The Importance of Being Earnest (BBC, 1988, by Oscar Wilde)


(Piano plays)
(Piano stops)
Did you hear what I was playing, Lane?
– I didn’t think it polite to listen, sir.
– I’m sorry for that, for your sake.
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.
– I keep science for life.
– Yes, sir.
And speaking of the science of life,
have you got the cucumber
sandwiches cut for Lady Bracknell?
– Yes, sir.
– Ah!
Oh!… by the way, Lane,
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.
Yes, sir. Eight bottles and a pint.
Why is it that at a bachelor’s establishment
the servants invariably drink the champagne?
I ask merely for information.
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 first-rate brand.
Good heavens! ls marriage as demoralizing as that?
I believe it is a very pleasant state, sir.
I have had very little experience of it myself
up to the present.
I’ve only been married once.
That was a misunderstanding
between myself and a young person.
I don’t know that I am much interested
in your family life, Lane.
No sir! It’s is not a very interesting subject.
– I never think of it.
– Very natural, I am sure.
– That will do, Lane. Thank you.
– Thank you, sir.
Lane’s views on marriage
seem somewhat lax.
Really, if the lower orders
don’t us set a good example,
what on earth is the use of them?
They seem, as a class, to have absolutely
no sense of moral responsibility.
– Mr. Ernest Worthing.
– How are you, my dear Ernest?
– What brings you up to town?
– Oh pleasure, pleasure!
What else should bring one anywhere?
– Eating as usual, I see, Algy!
– I believe it is customary in good society
to take some slight refreshment at 5:00.
Where have you been
since last Thursday?
– In the country.
– What on earth do you do there?
When one is in town one amuses oneself.
When one is in the country one amuses
other people.
– It is excessively boring.
– And who are the people you amuse?
Oh, neighbours, neighbours.
Got nice neighbours in your part of Shropshire?
Perfectly horrid!
Never speak to one of them.
How immensely you must amuse them!
By the way, Shropshire is your county, is it not?
– Eh? Shropshire?
– Mmm.
Oh, yes, of course.
Hallo! Why all these cups?
Why cucumber sandwiches? Why
such reckless extravagance in one so young?
– Who is coming to tea?
– Oh! merely Aunt Augusta and Gwendolen.
– How perfectly delightful!
– Yes, that is all very well;
but I am afraid Aunt Augusta won’t quite
approve of your being here.
– May I ask why?
– My dear fellow,
the way you flirt with Gwendolen is
perfectly disgraceful.
It is almost as bad as the way
Gwendolen flirts with you
I am in love with Gwendolen. I have
come up to town expressly to propose to her.
You came for pleasure.
– I call that business.
– How unromantic you are.
I don’t see anything
romantic in proposing.
It is very romantic to be in love.
But there is nothing romantic
about a proposal.
One may be accepted.
One usually is, I believe.
Then the excitement is all over.
The essence of romance is uncertainty.
If I get married, I’ll try to forget the fact.
I have no doubt about that, Algy.
The divorce court is for people whose
memories are curiously constituted.
There’s no use speculating on it.
Divorces are made in heaven. Please,
don’t touch the cucumber sandwiches.
They are specially for Aunt Augusta.
– You’ve been eating them all the time.
– That is different. She is my aunt.
Have some bread and butter.
The bread and butter is for Gwendolen.
Gwendolen is devoted
to bread and butter.
And very good bread
and butter it is, too.
You need not eat it as if
you were going to eat it all.
You behave as if
you were married already.
You are not married to her.
I don’t think you will be.
Why on earth do you say that?
Girls never marry the men they flirt with.
– Girls don’t think it right.
– Nonsense!
It isn’t! It’s a great truth.
It accounts for the number of bachelors
one sees all over the place.
In the second place,
I don’t give my consent.
– Your consent?
– Gwendolen is my first cousin.
Before I allow you to marry her…
(Bell rings)
you will have to clear up
the whole question of Cecily.
Cecily? What on earth do you mean?
What do you mean, Algy, by Cecily?
I don’t know anybody
by the name of Cecily.
Bring me that cigarette case Mr. Worthing
left last time he dined here.
Yes, sir.
You mean you’ve had my cigarette case
all this time?
I wish to goodness you’d let me know.
I’ve been writing letters to Scotland Yard.
I was very nearly offering a large reward.
– I wish you would offer one.
– I’m more than usually hard-up.
It’s no good offering a reward
now it’s found!
That is rather mean of you, I must say.
However, it makes no matter.
Now that I look at the inscription inside,
it isn’t yours after all.
You’ve seen me with it a hundred times.
You have no right to read what is inside.
It is ungentlemanly
to read a cigarette case.
It’s absurd to make a rule about
what one shouldn’t read.
Modern culture
depends on what one shouldn’t read.
I don’t propose
to discuss modern culture.
It isn’t what one talks of in private.
– I simply want my case.
– This isn’t your case.
This is a present
from someone of the name of Cecily.
You said you didn’t know that name.
If you want to know,
Cecily happens to be my aunt.
– Your aunt?
– Yes, charming old lady she is, too.
Lives at Tunbridge Wells. Give it back.
Why does she call herself Little Cecily if
she is your aunt from Tunbridge Wells?
“From Little Cecily with fondest love.”
What on earth is there in that? Some
aunts are tall, some aunts are not.
That is a matter
an aunt may decide for herself.
You think every aunt
should be like your aunt.
Absurd. For heaven’s sake,
give me my case.
But why does your aunt
call you “uncle”?
“From Little Cecily, with fondest love
to her Uncle Jack.”
There is no objection
to an aunt being a small aunt,
but why an aunt,
no matter what her size,
should call her nephew her uncle,
I can’t make out.
– Your name isn’t Jack. It’s Ernest.
– It isn’t Ernest. It’s Jack.
You’ve always told me it was Ernest.
I introduce you to everyone as Ernest.
You answer to Ernest.
You look like Ernest.
You are the most
earnest-looking person.
It is absurd saying your name isn’t
Ernest. It’s on your cards. Here is one.
“Ernest Worthing, B4, The Albany.”
I’ll keep it as proof your name is Ernest
if you deny it to me or Gwendolen.
I’m Ernest in town
and Jack in the country.
The case was given to me in the country.
But that does not account for the fact
that your small Aunt Cecily,
at Tunbridge Wells,
calls you “her dear uncle.”
Come, you’d much better have
the thing out at once.
I have always suspected you of being
a confirmed and secret Bunburyist.
– I am sure of it now.
– What do you mean, a Bunburyist?
I’ll reveal the meaning
of that expression
as soon as you inform me
why you are Ernest in town
and Jack in the country.
– Produce my cigarette case first.
– Here it is.
Produce your explanation,
and pray make it improbable.
There is nothing improbable
about my explanation at all.
In fact, it’s perfectly ordinary.
Mr. Thomas Cardew, who adopted me
when I was a boy,
made me in his will guardian to his
granddaughter, Cecily Cardew.
Cecily, who addresses me as her uncle,
from motives of respect
you could not appreciate,
lives in the country under the charge of
her admirable governess, Miss Prism.
Where is that place in the country?
That is nothing to you dear boy.
You are not going to be invited.
In fact, I can tell you quite candidly that that it is not in Shropshire.
I suspected that, my dear fellow.
I have Bunburyed all over Shropshire
on two occasions.
Go on. Why are you Ernest
in town and Jack in the country?
Algy, I don’t know whether you will be
able to understand my real motives.
You are hardly serious enough.
When one is in a position of guardian,
one has to adopt a very high
moral tone on all subjects.
It is one’s duty to do so.
As a high moral tone
can hardly be said
to conduce much
to one’s health or one’s happiness,
in order to get up to town, I pretend
to have a younger brother, Ernest,
who lives in The Albany and gets
into the most dreadful scrapes.
That, my dear young Algy,
is the whole truth, pure and simple.
The truth is rarely pure
and never simple.
Modern life would be tedious if it were,
modern literature an impossibility.
That wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Literary criticism is not your forte.
Don’t try it.
Leave it to people who haven’t been at
university. They do it well in the papers.
What you really are is a Bunburyist.
I was right in saying it. You are one of
the most advanced Bunburyists I know.
What on earth do you mean?
You invented a younger brother
called Ernest
so you may be able to come to town
as often as you like.
I have invented a permanent
invalid called “Bunbury,”
so I may be able to go into the country
whenever I choose.
Bunbury is perfectly invaluable.
If it wasn’t for his
extraordinarily bad health,
I couldn’t dine with you at the Savoy,
for I have been engaged to Aunt Augusta
for over a week.
I haven’t asked you to dine with me.
You are careless
about sending invitations.
Nothing annoys people so much
as not receiving invitations.
I can’t dine at the Savoy.
I owe them about £700.
Why not pay them?
You’ve got heaps of money.
But Ernest hasn’t. Ernest is the sort
of chap that never pays a bill.
Then let us dine at Willie’s.
Dine with your Aunt Augusta.
I haven’t the intention of doing anything
of the kind. I dined there on Monday.
Once a week is enough
with one’s relations.
I know whom she will place me
next to tonight.
She will place me
next to Mary Farquhar,
who flirts with her husband
across the table.
That is not pleasant. It is not decent,
and that sort of thing is on the increase.
The amount of women who flirt with their
husbands is perfectly scandalous.
It looks so bad. It is simply washing
one’s clean linen in public.
Besides, now that I know you
to be a confirmed Bunburyist,
I want to talk to you about it.
I want to tell you the rules.
I am not a Bunburyist at all. If Gwendolen
accepts me, I’ll kill my brother.
In fact, I’ll kill him in any case.
Cecily is too interested in him.
It is rather a bore.
I’ll get rid of Ernest.
I advise you to do the same with Mr…
With your invalid friend
who has the absurd name.
Nothing will induce me
to part with Bunbury.
If you get married,
which seems extremely problematic,
you will be very glad to know Bunbury.
A man who marries without knowing him
has a tedious time.
That is nonsense.
If I marry a charming girl like Gwendolen,
and she is the only girl that I would
marry, I won’t want to know Bunbury.
Your wife will. You don’t realize
that in married life
three is company and two is none.
– (Door bell rings)
– That must be Aunt Augusta.
Only relatives or creditors ever ring
in that Wagnerian manner.
If I get her out of the way for 10 minutes
so you can propose to Gwendolen,
– may I dine with you at Willie’s?
– I suppose.
