise in W's review of How to be Happy: 'It is a complete handbook to an earthly Paradise, and its author may be regarded as the Murray of matrimony and the Baedeker of bliss' (Pall Mall Gazette, 18 Nov. 1885, 6; Journalism 1, 60).
Critical Apparatus
209 Bunburyist] ~, LC, HD, AD
Critical Apparatus
210 I want … rules.] LC omits
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211 I'm not] I am not LC
Critical Apparatus
212 brother. Indeed,] brother. Indeed^ LC; brother, indeed^ HD, AD, S
Critical Apparatus
212 a little] a good deal LC
Critical Apparatus
213 It is] She is always asking me to forgive him, and that sort of thing; It is LC
Critical Apparatus
213 a bore. So] a bore; so LC
Critical Apparatus
213 Ernest. And] Ernest; and AF
Critical Apparatus
214 with Mr … with your] with your LC, AF; with Mr—with your HD
Critical Apparatus
214 who has] who has got LC
Critical Apparatus
216 Nothing will … you ever] I haven't the smallest intention of doing anything of the kind, and if ever you LC; Nothing will induce me to part with Bunbury. And if you ever AF
Critical Apparatus
218 knowing Bunbury] knowing a Bunbury LC
Critical Apparatus
221 certainly won't] certainly don't AD; certainly <d>/w\on't Sp
Critical Apparatus
223 wife will.] wife will. (Rising and moving to him) HD, AD; wife will. <(Rising and moving to him)> ADa
Critical Apparatus
223 realize,] realise, my dear fellow, LC, HD, AD; realize my dear fellow, AF; realise, <my dear fellow,> ADa
Critical Apparatus
224 three is company] three is company, LC, AF, HD, AD; <three> /three\ is company, ADa
Editor’s Note
LL 203.218 | IBE 772.224 two is none: Algy reverses the conventional wisdom about courting couples and other twosomes who prefer privacy to society. In Tom Taylor's play The Ticket-of-Leave Man (1863) the loquacious Mrs Willoughby expresses her understanding of the point: '—which I know when brothers and sisters meet they'll have a great deal to talk over, and two's company and three's none, is well beknown—' (Plays by Tom Taylor, ed. Martin Banham (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 182).
Critical Apparatus
225 young friend] Algy LC, AF, HD, AD; <Algy> /young friend\ ADa
Editor’s Note
LL 203.219–20 corrupt French drama | IBE 772.225–6 corrupt French Drama: in his well-known essay 'The French Play in London' (1879) Matthew Arnold, fresh from performances by a company of French players at the Gaiety, found that the modern drama of France had 'one character common to it all. It may be best described as the theatre of the homme sensuel moyen, the average sensual man, whose country is France, and whose city is Paris, and whose ideal life is the free, gay, pleasurable life of Paris … ' (Nineteenth Century, 6 (Aug. 1879), 77–8). Appreciative of the way government subsidy and formal training of actors in France had created a theatre he considered superior to the English, Arnold exhorted his readers to action: 'the theatre is irresistible; organize the theatre' (82). Other English playgoers took a less forgiving view of continental fare. The apparent preoccupation of contemporary French drama with adultery, promiscuity, and other sexually frank subjects made it generally notorious to English minds and rendered close translation unsuitable for representation on the English stage. Undaunted, many theatrical producers drew on what seemed an inexhaustible supply of promising scripts (witness the numerous French sources for English plays identified in Allardyce Nicoll's handlists—A History of English Drama 1660–1900, Vol. VI: A Short-Title Alphabetical Catalogue of Plays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1959), passim)—after they had been made safe and innocuous for tender insular consciences. An article on 'The Decline of the Drama' published in 1887 in the Contemporary Review placed the blame for a sad state of affairs equally on the taste of English fashionable society and 'the lowest Parisian morality which the censorship of our stage will allow'. It has been a true 'decadence in national spirit and taste', Harry Quilter asserted, 'persuading English audiences to believe lately that all artistic products emanating from France must of necessity be superior to those of our own country'. These derived plays, 'Capitally acted, execrably written and conceived with a foul Boulevard cynicism that is a thousand times more pernicious than the open immoralities of earlier times; plays of this kind have gradually debauched the palates of our theatre-goers, till all relish has been destroyed for less highly-spiced entertainment' (Quilter, 'The Decline of the Drama', Contemporary Review (Apr. 1887), 547–60). A more recent, comprehensive study of the French drama and theatre bypasses Quilter's moralizing for a more objective, substantive account of the Parisian and provincial theatre of the century, its audiences, actors, and dramatists as a large-scale business (see F. W. J. Hemmings, The Theatre Industry in Nineteenth-Century France (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993)).
The best-known sensibilities were those of the English censor himself, the Examiner of Plays in the office of the Lord Chamberlain—at this period, E. F. S. Pigott, who died on 23 February 1895 (Frederic Boase, Modern English Biography (1897), 2, 1531)—to whom all new plays were required to be submitted by the management in question for licensing prior to performance. 'Its most absorbing task', the French critic Augustin Filon says of English censorship, 'is that of barring the way against French immorality.' Filon explains the process, along with its almost routine circumvention: 'Where our authors have had the effrontery to write the word "cocotte" in black and white, they replace it by the word "actress." Where we have unblushingly written "adultery," they have inserted "flirtation." The censor gives his sanction and pockets his fees, and on the performance of the piece the by-play of the actor and actresses completes the translation, re-establishing if not reinforcing the original sense' (Filon, The English Stage: Being an Account of the Victorian Drama, trans. Frederic White (1897; rpt. Port Washington, NY: Kennikat, 1970), 86). Perhaps the most notorious dramatic example of French corruption in the century was the younger Dumas's La Dame aux camélias (1852), the pitiful story of Marguerite Gautier, an extravagant but ultimately self-sacrificing coquette, and her lover, Armand Duval, who out of love for Marguerite tries unsuccessfully to ignore society's prescripts and his father's wishes, to his eventual grief and to Marguerite's pathetic death. In 1853 a licence was refused to the Drury Lane management to perform an adaptation, Camille, and it was not until 1877 that W. G. Wills's treatment of the subject, Camille; or, An Autumnal Dream, was performed, in Cambridge (Nicoll, History of English Drama, V, 627). The play proceeded to catch on. In 1883 a Camille surfaced in London, at the Gaiety, and in 1888 Camille; or, The Fate of a Coquette, whose title emphasizes the moral retribution that overtakes a licentious woman, was given a matinee performance at the Prince of Wales's (Nicoll, History of English Drama, V, 655). James Mortimer's more successful adaptation, Heartsease, was performed in London in 1875 and 1880 and again, at the Olympic, in 1892 (Nicoll, History of English Drama, V, 494; Wearing, London Stage 1890–1899, 92.9). In that same year Sarah Bernhardt performed her role of Marguerite in French in the original Dumas play at the Royal English Opera House for eight performances, and Eleanora Duse played the same role in an Italian-language production, Camille, at the Lyric for six performances in 1893. An English-language matinee appeared in May 1894. Three days later Duse was back, at Daly's, in La Signora dalle Camelie for ten showings, followed again by Bernhardt for six more in June and July. The 'corrupt French drama' must have been much in the public eye, suggesting the timeliness of Algy's comment. The rivalry of the two great stars continued in June and July 1895—Duse at Drury Lane and the Savoy, Bernhardt at Daly's, with rival performances occurring on 14 June (Wearing, London Stage 1890–1899, passim). The varying qualities of the two actresses in the role were memorably adjudicated by Bernard Shaw ('Duse and Bernhardt' (15 June 1895), in Our Theatres in the Nineties, 2 vols. (London: Constable, 1932), I, 148–54).
