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◈ The Importance of Being Earnest (진지함의 중요성) ◈

◇ FIRST ACT ◇

해설목차  서문  1권 2권  3권  1895년
오스카 와일드 (Oscar Wilde)
목 차   [숨기기]
 1. FIRST ACT

1. FIRST ACT

0
SCENE
1
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.
 
2
[Lane is arranging afternoon tea on the table, and after the music has ceased, Algernon enters.]
 
3
Algernon.Did you hear what I was playing, Lane?
 
4
Lane.I didn’t think it polite to listen, sir.
 
5
Algernon.I’m sorry for that, for your sake. I don’t play accuratelyany one can play accuratelybut I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life.
 
6
Lane.Yes, sir.
 
7
Algernon.And, speaking of the science of Life, have you got the cucumber sandwiches cut for Lady Bracknell?
 
8
Lane.Yes, sir.[Hands them on a salver.]
 
9
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.
 
10
Lane.Yes, sir; eight bottles and a pint.
 
11
Algernon.Why is it that at a bachelor’s establishment the servants invariably drink the champagne? I ask merely for information.
 
12
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 first-rate brand.
 
13
Algernon.Good heavens! Is marriage so demoralising as that?
 
14
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.
 
15
Algernon.[Languidly.]I don’t know that I am much interested in your family life, Lane.
 
16
Lane.No, sir; it is not a very interesting subject. I never think of it myself.
 
17
Algernon.Very natural, I am sure. That will do, Lane, thank you.
 
18
Lane.Thank you, sir.[Lane goes out.]
 
19
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 responsibility.
 
20
[Enter Lane.]
 
21
Lane.Mr. Ernest Worthing.
 
22
[Enter Jack.]
 
23
[Lane goes out.]
 
24
Algernon.How are you, my dear Ernest? What brings you up to town?
 
25
Jack.Oh, pleasure, pleasure! What else should bring one anywhere? Eating as usual, I see, Algy!
 
26
Algernon.[Stiffly.]I believe it is customary in good society to take some slight refreshment at five o’clock. Where have you been since last Thursday?
 
27
Jack.[Sitting down on the sofa.]In the country.
 
28
Algernon.What on earth do you do there?
 
29
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 excessively boring.
 
30
Algernon.And who are the people you amuse?
 
31
Jack.[Airily.]Oh, neighbours, neighbours.
 
32
Algernon.Got nice neighbours in your part of Shropshire?
 
33
Jack.Perfectly horrid! Never speak to one of them.
 
34
Algernon.How immensely you must amuse them![Goes over and takes sandwich.]By the way, Shropshire is your county, is it not?
 
35
Jack.Eh? Shropshire? Yes, of course. Hallo! Why all these cups? Why cucumber sandwiches? Why such reckless extravagance in one so young? Who is coming to tea?
 
36
Algernon.Oh! merely Aunt Augusta and Gwendolen.
 
37
Jack.How perfectly delightful!
 
38
Algernon.Yes, that is all very well; but I am afraid Aunt Augusta won’t quite approve of your being here.
 
39
Jack.May I ask why?
 
40
Algernon.My dear fellow, the way you flirt with Gwendolen is perfectly disgraceful. It is almost as bad as the way Gwendolen flirts with you.
 
41
Jack.I am in love with Gwendolen. I have come up to town expressly to propose to her.
 
42
Algernon.I thought you had come up for pleasure? . . . I call that business.
 
43
Jack.How utterly unromantic you are!
 
44
Algernon.I really don’t see anything romantic in proposing. It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why, one may be accepted. One usually is, I believe. Then the excitement is all over. The very essence of romance is uncertainty. If ever I get married, I’ll certainly try to forget the fact.
 
45
Jack.I have no doubt about that, dear Algy. The Divorce Court was specially invented for people whose memories are so curiously constituted.
 
46
Algernon.Oh! there is no use speculating on that subject. Divorces are made in Heaven[Jack puts out his hand to take a sandwich. Algernon at once interferes.]Please don’t touch the cucumber sandwiches. They are ordered specially for Aunt Augusta.[Takes one and eats it.]
 
47
Jack.Well, you have been eating them all the time.
 
48
Algernon.That is quite a different matter. She is my aunt.[Takes plate from below.]Have some bread and butter. The bread and butter is for Gwendolen. Gwendolen is devoted to bread and butter.
 
49
Jack.[Advancing to table and helping himself.]And very good bread and butter it is too.
 
50
Algernon.Well, my dear fellow, you need not eat as if you were going to eat it all. You behave as if you were married to her already. You are not married to her already, and I don’t think you ever will be.
 