But you must be serious about it.
I hate people who are not serious
about meals. It is so shallow.
Lady Bracknell and Miss Fairfax.
Good afternoon, Algernon.
I hope you are behaving very well.
– I am feeling very well, Aunt Augusta.
– That’s not the same thing.
In fact, the two things
rarely go together.
Dear me, you are smart.
I am always smart.
Am I not, Mr. Worthing?
– You’re quite perfect, Miss Fairfax.
– I hope I am not that.
It would leave me no room
for developments,
and I intend to develop
in many directions.
I’m sorry if we are a little late, Algernon,
but I was obliged to call on
dear Lady Harbury.
I hadn’t been there since
her poor husband’s death.
I never saw a woman so altered,
she looks quite 20 years younger.
Now I’ll have a cup of tea,
and one of those nice cucumber
sandwiches you promised me.
(Algernon) Certainly, Aunt Augusta.
Gwendolen?
Won’t you come and sit here?
Thanks, Mamma. I’m quite
comfortable where I am.
Lane, why are there no cucumber
sandwiches? I ordered them specially.
There were no cucumbers
in the market, sir.
– I went down twice.
– No cucumbers?
Not even for ready money.
– That will do. Thank you.
– Thank you, sir.
I am distressed about there being no
cucumbers, not even for ready money.
It makes no matter, Algernon.
I had crumpets with Lady Harbury,
who seems to be living for pleasure now.
I hear her hair has turned gold from grief.
It certainly has changed its color.
From what cause,
I, of course, cannot say.
Thank you.
I’ve a treat for you tonight, Algernon.
I am going to send you
with Mary Farquhar.
Such a nice woman,
and so attentive to her husband.
It’s delightful to watch them.
I am afraid I shall have to give up
the pleasure of dining with you tonight.
I hope not, Algernon.
It would put my table
completely out.
Your poor uncle would
have to dine upstairs.
Fortunately, he is accustomed to that.
It is a great bore,
and a terrible disappointment,
but I have just
received a telegram to say
that my poor friend
Bunbury…is very ill again.
They seem to think
I should be with him.
It is very strange.
This Mr. Bunbury seems to suffer
from curiously bad health.
Yes, poor Bunbury is a dreadful invalid.
I must say, Algernon, it is high time
Mr. Bunbury made up his mind
whether he was to live or to die.
Shilly-shallying with the question
is absurd.
Nor do I approve of the modern
sympathy with invalids.
I consider it morbid.
Illness of any kind is hardly
to be encouraged in others.
Health is the primary duty of life.
I am always telling that
to your poor uncle,
but he never seems to take notice as far
as any improvement in his ailment goes.
I should be obliged
if you would ask Mr. Bunbury
to be kind enough
not to have a relapse on Saturday,
for I rely on you
to arrange my music for me.
It is my last reception,
and one wants something
to encourage conversation,
particularly at the end of the season
when everyone has said
whatever they had to say,
which, in most cases,
was probably not much.
I’ll speak to Bunbury, if he is conscious,
and I promise
he’ll be all right by Saturday.
The music is a great difficulty. If one
plays good music, people don’t listen,
and if one plays bad music,
people don’t talk.
I’ll run over the programme I’ve drawn
out, if you’ll come to the next room?
Thank you, Algernon.
It is very thoughtful of you.
I’m sure the programme will be delightful
after a few expurgations.
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.
But German sounds a thoroughly
respectable language,
and indeed, I believe is so.
Gwendolen, you will accompany me.
Certainly, Mamma.
Charming day it has been,
Miss Fairfax.
Pray don’t talk to me about
the weather, Mr. Worthing.
Whenever people talk to me
about the weather,
I feel quite certain
that they mean something else.
– And that makes me nervous.
– I do mean something else.
I thought so. In fact, I am never wrong.
I would like to be allowed to take
advantage of Lady Bracknell’s absence…
I would advise you to do so.
Mamma has a way
of coming back suddenly into a room
that I have had to speak to her about.
Miss Fairfax, ever since I met you
I have admired you more than any girl…
I have ever met since…l met you.
Yes, I am quite well aware of the fact.
And I often wish
that, in public at any rate,
you had been more…demonstrative.
For me, you have always had
an irresistible fascination.
Before we met, I was far from indifferent.
We live, as I hope you know,
Mr. Worthing,
in an age of ideals.
The fact is constantly being mentioned
in expensive magazines,
and has reached the provincial pulpits,
I am told.
And my ideal has always been
to love someone of the name of Ernest.
Something in that name
inspires absolute confidence.
The moment Algernon mentioned
that he had a friend called Ernest,
I knew I was destined to love you.
You really love me, Gwendolen?
Passionately.
Darling. You don’t know
how happy you’ve made me.
– My own Ernest…
– You don’t mean to say
you couldn’t love me
if my name wasn’t Ernest?
But your name is Ernest.
I know it is.
But supposing it was something else?
You mean you couldn’t love me then?
That is clearly
a metaphysical speculation.
Like most metaphysical speculations,
has little reference to actual facts
of real life as we know them.
To speak candidly, darling, I don’t
much care for the name of Ernest.
– I don’t think the name suits me at all.
– It suits you perfectly!
It is a divine name.
It has a music of its own.
It produces…vibrations.
Really, Gwendolen, I must say, I think
there are lots of other much nicer names.
Jack, for instance. A charming name.
Jack?
Ooh, no. There is very little music
in the name of Jack, if any at all.
It does not thrill.
It produces absolutely no vibrations.
I have known several Jacks.
They all, without exception,
were more than usually plain.
Besides, Jack is a notorious
domesticity for John.
And I pity any woman
who is married to a man called John.
She would never be allowed to know the
pleasure of a single moment’s solitude.
The only really safe name…is Ernest.
Gwendolen,
I must get christened at once.
I mean, we must get married at once.
There is no time to be lost.
Married, Mr. Worthing?
Well, surely.
You know that I love you.
You led me to believe, Miss Fairfax, you
were not absolutely indifferent to me.
I adore you.
But you haven’t proposed to me yet.
Nothing has been said about marriage.
The subject has not been touched on.
– May I propose to you now?
– I think it’s an admirable opportunity.
And to spare you
any possible disappointment,
I think it only fair
to tell you frankly beforehand
that I am fully determined to accept you.
Gwendolen!
Yes. What have you got to say to me?
– You know what I’ve got to say.
– Yes, but you don’t say it.
Gwendolen, will you marry me?
Of course I will, darling.
How long you’ve been about it.
You have had little experience.
My own one,
I’ve never loved anyone but you.
But men often propose for practice.
My brother Gerald does.
All my girlfriends tell me.
What wonderfully blue eyes you have,
Ernest.
They are…quite, quite blue.
I hope you will always
look at me just like that,
especially when there
are other people present.
Mr. Worthing!
Rise, sir, from this
semi-recumbent posture.
It is most indecorous.
Mamma?
I must beg you to retire.
This is no place for you.
Besides,
Mr. Worthing has not quite finished yet.
Finished what, may I ask?
I am engaged to Mr. Worthing, Mamma.
Pardon me, you are not
engaged to anyone.
When you do become
engaged to someone,
I, or your father, health permitting,
will inform you of the fact.
An engagement should come upon
a young girl as a surprise,
pleasant or unpleasant,
as the case may be.
It is hardly a matter she could be allowed
to arrange for herself.
And now,
I have a few questions
to put to you, Mr. Worthing.
While I am making these inquiries,
you, Gwendolen, will wait for me
below in the carriage.
– But, Mamma…
– In the carriage.
Yes, Mamma.
– Gwendolen, the carriage.
– Yes, Mamma.
You can take a seat, Mr. Worthing.
Thank you, Lady Bracknell,
I prefer standing.
I feel bound to tell you that you are not
down on my list of eligible young men,
although I have the same list
as the Duchess of Bolton has.
We work together, in fact.
However, I am willing to enter your
name, should your answers be
what a really affectionate
mother requires. Do you smoke?
Well, yes, I must admit I smoke.
Glad to hear it. A man should always
have an occupation of some kind.
There are too many idle men in London.
– How old are you?
– 29.
A very good age to be married at.
I have always been of the opinion
that a man who desires to get married
should know either everything
or nothing. Which do you know?
I know nothing, Lady Bracknell.
I am pleased to hear it.
I do not approve of anything that
tampers with natural ignorance.
Ignorance is like a delicate, exotic fruit.
Touch it, and the bloom is gone.
The whole theory of modern
education is radically unsound.
Fortunately, in England at any rate,
education produces no effect
whatsoever.
If it did, it would prove a serious
danger to the upper classes,
and probably lead to acts
of violence in Grosvenor Square.
What is your income?
Between seven
and eight thousand a year.
In land, or in investments?
(Jack) In investments, chiefly.
That is satisfactory.
Between the duties expected
from one during one’s lifetime,
and duties exacted after one’s death,
land has ceased to be either
a profit or a pleasure.
It gives one position, and prevents one
from keeping it up.
That’s all that can be said about it.
I have a country house with some land
attached. About 1,500 acres, I believe,
but I don’t depend
on that for my real income.
As far as I can see, the poachers are
the only people that make anything.
A country house? How many bedrooms?
Well, that point can
be cleared up afterwards.
You have a town house, I hope?
A girl with a simple, unspoiled
nature, like Gwendolen,
could hardly be expected
to reside in the country.
I own a house in Belgrave Square,
but it is let by the year to Lady Bloxham.
I can get it back
any time I like, at six months’ notice.
Lady Bloxham? I don’t know her.
She goes about very little. She’s a lady
considerably advanced in years.
Ah. Nowadays that is no guarantee
of respectability of character.
– What number Belgrave Square?
– 149.
The unfashionable side.
I thought there was something.
However, that could easily be altered.
– The fashion or the side?
– Both, if necessary, I presume.
What are your politics?
Well, I’m afraid I really have none.
I am a liberal unionist.
They count as Tories. They dine with us,
or come in the evening, at any rate.
Now…to minor matters.
Are your parents living?
I have lost both my parents.
To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing,
might be regarded as a misfortune.
To lose both looks like carelessness.
Who was your father? He was evidently
a man of some wealth.
Was he born in what the radical papers
call the purple of commerce,
or did he rise from the ranks
of the aristocracy?
I’m afraid I really don’t know.
The fact is, Lady Bracknell,
I said I had lost my parents.
It would be nearer the truth to say that
my parents seem to have lost me.