W's view was that the Dumas play was 'unhealthy', 'not because sympathy is asked for a fallen woman, but because it is only played on one string, an emotional string merely: so that in the last act the sympathy of the audience naturally excited for a woman who is dying young (and has a dreadful cough!) has no real intellectual basis' (letter to Mary Anderson (23 Mar. 1883), H & H-D, 200). W's own experience of the crippling effects of the Examiner's scrutiny occurred when he attempted a London production of his play Salomé (see Plays 1, 345&n., 347, 439, 470–2, and 661). W's bibliographer Stuart Mason records the event and W's reaction. The play was in rehearsal at the English Opera House in June 1892 with Sarah Bernhardt in the title role when the Lord Chamberlain forbade the performance on the grounds that it contained biblical characters. In an unidentified interview W responded to the condemnation: 'Every rehearsal has been a source of intense pleasure to me. To hear my own words spoken by the most beautiful voice in the world has been the greatest artistic joy that it is possible to experience. So that you see, as far as I am concerned, I care very little about the refusal of the Lord Chamberlain to allow my play to be produced. What I do care about is this—that the Censorship apparently regards the stage as the lowest of all the arts, and looks on acting as a vulgar thing. The painter is allowed to take his subjects where he chooses. He can go to the great Hebrew and Hebrew-Greek literature of the Bible and can paint Salomé dancing or Christ on the Cross or the Virgin with her Child. Nobody interferes with the painter. Nobody says, "Painting is such a vulgar art that you must not paint sacred things." … And the writer, the poet—he also is quite free. I can write about any subject I choose. For me there is no Censorship. I can take any incident I like out of sacred literature and treat it as I choose and there is no one to say to the poet, "Poetry is such a vulgar art that you must not use it in treating sacred subjects." But there is a Censorship over the stage and acting; and the basis of that Censorship is that, while vulgar subjects may be put on the stage and acted, while everything that is mean and low and shameful in life can be portrayed by actors, no actor is to be permitted to present under artistic conditions the great and ennobling subjects taken from the Bible. The insult in the suppression of Salomé is an insult to the stage as a form of art and not to me' (Mason, II, 370–2). (See the present editor's account of the revelation in 2015 of the long-undiscovered typescript used by Bernhardt as a rehearsal script for the ill-fated play: Joseph Donohue, 'Wilde in France: The "Salomé" Typescript, Sarah Bernhardt and the Production that Never Was', TLS, 11 Sept. 2015, 14–15).
Critical Apparatus
227 Yes; and] Yes, and LC, AF
Critical Apparatus
227–30 the time.… Ah! that] the time. That is the worst of the English. They are always degrading truths into facts, and when truths become facts, they lose all their intellectual value. jack Then you have far more brains than I have ever given you credit for. algy My dear fellow, until you are convinced that I have got genius, there will always be a slight coldness between us. (A ring) Ah! that LC; the time. (Rising and going to him. Bell ready) jack My dear Algy, don't try to be cynical. (Rising and moving l.) It's perfectly easy to be cynical. algy My dear fellow, it isn't easy to be anything. There's such a lot of competition about. (Bell) Ah! that AF
Editor’s Note
LL 203.221 | IBE 772.227 happy English home: trying out a passage of dialogue in a notebook dating from 1894, W wrote:

a. In marriage three is company and two is none.

b. Ah! yes, that is the theory that the corrupt French <novel> /drama\ has propounded, till we are all sick of it.

a. And that the happy English home has proved till we are all tired of it.

(Clark Library, Ms Wilde W6721 M2 N911 [1894] Bound)
In John Gray and André Raffalovich's satirical sketch A Northern Aspect, Sir Charles Wren explains to Lady Augusta Smalz what is in store for her as his wife: 'I can see you have never had a happy home. With me you will learn to prize the domestic hearth, to know the pleasure of regular hours, the advantage of regular meals. Health, punctuality, and comfort are the three virtues of the married state' (A Northern Aspect: The Ambush of Young Days. Two Duologues (N.p.: priv. pr., 12 May 1895), 14). A similar glorification of domestic security, but one innocent of irony, is expressed by Samuel Smiles in his book of practical advice and high ideals, Thrift: 'The Art of Living is best exhibited in the Home.… The husband who has been working all day, expects to have something as a compensation for his toil. The least that his wife can do for him, is to make his house snug, clean, and tidy, against his home-coming at eve. That is the truest economy—the best house-keeping—the worthiest domestic management—which makes the home so pleasant and agreeable, that a man feels when approaching it, that he is about to enter a sanctuary; and that when there, there is no alehouse attraction that can draw him away from it' (359). English melodrama was filled to overflowing with images of the happy English home and family and, more particularly, the loss of both by erring men and women. Lady Isabel, the adulterous heroine of East Lynne (dramatized in numerous versions beginning in the 1860s from the novel of that title by Mrs Henry Wood), having run off from an unhappy marriage laments her loss: 'Oh! I have sacrificed husband, home, children, friends, and all that make life of value to woman' (anon. version (1862), in British Plays of the Nineteenth Century, ed. J. O. Bailey (New York: Odyssey, 1966), 318). Wilfred Denver, the rash but honourable hero of Henry Arthur Jones's late-century melodrama The Silver King (1882), believing himself guilty of murder, cries out in despair, 'Oh, God! put back Thy universe and give me yesterday! Too late! Too late! Ah, my wife, how thoughtful she was. Shall I ever see her again—and my children? Ah, Heaven, work out some way of escape for me—not for my own sake, not to shield me from the just consequences of my crime, but for the sake of my dear wife and innocent children who have never done any wrong.' Restored to felicity by a compliant heaven at the end of the play, Denver rejoices with his faithful wife Nelly, their children, and their kindly old retainer: 'Come, let us kneel and give thanks on our own hearth in the dear old home where I wooed you, and won you in the happy, happy days of long ago. Come, Jaikes—Cissy, Ned, Nell—come in—Home at last! Curtain.' (II.4, V.2, in Plays by Henry Arthur Jones, ed. Russell Jackson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 61, 102).
In his long letter to Douglas from prison W blames him for making his quarrel with his father so public a thing: 'The fact that your father loathed you, and that you loathed your father, was not a matter of any interest to the English public. Such feelings are very common in English domestic life, and should be confined to the place they characterise: the home' (De Profundis, 142). And in a letter to Robert Ross W jocularly takes him to task for having written nothing about himself in his last letter, 'no details, and yet you know I love middle-class tragedies, and the little squabbles that build up family life in England' (1 Sept. [1900], H & H-D, 1194).
Critical Apparatus
228 For heaven's sake,] (Rising) My dear Algy, HD, AD; <(Rising) My dear Algy,> /For heaven's sake,\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
228 try to be cynical.] try to be cynical. (Moving l.) HD, AD; try to be cynical. <(Moving l.)> ADa
Critical Apparatus
228 easy] easy HD, AD; <easy> /easy\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
229 My dear fellow] (Moving r.) My dear fellow HD, AD; <(Moving r.)> My dear fellow ADa
Critical Apparatus
229 anything now-a-days] anything HD, AD; anything /now-a-days\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
230 beastly competition] competition HD, AD; /beastly\ competition ADa
Critical Apparatus
230 (The sound … heard)] (Bell) HD, AD; <(Bell)> /(The sound of an electric bell is heard)\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
231–2 Augusta … Now,] Augusta. Now^ LC; Augusta! Now, AF; Augusta. (Moving to jack) Now, HD, AD; Augusta. /Only relatives, <and> /or\ creditors, ever ring in that <?vindictive> /<violent>\ /argumentative\ manner.\ <(Moving to jack)> Now, ADa; Augusta. Only relatives, or creditors, ever ring in that <argumentative> /Wagnerian\ manner. Now Sp
Critical Apparatus
232 get her] get Aunt Augusta LC
Editor’s Note
LL 204.234 | IBE 772.237 shallow of them: Algy is evidently a proponent of the philosophy espoused by Lord Illingworth and urged on Gerald Arbuthnot in Act III of A Woman of No Importance: 'People nowadays are so absolutely superficial that they don't understand the philosophy of the superficial. By the way, Gerald, you should learn how to tie your tie better. Sentiment is all very well for the button-hole. But the essential thing for a necktie is style. A well-tied tie is the first serious step in life' (Society Comedies, 75).
Critical Apparatus
237.1 (Enter lane)] (Enter lane r.) AF, HD, AD; (Enter lane <r.>) ADa
Editor’s Note
IBE 772.237.1 Enter lane: 'The success was never in doubt,' Kinsey Peile recalled. 'I shall never forget waiting at the wings to announce Miss Rose Leclercq and Miss Irene Vanbrugh, on their first entrance. They were both trembling with nervous excitement' (Peile, Candied Peel, 137).
Critical Apparatus
238 Bracknell] Brancaster LC throughout
Editor’s Note
IBE 772.238 Lady Bracknell: the title of Mistress, or Mrs, CDD explains, 'is given to all married women who cannot lay claim by birth or marriage to one of higher grade', but if the husband 'possesses a title, she then assumes that title, and is addressed as "Countess" or "Lady," &c.' (780). Hence she is 'Lady Bracknell', not 'Mrs Fairfax'. Kinsey Peile recalled Rose Leclercq in the role as 'that inimitable portrayer of grandes dames who has never been replaced' (Candied Peel, 137). The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News provides a sketch and adds details of Rose Leclercq's costume: 'Miss Leclercq has the little gilt tablet book in which, in the play, she makes her imaginary notes, fastened with chains from a clasp at her side, in the style of a chatelaine, and the eye-glass, so often in requisition, is suspended from a short gilt chain with pearl links.' Both Lady Bracknell's and Gwendolen's dresses, the Illustrated adds, were made by Messrs Jay of Regent Street (30 Mar. 1895, 123).
