Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
AN IDEAL HUSBAND.
by Oscar Wilde.
THE PERSONS OF THE PLAY.
THE EARL OF CAVERSHAM, K.G.
VISCOUNT GORING, his Son.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN, Bart., Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
VICOMTE DE NANJAC, Attachť at the French Embassy in London.
MASON, Butler to Sir Robert Chiltern.
PHIPPS, Lord Goringís Servant.
HAROLD } Footmen.
THE COUNTESS OF BASILDON.
MISS MABEL CHILTERN, Sir Robert Chilternís Sister.
THE SCENES OF THE PLAY.
ACT I. The Octagon Room in Sir Robert Chilternís House in Grosvenor
ACT II. Morning-room in Sir Robert Chilternís House .
ACT III. The Library of Lord Goringís House in Curzon Street .
ACT IV. Same as Act II .
TIME: The Present
PLACE: London .
The action of the play is completed within twenty-four hours .
The octagon room at Sir Robert Chilternís house in Grosvenor Square .
[ The room is brilliantly lighted and full of guests . At the top of
the staircase stands LADY CHILTERN, a woman of grave Greek beauty ,
about twenty-seven years of age . She receives the guests as they come
up . Over the well of the staircase hangs a great chandelier with wax
lights , which illumine a large eighteenth-century French
tapestryórepresenting the Triumph of Love , from a design by
Boucheróthat is stretched on the staircase wall . On the right is the
entrance to the music-room . The sound of a string quartette is faintly
heard . The entrance on the left leads to other reception-rooms . MRS.
MARCHMONT and LADY BASILDON, two very pretty women , are seated
together on a Louis Seize sofa . They are types of exquisite
fragility . Their affectation of manner has a delicate charm .
Watteau would have loved to paint them .]
MRS. MARCHMONT. Going on to the Hartlocksí to-night, Margaret?
LADY BASILDON. I suppose so. Are you?
MRS. MARCHMONT. Yes. Horribly tedious parties they give, donít they?
LADY BASILDON. Horribly tedious! Never know why I go. Never know why I
MRS. MARCHMONT. I come here to be educated.
LADY BASILDON. Ah! I hate being educated!
MRS. MARCHMONT. So do I. It puts one almost on a level with the
commercial classes, doesnít it? But dear Gertrude Chiltern is always
telling me that I should have some serious purpose in life. So I come
here to try to find one.
LADY BASILDON. [ Looking round through her lorgnette .] I donít see
anybody here to-night whom one could possibly call a serious purpose.
The man who took me in to dinner talked to me about his wife the whole
MRS. MARCHMONT. How very trivial of him!
LADY BASILDON. Terribly trivial! What did your man talk about?
MRS. MARCHMONT. About myself.
LADY BASILDON. [ Languidly .] And were you interested?
MRS. MARCHMONT. [ Shaking her head .] Not in the smallest degree.
LADY BASILDON. What martyrs we are, dear Margaret!
MRS. MARCHMONT. [ Rising .] And how well it becomes us, Olivia!
[ They rise and go towards the music-room . The VICOMTE DE NANJAC, a
young attachť known for his neckties and his Anglomania , approaches
with a low bow , and enters into conversation .]
MASON. [ Announcing guests from the top of the staircase .] Mr. and
Lady Jane Barford. Lord Caversham.
[ Enter LORD CAVERSHAM, an old gentleman of seventy , wearing the
riband and star of the Garter . A fine Whig type . Rather like a
portrait by Lawrence .]
LORD CAVERSHAM. Good evening, Lady Chiltern! Has my good-for-nothing
young son been here?
LADY CHILTERN. [ Smiling .] I donít think Lord Goring has arrived yet.
MABEL CHILTERN. [ Coming up to LORD CAVERSHAM.] Why do you call Lord
[MABEL CHILTERN is a perfect example of the English type of prettiness ,
the apple-blossom type . She has all the fragrance and freedom of a
flower . There is ripple after ripple of sunlight in her hair , and
the little mouth , with its parted lips , is expectant , like the
mouth of a child . She has the fascinating tyranny of youth , and the
astonishing courage of innocence . To sane people she is not
reminiscent of any work of art . But she is really like a Tanagra
statuette , and would be rather annoyed if she were told so .]
LORD CAVERSHAM. Because he leads such an idle life.
MABEL CHILTERN. How can you say such a thing? Why, he rides in the Row
at ten oíclock in the morning, goes to the Opera three times a week,
changes his clothes at least five times a day, and dines out every night
of the season. You donít call that leading an idle life, do you?
LORD CAVERSHAM. [ Looking at her with a kindly twinkle in his eyes .]
You are a very charming young lady!
MABEL CHILTERN. How sweet of you to say that, Lord Caversham! Do come
to us more often. You know we are always at home on Wednesdays, and you
look so well with your star!
LORD CAVERSHAM. Never go anywhere now. Sick of London Society.
Shouldnít mind being introduced to my own tailor; he always votes on the
right side. But object strongly to being sent down to dinner with my
wifeís milliner. Never could stand Lady Cavershamís bonnets.
MABEL CHILTERN. Oh, I love London Society! I think it has immensely
improved. It is entirely composed now of beautiful idiots and brilliant
lunatics. Just what Society should be.
LORD CAVERSHAM. Hum! Which is Goring? Beautiful idiot, or the other
MABEL CHILTERN. [ Gravely .] I have been obliged for the present to put
Lord Goring into a class quite by himself. But he is developing
LORD CAVERSHAM. Into what?