I don’t actually know who I am by birth.
I was… Well, I was found.
Found?
Yes, the late Mr. Thomas Cardew,
an elderly gentleman
of a charitable disposition,
found me and gave me
the name of Worthing
because he had a first-class ticket for
Worthing in his pocket at the time.
Worthing is a place in Sussex.
It is a seaside resort.
And where did the charitable gentleman
who had a first-class ticket
for this seaside resort find you?
In a handbag.
A handbag?
Yes, I was in a handbag, Lady Bracknell.
A somewhat…large, black leather
handbag, with handles to it.
A very ordinary handbag, in fact.
In what locality did this Mr. James,
or Thomas Cardew come across
this ordinary handbag?
The cloakroom at Victoria Station. It was
given to him in mistake for his own.
– The cloakroom at Victoria Station?
– Yes. The Brighton line.
The line is immaterial.
Mr. Worthing,
I am bewildered
by what you have just told me.
To be born, or at any rate bred, in a
handbag, whether it had handles or not,
seems to me to display a contempt
for the ordinary decencies of family life
that reminds one of the worse excesses
of the French Revolution.
I presume you know what that
unfortunate movement led to?
As to the particular locality
in which the handbag was found,
a cloakroom at a railway station
might serve to conceal
a social indiscretion.
Indeed, has probably been used
for that purpose more than once,
but it could hardly be
regarded as an assured basis
for a recognized position
in good society.
May I ask you then what
you would advise me to do?
I need hardly say I would do anything
to ensure Gwendolen’s happiness.
I would strongly advise you,
Mr. Worthing,
to try and acquire some
relations as soon as possible.
And to make a definite effort
to produce, at any rate,
one parent of either sex,
before the season is quite over.
I don’t see how
I could possibly manage that.
I can produce the handbag now.
It is in my dressing room at home.
I think that should satisfy you,
Lady Bracknell.
Me, sir? What has it to do with me?
You can hardly imagine
that I and Lord Bracknell
would dream of allowing
our only daughter,
a girl brought up with the utmost care,
to marry into a cloakroom
and form an alliance with a parcel?
Kindly open the door for me, sir.
You will, of course, understand
that for the future there is to be
no communication whatsoever
between you and Miss Fairfax.
Good day to you, sir.
Good day, Lady Bracknell.
(Piano: ♪ The Wedding March)
For heaven’s sake, Algy!
Don’t play that ghastly tune!
– How idiotic you are.
– (Piano stops)
Didn’t it go off all right, old boy?
You mean Gwendolen refused you?
It is a way she has.
She is always refusing people.
I think it is most ill-natured of her.
Gwendolen is right as a trivet. As far as
she is concerned, we’re engaged.
Her mother is perfectly unbearable.
I’ve never met such a gorgon!
I don’t even know what a gorgon is like,
but I am sure Lady Bracknell is one.
She is a monster without being a myth,
which is rather unfair.
I beg your pardon, Algy.
I shouldn’t
talk about your aunt that way before you.
I love hearing relations abused. It is the
only thing that lets me put up with them.
Relations are a tedious pack without
the remotest knowledge of how to live,
nor the smallest instinct when to die.
– That is nonsense!
– It isn’t.
I won’t argue about it.
You always want to argue.
That is what things were made for.
Upon my word,
if I thought that, I’d shoot myself.
You don’t suppose there’s
much chance of Gwendolen
becoming like her mother
in about 150 years, do you, Algy?
All woman become like their mothers. It’s
their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.
– Is that clever?
– It is perfectly phrased.
And as true as any observation
in civilized life should be.
I am sick to death of cleverness.
Everybody is so clever. One can’t go
anywhere without meeting clever people.
The thing has become an absolute
nuisance. I wish we had a few fools left.
– We have.
– I’d like to meet them.
What do they talk about?
– About clever people, of course.
– What fools!
Did you tell Gwendolen about being
Ernest in town and Jack in the country?
My dear fellow,
the truth isn’t quite the sort of thing
one tells to a nice, sweet, refined girl.
What extraordinary ideas you have
about the way to behave to a woman.
The only way to behave to a woman
is to make love to her if she is pretty
– and to someone else if she is plain.
– Nonsense.
What about your brother,
the profligate Ernest?
By the end of the week
I shall have got rid of him.
I shall say he died in Paris of apoplexy.
People die suddenly of apoplexy,
don’t they?
Yes, but it’s hereditary, my clear fellow.
It runs in families.
You had better say a severe chill.
You are sure a chill isn’t hereditary
or anything of that kind?
Of course not.
Very well. Poor brother Ernest is carried
off in Paris suddenly by a severe chill.
– That gets rid of him.
– But I thought you said Miss Cardew
was too interested in brother Ernest?
Won’t she feel his loss a good deal?
Oh, that’s all right. Cecily is not,
I’m glad to say, a silly, romantic girl.
She has a capital appetite, goes on
walks, and pays no attention to lessons.
– I would rather like to see Cecily.
– I will take good care you never do.
She is excessively pretty
and only just 18.
Have you told Gwendolen you have an
excessively pretty ward who is just 18?
One doesn’t blurt these things
out to people.
Gwendolen and Cecily are certain
to be great friends.
I’ll bet you half an hour after they’ve met
they’ll be calling each other sister.
Women do that when they have called
each other things first.
Now, if we want a good table at Willie’s
we must go and dress. It is nearly seven.
– It always is.
– I’m hungry.
I never knew you when you weren’t.
– Miss Fairfax.
– Gwendolen, upon my word!
Kindly turn your back. I have something
to say to Mr. Worthing.
I don’t think I can allow this at all.
You always adopt
a strictly immoral attitude towards life.
– You are not old enough to do that.
– My own darling.
We may never marry.
From the expression on Mamma’s face,
we never shall.
Few parents pay any regard
to what their children say to them.
Respect for the young is fast dying out.
Whatever influence I had over Mamma,
I lost at the age of three.
But. Though she may prevent us
from becoming man and wife,
and I may marry someone else,
and marry often,
nothing that she can possibly do
can alter my eternal devotion to you.
Dear Gwendolen!
The story of your origin as related
by Mamma with unpleasing comments,
has naturally stirred
the deeper fibers of my nature.
Your Christian name
has an irresistible fascination.
The simplicity of your character makes
you exquisitely incomprehensible.
Your town address at The Albany I have.
What is your address in the country?
The Manor House,
Woolton, Hertfordshire.
There is a good postal service,
I suppose?
It may be necessary to do something
desperate. That requires consideration.
– I will communicate daily.
– My own one!
– How long are you here?
– Till Monday.
– Good. Algy, you may turn round now.
– Thanks, I’ve turned round already.
You may also ring the bell.
You will allow me see you
to your carriage?
– Certainly.
– I shall see Miss Fairfax out.
– A glass of sherry, Lane.
– Yes, sir.
– Tomorrow, Lane, I’m going Bunburying.
– Yes, sir?
I shall probably not be back till Monday.
Put up my dress clothes, smoking jacket
– and all the Bunbury suits.
– Yes, sir.
I hope tomorrow will be a fine day, Lane.
It never is, sir.
Lane, you are a perfect pessimist.
I do my best to give satisfaction, sir.
There is a sensible, intellectual girl.
The only girl I ever cared for in my life.
(Chuckles)
– What on earth are you so amused at?
– I’m anxious about Bunbury, that is all.
If you don’t take care, Bunbury will get
you into a serious scrape someday.
I love scrapes. They are the only things
that are never serious.
That is nonsense. Algy, you never talk
anything but nonsense.
Nobody ever does.
Cecily?
Cecily?
Surely such a utilitarian occupation
as the watering of flowers is rather
Moulton’s duty than yours,
especially at a moment when
intellectual pleasures await you.
Your German grammar is on the table.
Pray, open it at page 15.
We will repeat yesterday’s lesson.
But I don’t like German.
It isn’t at all a becoming language.
I know I look quite plain
after my German lesson.
You know how anxious your guardian is
that you improve yourself in every way.
He laid particular stress on your German
yesterday.
Indeed, he always lays stress on your
German when he is leaving for town.
Dear Uncle Jack is so very serious.
Sometimes he is so serious,
I think he cannot be quite well.
Your guardian enjoys the best of health,
and his demeanor is to be commended
in one so comparatively young.
I know no one who has a higher sense
of duty and responsibility.
I suppose that is why he often looks
bored when we three are together.
Cecily, I am surprised at you. Mr.
Worthing has many troubles in his life.
Idle merriment and triviality would be
out of place in his conversation.
You must remember his anxiety about
that unfortunate young man, his brother.
I wish Uncle Jack would allow that
unfortunate young man to come here.
We might have a good influence over
him, Miss Prism. I’m sure you would.
You know German, and geology. Things
of that kind influence a man very much.
I do not think I could affect a character
that, according to his own brother,
is irretrievably weak and vacillating.
Indeed, I am not sure
that I would desire to reclaim him.
I am not in favor of turning bad people
into good people at a moment’s notice.
As a man sows, so let him reap.
You must put away your diary, Cecily.
I don’t see why you keep one.
I keep a diary to enter
the wonderful secrets of my life.
If I didn’t write them down,
I should forget about them.
Memory, my dear, is the diary
we all carry about with us.
Yes, but it chronicles things that never
happened, and couldn’t have happened.
Memory is responsible for nearly all the
three-volume novels Moodie sends us.
Do not speak slightingly
of the three-volume novel, Cecily.
I wrote one myself in earlier days.
Did you really, Miss Prism?
How clever you are.
I hope it did not end happily.
I don’t like novels that end happily.
They depress me.
The good ended happily, the bad
unhappily. That is what fiction means.
I suppose so. But it seems very unfair.
Was your novel ever published?
Alas, no.
The manuscript unfortunately
was…abandoned.
I use the word
in the sense of lost or mislaid.
To your work, child.
These speculations are profitless.
But I see dear Dr Chasuble coming up
through the garden.
Oh, Dr Chasuble!
This is indeed a pleasure.
How are we this morning?
You are, I trust, well?
Miss Prism has been complaining
of a headache.
I think it would do her so much good
to have a stroll with you in the park.
– I have not mentioned a headache.
– No, dear Miss Prism, I know that.
But I felt you had a headache.
Indeed, I was thinking about that,
and not my German lesson,
when the rector came in.
– I hope, Cecily, you are not inattentive.
– Oh, I am afraid I am.
