The Importance of Being Earnest By Oscar Wilde Act I: Part 2

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.

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.

GWENDOLEN.
It suits you perfectly. It is a divine name. It has a music of its own. It produces vibrations.

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.

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

JACK.
Gwendolen, I must get christened at once — I mean we must get married at once. There is no time to be lost.

GWENDOLEN.
Married, Mr. Worthing?

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.

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.

JACK.
Well . . . may I propose to you now?

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.

JACK.
Gwendolen!

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

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

GWENDOLEN.
Yes, but you don't say it.

JACK.
Gwendolen, will you marry me? [Goes on his knees.]

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.

JACK.
My own one, I have never loved any one in the world but you.

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.]

LADY BRACKNELL.
Mr. Worthing! Rise, sir, from this semi-recumbent posture. It is most indecorous.

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.

LADY BRACKNELL.
Finished what, may I ask?

GWENDOLEN.
I am engaged to Mr. Worthing, mamma. [They rise together.]

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.

GWENDOLEN.
[Reproachfully.] Mamma!

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!

GWENDOLEN.
Yes, mamma. [Goes out, looking back at Jack.]

LADY BRACKNELL.
[Sitting down.] You can take a seat, Mr. Worthing.

[Looks in her pocket for note-book and pencil.]

JACK.
Thank you, Lady Bracknell, I prefer standing.

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?

JACK.
Well, yes, I must admit I smoke.

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?

JACK.
Twenty-nine.

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?

JACK.
[After some hesitation.] I know nothing, Lady Bracknell.

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?

JACK.
Between seven and eight thousand a year.

LADY BRACKNELL.
[Makes a note in her book.] In land, or in investments?

JACK.
In investments, chiefly.

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.

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.

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.

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 months' notice.

LADY BRACKNELL.
Lady Bloxham? I don't know her.

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

LADY BRACKNELL.
Ah, nowadays that is no guarantee of respectability of character. What number in Belgrave Square?

JACK.
149.

LADY BRACKNELL.
[Shaking her head.] The unfashionable side. I thought there was something. However, that could easily be altered.

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