51
Jack.Why on earth do you say that?
 
52
Algernon.Well, in the first place girls never marry the men they flirt with. Girls don’t think it right.
 
53
Jack.Oh, that is nonsense!
 
54
Algernon.It isn’t. It is a great truth. It accounts for the extraordinary number of bachelors that one sees all over the place. In the second place, I don’t give my consent.
 
55
Jack.Your consent!
 
56
Algernon.My dear fellow, Gwendolen is my first cousin. And before I allow you to marry her, you will have to clear up the whole question of Cecily.[Rings bell.]
 
57
Jack.Cecily! What on earth do you mean? What do you mean, Algy, by Cecily! I don’t know any one of the name of Cecily.
 
58
[Enter Lane.]
 
59
Algernon.Bring me that cigarette case Mr. Worthing left in the smoking-room the last time he dined here.
 
60
Lane.Yes, sir.[Lane goes out.]
 
61
Jack.Do you mean to say you have had my cigarette case all this time? I wish to goodness you had let me know. I have been writing frantic letters to Scotland Yard about it. I was very nearly offering a large reward.
 
62
Algernon.Well, I wish you would offer one. I happen to be more than usually hard up.
 
63
Jack.There is no good offering a large reward now that the thing is found.
 
64
[Enter Lane with the cigarette case on a salver. Algernon takes it at once. Lane goes out.]
 
65
Algernon.I think that is rather mean of you, Ernest, I must say.[Opens case and examines it.]However, it makes no matter, for, now that I look at the inscription inside, I find that the thing isn’t yours after all.
 
66
Jack.Of course it’s mine.[Moving to him.]You have seen me with it a hundred times, and you have no right whatsoever to read what is written inside. It is a very ungentlemanly thing to read a private cigarette case.
 
67
Algernon.Oh! it is absurd to have a hard and fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn’t. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn’t read.
 
68
Jack.I am quite aware of the fact, and I don’t propose to discuss modern culture. It isn’t the sort of thing one should talk of in private. I simply want my cigarette case back.
 
69
Algernon.Yes; but this isn’t your cigarette case. This cigarette case is a present from some one of the name of Cecily, and you said you didn’t know any one of that name.
 
70
Jack.Well, if you want to know, Cecily happens to be my aunt.
 
71
Algernon.Your aunt!
 
72
Jack.Yes. Charming old lady she is, too. Lives at Tunbridge Wells. Just give it back to me, Algy.
 
73
Algernon.[Retreating to back of sofa.]But why does she call herself little Cecily if she is your aunt and lives at Tunbridge Wells?[Reading.]From little Cecily with her fondest love.’
 
74
Jack.[Moving to sofa and kneeling upon it.]My dear fellow, what on earth is there in that? Some aunts are tall, some aunts are not tall. That is a matter that surely an aunt may be allowed to decide for herself. You seem to think that every aunt should be exactly like your aunt! That is absurd! For Heaven’s sake give me back my cigarette case.[Follows Algernon round the room.]
 
75
Algernon.Yes. But why does your aunt call you her uncle? ‘From little Cecily, with her fondest love to her dear Uncle Jack.’ There is no objection, I admit, to an aunt being a small aunt, but why an aunt, no matter what her size may be, should call her own nephew her uncle, I can’t quite make out. Besides, your name isn’t Jack at all; it is Ernest.
 
76
Jack.It isn’t Ernest; it’s Jack.
 
77
Algernon.You have always told me it was Ernest. I have introduced you to every one as Ernest. You answer to the name of Ernest. You look as if your name was Ernest. You are the most earnest-looking person I ever saw in my life. It is perfectly absurd your saying that your name isn’t Ernest. It’s on your cards. Here is one of them.[Taking it from case.]Mr. Ernest Worthing, B. 4, The Albany.’ I’ll keep this as a proof that your name is Ernest if ever you attempt to deny it to me, or to Gwendolen, or to any one else.[Puts the card in his pocket.]
 
78
Jack.Well, my name is Ernest in town and Jack in the country, and the cigarette case was given to me in the country.
 
79
Algernon.Yes, but that does not account for the fact that your small Aunt Cecily, who lives at Tunbridge Wells, calls you her dear uncle. Come, old boy, you had much better have the thing out at once.
 
80
Jack.My dear Algy, you talk exactly as if you were a dentist. It is very vulgar to talk like a dentist when one isn’t a dentist. It produces a false impression.
 
81
Algernon.Well, that is exactly what dentists always do. Now, go on! Tell me the whole thing. I may mention that I have always suspected you of being a confirmed and secret Bunburyist; and I am quite sure of it now.
 