That is strange. Were I fortunate enough
to be Miss Prism’s pupil,
I would hang upon her lips.
I spoke metaphorically.
My metaphor was drawn from bees.
(Clears throat) Mr. Worthing, I suppose,
has not returned from town yet?
We do not expect him
till Monday afternoon.
He usually likes
to spend his Sunday in London.
He is not one of those
whose sole aim is enjoyment,
as, by all accounts,
that unfortunate brother seems to be.
But I must not disturb Egeria
and her pupil any longer.
Egeria? My name is Laetitia, Doctor.
A classical allusion merely,
drawn from the pagan authors.
I shall see you both,
no doubt, at evensong.
I think, dear Doctor,
I will take a stroll with you.
I find I have a headache
after all and a walk might do it good.
With pleasure, with pleasure.
We’ll go as far as the schools and back.
That would be delightful.
Cecily, you will read
your political economy in my absence.
The chapter on the fall
of the rupee you may omit.
It is somewhat too sensational.
Even these metallic problems
have their melodramatic side.
Horrid political economy.
Horrid geography.
Horrid, horrid German!
A Mr. Ernest Worthing has just
driven over from the station.
He has brought his luggage with him.
“Mr. Ernest Worthing, B4, The Albany.”
Uncle Jack’s brother. Did you tell him
Mr. Worthing was in town?
Yes, miss.
He seemed very much disappointed.
I mentioned that you and Miss Prism
were in the garden.
He said he was anxious to speak to you
privately for a moment.
Ask Mr. Ernest Worthing to come here.
Talk to the housekeeper
about a room for him.
Yes, miss.
I have never met a really
wicked person before.
I feel rather frightened.
I am so afraid he will look
just like everyone else.
He does.
You are my little cousin, Cecily, I’m sure.
You are under some mistake.
I am not little. In fact, I am more
than usually tall for my age.
But I am your cousin Cecily.
You, I see from your card, are Uncle
Jack’s brother, my cousin Ernest.
My wicked cousin Ernest.
I am not really wicked at all, cousin
Cecily. You mustn’t think that I am.
If you are not, then you have been
deceiving us in an inexcusable manner.
I hope you have not been
leading a double life,
pretending to be wicked
and being really good all the time.
That would be hypocrisy.
Oh. Well, of course I have
been rather reckless.
– I am glad to hear it.
– Now you mention it,
I have been very bad
in my own small way.
I don’t think you should
be proud of that,
though I’m sure
it must have been pleasant.
It’s pleasanter being here with you.
I can’t understand how you are here at
all. Uncle Jack won’t be back till Monday.
That is a disappointment. I am obliged
to go by first train on Monday morning.
I have a business appointment
that I am anxious…to miss.
Couldn’t you miss it
anywhere but in London?
No, the appointment is in London.
Well, I know, of course,
how important it is
not to keep a business engagement,
if one wants to retain any
sense of the beauty of life.
You had better wait
till Uncle Jack arrives.
He wants to talk about your emigrating.
– About my what?
– Your emigrating.
He has gone up to buy your outfit.
I certainly wouldn’t let Jack buy my
outfit. He has no taste in neckties at all.
You won’t require neckties.
Uncle Jack is sending you to Australia.
Australia? I’d sooner die.
He said at dinner on Wednesday
that you would have to choose between
this world, the next and Australia.
Well, the accounts I have
received of Australia
and the next world are not encouraging.
This world is good enough
for me, Cousin Cecily.
Yes, but are you good enough for it?
I am afraid I am not that.
That is why I want you to reform me.
You might make that your mission,
if you don’t mind.
I’m afraid I’ve no time this afternoon.
Would you mind
my reforming myself this afternoon?
It is rather quixotic of you.
But I think you should try.
– I will. I feel better already.
– You’re looking a little worse.
– That’s because I’m hungry.
– How thoughtless of me.
I should have remembered that when
one is going to lead an entirely new life,
one requires regular
and wholesome meals.
– Won’t you come in?
– Thank you.
Might I have a buttonhole first? I never
have any appetite unless I have one.
– A Marechal Niel?
– No, I’d sooner have a pink rose.
Why?
Because you are like
a pink rose, Cousin Cecily.
It can’t be right for you to talk like that.
Miss Prism never says such things.
Then Miss Prism
is a short-sighted old lady.
You are the prettiest girl I ever saw.
Miss Prism says that all
good looks are a snare.
They are a snare that every sensible man
would like to be caught in.
I don’t think I would care
to catch a sensible man.
I shouldn’t know
what to talk to him about.
You are too much alone,
dear Dr Chasuble.
You should get married.
A misanthrope I can understand,
a womanthrope, never!
Believe me, I do not deserve
so neologistic a phrase.
The precept as well as the practice
of the primitive church
was distinctly against matrimony.
That is obviously why the primitive
church has not lasted to the present day.
You do not seem to realize
that by persistently remaining single,
a man converts himself
into a permanent public temptation.
Men should be more careful. This very
celibacy leads weaker vessels astray.
But is a man not equally
attractive when married?
No married man is ever
attractive except to his wife.
And often, I’ve been told, not even to her.
That depends on the intellectual
sympathies of the woman.
Maturity can be depended on. Ripeness
can be trusted. Young women are green.
I spoke horticulturally.
My metaphor was drawn from fruits.
Where is Cecily?
Perhaps she followed us to the schools.
– (Miss Prism) Mr. Worthing!
– Mr. Worthing?
This is indeed a surprise. We did not
look for you till Monday afternoon.
I have returned sooner than expected.
Dr Chasuble, I hope you are well.
Dear Mr. Worthing, I trust the garb of woe
does not betoken a terrible calamity?
My brother.
– Shameful debts and extravagance?
– Still leading his life of pleasure?
Dead!
Your brother Ernest, dead?
Quite dead.
What a lesson for him.
I trust he will profit by it.
Mr. Worthing, I offer you
my sincere condolence.
You have the consolation of knowing
you were the most forgiving of brothers.
Poor Ernest. He had many faults,
but it is a sad, sad, blow.
Very sad indeed.
Were you with him at the end?
No, he died abroad.
In Paris, in fact.
I had a telegram last night from
the manager of the Grand Hotel.
Was the cause of death mentioned?
A severe chill, it seems.
As a man sows, so shall he reap.
Charity, dear Miss Prism, charity.
None of us are perfect. I myself am
peculiarly susceptible to drafts.
– Will the interment take place here?
– No!
He seems to have expressed
a desire to be buried in Paris.
In Paris? I fear that hardly points
to any serious state of mind at the last.
You would no doubt wish me
to make some slight allusion
to this tragic domestic
affliction next Sunday?
My sermon
on the manna in the wilderness
can be adapted to almost any occasion,
joyful, or in this case, distressing.
I have preached it
at harvests, confirmations,
days of humiliation, festival days.
The last time I delivered it was in
the cathedral as a charity sermon
for The Society For The Prevention
Of Discontent Among Upper Orders.
The bishop was much struck
by some of the analogies I drew.
Ah! That reminds me. You mentioned
christenings, I think, Dr Chasuble?
I suppose you know how
to christen all right?
I mean, you’re continually christening,
aren’t you?
It is, I regret to say, one of the rector’s
constant duties in this parish.
I’ve often spoken to the poorer classes
but they don’t know what thrift is.
But is there any particular infant
in whom you are interested?
– Your brother was unmarried?
– Oh, yes.
People who live entirely
for pleasure usually are.
But it is not for any child, dear doctor.
I am very fond of children.
No. The fact is,
I would like to be christened myself,
this afternoon,
if you’ve nothing better to do.
But surely, Mr. Worthing,
you’ve been christened.
I don’t remember anything about it.
Have you any grave
doubts on the subject?
I certainly intend to have.
Of course, I don’t know if the thing
would bother you in any way,
or if you think I’m too old.
Not at all. The sprinkling,
and, indeed, the immersion
of adults
is a perfectly canonical practice.
– Immersion?
– You need have no apprehensions.
Sprinkling is all that is necessary.
Our weather is so changeable.
What hour would you like it performed?
I might trot round about 5:00,
if that would suit you.
Perfectly. In fact, I have two similar
ceremonies to perform at that time.
A case of twins that occurred in one of
the outlying cottages on your estate.
Poor Jenkins, the carter,
a most hard-working man.
Oh. I don’t see much fun
in being christened with other babies.
That’s childish. Would half past five do?
Admirably, admirably.
And now, dear Mr. Worthing,
I will not intrude any longer
in a house of sorrow.
I would merely beg you not to be too
much bowed down by grief.
What seems to us bitter trials
are often blessings in disguise.
This seems to me a blessing of
an extremely obvious kind.
Uncle Jack!
I am pleased to see you back.
But what horrid clothes you’ve got on.
Do go and change them.
– Cecily!
– My child, my child.
What is the matter, Uncle? Look happy!
You look as if you had a toothache,
and I have got such a surprise for you.
Who do you think is in the dining room?
– Your brother!
– Who?
– Ernest. He arrived half an hour ago.
– What nonsense. I haven’t got a brother.
Don’t say that. However he behaved
in the past, he is still your brother.
You couldn’t be so heartless
as to disown him.
I’ll tell him to come out. You will shake
hands with him, won’t you?
These are very joyful tidings.
After we had been resigned to his loss,
his return seems peculiarly distressing.
My brother is in the dining room? I don’t
know what this is. It’s perfectly absurd.
Good heavens!
Brother John, I have come down
from town to tell you
that I am very sorry for all the trouble
I have given you,
and that I intend
to lead a better life in the future.
You are not going to refuse
your brother’s hand?
Nothing will induce me
to take his hand.
I think his coming down here
disgraceful. He knows why.
Uncle Jack, do be nice.
There is some good in everyone.
Ernest has just been telling me about
his poor invalid friend, Mr. Bunbury,
whom he goes to visit so often.
There must be much good
in one who is kind to an invalid,
and leaves the pleasures of London
to sit by a bed of pain.
He’s been talking about Bunbury.
He has told me all about Mr. Bunbury
and his terrible health.
I won’t have him talk to you
about Bunbury or anything else.
It is enough to drive one frantic.
I admit the faults were all on my side,
but I think brother John’s coldness to me
peculiarly painful.
I expected a more enthusiastic welcome,
considering
it is the first time I have come here.
If you don’t shake hands with Ernest,
I will never forgive you.
– Never forgive me?
– Never, never, never!