MABEL CHILTERN. [ With a little curtsey .] I hope to let you know very
soon, Lord Caversham!
MASON. [ Announcing guests .] Lady Markby. Mrs. Cheveley.
[ Enter LADY MARKBY and MRS. CHEVELEY. LADY MARKBY is a pleasant ,
kindly , popular woman , with gray hair ŗ la marquise and good lace .
MRS. CHEVELEY, who accompanies her , is tall and rather slight . Lips
very thin and highly-coloured , a line of scarlet on a pallid face .
Venetian red hair , aquiline nose , and long throat . Rouge
accentuates the natural paleness of her complexion . Gray-green eyes
that move restlessly . She is in heliotrope , with diamonds . She
looks rather like an orchid , and makes great demands on oneís
curiosity . In all her movements she is extremely graceful . A work
of art , on the whole , but showing the influence of too many
LADY MARKBY. Good evening, dear Gertrude! So kind of you to let me
bring my friend, Mrs. Cheveley. Two such charming women should know each
LADY CHILTERN. [ Advances towards MRS. CHEVELEY with a sweet smile .
Then suddenly stops , and bows rather distantly .] I think Mrs.
Cheveley and I have met before. I did not know she had married a second
LADY MARKBY. [ Genially .] Ah, nowadays people marry as often as they
can, donít they? It is most fashionable. [ To DUCHESS OF MARYBOROUGH.]
Dear Duchess, and how is the Duke? Brain still weak, I suppose? Well,
that is only to be expected, is it not? His good father was just the
same. There is nothing like race, is there?
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ Playing with her fan .] But have we really met before,
Lady Chiltern? I canít remember where. I have been out of England for
LADY CHILTERN. We were at school together, Mrs. Cheveley.
MRS. CHEVELEY [ Superciliously .] Indeed? I have forgotten all about my
schooldays. I have a vague impression that they were detestable.
LADY CHILTERN. [ Coldly .] I am not surprised!
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ In her sweetest manner .] Do you know, I am quite
looking forward to meeting your clever husband, Lady Chiltern. Since he
has been at the Foreign Office, he has been so much talked of in Vienna.
They actually succeed in spelling his name right in the newspapers. That
in itself is fame, on the continent.
LADY CHILTERN. I hardly think there will be much in common between you
and my husband, Mrs. Cheveley! [ Moves away .]
VICOMTE DE NANJAC. Ah! chŤre Madame, queue surprise! I have not seen
you since Berlin!
MRS. CHEVELEY. Not since Berlin, Vicomte. Five years ago!
VICOMTE DE NANJAC. And you are younger and more beautiful than ever.
How do you manage it?
MRS. CHEVELEY. By making it a rule only to talk to perfectly charming
people like yourself.
VICOMTE DE NANJAC. Ah! you flatter me. You butter me, as they say here.
MRS. CHEVELEY. Do they say that here? How dreadful of them!
VICOMTE DE NANJAC. Yes, they have a wonderful language. It should be
more widely known.
[SIR ROBERT CHILTERN enters . A man of forty , but looking somewhat
younger . Clean-shaven , with finely-cut features , dark-haired and
dark-eyed . A personality of mark . Not popularófew personalities
are . But intensely admired by the few , and deeply respected by the
many . The note of his manner is that of perfect distinction , with a
slight touch of pride . One feels that he is conscious of the success
he has made in life . A nervous temperament , with a tired look .
The firmly-chiselled mouth and chin contrast strikingly with the
romantic expression in the deep-set eyes . The variance is suggestive
of an almost complete separation of passion and intellect , as though
thought and emotion were each isolated in its own sphere through some
violence of will-power . There is nervousness in the nostrils , and in
the pale , thin , pointed hands . It would be inaccurate to call him
picturesque . Picturesqueness cannot survive the House of Commons .
But Vandyck would have liked to have painted his head .]
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Good evening, Lady Markby! I hope you have brought
Sir John with you?
LADY MARKBY. Oh! I have brought a much more charming person than Sir
John. Sir Johnís temper since he has taken seriously to politics has
become quite unbearable. Really, now that the House of Commons is trying
to become useful, it does a great deal of harm.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I hope not, Lady Markby. At any rate we do our
best to waste the public time, donít we? But who is this charming person
you have been kind enough to bring to us?
LADY MARKBY. Her name is Mrs. Cheveley! One of the Dorsetshire
Cheveleys, I suppose. But I really donít know. Families are so mixed
nowadays. Indeed, as a rule, everybody turns out to be somebody else.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Mrs. Cheveley? I seem to know the name.
LADY MARKBY. She has just arrived from Vienna.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Ah! yes. I think I know whom you mean.
LADY MARKBY. Oh! she goes everywhere there, and has such pleasant
scandals about all her friends. I really must go to Vienna next winter.
I hope there is a good chef at the Embassy.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. If there is not, the Ambassador will certainly have
to be recalled. Pray point out Mrs. Cheveley to me. I should like to
LADY MARKBY. Let me introduce you. [ To MRS. CHEVELEY.] My dear, Sir
Robert Chiltern is dying to know you!
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Bowing .] Every one is dying to know the
brilliant Mrs. Cheveley. Our attachťs at Vienna write to us about
MRS. CHEVELEY. Thank you, Sir Robert. An acquaintance that begins with
a compliment is sure to develop into a real friendship. It starts in the
right manner. And I find that I know Lady Chiltern already.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Really?