82
Jack.Bunburyist? What on earth do you mean by a Bunburyist?
 
83
Algernon.I’ll reveal to you the meaning of that incomparable expression as soon as you are kind enough to inform me why you are Ernest in town and Jack in the country.
 
84
Jack.Well, produce my cigarette case first.
 
85
Algernon.Here it is.[Hands cigarette case.]Now produce your explanation, and pray make it improbable.[Sits on sofa.]
 
86
Jack.My dear fellow, there is nothing improbable about my explanation at all. In fact it’s perfectly ordinary. Old Mr. Thomas Cardew, who adopted me when I was a little boy, made me in his will guardian to his grand-daughter, Miss Cecily Cardew. Cecily, who addresses me as her uncle from motives of respect that you could not possibly appreciate, lives at my place in the country under the charge of her admirable governess, Miss Prism.
 
87
Algernon.Where is that place in the country, by the way?
 
88
Jack.That is nothing to you, dear boy. You are not going to be invited . . . I may tell you candidly that the place is not in Shropshire.
 
89
Algernon.I suspected that, my dear fellow! I have Bunburyed all over Shropshire on two separate occasions. Now, go on. Why are you Ernest in town and Jack in the country?
 
90
Jack.My dear Algy, I don’t know whether you will be able to understand my real motives. You are hardly serious enough. When one is placed in the position of guardian, one has to adopt a very high moral tone on all subjects. It’s one’s duty to do so. And as a high moral tone can hardly be said to conduce very much to either one’s health or one’s happiness, in order to get up to town I have always pretended to have a younger brother of the name of Ernest, who lives in the Albany, and gets into the most dreadful scrapes. That, my dear Algy, is the whole truth pure and simple.
 
91
Algernon.The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!
 
92
Jack.That wouldn’t be at all a bad thing.
 
93
Algernon.Literary criticism is not your forte, my dear fellow. Don’t try it. You should leave that to people who haven’t been at a University. They do it so well in the daily papers. What you really are is a Bunburyist. I was quite right in saying you were a Bunburyist. You are one of the most advanced Bunburyists I know.
 
94
Jack.What on earth do you mean?
 
95
Algernon.You have invented a very useful younger brother called Ernest, in order that you may be able to come up to town as often as you like. I have invented an invaluable permanent invalid called Bunbury, in order that I may be able to go down into the country whenever I choose. Bunbury is perfectly invaluable. If it wasn’t for Bunbury’s extraordinary bad health, for instance, I wouldn’t be able to dine with you at Willis’s to-night, for I have been really engaged to Aunt Augusta for more than a week.
 
96
Jack.I haven’t asked you to dine with me anywhere to-night.
 
97
Algernon.I know. You are absurdly careless about sending out invitations. It is very foolish of you. Nothing annoys people so much as not receiving invitations.
 
98
Jack.You had much better dine with your Aunt Augusta.
 
99
Algernon.I haven’t the smallest intention of doing anything of the kind. To begin with, I dined there on Monday, and once a week is quite enough to dine with one’s own relations. In the second place, whenever I do dine there I am always treated as a member of the family, and sent down with either no woman at all, or two. In the third place, I know perfectly well whom she will place me next to, to-night. She will place me next Mary Farquhar, who always flirts with her own husband across the dinner-table. That is not very pleasant. Indeed, it is not even decent . . . and that sort of thing is enormously on the increase. The amount of women in London who flirt with their own 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 naturally want to talk to you about Bunburying. I want to tell you the rules.
 
100
Jack.I’m not a Bunburyist at all. If Gwendolen accepts me, I am going to kill my brother, indeed I think I’ll kill him in any case. Cecily is a little too much interested in him. It is rather a bore. So I am going to get rid of Ernest. And I strongly advise you to do the same with Mr. . . . with your invalid friend who has the absurd name.
 
101
Algernon.Nothing will induce me to part with Bunbury, and if you ever get married, which seems to me extremely problematic, you will be very glad to know Bunbury. A man who marries without knowing Bunbury has a very tedious time of it.
 
102
Jack.That is nonsense. If I marry a charming girl like Gwendolen, and she is the only girl I ever saw in my life that I would marry, I certainly won’t want to know Bunbury.
 
103
Algernon.Then your wife will. You don’t seem to realise, that in married life three is company and two is none.
 
104
Jack.[Sententiously.]That, my dear young friend, is the theory that the corrupt French Drama has been propounding for the last fifty years.
 