Editor’s Note
LL 204.235 |IBE 772.238 Miss Fairfax: s.v. 'Miss', CDD explains, 'This title is affixed to the names of all unmarried women, except those who claim a higher title by birth, such as the daughters of dukes and earls. The daughters of viscounts and barons, and maids of honour, have the title of "Honourable" prefixed to that of "Miss" ' (780). Gwendolen is so designated in the St James's programme. Lane, like his counterpart Merriman at the manor house (see 814), understands that it would be in poor taste to use the title in announcing her.
Critical Apparatus
238.1 (algernon goes … them. Enter] (Enter LC, AF; (algy moves up r. to meet them. Enter HD, AD; (algy <moves up r.> /goes forward\ to meet them. ADa
Editor’s Note
IBE 772.238.1–2 Enter lady bracknell: 'A grotesque but amusing caricature of the worldly mamma of society drama', the anonymous reviewer for the National Observer calls her (23 Feb. 1895: 398). The Whitehall Review found Rose Leclercq in the role 'as she always is, charming and witty, a woman of the world, an aristocrat' (23 Feb. 1895); 'the aristocrat "pur sang" ', said the Globe (15 Feb. 1895). 'And where shall we look for the spirit of whimsical comedy if not in Miss Rose Leclercq?', added 'A.' in the Illustrated London News (23 Feb. 1895, 227). More particularly, the Daily Telegraph pointed out that, 'as playgoers know well', she 'has no equal in the particular range of part that has so frequently fallen to her of late' (15 Feb. 1895)—the line of business identified by the Realm as 'another of her admirable grande dame parts' (22 Feb. 1895, 579). Another reviewer had eyes for fashion, not for drama: 'One naturally expects, I don't know why, that a play by Oscar Wilde should be a symposium of elegant gowns, that offer silent but happy testimony to inverted proverbs and dazzling epigrams. Therefore, when in the first act … Miss Rose Leclercq sails into the pale blue papered room of Algernon Moncrieffe, the feminine portion of the audience heave a sigh of pleasure, and feel that their modistic joys are just beginning. And truly Lady Bracknell, in the person of Miss Leclercq, breathes the very essence of matronly modernity. Her skirts of warm chestnut-brown miroir velvet rustle amply and gracefully about her tall figure. Over her shoulders is thrown a deep, full cape of the same rich velvet, lined throughout with white satin, and having a narrow border of sable from which hangs a half yard deep flounce of beautiful cream-white, rather coarse lace. The neck of the cape is ornamented with a very full ruche of black lisse [gauze fabric used in strips for finishing], edged with a tiny gold beading, and in front revers of lace are fastened with three large flat rosettes of pure white satin, centred by large paste buttons. On her exquisitely coifféd head Miss Leclercq wears a bonnet, consisting in front of two broadly spread and stiffened bows of black lace, radiating from a centre of a clump of pink roses, from which rises a tall and stiff aigrette. The back of the bonnet is toque-shape, and has happy touches of white, gold, and pink on its black surface' (A.M.I., Lady, 21 Feb. 1895, 218; 'miroir velvet', or mirror velvet, 'a velvet fabric with pile that is pressed flat or in different directions to produce a shimmering or mirror-like effect' (Phyllis G. Tortora and Ingrid Johnson, Fairchild Books Dictionary of Textiles, 8th edn. (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013), 389). In his essay on costume of the period, 'La Belle Epoque', James Laver remarks, 'It is impossible to put a photograph of a fashionable woman of 1895 beside a photograph of a lamp of the same period without being struck by their close resemblance in every detail. The unmistakable sweep of the Art Nouveau line was completely paralleled in the dresses of the time, in particular by the fall and swirl of the skirt' ('La Belle Epoque', in La Belle Epoque: Costume 1890–1914, proceedings of the First Annual Conference of the Costume Society, April 1967 (London: For the Society, 1968), 3–4).
Georgiana Hill explains the seemingly endless obligations of the great lady, whose theatrical equivalent is epitomized in Rose Leclercq's grande dame. 'The conception of what constitutes a great lady is more complex in the present day. Much is expected of her to whom much has been given. Her rank is no excuse for mental indolence; on the contrary, if she allows her mind to rust, she disgraces her position. She is not exempted from work on the ground of wealth; it is not enough that she should give sovereigns from her purse or flowers from her hot-houses; she must attend committees and conferences, pore over accounts and blue-books, to say nothing of performing a variety of ornamental functions in order that her presence may encourage others to come forward.… She is expected to be "all things to all men," for while she is stretching out her sympathies far and wide, none of the demands of her own class may be neglected. She is imperiously called upon to perform her part as a woman of fashion: to entertain and visit, pay her quota to society, and be as perfect in this role as if it were the only one she had to play. The strain is considerable, for the great lady has few moments when she is off guard and can relax the tension. Women of lesser rank can at least enjoy the rest of obscurity, but a great lady is seldom able to withdraw herself entirely from public gaze. In the country she is even more observed than in London, and fresh duties crowd upon her when she seeks retirement' (Women in English Life from Mediaeval to Modern Times, 2 vols. (London: Richard Bentley & Son, 1896), II, 109–10).
Editor’s Note
IBE 772.238.2 and gwendolen: 'In Lady Bracknell's wake comes the piquant and pretty figure of Miss Irene Vanbrugh.… She is dressed in a most charming confection of moiréd glacé silk—(I fear this is not a technical expression, but it at least expresses my meaning)—of pale écru [light brown in colour], with narrow horizontal lines of a deeper tone all through it. Miss Vanbrugh's skirt is quite plain, and hangs in full plain pleats from the waist. Over a simple bodice of the écru-striped silk she wears a round, waist-deep cape of periwinkle blue miroir velvet, that falls stiffly and without folds from a deep-pointed yoke of silk, edged with old-gold satin. This cape is made beautiful within, by the way, by a lining of pale amber satin. In front, broad revers of old-gold satin turn back smartly from the bodice, revealing the usual drooping Parisian box-pleated bodice, and having a broad, full collar of periwinkle velvet. Miss Vanbrugh, and wisely too, sticks to the usual broad-brimmed, round hat-shape that is so becoming to her piquant face, the chapeau she affects in the first act being of black and white mixed straw, with a full crown of periwinkle velvet. Bunches of violets, knots of yellow lace, rosettes of white satin, and a huge black "paint-brush" aigrette form an exceedingly effective trimming to a peculiarly chic head-covering' (A.M.I., Lady, 21 Feb. 1895, 218).
Critical Apparatus
238.3 (lane goes out)] S and other texts omit
Critical Apparatus
239 Good afternoon, dear] Well, dear LC, AF, HD, AD; <Well,> /Good afternoon,\ dear ADa
Critical Apparatus
239–40 very well.] well. (Bows coldly to jack) Good afternoon, Mr. Worthing. LC; well. (Bows coldly to jack) Good afternoon, Mr. Worthing. (Moves r.) AF; well. (Shakes hands—moves r.) HD, AD; well. <(Shakes hands—moves r.)> ADa; /very\ well Sp
Critical Apparatus
241–4 I'm feeling … Dear me] (Going to meet them) I am behaving quite well, Aunt Augusta. (To gwendolen) Dear me LC; (Going to meet them) I'm feeling well, Aunt Augusta. lady bracknell That's not quite the same thing. algy (To gwendolen) Dear me AF; I'm feeling well, Aunt Augusta. lady bracknell That's not quite the same thing. Good afternoon, Mr Worthing. algy (To gwendolen) Dear me, HD, AD; I'm feeling well, Aunt Augusta. lady bracknell That's not quite the same thing. /In fact, the two things rarely go together.\ <Good afternoon, Mr Worthing.> /(Sees jack and bows <with> to him with icy coldness\ algy (To gwendolen) Dear me, ADa; I'm feeling /very\ well, Aunt Augusta. lady bracknell That's not quite the same thing. In fact the two things rarely go together. (Sees jack and bows to him with icy coldness) algy (To gwendolen) Dear me, Sp
Critical Apparatus
244 you are smart!] you are smart! LC, AF, HD, AD; you <are> /are\ ADa
Editor’s Note
IBE 773.244 smart: as the trusted collaborator of George Alexander, his wife Florence made herself responsible for 'such practical matters as the dresses and the decoration of the stage', A. E. W. Mason explains (Mason, Alexander, 100). Early in 1896 A. W. Pinero, writing to congratulate Alexander on his production of The Prisoner of Zenda, added a compliment to Mrs Alexander 'upon the ladies' dresses. They are most beautiful' (Mason, Alexander, 105). When Alexander first went into management, Florence Alexander recalled in a postscript to Mason's biography, 'We had not much money, so I made most of the dresses at home and I trimmed all the hats myself, and I really think they were quite nice.' Describing first nights at the St James's, she added, 'I ordered the gowns to suit the decorations of the scene so that nothing clashed or was ugly' (227–8). One senses an attempt at a certain unity of effect, for example, in Irene Vanbrugh's cape of periwinkle blue against the pale blue wallpaper of the setting.