MRS. CHEVELEY. Yes. She has just reminded me that we were at school
together. I remember it perfectly now. She always got the good conduct
prize. I have a distinct recollection of Lady Chiltern always getting
the good conduct prize!
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Smiling .] And what prizes did you get, Mrs.
MRS. CHEVELEY. My prizes came a little later on in life. I donít think
any of them were for good conduct. I forget!
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I am sure they were for something charming!
MRS. CHEVELEY. I donít know that women are always rewarded for being
charming. I think they are usually punished for it! Certainly, more
women grow old nowadays through the faithfulness of their admirers than
through anything else! At least that is the only way I can account for
the terribly haggard look of most of your pretty women in London!
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. What an appalling philosophy that sounds! To
attempt to classify you, Mrs. Cheveley, would be an impertinence. But
may I ask, at heart, are you an optimist or a pessimist? Those seem to
be the only two fashionable religions left to us nowadays.
MRS. CHEVELEY. Oh, Iím neither. Optimism begins in a broad grin, and
Pessimism ends with blue spectacles. Besides, they are both of them
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. You prefer to be natural?
MRS. CHEVELEY. Sometimes. But it is such a very difficult pose to keep
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. What would those modern psychological novelists, of
whom we hear so much, say to such a theory as that?
MRS. CHEVELEY. Ah! the strength of women comes from the fact that
psychology cannot explain us. Men can be analysed, women . . . merely
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. You think science cannot grapple with the problem
MRS. CHEVELEY. Science can never grapple with the irrational. That is
why it has no future before it, in this world.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. And women represent the irrational.
MRS. CHEVELEY. Well-dressed women do.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ With a polite bow .] I fear I could hardly agree
with you there. But do sit down. And now tell me, what makes you leave
your brilliant Vienna for our gloomy Londonóor perhaps the question is
MRS. CHEVELEY. Questions are never indiscreet. Answers sometimes are.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Well, at any rate, may I know if it is politics or
MRS. CHEVELEY. Politics are my only pleasure. You see nowadays it is
not fashionable to flirt till one is forty, or to be romantic till one is
forty-five, so we poor women who are under thirty, or say we are, have
nothing open to us but politics or philanthropy. And philanthropy seems
to me to have become simply the refuge of people who wish to annoy their
fellow-creatures. I prefer politics. I think they are more . . .
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. A political life is a noble career!
MRS. CHEVELEY. Sometimes. And sometimes it is a clever game, Sir
Robert. And sometimes it is a great nuisance.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Which do you find it?
MRS. CHEVELEY. I? A combination of all three. [ Drops her fan .]
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Picks up fan .] Allow me!
MRS. CHEVELEY. Thanks.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. But you have not told me yet what makes you honour
London so suddenly. Our season is almost over.
MRS. CHEVELEY. Oh! I donít care about the London season! It is too
matrimonial. People are either hunting for husbands, or hiding from
them. I wanted to meet you. It is quite true. You know what a womanís
curiosity is. Almost as great as a manís! I wanted immensely to meet
you, and . . . to ask you to do something for me.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I hope it is not a little thing, Mrs. Cheveley. I
find that little things are so very difficult to do.
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ After a momentís reflection .] No, I donít think it is
quite a little thing.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I am so glad. Do tell me what it is.
MRS. CHEVELEY. Later on. [ Rises .] And now may I walk through your
beautiful house? I hear your pictures are charming. Poor Baron
Arnheimóyou remember the Baron?óused to tell me you had some wonderful
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ With an almost imperceptible start .] Did you
know Baron Arnheim well?
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ Smiling .] Intimately. Did you?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. At one time.
MRS. CHEVELEY. Wonderful man, wasnít he?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ After a pause .] He was very remarkable, in many
MRS. CHEVELEY. I often think it such a pity he never wrote his memoirs.
They would have been most interesting.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Yes: he knew men and cities well, like the old
MRS. CHEVELEY. Without the dreadful disadvantage of having a Penelope
waiting at home for him.
MASON. Lord Goring.
[ Enter LORD GORING. Thirty-four , but always says he is younger .
A well-bred , expressionless face . He is clever , but would not
like to be thought so . A flawless dandy , he would be annoyed if he
were considered romantic . He plays with life , and is on perfectly
good terms with the world . He is fond of being misunderstood . It
gives him a post of vantage .]
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Good evening, my dear Arthur! Mrs. Cheveley, allow
me to introduce to you Lord Goring, the idlest man in London.
MRS. CHEVELEY. I have met Lord Goring before.
LORD GORING. [ Bowing .] I did not think you would remember me, Mrs.
MRS. CHEVELEY. My memory is under admirable control. And are you still
LORD GORING. I . . . believe so.
MRS. CHEVELEY. How very romantic!
LORD GORING. Oh! I am not at all romantic. I am not old enough. I
leave romance to my seniors.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Lord Goring is the result of Boodleís Club, Mrs.
MRS. CHEVELEY. He reflects every credit on the institution.
LORD GORING. May I ask are you staying in London long?
MRS. CHEVELEY. That depends partly on the weather, partly on the
cooking, and partly on Sir Robert.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. You are not going to plunge us into a European war,
MRS. CHEVELEY. There is no danger, at present!
