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Title: The Importance of Being Earnest
A Trivial Comedy for Serious People
Author: Oscar Wilde
Release Date: August 29, 2006 [eBook #844]
Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)
***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST***
Transcribed from the 1915 Methuen & Co. Ltd. edition by David Price,
The Importance of Being Earnest
A Trivial Comedy for Serious People
THE PERSONS IN THE PLAY
John Worthing, J.P.
Rev. Canon Chasuble, D.D.
Hon. Gwendolen Fairfax
Miss Prism, Governess
THE SCENES OF THE PLAY
ACT I. Algernon Moncrieff's Flat in Half-Moon Street, W.
ACT II. The Garden at the Manor House, Woolton.
ACT III. Drawing-Room at the Manor House, Woolton.
TIME: The Present.
LONDON: ST. JAMES'S THEATRE
Lessee and Manager: Mr. George Alexander
February 14th, 1895
John Worthing, J.P.: Mr. George Alexander.
Algernon Moncrieff: Mr. Allen Aynesworth.
Rev. Canon Chasuble, D.D.: Mr. H. H. Vincent.
Merriman: Mr. Frank Dyall.
Lane: Mr. F. Kinsey Peile.
Lady Bracknell: Miss Rose Leclercq.
Hon. Gwendolen Fairfax: Miss Irene Vanbrugh.
Cecily Cardew: Miss Evelyn Millard.
Miss Prism: Mrs. George Canninge.
Morning-room in Algernon's flat in Half-Moon Street. The room is
luxuriously and artistically furnished. The sound of a piano is heard in
the adjoining room.
[Lane is arranging afternoon tea on the table, and after the music has
ceased, Algernon enters.]
Algernon. Did you hear what I was playing, Lane?
Lane. I didn't think it polite to listen, sir.
Algernon. I'm sorry for that, for your sake. I don't play
accurately--any one can 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.
Algernon. And, speaking of the science of Life, have you got the
cucumber sandwiches cut for Lady Bracknell?
Lane. Yes, sir. [Hands them on a salver.]
Algernon. [Inspects them, takes two, and sits down on the sofa.] Oh! . . .
by the way, Lane, I see from your book that on Thursday night, when
Lord Shoreman and Mr. Worthing were dining with me, eight bottles of
champagne are entered as having been consumed.
Lane. Yes, sir; eight bottles and a pint.
Algernon. Why is it that at a bachelor's establishment the servants
invariably drink the champagne? I ask merely for information.
Lane. I attribute it to the superior quality of the wine, sir. I have
often observed that in married households the champagne is rarely of a
Algernon. Good heavens! Is marriage so demoralising as that?
Lane. I believe it _is_ a very pleasant state, sir. I have had very
little experience of it myself up to the present. I have only been
married once. That was in consequence of a misunderstanding between
myself and a young person.
Algernon. [Languidly_._] I don't know that I am much interested in your
family life, Lane.
Lane. No, sir; it is not a very interesting subject. I never think of
Algernon. Very natural, I am sure. That will do, Lane, thank you.
Lane. Thank you, sir. [Lane goes out.]
Algernon. Lane's views on marriage seem somewhat lax. Really, if the
lower orders don't set us a good example, what on earth is the use of
them? They seem, as a class, to have absolutely no sense of moral
Lane. Mr. Ernest Worthing.
[Lane goes out_._]
Algernon. How are you, my dear Ernest? What brings you up to town?
Jack. Oh, pleasure, pleasure! What else should bring one anywhere?
Eating as usual, I see, Algy!
Algernon. [Stiffly_._] I believe it is customary in good society to
take some slight refreshment at five o'clock. Where have you been since
Jack. [Sitting down on the sofa.] In the country.
Algernon. What on earth do you do there?
Jack. [Pulling off his gloves_._] When one is in town one amuses
oneself. When one is in the country one amuses other people. It is
Algernon. And who are the people you amuse?
Jack. [Airily_._] Oh, neighbours, neighbours.
Algernon. Got nice neighbours in your part of Shropshire?
Jack. Perfectly horrid! Never speak to one of them.
Algernon. How immensely you must amuse them! [Goes over and takes
sandwich.] By the way, Shropshire is your county, is it not?