105
Algernon.Yes; and that the happy English home has proved in half the time.
 
106
Jack.For heaven’s sake, don’t try to be cynical. It’s perfectly easy to be cynical.
 
107
Algernon.My dear fellow, it isn’t easy to be anything nowadays. There’s such a lot of beastly competition about.[The sound of an electric bell is heard.]Ah! that must be Aunt Augusta. Only relatives, or creditors, ever ring in that Wagnerian manner. Now, if I get her out of the way for ten minutes, so that you can have an opportunity for proposing to Gwendolen, may I dine with you to-night at Willis’s?
 
108
Jack.I suppose so, if you want to.
 
109
Algernon.Yes, but you must be serious about it. I hate people who are not serious about meals. It is so shallow of them.
 
110
[Enter Lane.]
 
111
Lane.Lady Bracknell and Miss Fairfax.
 
112
[Algernon goes forward to meet them. Enter Lady Bracknell and Gwendolen.]
 
113
Lady Bracknell.Good afternoon, dear Algernon, I hope you are behaving very well.
 
114
Algernon.I’m feeling very well, Aunt Augusta.
 
115
Lady Bracknell.That’s not quite the same thing. In fact the two things rarely go together.[Sees Jack and bows to him with icy coldness.]
 
116
Algernon.[To Gwendolen.]Dear me, you are smart!
 
117
Gwendolen.I am always smart! Am I not, Mr. Worthing?
 
118
Jack.Youre quite perfect, Miss Fairfax.
 
119
Gwendolen.Oh! I hope I am not that. It would leave no room for developments, and I intend to develop in many directions.[Gwendolen and Jack sit down together in the corner.]
 
120
Lady Bracknell.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 twenty years younger. And now I’ll have a cup of tea, and one of those nice cucumber sandwiches you promised me.
 
121
Algernon.Certainly, Aunt Augusta.[Goes over to tea-table.]
 
122
Lady Bracknell.Won’t you come and sit here, Gwendolen?
 
123
Gwendolen.Thanks, mamma, I’m quite comfortable where I am.
 
124
Algernon.[Picking up empty plate in horror.]Good heavens! Lane! Why are there no cucumber sandwiches? I ordered them specially.
 
125
Lane.[Gravely.]There were no cucumbers in the market this morning, sir. I went down twice.
 
126
Algernon.No cucumbers!
 
127
Lane.No, sir. Not even for ready money.
 
128
Algernon.That will do, Lane, thank you.
 
129
Lane.Thank you, sir.[Goes out.]
 
130
Algernon.I am greatly distressed, Aunt Augusta, about there being no cucumbers, not even for ready money.
 
131
Lady Bracknell.It really makes no matter, Algernon. I had some crumpets with Lady Harbury, who seems to me to be living entirely for pleasure now.
 
132
Algernon.I hear her hair has turned quite gold from grief.
 
133
Lady Bracknell.It certainly has changed its colour. From what cause I, of course, cannot say.[Algernon crosses and hands tea.]Thank you. I’ve quite a treat for you to-night, Algernon. I am going to send you down with Mary Farquhar. She is such a nice woman, and so attentive to her husband. It’s delightful to watch them.
 
134
Algernon.I am afraid, Aunt Augusta, I shall have to give up the pleasure of dining with you to-night after all.
 
135
Lady Bracknell.[Frowning.]I hope not, Algernon. It would put my table completely out. Your uncle would have to dine upstairs. Fortunately he is accustomed to that.
 
136
Algernon.It is a great bore, and, I need hardly say, a terrible disappointment to me, but the fact is I have just had a telegram to say that my poor friend Bunbury is very ill again.[Exchanges glances with Jack.]They seem to think I should be with him.
 
137
Lady Bracknell.It is very strange. This Mr. Bunbury seems to suffer from curiously bad health.
 
138
Algernon.Yes; poor Bunbury is a dreadful invalid.
 
139
Lady Bracknell.Well, I must say, Algernon, that I think it is high time that Mr. Bunbury made up his mind whether he was going to live or to die. This shilly-shallying with the question is absurd. Nor do I in any way approve of the modern sympathy with invalids. I consider it morbid. Illness of any kind is hardly a thing 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 much notice . . . as far as any improvement in his ailment goes. I should be much obliged if you would ask Mr. Bunbury, from me, 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 that will encourage conversation, particularly at the end of the season when every one has practically said whatever they had to say, which, in most cases, was probably not much.
 
140
Algernon.I’ll speak to Bunbury, Aunt Augusta, if he is still conscious, and I think I can promise you hell be all right by Saturday. Of course the music is a great difficulty. You see, if one plays good music, people don’t listen, and if one plays bad music people don’t talk. But I’ll run over the programme I’ve drawn out, if you will kindly come into the next room for a moment.
 
141
Lady Bracknell.Thank you, Algernon. It is very thoughtful of you.[Rising, and following Algernon.]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.
 