[ She nods to LORD GORING, with a look of amusement in her eyes , and
goes out with SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. LORD GORING saunters over to MABEL
MABEL CHILTERN. You are very late!
LORD GORING. Have you missed me?
MABEL CHILTERN. Awfully!
LORD GORING. Then I am sorry I did not stay away longer. I like being
MABEL CHILTERN. How very selfish of you!
LORD GORING. I am very selfish.
MABEL CHILTERN. You are always telling me of your bad qualities, Lord
LORD GORING. I have only told you half of them as yet, Miss Mabel!
MABEL CHILTERN. Are the others very bad?
LORD GORING. Quite dreadful! When I think of them at night I go to
sleep at once.
MABEL CHILTERN. Well, I delight in your bad qualities. I wouldnít have
you part with one of them.
LORD GORING. How very nice of you! But then you are always nice. By
the way, I want to ask you a question, Miss Mabel. Who brought Mrs.
Cheveley here? That woman in heliotrope, who has just gone out of the
room with your brother?
MABEL CHILTERN. Oh, I think Lady Markby brought her. Why do you ask?
LORD GORING. I havenít seen her for years, that is all.
MABEL CHILTERN. What an absurd reason!
LORD GORING. All reasons are absurd.
MABEL CHILTERN. What sort of a woman is she?
LORD GORING. Oh! a genius in the daytime and a beauty at night!
MABEL CHILTERN. I dislike her already.
LORD GORING. That shows your admirable good taste.
VICOMTE DE NANJAC. [ Approaching .] Ah, the English young lady is the
dragon of good taste, is she not? Quite the dragon of good taste.
LORD GORING. So the newspapers are always telling us.
VICOMTE DE NANJAC. I read all your English newspapers. I find them so
LORD GORING. Then, my dear Nanjac, you must certainly read between the
VICOMTE DE NANJAC. I should like to, but my professor objects. [ To
MABEL CHILTERN.] May I have the pleasure of escorting you to the
MABEL CHILTERN. [ Looking very disappointed .] Delighted, Vicomte,
quite delighted! [ Turning to LORD GORING.] Arenít you coming to the
LORD GORING. Not if there is any music going on, Miss Mabel.
MABEL CHILTERN. [ Severely .] The music is in German. You would not
[ Goes out with the VICOMTE DE NANJAC. LORD CAVERSHAM comes up to his
LORD CAVERSHAM. Well, sir! what are you doing here? Wasting your life
as usual! You should be in bed, sir. You keep too late hours! I heard
of you the other night at Lady Ruffordís dancing till four oíclock in the
LORD GORING. Only a quarter to four, father.
LORD CAVERSHAM. Canít make out how you stand London Society. The thing
has gone to the dogs, a lot of damned nobodies talking about nothing.
LORD GORING. I love talking about nothing, father. It is the only thing
I know anything about.
LORD CAVERSHAM. You seem to me to be living entirely for pleasure.
LORD GORING. What else is there to live for, father? Nothing ages like
LORD CAVERSHAM. You are heartless, sir, very heartless!
LORD GORING. I hope not, father. Good evening, Lady Basildon!
LADY BASILDON. [ Arching two pretty eyebrows .] Are you here? I had no
idea you ever came to political parties!
LORD GORING. I adore political parties. They are the only place left to
us where people donít talk politics.
LADY BASILDON. I delight in talking politics. I talk them all day long.
But I canít bear listening to them. I donít know how the unfortunate men
in the House stand these long debates.
LORD GORING. By never listening.
LADY BASILDON. Really?
LORD GORING. [ In his most serious manner .] Of course. You see, it is
a very dangerous thing to listen. If one listens one may be convinced;
and a man who allows himself to be convinced by an argument is a
thoroughly unreasonable person.
LADY BASILDON. Ah! that accounts for so much in men that I have never
understood, and so much in women that their husbands never appreciate in
MRS. MARCHMONT. [ With a sigh .] Our husbands never appreciate anything
in us. We have to go to others for that!
LADY BASILDON. [ Emphatically .] Yes, always to others, have we not?
LORD GORING. [ Smiling .] And those are the views of the two ladies who
are known to have the most admirable husbands in London.
MRS. MARCHMONT. That is exactly what we canít stand. My Reginald is
quite hopelessly faultless. He is really unendurably so, at times!
There is not the smallest element of excitement in knowing him.
LORD GORING. How terrible! Really, the thing should be more widely
LADY BASILDON. Basildon is quite as bad; he is as domestic as if he was
MRS. MARCHMONT. [ Pressing LADY BASILDONíS hand .] My poor Olivia!
We have married perfect husbands, and we are well punished for it.
LORD GORING. I should have thought it was the husbands who were
MRS. MARCHMONT. [ Drawing herself up .] Oh, dear no! They are as happy
as possible! And as for trusting us, it is tragic how much they trust
LADY BASILDON. Perfectly tragic!
LORD GORING. Or comic, Lady Basildon?
LADY BASILDON. Certainly not comic, Lord Goring. How unkind of you to
suggest such a thing!
MRS. MARCHMONT. I am afraid Lord Goring is in the camp of the enemy, as
usual. I saw him talking to that Mrs. Cheveley when he came in.
LORD GORING. Handsome woman, Mrs. Cheveley!
LADY BASILDON. [ Stiffly .] Please donít praise other women in our
presence. You might wait for us to do that!
LORD GORING. I did wait.