Critical Apparatus
245 I am … Aren't I] I am always smart. (To jack) Aren't I LC; I'm always smart. (Crossing to jack) Aren't I, Mr Worthing? AF; (Crosses l.) I am always smart! (Crossing to jack) Aren't I HD, AD; <(Crosses l.)> I am always smart! <(Crossing to jack)> Aren't I ADa
Critical Apparatus
246 You're] You are LC
Critical Apparatus
246–50 Fairfax … sorry] Fairfax. lady brancaster I am sorry LC; Fairfax. (They sit either side of table l.c.) lady bracknell (Seated on sofa r.) I'm sorry AF; Fairfax. lady bracknell I'm sorry HD, AD; Fairfax. /gwendolen Oh! I hope I am not that. It would leave no room for developments, and I intend to develop in many directions. (gwendolen and jack sit down together in the corner)\ lady bracknell I'm sorry ADa
Editor’s Note
LL 204.241 | IBE 773.246 quite perfect: 'At this time, 1894 to 1895,' Ada Leverson recalled some years later, 'London bloomed out into a sudden flamboyance of taste and of expression. Art, poetry, beauty, dress and decoration became the fashion; such subjects were talked about by everyone, however little most of them knew about it. If the Sheik had not yet been invented, "chic" was greatly desired; phrases such as "quite wonderful", "simply perfect", "too lovely", "marvellous", were the mode' (Letters to the Sphinx, 20). 'Her name is Constance,' W wrote enthusiastically of his fiancée, Constance Mary Lloyd, to Waldo Story, 'and she is quite young, very grave, and mystical, with wonderful eyes, and dark brown coils of hair: quite perfect … ' ([postmark 22 Jan. 1884], H & H-D, 225). In revising the Arents–Dolan typescript W allows Gwendolen to respond with a feminist sentiment: 'Oh! I hope I am not that. It would leave no room for developments, and I intend to develop in many directions' (IBE 773.247–8). Georgiana Hill, writing on the changing place of women in modern life, explains the point about womanly perfection: ' … taken as a whole, women are not less of a power in social life among the upper classes. Their influence is more felt because there is more equality of feeling between the sexes. Where there was before mere gallantry on the part of men and coquetry on the part of the women there is now the simpler and the healthier relationship of comradeship. Putting aside the graver aspects of life and questions of moral conduct, this change from sentimentalism to reality, from affectation to simplicity, is a step onwards for women. There is nothing which so retards the progress of woman as putting her on a plane by herself. Whether she is the "painted evil" of the Fathers' imagination, or the immaculate star of the romanticist, she is equally cut off from the chances of development. It has been the ill-luck of women to be credited with both sub-human and super-human qualities' (Women in English Life, II, 107–8).
Critical Apparatus
251–2 Lady Harbury … I hadn't] Lady Harbury. (Enter lane, r.c. carrying teapot which he puts on l.c. table. He then moves up to desk) I hadn't AF; Lady Harbury. (Enter lane r.c., carrying tea-pot which he puts on table. He then moves up to desk) I hadn't HD, AD; Lady Harbury. <(Enter lane r.c. carrying tea-pot which he puts on table. He then moves up to desk)> I hadn't ADa
Editor’s Note
LL 204.243 | IBE 773.251 Lady Harbury: W takes the name from 'Harbury or Herburbury, a village and a parish in Warwickshire, on the river Itchen, near the Fosse Way' (Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales (1894?), III, 68). On the etiquette of the obligation to call, CDD explains that calls 'may be divided into three classes—calls of courtesy, of congratulation, and of condolence.… After a death in the family, or any affliction, calls of condolence should be paid. Calls are paid in the afternoon, between the hours of two and six … ' (210). Manners for All (1898) cautions, 'Visits of condolence are to be paid with as little delay as possible after the occurrence which calls them forth. Unless you are very intimate, it is an evidence of better taste to leave a card than to intrude upon private sorrow' (60). Mrs Isabella Beeton's Book of Household Management (1861) is more comprehensive: 'In paying visits of condolence, it is to be remembered that they should be paid within a week after the event which occasions them. If the acquaintance, however, is but slight, then immediately after the family has appeared at public worship. A lady should send in her card, and if her friends be able to receive her, the visitor's manner and conversation should be subdued and in harmony with the character of her visit. Courtesy would dictate that a mourning card should be used, and that visitors, in paying condoling visits, should be dressed in black, either silk or plain-coloured apparel. Sympathy with the affliction of the family, is thus expressed, and these attentions are, in such cases, pleasing and soothing' (10–11).
Critical Apparatus
252 never saw] never saw LC
Critical Apparatus
253 altered;] ~, LC; ~: HD
Critical Apparatus
253 And now … tea,] I'll have a cup of tea now, LC; I'll have a cup of tea, AF; I'll have a cup of tea^ HD, AD; /And now\ I'll have a cup of tea/,\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
255 Augusta … tea-table)] Augusta. HD, AD; Augusta. /(Goes over to tea-table)\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
255–9 tea-table) … ordered them] table) Good Heavens! lady brancaster Won't you come over and sit here, Gwendolen? gwendolen Thanks, mamma, I am quite comfortable where I am. (Enter lane) algy Why are there no cucumber sandwiches, Lane, I ordered them LC
Critical Apparatus
258 algernon (Picking up … Why are] (Enter lane) algy Why are LC; algernon (Picking up empty plate and moving c.) Good heavens! Lane! (He moves down from desk) Why are AF; (Picking up empty plate and moving c.) Good heavens! Lane! (lane moves down to him) Why are HD, AD; (Picking up empty plate <and moving c.> /in horror\) Good heavens! Lane! <(lane moves down to him)> Why are ADa
Critical Apparatus
260 (Gravely) There] There LC, AF, HD; /(Gravely)\ There ADa
Critical Apparatus
260 morning, sir.] morning, <sir> /Sir\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
261–5.1 twice … (Goes out)] twice. (Exit lane) LC; twice. (Takes empty plate from algy and exits, closing doors) AF; twice (Takes plate) (Exit, closing doors) HD, AD; twice. (Takes plate) (Exit, closing doors) <(lane goes out)> /algernon No cucumbers? lane No, Sir. Not even for ready money. algernon That will do, Lane, thank you. lane Thank you, Sir. (goes out) algernon I am greatly distressed, Aunt Augusta, about there being no cucumbers, not even for ready money.\ ADa
Editor’s Note
LL 205.251 | IBE 774.268 crumpets: CDD is unenthusiastic on the subject of crumpets: 'These are cakes eaten at breakfast or tea, very much resembling muffins. When buttered hot they are generally found to be acceptable' (374). Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management points out that crumpets and muffins are closely similar, both composed of yeast, flour, milk, and salt, the difference being that the crumpet mixture is 'more like batter than dough' [what twentieth-century bakers would call a 'quick bread'], which is then poured into iron rings, ready on a hot-plate, to bake. 'To toast them', Mrs Beeton recommends, 'have ready a very bright clear fire; put the crumpet on a toasting-fork, and hold it before the fire, not too close, until it is nicely brown on one side, but do not allow it to blacken. Turn it, and brown the other side; then spread it with good butter, cut it in half, and, when all are done, pile them on a hot dish, and send them quickly to table' (844–5).
Critical Apparatus
269 with Lady Harbury] at Lady Harbury's LC, AF, HD, AD; <at> /with\ Lady Harbury<'s> ADa
Critical Apparatus
270 grief.] grief. (Moves to table) HD, AD; grief. <(Moves to table)> ADa
Editor’s Note
LL 205.253 | IBE 774.270 gold from grief: W had tried the phrase out before. In drafts of A Woman of No Importance Lady Caroline comments on the widowed Lady Stutfield: '[S]he was very devoted to poor Lord Stutfield. I have heard that when he died her hair turned quite gold from grief. But it may have been for another reason' (Society Comedies, 15n.).