142
Gwendolen.Certainly, mamma.
 
143
[Lady Bracknell and Algernon go into the music-room, Gwendolen remains behind.]
 
144
Jack.Charming day it has been, Miss Fairfax.
 
145
Gwendolen.Pray don’t talk to me about the weather, Mr. Worthing. Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else. And that makes me so nervous.
 
146
Jack.I do mean something else.
 
147
Gwendolen.I thought so. In fact, I am never wrong.
 
148
Jack.And I would like to be allowed to take advantage of Lady Bracknell’s temporary absence . . .
 
149
Gwendolen.I would certainly advise you to do so. Mamma has a way of coming back suddenly into a room that I have often had to speak to her about.
 
150
Jack.[Nervously.]Miss Fairfax, ever since I met you I have admired you more than any girl . . . I have ever met since . . . I met you.
 
151
Gwendolen.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. Even before I met you I was far from indifferent to you.[Jack looks at her in amazement.]We live, as I hope you know, Mr. Worthing, in an age of ideals. The fact is constantly mentioned in the more expensive monthly magazines, and has reached the provincial pulpits, I am told; and my ideal has always been to love some one of the name of Ernest. There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence. The moment Algernon first mentioned to me that he had a friend called Ernest, I knew I was destined to love you.
 
152
Jack.You really love me, Gwendolen?
 
153
Gwendolen.Passionately!
 
154
Jack.Darling! You don’t know how happy youve made me.
 
155
Gwendolen.My own Ernest!
 
156
Jack.But you don’t really mean to say that you couldn’t love me if my name wasn’t Ernest?
 
157
Gwendolen.But your name is Ernest.
 
158
Jack.Yes, I know it is. But supposing it was something else? Do you mean to say you couldn’t love me then?
 
159
Gwendolen.[Glibly.]Ah! that is clearly a metaphysical speculation, and like most metaphysical speculations has very little reference at all to the actual facts of real life, as we know them.
 
160
Jack.Personally, darling, to speak quite candidly, I don’t much care about the name of Ernest . . . I don’t think the name suits me at all.
 
161
Gwendolen.It suits you perfectly. It is a divine name. It has a music of its own. It produces vibrations.
 
162
Jack.Well, really, Gwendolen, I must say that I think there are lots of other much nicer names. I think Jack, for instance, a charming name.
 
163
Gwendolen.Jack? . . . No, there is very little music in the name Jack, if any at all, indeed. It does not thrill. It produces absolutely no vibrations . . . I have known several Jacks, and 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 probably never be allowed to know the entrancing pleasure of a single moment’s solitude. The only really safe name is Ernest.
 
164
Jack.Gwendolen, I must get christened at once—I mean we must get married at once. There is no time to be lost.
 
165
Gwendolen.Married, Mr. Worthing?
 
166
Jack.[Astounded.]Well . . . surely. You know that I love you, and you led me to believe, Miss Fairfax, that you were not absolutely indifferent to me.
 
167
Gwendolen.I adore you. But you haven’t proposed to me yet. Nothing has been said at all about marriage. The subject has not even been touched on.
 
168
Jack.Well . . . may I propose to you now?
 
169
Gwendolen.I think it would be an admirable opportunity. And to spare you any possible disappointment, Mr. Worthing, I think it only fair to tell you quite frankly before-hand that I am fully determined to accept you.
 
170
Jack.Gwendolen!
 
171
Gwendolen.Yes, Mr. Worthing, what have you got to say to me?
 
172
Jack.You know what I have got to say to you.
 
173
Gwendolen.Yes, but you don’t say it.
 
174
Jack.Gwendolen, will you marry me?[Goes on his knees.]
 
175
Gwendolen.Of course I will, darling. How long you have been about it! I am afraid you have had very little experience in how to propose.
 
176
Jack.My own one, I have never loved any one in the world but you.
 
177
Gwendolen.Yes, but men often propose for practice. I know my brother Gerald does. All my girl-friends tell me so. 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.[Enter Lady Bracknell.]
 
178
Lady Bracknell.Mr. Worthing! Rise, sir, from this semi-recumbent posture. It is most indecorous.
 
179
Gwendolen.Mamma![He tries to rise; she restrains him.]I must beg you to retire. This is no place for you. Besides, Mr. Worthing has not quite finished yet.
 
180
Lady Bracknell.Finished what, may I ask?
 
181
Gwendolen.I am engaged to Mr. Worthing, mamma.[They rise together.]
 
182
Lady Bracknell.Pardon me, you are not engaged to any one. When you do become engaged to some one, I, or your father, should his health permit him, will inform you of the fact. An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be. It is hardly a matter that 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.
 