MRS. MARCHMONT. Well, we are not going to praise her. I hear she went
to the Opera on Monday night, and told Tommy Rufford at supper that, as
far as she could see, London Society was entirely made up of dowdies and
LORD GORING. She is quite right, too. The men are all dowdies and the
women are all dandies, arenít they?
MRS. MARCHMONT. [ After a pause .] Oh! do you really think that is what
Mrs. Cheveley meant?
LORD GORING. Of course. And a very sensible remark for Mrs. Cheveley to
[ Enter MABEL CHILTERN. She joins the group .]
MABEL CHILTERN. Why are you talking about Mrs. Cheveley? Everybody is
talking about Mrs. Cheveley! Lord Goring saysówhat did you say, Lord
Goring, about Mrs. Cheveley? Oh! I remember, that she was a genius in
the daytime and a beauty at night.
LADY BASILDON. What a horrid combination! So very unnatural!
MRS. MARCHMONT. [ In her most dreamy manner .] I like looking at
geniuses, and listening to beautiful people.
LORD GORING. Ah! that is morbid of you, Mrs. Marchmont!
MRS. MARCHMONT. [ Brightening to a look of real pleasure .] I am so
glad to hear you say that. Marchmont and I have been married for seven
years, and he has never once told me that I was morbid. Men are so
LADY BASILDON. [ Turning to her .] I have always said, dear Margaret,
that you were the most morbid person in London.
MRS. MARCHMONT. Ah! but you are always sympathetic, Olivia!
MABEL CHILTERN. Is it morbid to have a desire for food? I have a great
desire for food. Lord Goring, will you give me some supper?
LORD GORING. With pleasure, Miss Mabel. [ Moves away with her .]
MABEL CHILTERN. How horrid you have been! You have never talked to me
the whole evening!
LORD GORING. How could I? You went away with the child-diplomatist.
MABEL CHILTERN. You might have followed us. Pursuit would have been
only polite. I donít think I like you at all this evening!
LORD GORING. I like you immensely.
MABEL CHILTERN. Well, I wish youíd show it in a more marked way! [ They
go downstairs .]
MRS. MARCHMONT. Olivia, I have a curious feeling of absolute faintness.
I think I should like some supper very much. I know I should like some
LADY BASILDON. I am positively dying for supper, Margaret!
MRS. MARCHMONT. Men are so horribly selfish, they never think of these
LADY BASILDON. Men are grossly material, grossly material!
[ The VICOMTE DE NANJAC enters from the music-room with some other
guests . After having carefully examined all the people present , he
approaches LADY BASILDON.]
VICOMTE DE NANJAC. May I have the honour of taking you down to supper,
LADY BASILDON. [ Coldly .] I never take supper, thank you, Vicomte.
[ The VICOMTE is about to retire . LADY BASILDON, seeing this ,
rises at once and takes his arm .] But I will come down with you with
VICOMTE DE NANJAC. I am so fond of eating! I am very English in all my
LADY BASILDON. You look quite English, Vicomte, quite English.
[ They pass out . MR. MONTFORD, a perfectly groomed young dandy ,
approaches MRS. MARCHMONT.]
MR. MONTFORD. Like some supper, Mrs. Marchmont?
MRS. MARCHMONT. [ Languidly .] Thank you, Mr. Montford, I never touch
supper. [ Rises hastily and takes his arm .] But I will sit beside you,
and watch you.
MR. MONTFORD. I donít know that I like being watched when I am eating!
MRS. MARCHMONT. Then I will watch some one else.
MR. MONTFORD. I donít know that I should like that either.
MRS. MARCHMONT. [ Severely .] Pray, Mr. Montford, do not make these
painful scenes of jealousy in public!
[ They go downstairs with the other guests , passing SIR ROBERT
CHILTERN and MRS. CHEVELEY, who now enter .]
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. And are you going to any of our country houses
before you leave England, Mrs. Cheveley?
MRS. CHEVELEY. Oh, no! I canít stand your English house-parties. In
England people actually try to be brilliant at breakfast. That is so
dreadful of them! Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast. And then
the family skeleton is always reading family prayers. My stay in England
really depends on you, Sir Robert. [ Sits down on the sofa .]
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Taking a seat beside her .] Seriously?
MRS. CHEVELEY. Quite seriously. I want to talk to you about a great
political and financial scheme, about this Argentine Canal Company, in
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. What a tedious, practical subject for you to talk
about, Mrs. Cheveley!
MRS. CHEVELEY. Oh, I like tedious, practical subjects. What I donít
like are tedious, practical people. There is a wide difference.
Besides, you are interested, I know, in International Canal schemes. You
were Lord Radleyís secretary, werenít you, when the Government bought the
Suez Canal shares?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Yes. But the Suez Canal was a very great and
splendid undertaking. It gave us our direct route to India. It had
imperial value. It was necessary that we should have control. This
Argentine scheme is a commonplace Stock Exchange swindle.
MRS. CHEVELEY. A speculation, Sir Robert! A brilliant, daring
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Believe me, Mrs. Cheveley, it is a swindle. Let us
call things by their proper names. It makes matters simpler. We have
all the information about it at the Foreign Office. In fact, I sent out
a special Commission to inquire into the matter privately, and they
report that the works are hardly begun, and as for the money already
subscribed, no one seems to know what has become of it. The whole thing
is a second Panama, and with not a quarter of the chance of success that
miserable affair ever had. I hope you have not invested in it. I am
sure you are far too clever to have done that.