Critical Apparatus
271–2 cause … cannot] cause of course I can't LC; cause I, of course, can't AF; cause I of course, can't HD, AD; cause I/,\ of course, <can't> /cannot\ ADa
Editor’s Note
LL 205.254 | IBE 774.271 changed its colour: CDD offers a forceful caveat against dyeing one's hair: 'Professor Erasmus Wilson speaks of those who do it as "willing slaves to a barbarous practice" …; but it remains true that the dictates of fashion and other considerations induce many to do these things in the vain hope of adding to their personal attractions, or of hiding the ravages of time' (s.v. 'Hair Dyeing' (602)). Notwithstanding this caveat, CDD explains matter-of-factly, 'To give a light colour to the hair, the process is really one of bleaching' and that 'a solution of hydrogen peroxide not only takes out the colour from dark hair, but gives it a golden lustre' (s.v. 'Hair-dyes' (602)).
Critical Apparatus
272 (algernontea)] (algy hands tea) LC; (algy crosses and hands tea. He then gets round back of sofa and sits r. of her) AF, HD, AD; (algy crosses and hands tea. <He then gets round back of sofa and sits r. of her>) ADa
Critical Apparatus
272 Thank you. I've] Thank you, I have LC
Critical Apparatus
273 Algernon. I am] ~, ~ LC
Critical Apparatus
273 down] down to dinner LC
Critical Apparatus
274 Farquhar.] Farquhar to-night. AF
Critical Apparatus
274 nice woman,] nice young woman^ LC; nice young woman, AF, HD
Critical Apparatus
274–5 It's delightful] It is delightful LC
Critical Apparatus
276 I am] Do you know, I am LC; (r.c.) I am HD, AD; <(r.c.)> I am ADa
Critical Apparatus
277 to-night,] ~^ LC, HD, AD, ADa
Critical Apparatus
278 (Frowning) I hope] I hope LC, AF, HD, AD; /(Frowning)\ I hope ADa
Editor’s Note
LL 206.261 | IBE 775.278–9 table completely out: Manners and Rules of Good Society (1888) cautions that 'a husband and wife, or a father and daughter, or a mother and son, should not be sent in to dinner together.' Furthermore, 'a host and hostess should, if possible, invite an equal number of ladies and gentlemen. It is usual to invite two or more gentlemen than there are ladies, in order that the married ladies should not be obliged to go in to dinner with each other's husbands only.… No "choice" is given to any gentleman as to which of the ladies he would prefer taking in to dinner, it being simply a question of precedency' (Manners and Rules of Good Society, 100). For comic effect W appears to be ignoring this rule in having Lady Bracknell propose banishing Lord Bracknell to the upstairs. Once invitations have been issued, Manners of Modern Society (1872) indicates, 'they should be answered immediately, and, if accepted, the engagement should on no account be broken. This is a very strict rule with regard to dinner parties, as it will easily be seen that the non-arrival of an expected guest would cause confusion and disarrangement of plans' (135). More specifically, Manners and Rules of Good Society insists that 'the acceptance of an invitation is, in the eyes of diners out, a binding obligation which only ill-health, family bereavement, or some all-important reason justifies its being set on one side or otherwise evaded.' As a 'member of the family' (775) Algy presumes to ignore the general caveat that 'those inconsiderate enough to make trivial excuses at the last moment are not often retained on the dinner-list of a host or hostess' (96).
The shape of the table itself could be a crucial matter. CDD quotes Trollope's Archdeacon Grantly, in Barchester Towers (1857): ' "A round dinner table is the most abominable article of furniture that ever was invented"; and we are told that, in his eyes, there was something peculiarly democratic and vulgar in such a table. He was accustomed to a goodly board, which comfortably elongated itself according to the number of the guests … ' 'It has been wittily said', CDD continues, 'that the numbers at a dinner should never exceed that of the muses or fall below that of the graces; and one whose authority must be acknowledged, when giving advice upon the management of a dinner, says, "Let the number of your guests never exceed twelve, so that the conversation may be general" ' (413, 416).
Critical Apparatus
279 upstairs … he is] upstairs, fortunately he is LC; upstairs. Fortunately he's AF, HD
Critical Apparatus
281–2 It is … the fact] Yes. It is a great bore, but the fact LC; It is a great bore, but the fact AF, HD, AD; It is a great bore, /and, I need hardly say, a terrible disappointment to me,\ but the fact ADa
Editor’s Note
LL 206.263 | IBE 775.282 telegram: although London's postal system was efficient enough to speed a letter from one local address to another in a matter of hours, even well after dinner (as scenes in the first acts of Pinero's The Magistrate (1885) and The Second Mrs. Tanqueray (1893) indicate), timely communications increasingly made use of the telegraph system introduced earlier in the century. 'I have been obliged to be away,' W explained to Waldo Story in a letter about his fiancée Constance Lloyd, ' … but we telegraph to each other twice a day, and the telegraph clerks have become quite romantic in consequence. I hand in my messages however very sternly, and try to look as if "love" was a cryptogram for "buy Grand Trunks", and "darling" a cypher for "sell out at par." I am sure it succeeds' ([postmark 22 Jan. 1884], H & H-D, 225). On the day of the Queensberry trial, 3 April 1895, W sent Ada Leverson a telegram from Holborn Viaduct: 'Pray excuse us from dining tonight as we have a lot of very important business to do. Everything is very satisfactory. Best love from Oscar and Bosie' (H & H-D, 636). Leverson herself, in reminiscences written some years later, recalled the period as a time of 'emotional self-expression' that 'resulted in the fashion, in the 'nineties, of frequent letters. Long, witty, sentimental letters (sent by private hansom-cab, waiting-for-an-answer); passionate, long, reply-paid telegrams; while the call of the district-messenger-boy resounded in every home' (Letters to the Sphinx, 23).
Critical Apparatus
283 ill again.… with jack)] ill again. LC; ill again. (He exchanges a glance with jack, who in company with gwendolen afterwards moves up stage to fireplace c.) AF
Critical Apparatus
287 Yes; poor … dreadful] Yes, old Bunbury is a terrible LC; Yes; poor Bunbury is a terrible AF, HD, AD, ADa; Yes; poor Bunbury is a <terrible> /dreadful\ Sp
Critical Apparatus
289 or to die] or die LC, HD, AD; or /to\ die ADa
Critical Apparatus
290 absurd. Nor] absurd, nor LC
Critical Apparatus
290 of the] of this LC, AF, HD, AD; of <this> /the\ ADa
Editor’s Note
LL 206.270–1 | IBE 775.290–1 modern sympathy with invalids: 'How wrong of the young Greek Alexander to be ill: it is mixing up two distinct and separate styles. I think a little want of sympathy would make him well: it has a wonderful effect on invalids' (W, letter to Laurence Housman (c.28 Dec. 1898), H & H-D, 1113).
Editor’s Note
LL 206.272 | IBE 775.292 primary duty of life: the ancient Roman formula is 'Cura, ut valeas'—literally, 'Take care that you be healthy', a phrase Cicero used to end letters to his old friend Atticus (Ad Atticum, Bk. ii, epis. 2). Much proverbial lore echoes the idea that one's health comes first—an idea as old as Plato: 'Men say the chief good is health, beauty the second, wealth the third' (Laws Sec. 661A; Stevenson, Stevenson's Book of Proverbs, 1100, 1102). 'Maxims are the verdicts of Wisdom on the reports of Experience', notes the anonymous author of Aphorisms and Maxims for the Young, Interspersed with Religious Biography and Anecdotes. Adapted as a Rule of Life, and Particularly Addressed to Sunday-School Teachers (London: R. Groombridge, 1838), citing an anonymous source (t.p.). The dowager's maxim reflects a long tradition of religious and moral exhortation as well, but W's Lord Illingworth in A Woman of No Importance holds a distinctly sardonic view of what health consists of: 'Silliest word in our language, and one knows so well the popular idea of health. The English country gentleman galloping after a fox—the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable' (Society Comedies, 27). In the same play Lady Caroline voices a value similar to Lady Bracknell's: 'There is too much love of pleasure amongst the upper classes as it is. Health is what we want in modern life' (Society Comedies, 27). In Lady Bracknell's idea of duty there may lurk a faint echo of Ecclesiastes: 'Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man' (12: 13).
