The Importance of Being Earnest (Oscar Wilde)

oscar-wildeOne of themes present at all times during a recent visit to Dublin was literature. The tourist guide offers you literary walking tours, a literary pub crawl, suggests to visit different libraries, book shops, major parks are adorned with statues dedicated to Irish writers, etc.Thus far, point taken. Already while in Dublin I was taking note of authors and books to be read in the near future.

During the stay in Dublin, our hotel was close to Merrion square, where Oscar Wilde lived as a child. I, therefore, decided to start with one of his plays, “The Importance of Being Earnest“, which was performed for the first time in 1895 in London.

The play, a critical satire of some of Victorian England social institutions and values (in particular marriage, literary press, religion, honesty, punctuality), is centered around two friends, Algernon and Jack (John Worthing), who go about from criticizing each other’s habits, to sharing each other’s faked relatives, to proposing to each other’s cousin and ward. After drawing several parallels between the two characters and their fiancées, and going about several absurd situations,  the play unravels in the most unexpected way.

The book is rather short (~45 pages in the digital version I read) though it’s full of surprising turns and punch lines. It has a memorable and quotable sentence in every other page. I will share some below:

“[…] I have come up to town expressly to propose to her” – “I thought you had come up for pleasure?”

“More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn’t read.”

“Literary criticism is not your forte, my dear fellow. Don’t try it. You should leave that to people who haven’t been at a University. They do it so well in the daily papers.”

“Do you smoke?” – “Well, yes. I must admit I smoke.” – “I am glad to hear it. A man should always have an occupation of some kind.”

“I have lost both my parents.” – “To lose one parent may be regarded as misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

“I would strongly advise you [..] to make a definite effort to produce at any rate one parent…” – “[…] I can produce the hand-bag at any moment.”

“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.”

“[…] Algernon. It is not at all a bad name. In fact, it is rather an aristocratic name. Half of the chaps who get into the Bankruptcy Court are called Algernon.”

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

“True in matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing.”

“Never speak disrespectfully of Society. Only people who can’t get into it do that.”

“He has nothing but he looks everything. What more can one desire?”

“I see no reason why our dear Cecily should not be even still more attractive at the age you mention (35) than she is at present (18). There will be a large accumulation of property.”

“I never change, except in my affections”.

I strongly recommend the reading of the play (it took me about 3 hours). You may find the ebook here at Guttenberg Project or you may watch below the play in Youtube:

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One response to “The Importance of Being Earnest (Oscar Wilde)

  1. Pingback: My 2016 reading list | The Blog by Javier

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