MRS. CHEVELEY. I have invested very largely in it.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Who could have advised you to do such a foolish
MRS. CHEVELEY. Your old friendóand mine.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Who?
MRS. CHEVELEY. Baron Arnheim.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Frowning .] Ah! yes. I remember hearing, at the
time of his death, that he had been mixed up in the whole affair.
MRS. CHEVELEY. It was his last romance. His last but one, to do him
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Rising .] But you have not seen my Corots yet.
They are in the music-room. Corots seem to go with music, donít they?
May I show them to you?
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ Shaking her head .] I am not in a mood to-night for
silver twilights, or rose-pink dawns. I want to talk business.
[ Motions to him with her fan to sit down again beside her .]
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I fear I have no advice to give you, Mrs. Cheveley,
except to interest yourself in something less dangerous. The success of
the Canal depends, of course, on the attitude of England, and I am going
to lay the report of the Commissioners before the House to-morrow night.
MRS. CHEVELEY. That you must not do. In your own interests, Sir Robert,
to say nothing of mine, you must not do that.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Looking at her in wonder .] In my own interests?
My dear Mrs. Cheveley, what do you mean? [ Sits down beside her .]
MRS. CHEVELEY. Sir Robert, I will be quite frank with you. I want you
to withdraw the report that you had intended to lay before the House, on
the ground that you have reasons to believe that the Commissioners have
been prejudiced or misinformed, or something. Then I want you to say a
few words to the effect that the Government is going to reconsider the
question, and that you have reason to believe that the Canal, if
completed, will be of great international value. You know the sort of
things ministers say in cases of this kind. A few ordinary platitudes
will do. In modern life nothing produces such an effect as a good
platitude. It makes the whole world kin. Will you do that for me?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Mrs. Cheveley, you cannot be serious in making me
such a proposition!
MRS. CHEVELEY. I am quite serious.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Coldly .] Pray allow me to believe that you are
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ Speaking with great deliberation and emphasis .] Ah!
but I am. And if you do what I ask you, I . . . will pay you very
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Pay me!
MRS. CHEVELEY. Yes.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I am afraid I donít quite understand what you mean.
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ Leaning back on the sofa and looking at him .] How
very disappointing! And I have come all the way from Vienna in order
that you should thoroughly understand me.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I fear I donít.
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ In her most nonchalant manner .] My dear Sir Robert,
you are a man of the world, and you have your price, I suppose.
Everybody has nowadays. The drawback is that most people are so
dreadfully expensive. I know I am. I hope you will be more reasonable
in your terms.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Rises indignantly .] If you will allow me, I
will call your carriage for you. You have lived so long abroad, Mrs.
Cheveley, that you seem to be unable to realise that you are talking to
an English gentleman.
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ Detains him by touching his arm with her fan , and
keeping it there while she is talking .] I realise that I am talking to
a man who laid the foundation of his fortune by selling to a Stock
Exchange speculator a Cabinet secret.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Biting his lip .] What do you mean?
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ Rising and facing him .] I mean that I know the real
origin of your wealth and your career, and I have got your letter, too.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. What letter?
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ Contemptuously .] The letter you wrote to Baron
Arnheim, when you were Lord Radleyís secretary, telling the Baron to buy
Suez Canal sharesóa letter written three days before the Government
announced its own purchase.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Hoarsely .] It is not true.
MRS. CHEVELEY. You thought that letter had been destroyed. How foolish
of you! It is in my possession.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. The affair to which you allude was no more than a
speculation. The House of Commons had not yet passed the bill; it might
have been rejected.
MRS. CHEVELEY. It was a swindle, Sir Robert. Let us call things by
their proper names. It makes everything simpler. And now I am going to
sell you that letter, and the price I ask for it is your public support
of the Argentine scheme. You made your own fortune out of one canal.
You must help me and my friends to make our fortunes out of another!
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. It is infamous, what you proposeóinfamous!
MRS. CHEVELEY. Oh, no! This is the game of life as we all have to play
it, Sir Robert, sooner or later!
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I cannot do what you ask me.
MRS. CHEVELEY. You mean you cannot help doing it. You know you are
standing on the edge of a precipice. And it is not for you to make
terms. It is for you to accept them. Supposing you refuseó
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. What then?
MRS. CHEVELEY. My dear Sir Robert, what then? You are ruined, that is
all! Remember to what a point your Puritanism in England has brought
you. In old days nobody pretended to be a bit better than his
neighbours. In fact, to be a bit better than oneís neighbour was
considered excessively vulgar and middle-class. Nowadays, with our
modern mania for morality, every one has to pose as a paragon of purity,
incorruptibility, and all the other seven deadly virtuesóand what is the
result? You all go over like ninepinsóone after the other. Not a year
passes in England without somebody disappearing. Scandals used to lend
charm, or at least interest, to a manónow they crush him. And yours is a
very nasty scandal. You couldnít survive it. If it were known that as a
young man, secretary to a great and important minister, you sold a
Cabinet secret for a large sum of money, and that that was the origin of
your wealth and career, you would be hounded out of public life, you
would disappear completely. And after all, Sir Robert, why should you
sacrifice your entire future rather than deal diplomatically with your
enemy? For the moment I am your enemy. I admit it! And I am much
stronger than you are. The big battalions are on my side. You have a
splendid position, but it is your splendid position that makes you so
vulnerable. You canít defend it! And I am in attack. Of course I have
not talked morality to you. You must admit in fairness that I have
spared you that. Years ago you did a clever, unscrupulous thing; it
turned out a great success. You owe to it your fortune and position.