This is the last time I shall ever do it.
It is pleasant
to see so perfect a reconciliation.
You have done a beautiful
action today, dear child.
We must not be premature
in our judgments.
I feel very happy-
I beg your pardon, sir. There is
an elderly gentleman wishes to see you.
He has come in a cab
from the station.
– To see me?
– Yes, sir.
Parker and Gribsby, solicitors.
I don’t know them. Who are they?
– Ah. Better show him in, Merriman.
– Very good, sir.
Parker and Gribsby.
I wonder who they can be?
I expect they have come
about your friend Bunbury?
Perhaps Bunbury wishes you
to be executor of his will.
I hope, Ernest, you have
no outstanding accounts of any kind.
I haven’t any debts at all, dear Jack,
thanks to your generosity.
Mr. Gribsby.
– Mr. Ernest Worthing?
– This is Mr. Ernest Worthing.
Mr. Ernest Worthing of B4, The Albany?
Yes, that is my address.
I am very sorry, sir, but we have a writ of
attachment against you for 20 days
at the suit of the Savoy Hotel
Company limited
for 762 pounds,
14 shillings and tuppence.
– Against me?
– Yes, sir.
What perfect nonsense! I never dine
at the Savoy at my own expense.
I dine at Willie’s. It is more expensive.
I don’t owe a penny to them.
The summons is marked on the writ
as having been served on you
at the Albany on May the 27th.
Judgment was given in default
against you on June the 5th.
Since then, we have written to you
no less than 15 times without a reply.
In the interests of our clients
we had no option
but to order
the committal of your person.
What do you mean by committal?
I haven’t any intention of going away.
I am staying here for a week
with my brother.
If you imagine I am going up to town
the moment I arrive, you are mistaken.
I am merely a solicitor myself. I do not
employ personal violence of any kind.
The officer of the court, whose function
it is to seize the person of the debtor,
is waiting in the fly outside.
He has considerable
experience in these matters.
That is why we always employ him.
No doubt you prefer to pay the bill.
Pay it? How on earth
am I going to do that?
You don’t suppose I’ve got money?
No gentleman ever has any money.
My experience is that it is
usually relations who pay.
Jack, you really must settle this bill.
Kindly allow me to see
the particular items, Mr. Gribsby.
762 pounds, 14 shillings and
tuppence since last October.
I am bound to say I never saw such
reckless extravagance in all my life.
£762 for eating?
Far from Wordsworth’s
plain living and high thinking.
Do you consider
that I am in any way called upon
to pay this monstrous account
for my brother?
I am bound to say, I do not think so.
– This incarceration could be salutary.
– I am quite of your opinion.
How ridiculous.
You know perfectly well the bill is yours.
Mine?
This jest is out of place.
– It is effrontery.
– Never mind what he says.
This is the way he goes on. You mean
to say you are not Ernest Worthing,
residing at B4, The Albany?
I wonder, as you are at it,
you don’t deny being
my brother at all. Why don’t you?
I am not going to do that. It would be
absurd. Of course I’m your brother.
That is why you should pay this bill.
Time presses. We have to be at Holloway
not later than 4:00.
Or it is difficult to get in.
The rules are strict.
Holloway?
It is at Holloway that detentions
of this character take place always.
Will you come now, sir,
if it will not be inconvenient to you?
– Jack?
– Pray be firm, Mr. Worthing.
I am quite firm, and I don’t know what
weakness or deception of any kind is.
Uncle Jack! I think you have a little
money of mine, haven’t you?
Let me pay this bill. I wouldn’t like
your own brother to be in prison.
I couldn’t possibly let you pay it.
– It would be absurd.
– Then you will, won’t you?
Of course,
I am quite disappointed with him.
You won’t speak to him again,
Cecily, will you?
Certainly not. Unless he speaks to me
first. It would be rude not to answer him.
Mr. Gribsby,
I shall pay this bill for my brother.
It is the last bill I shall ever pay for him,
too. How much is it?
762 pounds, 14 and tuppence.
The cab will be
five-and-ninepence extra,
hired for the convenience of the client.
I must say I find this generosity
quite foolish.
The heart has its wisdom
as well as the head, Miss Prism.
Thank you.
– Good day.
– Good day.
I hope I shall have the pleasure
of meeting you again.
I sincerely hope not.
Quite so. Quite so.
We might leave the brothers together.
– Cecily, you will come with us.
– Certainly, Miss Prism.
You young scoundrel, Algy. You must
get out of this place as soon as possible.
I don’t allow any Bunburying here.
I have put Mr. Ernest’s things in the room
next to yours. I suppose that is all right?
– What?
– Mr. Ernest’s luggage. I unpacked it,
– and put it in the room next to yours.
– Luggage?
Three portmanteaus, a dressing case,
two hatboxes, a luncheon basket.
I am afraid I can’t stay
more than a week this time.
Order the dogcart at once.
– Mr. Ernest has been called back to town.
– Yes, sir.
What a fearful liar you are, Jack.
– I’ve not been called back to town at all.
– Your duty as a gentleman calls you.
My duty has never interfered
with my pleasures.
I can quite understand that.
Cecily is a darling.
You are not to talk of her. I don’t like it.
I don’t like your clothes. You look
ridiculous. Why don’t you change?
It is childish to be in deep mourning
for a man who is staying for a whole
week with you as a guest. It’s grotesque.
You are not staying with me as a guest
or anything. Leave by the 4:05 train.
I won’t leave when you’re in mourning.
It would be unfriendly.
If I were mourning you would stay.
I’d think it unkind if you didn’t.
– Will you go if I change my clothes?
– Yes.
If you don’t take too long. I never saw
anyone take so long with so little result.
That is better than being
always overdressed as you are.
If I am occasionally
a little overdressed,
I make up for it by being
always immensely overeducated.
Your vanity is ridiculous,
your conduct an outrage
and your presence in my garden absurd.
However, you have got to catch the 4:05
and I hope
you will have a pleasant journey to town.
This Bunburying, as you call it, has not
been a great success for you.
I think it has been a great success.
I am in love with Cecily,
and that is everything.
I promised Uncle
that I wouldn’t speak to you again,
unless you asked me
a question of some kind.
Cecily, mayn’t I stay to tea?
I wonder you can look me in the face.
I love looking you in the face.
Why did you try to put your horrid bill
on poor Uncle Jack?
I think that was inexcusable of you.
Where has Uncle Jack gone?
To order the dogcart for me.
He’s sending me away.
Then have we got to part?
I am afraid so. It is a very painful parting.
It is always painful to part from people
whom one has known briefly.
The absence of old friends
one can endure with equanimity.
But separation from anyone to whom
one has just met is unbearable.
Thank you.
The dogcart is at the door, sir.
It can wait, Merriman, for five minutes.
Yes, miss.
I hope I shall not offend you, Cecily,
if I state quite frankly and openly
that you seem to me to be in every way
the personification of perfection.
I think your frankness
does you great credit.
If you will allow me, I will copy
your remarks into my diary.
Do you keep a diary? May I look at it?
Oh, no. You see, it is simply
a very young girl’s record
of her own thoughts and impressions,
and meant for publication.
When it appears in volume form,
I hope you order a copy.
But pray, Ernest, don’t stop.
I delight in taking down from dictation.
I have reached absolute perfection.
You can go on. I am ready for more.
– (Clears throat)
– Don’t cough.
When one is dictating, one should
speak fluently and not cough.
Besides,
I don’t know how to spell a cough.
Cecily…
ever since I looked upon your wonderful
and incomparable beauty,
I have not merely been
your abject slave and servant,
but soaring upon the pinions
of a monstrous ambition,
I have dared to love you passionately…
Oh! Please say that all over again.
– Cecily, ever since I first
– I’ve got all that all right.
I have dared to love you wildly,
passionately, devotedly, hopelessly.
Hopelessly doesn’t seem
to make much sense, does it?
– Cecily…
– Is that the start of a new paragraph?
The dogcart is waiting, sir.
Tell it to come round
next week at the same hour.
Yes, sir.
Uncle Jack would be very annoyed
if he knew
you were staying till next week.
I don’t care about Jack. I don’t care for
anyone in the world but you.
I love you, Cecily.
You will marry me, won’t you?
You silly boy, of course. Why, we have
been engaged for the last six months.
For the last six months?
It will be exactly six months
on Thursday.
But how did we become engaged?
Ever since dear Uncle Jack
first confessed to us
that he had a younger brother
who was very wicked and bad,
you are the chief topic of conversation
between myself and Miss Prism.
A man who is much talked about
is always very attractive.
I daresay it was foolish of me,
but I fell in love with you, Ernest.
Darling!
But when was the engagement
actually settled?
On the 14th of February last. Worn out by
your entire ignorance of my existence,
I determined to end the matter
one way or the other,
and after a long struggle with myself,
I accepted you out here in the garden.
The next day, I bought this little ring
in your name, and this bangle
with a true-lovers’ knot
I promised you to wear.
Did I give you this?
It’s very pretty, isn’t it?
Yes, you’ve wonderfully good taste,
Ernest.
It’s the excuse I’ve always given
for your leading a bad life.
And this is the box in which
I keep all your clear letters.
My letters? But my own sweet Cecily,
I have never written you any letters.
You need hardly remind me of that,
Ernest.
I remember that I was forced
to write your letters for you.
I wrote three times a week
and sometimes oftener.
– Do let me read them, Cecily.
– They’d make you far too conceited.
The three
after I broke off the engagement
are so beautiful, and so badly spelt
that even now I can hardly read them
without crying a little.
– Was our engagement ever broken off?
– Of course it was.
On the 22nd of last March.
You can see the entry if you like.
“Today I broke off
my engagement with Ernest.
“I feel it is better to do so.
“The weather continues charming.”
But why on earth did you break it off?
Cecily, what had I done?
I had done nothing at all. I am very much
hurt to hear you broke it off
particularly when
the weather was charming.
It would hardly have been
a really serious engagement
if it hadn’t been
broken off at least once.
But I forgave you
before the week was out.
What a perfect angel you are, Cecily.
You dear, romantic boy.
But, Cecily, you’ll never break off
our engagement again?
I don’t think I could break it off
now that I’ve actually met you.
Besides, of course,
there is the question of your name.
Yes, of course.
You must not laugh at me, darling, but it
has always been a girlish dream of mine
to love someone
whose name was Ernest.
There is something in that name which
seems to inspire absolute confidence.