Critical Apparatus
293 uncle, but] uncle. But LC, AF
Critical Apparatus
293 much notice] any notice LC, AF, HD, AD, ADa; <any> /much\ notice Sp
Critical Apparatus
294 in his ailments goes] in his many ailments go LC; in his many ailments goes AF; goes in his many ailments HD; goes in his ailments AD; <goes> in his ailments /goes\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
294 I should] I would LC, AF, HD, AD, ADa; I <w>/sh\ould Sp
Critical Apparatus
295 Bunbury, from me,] Bunbury^ from me^ LC, AF; Bunbury from me, HD
Critical Apparatus
295–6 Saturday, for] Saturday. For, LC; Saturday. For AF
Critical Apparatus
296 rely on] rely upon LC
Critical Apparatus
296–7 reception … something] reception and one wants something LC; reception and one wants something AF; reception,—and one wants something HD, AD; reception, and one wants <something> /something\ ADa
Editor’s Note
LL 206.276 | IBE 775.296 arrange my music: the necessity for appropriate music at social affairs was commonly felt in Victorian society, as the five selections comprising the 'Programme of Music' in the St James's programme for opening night attest. Hostesses unfortunate enough to lack a nephew with musical taste and acumen comparable to Algy's might resort to Harrod's Stores catalogue, which offered a variety of professional and military musicians, from solo performers, a string quartet, and even a 'banjo quartette', to 'Bands of the Guards, Royal Engineers, Royal Artillery, and any leading Military Band', 'all good and tried men, and well up to their work', playing standard musical selections. A 'Lady Pianist' was available for the five hours before midnight for 10s 6d per hour, and additional hours at 2s; a gentleman pianist's fee was one guinea (£1. 1s) for the whole evening. Harrod's London Reception Band, consisting of any number of performers available at a guinea apiece and 'composed of the pick of London Talent', boasted a repertoire of some 2,000 pieces including Viennese waltzes and 'all the Standard Overtures and Selections'. Tenor, soprano, contralto, and baritone 'artistes of Celebrity' could be engaged to sing such songs as 'Garden of Sleep' (De Lara), 'The Dear Homeland' (Slaughter), 'Flight of Ages' (Bevan), and 'Yeoman's Wedding Song' (Poniatowski) (Harrod's Stores Limited, … Price List. May 1895, 1151–4). On the subject of 'Amusements, In-door', CDD singles out music: 'Another most delightful amusement, and one which is refining and elevating in its influence, is music, both instrumental and vocal. Those who have a love and a knowledge of music, together with the means of gratifying their taste, are indeed to be congratulated. They possess within themselves that which will occupy pleasantly many an idle hour; which will form the basis of many delightful friendships, and be the medium of introduction to the most delightful society' (41). Samuel Smiles is rhapsodic about the beneficial effect of music on society: 'How much would the general cultivation of the gift of music improve us as a people! Children ought to learn it in schools, as they do in Germany. The voice of music would then be heard in every household. Our old English glees would no longer be forgotten. Men and women might sing in the intervals of their work,—as the Germans do in going to and from their wars' (Thrift, 372–3).
Critical Apparatus
297 conversation,] ~— AF, HD; ~^ AD; ~/,\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
297 at the end] at the end AF
Editor’s Note
LL 207.278 | IBE 775.297–8 the season: the 'Season', which ends in August, forms the unrivalled centre of London social life annually: 'The months of May, June, and July are, then, the London season par excellence; for it is at this period that all the different attractions are at their height. Parliament is sitting, and the visitor, by the kind offer of his local member, may hear the debates. The greatest singers of the world are performing at the opera. The picture exhibitions have their principal shows. The parks are full of gay equipages and beautiful toilettes. The great racing carnival—the Derby—attended by many thousands of Londoners of all degrees, falls within this period. Balls, parties, and gaieties of all kinds are in full swing. The drawing-rooms and levées fill the west-end streets with elaborate uniforms and crowds of sight-seers. The four-in-hands start daily from the town to the suburban pleasaunces. And, in Bunbury, the stir and bustle and all-pervading sense of many-sided life, brings even the passing visitor near to "the mighty pulse of the machine." ' The collective term for those who make up the participants in this complicated ritual is 'Fashionable London', 'a small minority in the West End, who have nearly all the money, and also manners and customs peculiar to themselves, such as only spending yearly three or four months, "the season," in London, leaving their fine houses shut up and deserted for the remainder of the time; turning, like Mycerinus, night into day for those three or four months; and being, in conversation, somewhat slangy, and given to the dropping of the final "g's" of their words. It is this small proportion, however, that we mean when we speak of "all London," and to which the daily papers allude, when, in August and September, they assure us that "there is absolutely no one left in town" ' (Cook and Cook, London and Environs (1897–8), 26, 33).
Critical Apparatus
298 season,] LC; ~^ HD, AD, ADa, S
Critical Apparatus
298–9 to say … not much.] to say. LC, AF, HD, AD; to say<.> /to say, which, in most cases, was probably not much.\ ADa
Editor’s Note
LL 207.278 | IBE 775.298 whatever they had to say: J. P. Mahaffy cautions: ' … I am disposed to lay this down as a practical rule: if you find the company dull, blame yourself ' (Principles of the Art of Conversation (1887), 145). Small talk, the common coin of social interchange, is defined by 'A Member of the Aristocracy' as 'not merely agreeable nothings, but the interchange of civilities, urbanities, thoughts and ideas on general subjects, all of which form the basis of conversation between acquaintances, and indeed of all conversation which does not partake of either an intimate or private character, or of the nature of an important communication, but which simply takes place between persons meeting in society, and who have no common bond of union beyond the interest of the moment.' The dreary round of talk that the dowager so dreads is illustrated by suggestions of ideal small-talk at a dinner of eight: 'Each individual composing the party of eight is expected to sustain his or her part, and to add his or her share to the general fund of talk, one individual drawing out the other. An idea started by one is taken up by another, passed on to a third, and is met, perhaps, by a still brighter ray from a fourth, thus offering a series of opportunities for all that is lively and bright, sparkling and witty, deep or profound, in all or any of the guests present to be brought into play' (Society Small Talk or What to Say and When to Say It, By A Member of the Aristocracy, 2nd edn. (London: Frederick Warne, 1879), 2, 57–8). 'The talking powers of your friends have also to be considered', Manners of Modern Society (1872) advises. 'All the quiet people must not be asked together on one occasion, and all the talkative, noisy people on another. They must be cleverly mingled together, so that they will smoothly amalgamate both as a whole, and also one with another when placed side by side round the festive board' (136). In John Gray and André Raffalovich's A Northern Aspect, the widow Lady Augusta Smalz and Sir Charles Wren, who has just been accepted by Lady Augusta, are occupied in satirical dialogue: ' "I like my dinner," says Lady Augusta. "I begin to live after dinner. I don't think any more. I have no longer the preoccupation of art. I can afford to mix with the idle and feel I am one of themselves, able to talk ignorantly of the subjects upon which I am best informed. I talk, I dance" ' (12–13).
Critical Apparatus
300 Augusta … conscious, and] Augusta, and LC; Augusta. (Rising, taking her cup and crossing l.) and HD, AD; Augusta, <(Rising, taking her cup and crossing l.)> /if he is still conscious\ and ADa
Critical Apparatus
301 by Saturday] on Saturday LC, AF, HD, AD; <on> /by\ Saturday ADa
Critical Apparatus
301 Of course,] LC; ~^ AF, HD, AD, ADa, S
Critical Apparatus
302 music,] ~^ LC
Critical Apparatus
303 music, people] music they LC, AF, HD, AD; music <they> /people\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
303 run … programme] show you the programme LC, AF, HD, AD; <show you> /run over\ the programme ADa
Critical Apparatus
303–4 drawn out … come] drawn out if you will come LC, HD, AD; drawn out, if you will come AF; drawn out/,\ if you will /kindly\come ADa
Editor’s Note
LL 208.281 | IBE 776.303 don't talk: 'Well, you know Madame B. is furious if people talk while she is singing, and one day last week when she was singing at the C——s', there was so much talking going on, that when she and two Italian signori were half way through a trio, they left off abruptly, in the middle of a fine passage, to find every one talking at once. One old lady was heard to say, that "she always had hers fried in lard." Every one was amused, as you may imagine.' The dowager's difficulty is evidently a real one: 'Music itself is a great aid to conversation with many ladies, not from the point of view of a professor, or from that of a self-appointed critic, but rather from a drawing-room stand point, from which point all ladies have something to say to each other, respecting the newest songs or the newest pieces, &c.' (Society Small Talk (1879), 76–7, 173). W's Mabel Chiltern in An Ideal Husband explains to her sister-in-law the perils of talking while the music is playing: 'Tommy really does nothing but propose to me. He proposed to me last night in the music-room, when I was quite unprotected, as there was an elaborate trio going on. I didn't dare to make the smallest repartee, I need hardly tell you. If I had, it would have stopped the music at once. Musical people are so absurdly unreasonable. They always want one to be perfectly dumb at the very moment when one is longing to be absolutely deaf ' (Society Comedies, 195).