And now you have got to pay for it. Sooner or later we have all to pay
for what we do. You have to pay now. Before I leave you to-night, you
have got to promise me to suppress your report, and to speak in the House
in favour of this scheme.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. What you ask is impossible.
MRS. CHEVELEY. You must make it possible. You are going to make it
possible. Sir Robert, you know what your English newspapers are like.
Suppose that when I leave this house I drive down to some newspaper
office, and give them this scandal and the proofs of it! Think of their
loathsome joy, of the delight they would have in dragging you down, of
the mud and mire they would plunge you in. Think of the hypocrite with
his greasy smile penning his leading article, and arranging the foulness
of the public placard.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Stop! You want me to withdraw the report and to
make a short speech stating that I believe there are possibilities in the
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ Sitting down on the sofa .] Those are my terms.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ In a low voice .] I will give you any sum of
money you want.
MRS. CHEVELEY. Even you are not rich enough, Sir Robert, to buy back
your past. No man is.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I will not do what you ask me. I will not.
MRS. CHEVELEY. You have to. If you donít . . . [ Rises from the sofa .]
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Bewildered and unnerved .] Wait a moment! What
did you propose? You said that you would give me back my letter, didnít
MRS. CHEVELEY. Yes. That is agreed. I will be in the Ladiesí Gallery
to-morrow night at half-past eleven. If by that timeóand you will have
had heaps of opportunityóyou have made an announcement to the House in
the terms I wish, I shall hand you back your letter with the prettiest
thanks, and the best, or at any rate the most suitable, compliment I can
think of. I intend to play quite fairly with you. One should always
play fairly . . . when one has the winning cards. The Baron taught me
that . . . amongst other things.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. You must let me have time to consider your
MRS. CHEVELEY. No; you must settle now!
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Give me a weekóthree days!
MRS. CHEVELEY. Impossible! I have got to telegraph to Vienna to-night.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. My God! what brought you into my life?
MRS. CHEVELEY. Circumstances. [ Moves towards the door .]
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Donít go. I consent. The report shall be
withdrawn. I will arrange for a question to be put to me on the subject.
MRS. CHEVELEY. Thank you. I knew we should come to an amicable
agreement. I understood your nature from the first. I analysed you,
though you did not adore me. And now you can get my carriage for me, Sir
Robert. I see the people coming up from supper, and Englishmen always
get romantic after a meal, and that bores me dreadfully. [ Exit SIR
[ Enter Guests , LADY CHILTERN, LADY MARKBY, LORD CAVERSHAM, LADY
BASILDON, MRS. MARCHMONT, VICOMTE DE NANJAC, MR. MONTFORD.]
LADY MARKBY. Well, dear Mrs. Cheveley, I hope you have enjoyed yourself.
Sir Robert is very entertaining, is he not?
MRS. CHEVELEY. Most entertaining! I have enjoyed my talk with him
LADY MARKBY. He has had a very interesting and brilliant career. And he
has married a most admirable wife. Lady Chiltern is a woman of the very
highest principles, I am glad to say. I am a little too old now, myself,
to trouble about setting a good example, but I always admire people who
do. And Lady Chiltern has a very ennobling effect on life, though her
dinner-parties are rather dull sometimes. But one canít have everything,
can one? And now I must go, dear. Shall I call for you to-morrow?
MRS. CHEVELEY. Thanks.
LADY MARKBY. We might drive in the Park at five. Everything looks so
fresh in the Park now!
MRS. CHEVELEY. Except the people!
LADY MARKBY. Perhaps the people are a little jaded. I have often
observed that the Season as it goes on produces a kind of softening of
the brain. However, I think anything is better than high intellectual
pressure. That is the most unbecoming thing there is. It makes the
noses of the young girls so particularly large. And there is nothing so
difficult to marry as a large nose; men donít like them. Good-night,
dear! [ To LADY CHILTERN.] Good-night, Gertrude! [ Goes out on LORD
CAVERSHAMíS arm .]
MRS. CHEVELEY. What a charming house you have, Lady Chiltern! I have
spent a delightful evening. It has been so interesting getting to know
LADY CHILTERN. Why did you wish to meet my husband, Mrs. Cheveley?
MRS. CHEVELEY. Oh, I will tell you. I wanted to interest him in this
Argentine Canal scheme, of which I dare say you have heard. And I found
him most susceptible,ósusceptible to reason, I mean. A rare thing in a
man. I converted him in ten minutes. He is going to make a speech in
the House to-morrow night in favour of the idea. We must go to the
Ladiesí Gallery and hear him! It will be a great occasion!
LADY CHILTERN. There must be some mistake. That scheme could never have
my husbandís support.
MRS. CHEVELEY. Oh, I assure you itís all settled. I donít regret my
tedious journey from Vienna now. It has been a great success. But, of
course, for the next twenty-four hours the whole thing is a dead secret.
LADY CHILTERN. [ Gently .] A secret? Between whom?
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ With a flash of amusement in her eyes .] Between your
husband and myself.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Entering .] Your carriage is here, Mrs.