183
Gwendolen.[Reproachfully.]Mamma!
 
184
Lady Bracknell.In the carriage, Gwendolen![Gwendolen goes to the door. She and Jack blow kisses to each other behind Lady Bracknell’s back. Lady Bracknell looks vaguely about as if she could not understand what the noise was. Finally turns round.]Gwendolen, the carriage!
 
185
Gwendolen.Yes, mamma.[Goes out, looking back at Jack.]
 
186
Lady Bracknell.[Sitting down.]You can take a seat, Mr. Worthing.
 
187
[Looks in her pocket for note-book and pencil.]
 
188
Jack.Thank you, Lady Bracknell, I prefer standing.
 
189
Lady Bracknell.[Pencil and note-book in hand.]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 dear Duchess of Bolton has. We work together, in fact. However, I am quite ready to enter your name, should your answers be what a really affectionate mother requires. Do you smoke?
 
190
Jack.Well, yes, I must admit I smoke.
 
191
Lady Bracknell.I am glad to hear it. A man should always have an occupation of some kind. There are far too many idle men in London as it is. How old are you?
 
192
Jack.Twenty-nine.
 
193
Lady Bracknell.A very good age to be married at. I have always been of opinion that a man who desires to get married should know either everything or nothing. Which do you know?
 
194
Jack.[After some hesitation.]I know nothing, Lady Bracknell.
 
195
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?
 
196
Jack.Between seven and eight thousand a year.
 
197
Lady Bracknell.[Makes a note in her book.]In land, or in investments?
 
198
Jack.In investments, chiefly.
 
199
Lady Bracknell.That is satisfactory. What between the duties expected of one during one’s lifetime, and the duties exacted from one 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 land.
 
200
Jack.I have a country house with some land, of course, attached to it, about fifteen hundred acres, I believe; but I don’t depend on that for my real income. In fact, as far as I can make out, the poachers are the only people who make anything out of it.
 
201
Lady Bracknell.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.
 
202
Jack.Well, I own a house in Belgrave Square, but it is let by the year to Lady Bloxham. Of course, I can get it back whenever I like, at six monthsnotice.
 
203
Lady Bracknell.Lady Bloxham? I don’t know her.
 
204
Jack.Oh, she goes about very little. She is a lady considerably advanced in years.
 
205
Lady Bracknell.Ah, nowadays that is no guarantee of respectability of character. What number in Belgrave Square?
 
206
Jack.149.
 
207
Lady Bracknell.[Shaking her head.]The unfashionable side. I thought there was something. However, that could easily be altered.
 
208
Jack.Do you mean the fashion, or the side?
 
209
Lady Bracknell.[Sternly.]Both, if necessary, I presume. What are your politics?
 
210
Jack.Well, I am afraid I really have none. I am a Liberal Unionist.
 
211
Lady Bracknell.Oh, they count as Tories. They dine with us. Or come in the evening, at any rate. Now to minor matters. Are your parents living?
 
212
Jack.I have lost both my parents.
 
213
Lady Bracknell.To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may 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?
 
214
Jack.I am 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.
 
215
Lady Bracknell.Found!
 
216
Jack.The late Mr. Thomas Cardew, an old gentleman of a very charitable and kindly disposition, found me, and gave me the name of Worthing, because he happened to have a first-class ticket for Worthing in his pocket at the time. Worthing is a place in Sussex. It is a seaside resort.
 
217
Lady Bracknell.Where did the charitable gentleman who had a first-class ticket for this seaside resort find you?
 
218
Jack.[Gravely.]In a hand-bag.
 
219
Lady Bracknell.A hand-bag?
 
220
Jack.[Very seriously.]Yes, Lady Bracknell. I was in a hand-bag—a somewhat large, black leather hand-bag, with handles to itan ordinary hand-bag in fact.
 
221
Lady Bracknell.In what locality did this Mr. James, or Thomas, Cardew come across this ordinary hand-bag?
 
222
Jack.In the cloak-room at Victoria Station. It was given to him in mistake for his own.
 
223
Lady Bracknell.The cloak-room at Victoria Station?
 
224
Jack.Yes. The Brighton line.
 
225
Lady Bracknell.The line is immaterial. Mr. Worthing, I confess I feel somewhat bewildered by what you have just told me. To be born, or at any rate bred, in a hand-bag, 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 worst excesses of the French Revolution. And I presume you know what that unfortunate movement led to? As for the particular locality in which the hand-bag was found, a cloak-room at a railway station might serve to conceal a social indiscretionhas probably, indeed, been used for that purpose before nowbut it could hardly be regarded as an assured basis for a recognised position in good society.
 