Critical Apparatus
305–6 thoughtful … I'm sure] kind of you. I am sure that LC; very kind of you. (Rising and following algernon) I'm sure AF; kind of you. (Rising and following algy) I'm sure HD; kind of you. (Rising, and following algy) AD; <kind> /thoughtful\ of you, (Rising, and following algy) I'm sure ADa
Critical Apparatus
306 delightful,] ~^ LC, AF, HD; ~/,\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
307–12 expurgations.… jack Charming] expurgations. I will see you, no doubt again, Mr Worthing. (jack bows, Exit lady brancaster with algy) jack Charming LC; expurgations. Gwendolen, you will follow. gwendolen Certainly, mama. (Exit lady bracknell with algy, l., leaving door open. jack and gwendolen move down r.) jack Charming AF; expurgations. Gwendolen, you will follow. gwendolen Certainly, mamma. (Exit lady bracknell, with algy l. leaving door open) jack Charming HD, AD; expurgations. /French songs I cannot possibly allow. People always seem to think that they are improper, and either looked shocked, which is vulgar, or laugh which is worse. But German <is> /sounds\ a thoroughly respectable language, and indeed, I believe, is so.\ Gwendolen, you will <follow.> /accompany me.\ gwendolen Certainly, mamma. (<Exit> lady bracknell, <with> /and\ algy <l. leaving door open> /go into the Music-Room. gwendolen remains behind)\ jack Charming ADa
Editor’s Note
LL 208.285 | IBE 776.307 expurgations: in revising the Winifred Dolan typescript W clarified the kinds of expurgation the dowager has in mind: 'French songs I cannot possibly allow. People always seem to think that they are improper, and either look shocked, which is vulgar, or laugh, which is worse.' Although the musical selections offered in Harrod's Stores catalogue include instrumental pieces by such French composers as Bizet, the omission of any French songs seems other than accidental. A notable example of an 'improper' French song is Claude Debussy's Cinq. Poèmes de Ch. Baudelaire (1890), which includes Baudelaire's 'Harmonie du Soir': 'Voici venir les temps où vibrant sur sa tige | Chaque fleur s'évapore ainsi qu'un encensoir; | Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir … ' (Les Fleurs du Mal, Baudelaire: Oeuvres complètes, ed. Michel Jamet (Paris: Éditions Robert Laffont, 1980), 34–5) ('Now comes the hour when, in the quivering light, | Each flower to heaven exhales, a censer fair; | Perfumes and sounds wheel in the evening air, | A mournful waltz, a languorous, whirling flight! … ' (trans. Dorothy Martin, in Charles Baudelaire, The Flowers of Evil, ed. Martheil and Jackson Mathews (Norfolk, Conn.: New Directions, 1955), 60). As distinct from the French, in her view, the dowager lady voices her approval of German, a 'thoroughly respectable language' (I.309). In Act I of An Ideal Husband, W allows Mabel Chiltern as she retires to the music room to mock Lord Goring's knowledge of the language: 'The music is in German. You would not understand it' (Society Comedies, 149)—an observation that might apply to the guests at the lady's reception and, perhaps, to the dowager lady herself. In an earlier comment on German music by W's Ernest in The Critic as Artist, he explains that he took Baroness Rothstein down to dinner the previous night, and 'she insisted on discussing music as if it were actually written in the German language. Now, whatever music sounds like,' Ernest continues, 'I am glad to say that it does not sound in the smallest degree like German' (Intentions, in Criticism, 127).
Critical Apparatus
313 Worthing. Whenever] Worthing, whenever LC; Worthing, Whenever HD, AD, ADa; Worthing^/.\ <w>/W\henever Sp
Critical Apparatus
314 weather, I] weather^ I LC, HD, AD, ADa
Critical Apparatus
314 feel quite certain] feel LC, AF, HD, AD; feel /quite certain\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
315 else.] else. (Crosses and sits on sofa, r.) AF; else. (Crosses and sits on sofa r.) HD, AD; else. <(Crosses and sits on sofa r.)> ADa
Critical Apparatus
315 And that] And it LC
Critical Apparatus
315 so nervous] so nervous AF, HD, AD; <so> /so\ nervous ADa
Critical Apparatus
316 I do] I do LC, AF, HD, AD; I <do> /do\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
317 In fact … wrong.] LC, AF, HD, AD omit; /In fact I am never wrong.\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
319 absence …] absence. (Closes door r.c.) LC; absence. AF
Critical Apparatus
320 so. Mamma] ~; ~ LC
Critical Apparatus
320–1 coming back suddenly] suddenly coming back LC
Critical Apparatus
321 about.] about. (jack crosses to door l., shuts it, and returns to gwendolen) AF
Critical Apparatus
322 (Nervously)] LC, AF omit; (Crosses to door l. shuts it and returns to gwendolen) HD; (Crosses to door l., shuts it, and returns to gwendolen) AD; /(Nervously)\ <(Crosses to door l., shuts it, and returns to gwendolen)> ADa
Critical Apparatus
322 met you] met you LC; met you, AF; met you / … \ ADa
Critical Apparatus
323 girl … I have] girl I have LC, AF, HD, AD; girl /…\ I have ADa
Critical Apparatus
323 met since … I met you] met, since I met you LC; met, since I met you AF; met since I met you HD, AD; met since /…\ I met you ADa
Critical Apparatus
324 of the fact] of that LC; of that fact AF, HD, AD; of <that> /the\ fact ADa
Critical Apparatus
326 met you] ~, LC, AF
Critical Apparatus
328 ideals. The fact] ideals the fact LC
Critical Apparatus
328–9 in the … told: and] in the newspapers; and LC; in the most expensive monthly magazines. And AF; in the more expensive monthly magazines. And HD, AD; in the more expensive monthly magazines<.> /and has reached the provincial pulpits, I am told. And\ ADa; in the more expensive monthly magazines/,\ and has reached the provincial pulpits I am told: and Sp
Editor’s Note
LL 209.302 | IBE 777.328 age of ideals: 'In an age like this when Slander, and Ridicule, and Envy walk quite unashamed among us, and when any attempt to produce serious beautiful work is greeted with a very tornado of lies and evil-speaking, it is a wonderful joy, a wonderful spur for ambition and work, to receive any such encouragement and appreciation as your letter brought me … ' (W, letter to Violet Hunt [postmark 22 July 1881], who wrote to thank him for the copy he had sent her of his first published Poems (1881), H & H-D, 114). 'This age is an age of identification,' says Mr Amarinth in Robert Hitchens's The Green Carnation (1894), 'in which our god is the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and our devil the fairy tale that teaches nothing. We go to the British Museum for culture, and to Archdeacon [Adam Storey] Farrar for guidance. And then we think that we are advancing. We might as well return to the myths of Darwin, or to the delicious fantasies of John Stuart Mill. They at least were entertaining, and no one attempted to believe in them' (32). Two generations before, Mill himself in an article in the Examiner called attention to the self-congratulatory spirit of an age that believed that 'we have now risen to the capacity of perceiving our true interests; and it is no longer in the power of imposters and charlatans to deceive us. I am unable to adopt this theory. Though a firm believer in the improvement of the age, I do not believe that its improvement has been of this kind. The grand achievement of the present age is the diffusion of superficial knowledge; and that surely is no trifle, to have been accomplished by a single generation' ('The Spirit of the Age, I' (Examiner, 9 Jan. 1831, 20–1), in Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Vol. XXII (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1986), 232). W addresses the point in Gwendolen's next line, and in its elaboration in the Smithers first edition: ' … in the more expensive monthly magazines, and has reached the provincial pulpits I am told.'