I pity a married woman
whose husband is not called Ernest.
Do you mean to say you could not love
me if I had some other name?
But what name?
Any name you like.
Algernon, for instance.
But I don’t like the name of Algernon.
Well, my own sweet, loving darling,
I can’t see why you object to Algernon.
It is not a bad name.
It is a rather aristocratic name.
Half of the chaps who get into
bankruptcy court are called it.
But seriously, Cecily, if my name
was Algy, couldn’t you love me?
I might respect you, Ernest.
I might admire your character,
but I fear that I should not be able
to give you my undivided attention.
Your rector here is,
I suppose, thoroughly experienced
in the ceremonials of the church?
Oh, yes. Dr Chasuble
is a most learned man.
He has never written a book, so you can
imagine how much he knows.
I must see him on important christening.
I mean, important business.
– Oh!
– I shan’t be away half an hour.
Considering we have been
engaged since February the 14th,
and that I only met you
today for the first time,
I think it is rather hard that you should
leave me for so long as half an hour.
– Couldn’t you make it 20 minutes?
– I’ll be back in no time.
What an impetuous boy he is.
I like his hair so much.
I must enter his proposal in my diary.
A Miss Fairfax has just called
to see Mr. Worthing.
On very important business, she states.
Isn’t Mr. Worthing in his library?
Mr. Worthing went over in the direction
of the rectory some time ago.
Pray ask the lady to come out here. Mr.
Worthing will be back soon. Bring tea.
Miss Fairfax.
I suppose one of the many good elderly
women associated with Uncle Jack
in some of his philanthropic
work in London.
I don’t quite like women who are
interested in philanthropic work.
I think it is so forward of them.
Miss Fairfax.
Pray, let me introduce myself to you.
My name is Cecily Cardew.
Cecily Cardew? What a very sweet name.
Something tells me we will be friends.
I like you already more than I can say.
My first impressions
of people are never wrong.
How nice of you to like me so much
after we have known each other
such a short time.
Pray sit down.
I may call you Cecily, may I not?
– With pleasure.
– Always call me Gwendolen, won’t you?
– If you wish.
– Then that is all quite settled,
is it not?
I hope so.
Perhaps this might be a favorable
opportunity for my mentioning who I am.
My father is Lord Bracknell.
You have never heard of Papa,
I suppose?
– I don’t think so.
– Outside the family circle,
Papa is entirely unknown.
I think that is quite as it should be.
The home seems to me to be
the proper sphere for the man.
And certainly once a man begins
to neglect his domestic duties,
he becomes painfully effeminate.
And I don’t like that.
It makes men so very attractive.
Cecily? Mamma, whose
views on education are remarkably strict,
has brought me up to be extremely
short-sighted. It is part of her system.
So do you mind my looking
at you through my glasses?
Not at all, Gwendolen.
I am very fond of being looked at.
You are here on a…short visit,
I suppose?
– Oh, no. I live here.
– Really?
Your mother, no doubt, or some
female relative of advanced years
resides here also?
– I have no mother, nor any relations.
– Indeed?
My guardian, with the assistance of Miss
Prism, has the task of looking after me.
– Your guardian?
– I am Mr. Worthing’s ward.
It is strange he never mentioned that he
had a ward. How very secretive of him.
He grows more interesting hourly.
I am not sure that the news inspires me
with feelings of unmixed delight.
I am very fond of you, Cecily.
I have liked you ever since I met you,
but I am bound to state that now I know
you are Mr. Worthing’s ward,
I cannot help
expressing a wish that you were, well,
just a little older than you seem to be,
and not quite so alluring in appearance.
If I may speak candidly…
Whenever one has anything unpleasant
to say, one should be candid.
Well…
To speak with perfect candor, Cecily,
I wish that you were fully 42 and
more than usually plain for your age.
Ernest has a strong, upright nature.
He is the very soul of truth and honor.
Disloyalty is as impossible to him
as deception.
But even men of the noblest
possible moral character
are extremely susceptible to the
influence of physical charms of others.
Modern, no less than ancient history
supplies us with many most painful
examples of what I refer to.
If it were not so, indeed, history
would be quite unreadable.
– I beg your pardon. Did you say Ernest?
– Yes.
But it is not Mr. Ernest
Worthing who is my guardian.
It is his brother, his elder brother.
Ernest never mentioned to me
that he had a brother.
I am sorry to say they have not been
on good terms for a while.
Oh. Oh, well, that accounts for it.
I have never heard
any man mention his brother.
The subject seems distasteful
to most men.
Cecily, you have lifted
a load from my mind.
I was growing anxious.
It would have been terrible if a cloud
had come across a friendship like ours.
Of course, you are quite, quite sure
that it is not Mr. Ernest Worthing
who is your guardian?
Quite sure. In fact, I am going to be his.
I beg your pardon?
There is no reason why
I should make a secret of it to you.
Our little country newspaper
is sure to chronicle the fact next week.
Mr. Ernest Worthing and I
are engaged to be married.
My darling Cecily,
I feel there must be some slight error.
Mr. Ernest Worthing is engaged to me.
The announcement will appear in the
Morning Post on Saturday at the latest.
I’m afraid
you must be under some misconception.
Ernest proposed to me
exactly ten minutes ago.
It is certainly very curious, for he asked
me to be his wife yesterday at 5:30.
If you would care to verify
the incident, pray do so.
I never travel without my diary.
One should always have something
sensational to read in the train.
I am so sorry, dear Cecily,
if it is any disappointment to you,
but I’m afraid I have the prior claim.
It would distress me
more than I can tell you,
dear Gwendolen, if it caused you
any mental or physical anguish,
but I feel bound to point out
that since Ernest proposed to you,
he has clearly changed his mind.
If the poor boy has been
entrapped into any foolish promise,
I shall consider it my duty to rescue him
at once, and with a firm hand.
Whatever unfortunate entanglement
my dear boy may have got into,
I will never reproach him
with it after we are married.
Do you allude to me, Miss Cardew, as an
entanglement? You are presumptuous.
On an occasion of this kind
it becomes more than a moral duty
to speak one’s mind,
it becomes a pleasure.
Do you suggest, Miss Fairfax, that I
entrapped Ernest into an engagement?
How dare you? This is no time for
wearing the shallow mask of manners.
When I see a spade, I call it a spade.
I am glad to say
I have never seen a spade.
It is obvious our social spheres
have been different.
Shall I lay tea here as usual, miss?
Yes, as usual.
Are there many interesting walks
in the vicinity, Miss Cardew?
Oh, yes, a great many.
From the top of one of the hills
one can see five counties.
Five counties!
I don’t think I like that. I hate crowds.
I suppose that is why you live
in the town?
Quite a well-kept garden
this is, Miss Cardew.
So glad you like it, Miss Fairfax.
I had no idea there were
any flowers in the country.
Flowers are as common here,
Miss Fairfax, as people are in London.
I cannot understand how anybody
manages to exist in the country,
if anybody who is anybody does.
The country always bores me to death.
Ah, this is what the newspapers call
“agricultural depression,” is it not?
I believe the aristocracy are suffering
very much from it.
It is almost an epidemic amongst them.
May I offer you some tea, Miss Fairfax?
Thank you.
Detestable girl! But I require tea!
– Sugar?
– No, thank you.
Sugar is not fashionable any more.
Cake, or bread and butter?
(Giggles)
Bread and butter, please. Cake is rarely
seen at the best houses nowadays.
Hand that to Miss Fairfax.
You have filled my tea
with lumps of sugar,
and though I asked most distinctly for
bread and butter, you gave me cake.
I am known for the gentleness
of my disposition,
and the extraordinary
sweetness of my nature,
but I warn you, Miss Cardew,
you may go too far.
To save my poor, innocent trusting boy
from the machinations of any other girl
there are no lengths I would not go.
From the moment I saw you I distrusted
you. I felt you were false and deceitful.
I am never deceived in such matters.
My first impressions of people are right.
It seems to me, Miss Fairfax, that I am
trespassing on your valuable time.
No doubt you have many calls of similar
character to make in the neighborhood.
Ernest!
– My own Ernest!
– Gwendolen, darling!
A moment.
May I ask if you are engaged to be
married to this…young lady?
To clear little Cecily? Of course not!
What could have put such an idea
in your pretty little head?
Thank you. You may.
I knew there must be
some misunderstanding.
The gentleman whose arm is round your
waist is my guardian, Mr. John Worthing.
– I beg your pardon?
– This is Uncle Jack.
Jack! Oh!
– Here is Ernest.
– My own love.
A moment, Ernest. May I ask you…
Are you engaged
to be married to this young lady?
To what young…
Good heavens, Gwendolen!
Yes, to Good Heavens Gwendolen.
– I mean, to Gwendolen?
– Of course not.
What could have put such an idea
into your pretty head?
Thank you. You may.
I felt there must be some slight error,
Miss Cardew.
The gentleman who is now
embracing you is my cousin,
Mr. Algernon Moncrieff.
Algernon Moncrieff?
Oh! Are you called Algernon?
– I cannot deny it.
– Oh!
Is your name really…John?
I could deny it if I liked.
I could deny anything if I liked.
But my name certainly is John.
It’s been John for years.
A gross deception has been
practiced on both of us.
My poor, wounded Cecily!
My sweet, wronged Gwendolen!
You will call me sister, will you not?
There is just one question I should like
to be allowed to ask my guardian.
An admirable idea! Mr. Worthing,
there is just one question I would like
to be permitted to put to you.
Where is your brother Ernest?
We are both engaged to be
married to your brother,
so it is a matter of importance to us to
know where your brother is at present.
Gwendolen, Cecily,
it is very painful for me
to be forced to speak the truth.
It is the first time in my life that I have
been reduced to such a painful position,
and I am really quite inexperienced
in doing anything of the kind.
However, I will tell you quite frankly
I have no brother Ernest.
I have no brother at all.
I have never had a brother, and I have
certainly not the smallest intention
of ever having one in the future.
– No brother at all?
– None.
– Never a brother of any kind?
– Never, not even of any kind.
I am afraid it is quite clear, Cecily,
that neither of us is engaged
to be married to anyone.
Not a very pleasant position for a girl to
suddenly find herself in, is it?
Let us go into the house. They will hardly
venture to come after us there.
No. Men are so cowardly, aren’t they?
This ghastly state of things is what you
call Bunburying, I suppose?