226
Jack.May I ask you then what you would advise me to do? I need hardly say I would do anything in the world to ensure Gwendolen’s happiness.
 
227
Lady Bracknell.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.
 
228
Jack.Well, I don’t see how I could possibly manage to do that. I can produce the hand-bag at any moment. It is in my dressing-room at home. I really think that should satisfy you, Lady Bracknell.
 
229
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 careto marry into a cloak-room, and form an alliance with a parcel? Good morning, Mr. Worthing!
 
230
[Lady Bracknell sweeps out in majestic indignation.]
 
231
Jack.Good morning![Algernon, from the other room, strikes up the Wedding March. Jack looks perfectly furious, and goes to the door.]For goodnesssake don’t play that ghastly tune, Algy. How idiotic you are!
 
232
[The music stops and Algernon enters cheerily.]
 
233
Algernon.Didn’t it go off all right, old boy? You don’t mean to say Gwendolen refused you? I know it is a way she has. She is always refusing people. I think it is most ill-natured of her.
 
234
Jack.Oh, Gwendolen is as right as a trivet. As far as she is concerned, we are engaged. Her mother is perfectly unbearable. Never met such a Gorgon . . . I don’t really know what a Gorgon is like, but I am quite sure that Lady Bracknell is one. In any case, she is a monster, without being a myth, which is rather unfair . . . I beg your pardon, Algy, I suppose I shouldn’t talk about your own aunt in that way before you.
 
235
Algernon.My dear boy, I love hearing my relations abused. It is the only thing that makes me put up with them at all. Relations are simply a tedious pack of people, who haven’t got the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die.
 
236
Jack.Oh, that is nonsense!
 
237
Algernon.It isn’t!
 
238
Jack.Well, I won’t argue about the matter. You always want to argue about things.
 
239
Algernon.That is exactly what things were originally made for.
 
240
Jack.Upon my word, if I thought that, I’d shoot myself . . .[A pause.]You don’t think there is any chance of Gwendolen becoming like her mother in about a hundred and fifty years, do you, Algy?
 
241
Algernon.All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.
 
242
Jack.Is that clever?
 
243
Algernon.It is perfectly phrased! and quite as true as any observation in civilised life should be.
 
244
Jack.I am sick to death of cleverness. Everybody is clever nowadays. You can’t go anywhere without meeting clever people. The thing has become an absolute public nuisance. I wish to goodness we had a few fools left.
 
245
Algernon.We have.
 
246
Jack.I should extremely like to meet them. What do they talk about?
 
247
Algernon.The fools? Oh! about the clever people, of course.
 
248
Jack.What fools!
 
249
Algernon.By the way, did you tell Gwendolen the truth about your being Ernest in town, and Jack in the country?
 
250
Jack.[In a very patronising manner.]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!
 
251
Algernon.The only way to behave to a woman is to make love to her, if she is pretty, and to some one else, if she is plain.
 
252
Jack.Oh, that is nonsense.
 
253
Algernon.What about your brother? What about the profligate Ernest?
 
254
Jack.Oh, before the end of the week I shall have got rid of him. I’ll say he died in Paris of apoplexy. Lots of people die of apoplexy, quite suddenly, don’t they?
 
255
Algernon.Yes, but it’s hereditary, my dear fellow. It’s a sort of thing that runs in families. You had much better say a severe chill.
 
256
Jack.You are sure a severe chill isn’t hereditary, or anything of that kind?
 
257
Algernon.Of course it isn’t!
 
258
Jack.Very well, then. My poor brother Ernest to carried off suddenly, in Paris, by a severe chill. That gets rid of him.
 
259
Algernon.But I thought you said that . . . Miss Cardew was a little too much interested in your poor brother Ernest? Won’t she feel his loss a good deal?
 
260
Jack.Oh, that is all right. Cecily is not a silly romantic girl, I am glad to say. She has got a capital appetite, goes long walks, and pays no attention at all to her lessons.
 
261
Algernon.I would rather like to see Cecily.
 
262
Jack.I will take very good care you never do. She is excessively pretty, and she is only just eighteen.
 
263
Algernon.Have you told Gwendolen yet that you have an excessively pretty ward who is only just eighteen?
 
264
Jack.Oh! one doesn’t blurt these things out to people. Cecily and Gwendolen are perfectly certain to be extremely great friends. I’ll bet you anything you like that half an hour after they have met, they will be calling each other sister.
 
265
Algernon.Women only do that when they have called each other a lot of other things first. Now, my dear boy, if we want to get a good table at Willis’s, we really must go and dress. Do you know it is nearly seven?
 