Earlier, in a brief piece called 'To Read or Not to Read' (Pall Mall Gazette, 8 Feb. 1886, 2), W identified his time as 'an age that reads so much that it has no time to admire, and writes so much that it has no time to think. Whoever will select out of the chaos of our modern curricula "The Worst Hundred Books," and publish a list of them, will confer on the rising generation a real and lasting benefit' (Journalism 1, 24). And in 'A Few Maxims for the Instruction of the Over-Educated', W complained again about the decline of literacy: 'In old days books were written by men of letters and read by the public. Nowadays books are written by the public and read by nobody' (Saturday Review, 17 Nov. 1894, rpt. Letters of Wilde, 869).
Editor’s Note
IBE 777.328–9 expensive monthly magazines: 'In literature,' CDD explains, 'the term magazine is usually applied to all periodical publications contributed to by several writers, other than newspapers and reviews.… The sale of some of the well-known magazines is very large indeed, their circulation greatly exceeding that of even the most popular books, so that their vast influence on the reading portion of the public may well be imagined' (736–7). Willing's British & Irish Press Guide for 1895 provides a helpful list of Society journals, including weeklies such as Gentlewoman, Lady's Pictorial, Queen, and Vanity Fair, priced as high as sixpence, and among the general titles the more expensive monthly magazines, priced at a shilling, such as the Gentleman's Magazine of Fashion, Lady's Magazine, London Society, Belgravia, Macmillan's Magazine, Pall Mall Magazine, and Temple Bar, as well as such American imports as Atlantic Monthly, Harper's Magazine, and Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (in which W first published The Picture of Dorian Gray, in 1890). W's own experience with such magazines included his editorship of the Woman's World, a shilling monthly described as a 'Magazine of Fashion and Society', which had first appeared as the Lady's World in November 1886. As we have seen, the title was changed under W's editorship, which began with the November 1887 issue and lasted until October 1889. A review in The Times (7 Dec. 1888) describes it as 'written by women, for women and about women, striking out an original line' (qtd. Mason, I, 220).
That the age of John Worthing and Gwendolen Fairfax is an age of ideals is abundantly evident in Richard Davey's rose-coloured retrospective view of its journalism: 'Let it suffice to say that, to its honour and glory, the Press of England has so far maintained a higher level of morality and justice than that of any other country; a happy fact, mainly due to the common-sense of the English people, who are their own censors, and would speedily reject any paper that ventured to neglect those obligations of self-respect and decency due by every editor to the public. British journals, as a rule, are in the hands of educated and honourable men, who, prejudiced and bigoted as some of them may be in their individual religious and political opinions, are too wise, and too practical, to force their private views on an unwilling reader' (The Pageant of London, 2 vols. (London: Methuen, 1906), II, 620–1). Describing Amy Reardon's maturing intellect in his 1891 novel New Grub Street, Gissing provides a more incisive view of how knowledge is acquired in such an expansive age: 'The solid periodicals attracted her, and especially those articles which dealt with themes of social science. Anything that savoured of newness and boldness in philosophic thought had a charm for her palate. She read a good deal of that kind of literature which may be defined as specialism popularised; writing which addresses itself to educated, but not strictly studious, persons, and which forms the reservoir of conversation for society above the sphere of turf and west-endism. Thus, for instance, though she could not undertake the volumes of Herbert Spencer, she was intelligently acquainted with the tenor of their contents; and though she had never opened one of Darwin's books, her knowledge of his main theories and illustrations was respectable. She was becoming a typical woman of the new time, the woman who has developed concurrently with journalistic enterprise' (ed. Bergonzi, 397–8).
Critical Apparatus
329 pulpits,] ADa; ~^ Sp, S
Critical Apparatus
334 Passionately!] ~. LC
Critical Apparatus
335 Darling! You] Darling, you LC
Critical Apparatus
335 you've made me.] you have made me. LC; you've made me. (Sitting l. of her) AF, HD, AD; you've made me. <(Sitting l. of her)> ADa
Critical Apparatus
336 own Ernest!] ~. LC
Critical Apparatus
337 But you] Of course, you LC; Of course! But you AF; Of course. But you HD, AD; <Of course.> But you ADa
Critical Apparatus
339 name is] name is LC, AF, HD, AD; name <is> /is\ ADa
Critical Apparatus
339 Ernest.] ~? AF
Critical Apparatus
340 it is. But] ~, ~ LC
Critical Apparatus
340 it was] it were AF
Critical Apparatus
342 (Glibly) Ah!] Ah, LC; Ah! AF, HD, AD; /(Glibly) Ah! ADa
Critical Apparatus
342–3 like most] like all LC, AF, HD, AD, ADa; like <all> /most\ Sp
Critical Apparatus
344 life, as] life as LC
Critical Apparatus
345 much care] care much AF, HD
Critical Apparatus
346 Ernest …] Ernest.… LC
Editor’s Note
LL 210.322 | IBE 778.348 vibrations: W's deep attraction to mellifluous names is on record in his letters. 'I am filled with delight', he wrote to Aniela Gielgud, 'at the beauty of your name—Aniela! it has an exquisite forest simplicity about it, and sounds most sweetly out of tune with this fiery-coloured artificial world of ours—rather like a daisy on a railway bank!' ([?early July 1881], H & H-D, 113). Again, writing to Aubrey Richardson, he exclaimed, 'What a pretty name you have! it is worthy of fiction. Would you mind if I wrote a book called The Story of Aubrey Richardson? I won't, but I should like to. There is music in its long syllables, and a memory of romance, and a suggestion of wonder. Names fascinate me terribly' ([?1889], H & H-D, 418). And in a late letter to Herbert Charles Pollitt, who preferred the name Jerome and so signed himself in letters to W, W commented, 'I like your Christian name [i.e. Jerome] so much: I suppose you are your own lion'—an allusion to Saint Jerome, translator of the Vulgate, customarily portrayed with a lion seated beside him ([postmark 26 Nov. 1898], H & H-D, 1103).
Critical Apparatus
350 for instance,] ~^ LC
Critical Apparatus
351 Jack? … No, there] Jack? … No^ there LC; Jack? No, there AF
Critical Apparatus
351 No, there] ~^ ~ LC
Critical Apparatus
351 name Jack,] ~^ LC; ~— AF
Critical Apparatus
352 does not] does not LC
Critical Apparatus
352 no vibrations… .] no vibrations … LC; no vibrations AF; no vibrationsHD, AD; <no vibrations> /no vibrations\ … ADa
Critical Apparatus
353 all, without exception,] ~^ ~^ LC, AF, HD, AD, ADa; all/,\ without exception, Sp
Critical Apparatus
353 Besides,] ~^ LC
Critical Apparatus
354 John! And] John, and LC
Editor’s Note
LL 210.328 | IBE 778.354 domesticity for John: a contemporary linguist explains that 'the received belief as to the origin of the English forename Jack is quite wrong, and that, instead of being derived from the French Jacques, or any kindred form of that name, it comes from a diminutive of the middle English Johan, i.e. John' (Edward B. Nicholson, The Pedigree of 'Jack' and of Various Allied Names (London: Alexander & Shepheard, 1892), 35). The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names derives the name from the Hebrew Johanan and notes that it is 'one of the commonest of Jewish names': 'Though John was a fairly common English name in the 12–15th C, its singular predominance over all other names came later' (178–9). Jack, the Oxford Dictionary adds, is 'the commonest pet-name for John' (168). 'John is an admirable name', W wrote to an unidentified editor in 1892. 'It was the name of the most charming of all the Disciples, the one who did not write the Fourth Gospel. It was the name of the most perfect of all the English poets of this century, as it was of the greatest English poet of all the centuries. Popes and Princes, wicked or wonderful, have been called John. John has been the name of several eminent journalists and criminals. But John is not amongst the many delightful names given to me at my baptism. So kindly let me correct the statement made by your reckless dramatic critic in his last and unavailing attack on my play. The attempt he makes to falsify one of the most important facts in the History of Art must be checked at once' ([? Feb. 1892], H & H-D, 522). In a much later letter to Robert Ross, W commented on the name of a mutual friend, John Rowland Fothergill: 'Your story of dear Rowland is charming. How dangerous it is to be called "John" is the moral. Anything may happen to a person called John' (Thursday [late Mar. 1900], H & H-D, 1177).
Critical Apparatus
355 John. She] John. She would have a very tedious life with him. She LC, AF
Critical Apparatus
355–6 entrancing pleasure] pleasure LC
Critical Apparatus
357 I mean we] I mean, we AF
Critical Apparatus
357 at once—] ~, LC
Critical Apparatus
359 Married, Mr Worthing?] (Surprised) Married, Mr Worthing? LC; (Surprised) Married, Mr Worthing? (They both rise) AF, HD, AD; <(Surprised)> Married, Mr Worthing? <(They both rise)> ADa