Yes, and a perfectly wonderful
Bunbury it is, too.
The most wonderful Bunbury
I have ever had in my life.
You have no right.
One has a right
to Bunbury anywhere one chooses.
– Every serious Bunburyist knows that.
– Serious Bunburyist?
One must be serious about something
if one wants to have amusement.
As for your conduct
towards Miss Cardew,
I must say your taking in a sweet, simple,
innocent girl like that is inexcusable.
To say nothing of the fact
that she is my ward.
I see no defense for your deceiving
a brilliant, clever lady like Miss Fairfax.
And she’s my cousin.
I wanted to be engaged
to Gwendolen. I love her.
I simply wanted to be engaged
to Cecily. I adore her.
There is no chance
of your marrying Miss Cardew.
There isn’t much likelihood
of you and Miss Fairfax.
– That is no business of yours.
– Don’t talk about it.
It is very vulgar. Stockbrokers do that,
and then merely at dinner parties.
How you sit there, eating muffins, when
we are in this trouble, I can’t make out.
You seem to be perfectly heartless.
I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner.
The butter would get on my cuffs.
I am eating muffins because I am
unhappy. Besides, I am fond of muffins.
That is no reason why you should
eat them in that greedy way.
I wish you would have teacake.
I don’t like it.
A man may eat his own
muffins in his own garden.
You said it was perfectly heartless.
I said it was heartless under the
circumstances. That is a different thing.
That may be,
but the muffins are the same.
I wish to goodness you would go.
You can’t ask me to go without dinner.
It’s absurd. I never go without it.
No one does, except vegetarians.
You never talk anything but nonsense.
– You are at the muffins again!
– I asked you to go. I don’t want you here.
I haven’t finished my tea.
And there is still one muffin left.
(Sighs) The fact that they
did not follow us into the house
as anyone else would have done, seems
to show that they a sense of shame left.
They have been eating muffins.
That looks like repentance.
They don’t seem to notice us at all.
– Couldn’t you cough?
– But I haven’t got a cough.
They’re looking at us. What effrontery!
They’re approaching.
That’s very forward of them.
Let us preserve a dignified silence.
Certainly.
It is the only thing to do now.
(Men whistle)
This dignified silence seems
to produce an unpleasant effect.
– Distasteful.
– But we will not be the first to speak.
– Certainly not.
– Mr. Worthing!
I have something very particular to ask
you. Much depends on your reply.
Gwendolen,
your common sense is invaluable.
Mr. Moncrieff,
kindly answer me the following question.
Why did you pretend to be
my guardian’s brother?
In order that I might have
an opportunity of meeting you.
That certainly seems
a satisfactory explanation,
Yes, dear, if you can believe him.
I don’t, but that does not affect
the wonderful beauty of his answer.
True. In matters of grave importance,
style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.
Mr. Worthing, what explanation can you
offer for pretending to have a brother?
Was it in order
that you might have an opportunity
of coming up to town to see me?
Can you doubt it, Miss Fairfax?
I have the gravest doubt. But this is not
the moment for German skepticism.
Their explanations appear to be quite
satisfactory, especially Mr. Worthing’s.
That seems to me to have
the stamp of truth upon it.
I am more than content
with what Mr. Moncrieff said.
His voice alone inspires one
with absolute credulity.
– You think we should forgive them?
– Yes.
– I mean, no!
– True. I had forgotten.
There are principles at stake
one cannot surrender.
– Which of us should tell them?
– Could we speak at the same time?
An excellent idea! I nearly always speak
at the same time as other people.
– Take the time from me?
– Certainly.
(Both) your Christian names are still
an insuperable barrier. That is all.
(Both) Our Christian names! Is that all?
We will be christened this afternoon.
For my sake, you are prepared to do
this terrible thing?
I am!
To please me you are ready
to face this fearful ordeal?
I am.
How absurd to talk
of the equality of the sexes!
Where questions of self-sacrifice are
concerned, men are infinitely beyond us.
We are.
They have moments of physical courage
of which we women know nothing.
– Darling!
– (Both men) Darling!
– Ahem, ahem! Lady Bracknell!
– Good heavens!
Gwendolen, what does this mean?
Merely that I am engaged
to be married to Mr. Worthing.
Come here.
Sit down. Sit down immediately.
Hesitation is a sign of mental decay in
the young, physical weakness in the old.
Apprised, sir, of my daughter’s sudden
flight by her trusty maid,
whose confidence I purchased
by means of a small coin,
I followed her at once by luggage train.
Her unhappy father is, I am glad to say,
under the impression
she is attending a lengthy lecture
by the university extension scheme
on the influence of a permanent income
on thought.
I do not propose to undeceive him.
I have never undeceived him on any
question. I would consider it wrong.
But of course, you understand
that all communication between yourself
and my daughter
must cease immediately
from this moment.
On this point, as indeed on all points,
I am firm.
I am engaged to be married
to Gwendolen.
You are nothing of the kind, sir.
And now, as regards Algernon…
– Algernon?
– Yes, Aunt Augusta.
May I ask if it is in this house that your
invalid friend Mr. Bunbury resides?
Bunbury doesn’t live here.
He is somewhere else at present.
– In fact, Bunbury is dead.
– Dead? When did Mr. Bunbury die?
His death must have been sudden.
I killed Bunbury this afternoon. I mean,
poor Bunbury died this afternoon.
– What did he die of?
– Bunbury? He was quite exploded.
Exploded? Was he the victim
of a revolutionary outrage?
I was not aware that Mr. Bunbury was
interested in social legislation.
If so, he is well punished
for his morbidity.
My dear Aunt, I mean he was found out.
The doctors found out he could not live,
That’s what I mean.
So poor Bunbury died.
He seems to have had great confidence
in the opinion of his physicians.
I am glad, however,
that he made up his mind
at the last to some
definite course of action,
and acted under proper medical advice.
And now that we have
finally got rid of this Mr. Bunbury,
may I ask, Mr. Worthing,
who is that young person
whose hand my nephew Algernon
is now holding in what seems to be
a peculiarly unnecessary manner?
That lady is Miss Cecily Cardew,
my ward.
I am engaged to be married to Cecily,
Aunt Augusta.
I beg your pardon?
Mr. Moncrieff and I are
engaged to be married.
I do not know if there is anything
peculiarly exciting in the air
in this particular part of Hertfordshire,
but the number of engagements seem
to me considerably above the average
that statistics
have laid down for our guidance.
I think some preliminary inquiry on my
part would not be out of place.
Mr. Worthing?
Is Miss Cardew at all connected with any
of the larger railway stations in London?
I merely desire information.
Until yesterday, I had no idea that there
were any families or persons
whose origin was a terminus.
Miss Cardew is the granddaughter
of the late Mr. Thomas Cardew
of 149 Belgrave Square, SW.
Gervase Park, Dorking, Surrey,
and the Sporran, Fifeshire, NB.
That sounds not unsatisfactory.
Three addresses always inspire
confidence, even in tradesmen.
What proof have I of their authenticity?
I have carefully preserved
the court guides of the period.
– They are open to your inspection.
– I have known errors in that publication.
Miss Cardew’s solicitors,
Markby, Markby, and Markby.
Markby, Markby, and Markby?
A firm of the very highest
position in their profession.
I am told that one of the Markby’s is
occasionally to be seen at dinner parties.
– So far, I am satisfied.
– How extremely kind of you.
I have also in my possession
certificates of
Miss Cardew’s whooping cough,
registration, vaccination,
confirmation, and the measles,
Both the English and German variety.
Ahh, a life crowded with incident, I see.
Though perhaps somewhat
too exciting for a young girl.
I am not myself in favor
of premature experiences.
Gwendolen, the time approaches
for our departure.
We have not a moment to lose.
As a matter of form, Mr. Worthing,
I had better ask you if Miss Cardew
has any little fortune?
Oh, about £130,000 in the funds.
That is all.
Goodbye, Lady Bracknell.
So pleased to have seen you!
A moment, Mr. Worthing.
£130,000?
And in the funds?
Miss Cardew seems to be an attractive
young lady, now that I look at her.
Few girls of the present clay
have any really solid qualities,
any of the qualities that last,
and improve with time.
We live, I regret to say, in an age
of surfaces. Come over here, dear.
Pretty child.
Your dress is sadly simple,
and your hair seems almost as nature
might have left it.
But we can soon alter all that.
An experienced French maid produces a
marvelous result in a brief space of time.
I remember recommending one
to young Lady Lansing,
and after three months, her own
husband did not know her.
And after six months nobody knew her.
Kindly turn around, sweet child.
No, the side view is what I want.
Yes, quite as I expected.
There are distinct social possibilities
in your profile.
Two weak points in our age are its want
of principle and its want of profile.
Chin a little higher, clear. Style largely
depends on how the chin is worn.
They are worn very high,
just at present. Algernon?
Yes, Aunt Augusta.
There are distinct social possibilities in
Miss Cardew’s profile.
Cecily is the sweetest, dearest, prettiest
girl in the whole world,
and I don’t care tuppence
for social possibilities.
Never speak disrespectfully
of society, Algernon.
Only people who can’t get into it do that.
Dear child.
You know that Algernon has nothing
but debts to depend upon.
And I generally do not approve of mercenary marriages.
When I married Lord Bracknell,
I had no fortune of any kind.
But I never dreamt for a moment of
allowing that to stand in my way.
Well, I suppose I must give my consent.
Thank you, Aunt Augusta.
– Cecily, you may kiss me.
– Thank you, Lady Bracknell.
You may also address me
as Aunt Augusta for the future.
Thank you, Aunt Augusta.
The marriage, I think,
had better take place quite soon.
– Thank you, Aunt Augusta.
– Thank you.
Frankly, I am not in favor
of long engagements.
They allow you to find out
each other’s character before marriage,
which is never advisable.
I beg pardon for interrupting, but this
engagement is out of the question.
I am Miss Cardew’s guardian. She cannot
marry until she comes of age.
That consent I absolutely
decline to give.
Upon what grounds, may I ask?
Algernon is an extremely, I might say
an ostentatiously eligible young man.
He has nothing, but he looks everything.
What more can one desire?
It pains me very much to have to speak
frankly to you, Lady Bracknell,
about your nephew, but the fact is I do
not approve at all of his moral character.
– I suspect him of being untruthful.
– Untruthful?
My nephew Algernon?
Impossible! He is an Oxonian.