266
Jack.[Irritably.]Oh! It always is nearly seven.
 
267
Algernon.Well, I’m hungry.
 
268
Jack.I never knew you when you weren’t . . .
 
269
Algernon.What shall we do after dinner? Go to a theatre?
 
270
Jack.Oh no! I loathe listening.
 
271
Algernon.Well, let us go to the Club?
 
272
Jack.Oh, no! I hate talking.
 
273
Algernon.Well, we might trot round to the Empire at ten?
 
274
Jack.Oh, no! I can’t bear looking at things. It is so silly.
 
275
Algernon.Well, what shall we do?
 
276
Jack.Nothing!
 
277
Algernon.It is awfully hard work doing nothing. However, I don’t mind hard work where there is no definite object of any kind.
 
278
[Enter Lane.]
 
279
Lane.Miss Fairfax.
 
280
[Enter Gwendolen. Lane goes out.]
 
281
Algernon.Gwendolen, upon my word!
 
282
Gwendolen.Algy, kindly turn your back. I have something very particular to say to Mr. Worthing.
 
283
Algernon.Really, Gwendolen, I don’t think I can allow this at all.
 
284
Gwendolen.Algy, you always adopt a strictly immoral attitude towards life. You are not quite old enough to do that.[Algernon retires to the fireplace.]
 
285
Jack.My own darling!
 
286
Gwendolen.Ernest, we may never be married. From the expression on mamma’s face I fear we never shall. Few parents nowadays pay any regard to what their children say to them. The old-fashioned respect for the young is fast dying out. Whatever influence I ever had over mamma, I lost at the age of three. But although she may prevent us from becoming man and wife, and I may marry some one else, and marry often, nothing that she can possibly do can alter my eternal devotion to you.
 
287
Jack.Dear Gwendolen!
 
288
Gwendolen.The story of your romantic origin, as related to me by mamma, with unpleasing comments, has naturally stirred the deeper fibres of my nature. Your Christian name has an irresistible fascination. The simplicity of your character makes you exquisitely incomprehensible to me. Your town address at the Albany I have. What is your address in the country?
 
289
Jack.The Manor House, Woolton, Hertfordshire.
 
290
[Algernon, who has been carefully listening, smiles to himself, and writes the address on his shirt-cuff. Then picks up the Railway Guide.]
 
291
Gwendolen.There is a good postal service, I suppose? It may be necessary to do something desperate. That of course will require serious consideration. I will communicate with you daily.
 
292
Jack.My own one!
 
293
Gwendolen.How long do you remain in town?
 
294
Jack.Till Monday.
 
295
Gwendolen.Good! Algy, you may turn round now.
 
296
Algernon.Thanks, I’ve turned round already.
 
297
Gwendolen.You may also ring the bell.
 
298
Jack.You will let me see you to your carriage, my own darling?
 
299
Gwendolen.Certainly.
 
300
Jack.[To Lane, who now enters.]I will see Miss Fairfax out.
 
301
Lane.Yes, sir.[Jack and Gwendolen go off.]
 
302
[Lane presents several letters on a salver to Algernon. It is to be surmised that they are bills, as Algernon, after looking at the envelopes, tears them up.]
 
303
Algernon.A glass of sherry, Lane.
 
304
Lane.Yes, sir.
 
305
Algernon.To-morrow, Lane, I’m going Bunburying.
 
306
Lane.Yes, sir.
 
307
Algernon.I shall probably not be back till Monday. You can put up my dress clothes, my smoking jacket, and all the Bunbury suits . . .
 
308
Lane.Yes, sir.[Handing sherry.]
 
309
Algernon.I hope to-morrow will be a fine day, Lane.
 
310
Lane.It never is, sir.
 
311
Algernon.Lane, youre a perfect pessimist.
 
312
Lane.I do my best to give satisfaction, sir.
 
313
[Enter Jack. Lane goes off.]
 
314
Jack.There’s a sensible, intellectual girl! the only girl I ever cared for in my life.[Algernon is laughing immoderately.]What on earth are you so amused at?
 
315
Algernon.Oh, I’m a little anxious about poor Bunbury, that is all.
 
316
Jack.If you don’t take care, your friend Bunbury will get you into a serious scrape some day.
 
317
Algernon.I love scrapes. They are the only things that are never serious.
 
318
Jack.Oh, that’s nonsense, Algy. You never talk anything but nonsense.
 
319
Algernon.Nobody ever does.
 
320
[Jack looks indignantly at him, and leaves the room. Algernon lights a cigarette, reads his shirt-cuff, and smiles.]
 
321
ACT DROP
【 】FIRST ACT
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