This afternoon during
my temporary absence in London
on an important question of romance,
he obtained admission to my house
by means of the false pretense
of being my brother.
Under an assumed name he drank,
I’ve just been informed by my butler,
An entire pint of my Perrier-Janet Brut ’88,
a wine I was especially
reserving for myself.
Continuing his deception,
he succeeded over the afternoon
in alienating the affections
of my only ward.
He subsequently stayed to tea,
and devoured every single muffin.
What makes his conduct more heartless
is that he was well aware from the first
that I have no brother,
that I never had a brother,
and that I don’t intend
to have a brother, not even of any kind.
I distinctly told him so
myself this afternoon.
(Clears throat)
After careful consideration,
I have decided to overlook
my nephew’s conduct to you.
That is extremely generous of you.
However, my decision remains
unalterable. I decline to give my consent.
Sweet child, come here.
How old are you?
Well, I am really only 18, but I always
admit to 20 when I go to evening parties.
You are perfectly right in making some
slight alteration.
No woman should ever be accurate
about her age. It looks so calculating.
18, but admitting to 20
at evening parties.
It will not be long before you are of age
and free from the restraints of tutelage.
So I don’t think your guardian’s consent
is after all, a matter of any importance.
Pray, excuse me
for interrupting you again,
but it is only fair to say that according
to the terms of her grandfather’s will,
Miss Cardew does not come
legally of age till she is 35.
That does not seem to me to be a grave
objection. 35 is a very attractive age.
London is full of women
of the very highest birth
who have, of their own free choice,
remained 35 for years.
Lady Dumbleton is an instance in point.
She has been 35 ever since she arrived
at the age of 40, many years ago.
I see no reason why our clear Cecily
should not be even still more attractive
at the age you mention
than she is at present.
There will be a large
accumulation of property.
Algy, could you wait for me till I was 35?
Of course I could, Cecily.
Yes, I felt it instinctively,
but I couldn’t wait all that time.
I hate waiting even five minutes for
anybody. It always makes me cross.
I am not punctual myself,
but I do like punctuality in others,
and waiting, even to be married,
is out of the question.
– Then what is to be done, Cecily?
– I don’t know, Mr. Moncrieff.
My dear Mr. Worthing, as Miss Cardew
states that she cannot wait till she is 35,
a remark which I am bound to say seems
to me to show an impatient nature,
I would beg of you
to reconsider your decision.
But, my dear Lady Bracknell, the matter
is entirely in your own hands.
The moment you consent
to my marriage,
I will most gladly allow your nephew
to form an alliance with my ward.
You must be quite aware that what you
propose is out of the question.
Then a passionate celibacy is all that any
of us can look forward to.
That is not the destiny
I propose for Gwendolen.
Algernon, of course,
can choose for himself.
Come, dear.
We have already missed five,
if not six, trains.
To miss any more might expose us
to comment on the platform.
Everything is ready for the christenings.
The christenings, sir?
Is that not somewhat premature?
Both these gentlemen have expressed
a desire for immediate baptism.
At their age?
The idea is grotesque and irreligious!
Algernon, I forbid you to be baptized.
I will not hear of such excesses.
Lord Bracknell would be displeased
if he learned that that was the way
in which you wasted time and money.
Am I to understand then that there are
to be no christenings this afternoon?
I don’t think as things are now
it would be of much value
to either of us, Dr Chasuble.
I am grieved to hear such sentiments
from you.
They savor of the heretical
views of the anabaptists,
views that I have completely refuted
in four of my unpublished sermons.
However, as your present mood seems
to be secular, I return to the church.
Indeed, I have
just been informed by the pew opener
that for the last hour and a half Miss
Prism has been waiting in the vestry.
Miss Prism?
Did I hear you mention a Miss Prism?
Yes, Lady Bracknell.
I am on my way to join her.
Pray, allow me
to detain you for a moment.
This matter may prove to be one of vital
importance to Lord Bracknell and myself.
Is she a female of repellent aspect,
remotely connected with education?
She is the most cultivated of ladies,
and the very picture of respectability.
It is obviously the same person.
May I ask what position she holds
in your household?
I am a celibate, madam.
Miss Prism has been
for the last three years
Miss Cardew’s esteemed governess
and valued companion.
In spite of what I hear of her, I must
see her at once. Let her be sent for.
She approaches.
She is nigh.
I was told you expected me
in the vestry.
I have been waiting
for you for an hour and three-quarters.
Prism!
Come here, Prism.
Prism, where is that baby?
28 years ago, Prism,
you left Lord Bracknell’s house,
number 104 Grosvenor Square,
in charge of a perambulator
that contained a baby of the male sex.
You never returned.
A few weeks later, through investigations
of the Metropolitan Police,
the perambulator was discovered
at midnight standing by itself
in a remote corner of Bayswater.
It contained the manuscript
of a three-volume novel
of more than usually revolting
sentimentality.
But the baby was not there.
Prism, where is that baby?
Lady Bracknell, I admit with shame
that I do not know. I only wish I did.
The plain facts of the case are these:
on the morning of the day you mention,
a day that is forever
branded on my memory,
I prepared as usual
to take the baby out in its perambulator.
I had also with me
a somewhat old, but capacious handbag,
in which I intended to place a manuscript
of a work of fiction I had written
during my few unoccupied hours.
In a moment of mental abstraction,
for which I never can forgive myself,
I deposited the manuscript
in the bassinette,
and placed the baby in the handbag.
– Where did you deposit the handbag?
– Do not ask me, Mr. Worthing.
Miss Prism, this is a matter
of no small importance to me.
I insist on knowing where you deposited
the handbag with that infant.
I left it in the cloakroom of one of
the larger railway stations in London.
– What railway station?
– Victoria. The Brighton line.
I must retire to my room for a moment.
Gwendolen, wait here for me.
If you are not too long,
I will wait for you all my life.
What do you think this means?
I dare not even suspect, Dr Chasuble.
I need hardly tell you that in families
of high position
strange coincidences
are not supposed to occur.
They are hardly considered the thing.
(Banging)
– Uncle Jack seems strangely agitated.
– Your guardian has an emotional nature.
This noise is extremely unpleasant.
It sounds as if
he was having an argument.
I dislike arguments of any kind.
They are always vulgar,
and often convincing.
It has stopped now.
(Bang)
I wish he would
arrive at some conclusion.
This suspense is terrible.
I hope it will last.
Is this the bag, Miss Prism? Examine it
carefully before you speak.
The happiness of more than one life
depends on your answer.
It seems to be mine.
Yes!
Here is the injury it received through
the upsetting of a Gower Street omnibus
in younger and happier days.
Here is the stain on the lining caused by
the explosion of a temperance beverage,
an incident that occurred at Leamington.
And here, on the lock, are my initials.
I forgot that in an extravagant mood
I placed them there. The bag is mine.
I am delighted to have it so
unexpectedly restored to me.
It has been a great inconvenience
being without it.
Miss Prism, more to you is restored
than this handbag.
– I was the baby you placed in it.
– You?
– Yes… Mother!
– Mr. Worthing, I am unmarried!
Unmarried?
I do not deny, that is a serious blow,
but after all, who has the right to cast
a stone against one who has suffered?
Cannot repentance
wipe out an act of folly?
Why should there be one law for men,
one for women? Mother, I forgive you.
Mr. Worthing, there is some error.
There is the lady
who can tell you who you really are.
Lady Bracknell, I hate to seem inquisitive
but would you kindly inform me
who I am?
I am afraid the news I have to give you
will not altogether please you.
You are the son of my poor sister,
Mrs. Moncrieff,
and consequently,
Algernon’s elder brother.
Algernon’s elder brother?
Algernon’s elder brother?
Then I have a brother after all!
I always said I had a brother!
I knew I had a brother!
Cecily, how could you
have doubted I had a brother?
Dr Chasuble, my unfortunate brother!
Miss Prism, my unfortunate brother!
Gwendolen, my unfortunate brother!
Algy, you will have to treat me with more
respect in the future.
You have never behaved
to me like a brother.
Not till today, I admit. However, I did
my best, though I was out of practice.
MY Own!
But what own are you?
What is your Christian name, now that
you have become someone else?
Oh, God!
I had quite forgotten that point.
Your decision on the subject of my name
is irrevocable?
I never change, except in my affections.
What a noble nature you have,
Gwendolen.
Then the question
had better be cleared up at once.
Aunt Augusta?
A moment.
At the time when Miss Prism left me in
the handbag, had I been christened?
Every luxury money could buy, including
christening, had been lavished on you
– by your fond and doting parents.
– Then I had been christened!
That is settled now.
What name was I given?
Let me know the worst.
Being the eldest son you were naturally
christened after your father.
Yes? What was my father’s
Christian name?
I cannot at the moment recall what
the General’s Christian name was.
I have no doubt he had one. He was
eccentric, I admit. But only in later years.
And that was the result
of the Indian climate, and marriage,
and indigestion,
and other things of that kind.
Algy, can’t you recollect what
our father’s Christian name was?
My dear boy, we weren’t on speaking
terms. He died before I was a year.
Miss…
His name would appear in the army lists
of the period, I suppose, Aunt Augusta?
The General was essentially a man of
peace, except in his domestic life.
But I have no doubt his name would
appear in any military directory.
The army lists of the last
40 years are here.
These delightful records should have
been my constant study.
M… Generals.
Mallam, Maxbohm, Magley…
What ghastly names they have.
Markby, Migsby, Mobbs,
Moncrieff. Lieutenant, 1840…
Captain. Lieutenant-Colonel, Colonel…
General. 1869…
Christian names: Ernest, John.
(Gasps)
I always told you, Gwendolen,
my name was Ernest, didn’t I?
Well, it is Ernest after all.
It naturally is Ernest.
Yes, I remember now that the General
was called Ernest.
I knew I had some particular reason
for disliking the name.
Ernest! My own Ernest! I felt from
the first you could have no other name.
It is a terrible thing for a man to find out
he has spoken nothing but the truth.
– Can you ever forgive me?
– I can, for I feel you are sure to change.
My own one!
I come to the conclusion the primitive
church was in error on certain points.
Miss Prism. Laetitia.
I beg to solicit the honor of your hand.
Frederick!
At last!
Cecily, at last!
Gwendolen, at last!
My nephew, you seem to be displaying
signs of triviality.
On the contrary, Aunt Augusta.
I’ve now realized for the first time in my
life the vital importance of being earnest.

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