MRS. CHEVELEY. Thanks! Good evening, Lady Chiltern! Good-night, Lord
Goring! I am at Claridgeís. Donít you think you might leave a card?
LORD GORING. If you wish it, Mrs. Cheveley!
MRS. CHEVELEY. Oh, donít be so solemn about it, or I shall be obliged to
leave a card on you. In England I suppose that would hardly be
considered en rŤgle. Abroad, we are more civilised. Will you see me
down, Sir Robert? Now that we have both the same interests at heart we
shall be great friends, I hope!
[ Sails out on SIR ROBERT CHILTERNíS arm . LADY CHILTERN goes to the
top of the staircase and looks down at them as they descend . Her
expression is troubled . After a little time she is joined by some of
the guests , and passes with them into another reception-room .]
MABEL CHILTERN. What a horrid woman!
LORD GORING. You should go to bed, Miss Mabel.
MABEL CHILTERN. Lord Goring!
LORD GORING. My father told me to go to bed an hour ago. I donít see
why I shouldnít give you the same advice. I always pass on good advice.
It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.
MABEL CHILTERN. Lord Goring, you are always ordering me out of the room.
I think it most courageous of you. Especially as I am not going to bed
for hours. [ Goes over to the sofa .] You can come and sit down if you
like, and talk about anything in the world, except the Royal Academy,
Mrs. Cheveley, or novels in Scotch dialect. They are not improving
subjects. [ Catches sight of something that is lying on the sofa half
hidden by the cushion .] What is this? Some one has dropped a diamond
brooch! Quite beautiful, isnít it? [ Shows it to him .] I wish it was
mine, but Gertrude wonít let me wear anything but pearls, and I am
thoroughly sick of pearls. They make one look so plain, so good and so
intellectual. I wonder whom the brooch belongs to.
LORD GORING. I wonder who dropped it.
MABEL CHILTERN. It is a beautiful brooch.
LORD GORING. It is a handsome bracelet.
MABEL CHILTERN. It isnít a bracelet. Itís a brooch.
LORD GORING. It can be used as a bracelet. [ Takes it from her , and ,
pulling out a green letter-case , puts the ornament carefully in it ,
and replaces the whole thing in his breast-pocket with the most perfect
sang froid .]
MABEL CHILTERN. What are you doing?
LORD GORING. Miss Mabel, I am going to make a rather strange request to
MABEL CHILTERN. [ Eagerly .] Oh, pray do! I have been waiting for it
all the evening.
LORD GORING. [ Is a little taken aback , but recovers himself .] Donít
mention to anybody that I have taken charge of this brooch. Should any
one write and claim it, let me know at once.
MABEL CHILTERN. That is a strange request.
LORD GORING. Well, you see I gave this brooch to somebody once, years
MABEL CHILTERN. You did?
LORD GORING. Yes.
[LADY CHILTERN enters alone . The other guests have gone .]
MABEL CHILTERN. Then I shall certainly bid you good-night. Good-night,
Gertrude! [ Exit .]
LADY CHILTERN. Good-night, dear! [ To LORD GORING.] You saw whom Lady
Markby brought here to-night?
LORD GORING. Yes. It was an unpleasant surprise. What did she come
LADY CHILTERN. Apparently to try and lure Robert to uphold some
fraudulent scheme in which she is interested. The Argentine Canal, in
LORD GORING. She has mistaken her man, hasnít she?
LADY CHILTERN. She is incapable of understanding an upright nature like
LORD GORING. Yes. I should fancy she came to grief if she tried to get
Robert into her toils. It is extraordinary what astounding mistakes
clever women make.
LADY CHILTERN. I donít call women of that kind clever. I call them
LORD GORING. Same thing often. Good-night, Lady Chiltern!
LADY CHILTERN. Good-night!
[ Enter SIR ROBERT CHILTERN.]
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. My dear Arthur, you are not going? Do stop a
LORD GORING. Afraid I canít, thanks. I have promised to look in at the
Hartlocksí. I believe they have got a mauve Hungarian band that plays
mauve Hungarian music. See you soon. Good-bye!
[ Exit ]
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. How beautiful you look to-night, Gertrude!
LADY CHILTERN. Robert, it is not true, is it? You are not going to lend
your support to this Argentine speculation? You couldnít!
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Starting .] Who told you I intended to do so?
LADY CHILTERN. That woman who has just gone out, Mrs. Cheveley, as she
calls herself now. She seemed to taunt me with it. Robert, I know this
woman. You donít. We were at school together. She was untruthful,
dishonest, an evil influence on every one whose trust or friendship she
could win. I hated, I despised her. She stole things, she was a thief.
She was sent away for being a thief. Why do you let her influence you?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Gertrude, what you tell me may be true, but it
happened many years ago. It is best forgotten! Mrs. Cheveley may have
changed since then. No one should be entirely judged by their past.
LADY CHILTERN. [ Sadly .] Oneís past is what one is. It is the only
way by which people should be judged.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. That is a hard saying, Gertrude!
LADY CHILTERN. It is a true saying, Robert. And what did she mean by
boasting that she had got you to lend your support, your name, to a thing
I have heard you describe as the most dishonest and fraudulent scheme
there has ever been in political life?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Biting his lip .] I was mistaken in the view I
took. We all may make mistakes.
LADY CHILTERN. But you told me yesterday that you had received the
report from the Commission, and that it entirely condemned the whole
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Walking up and down .] I have reasons now to
believe that the Commission was prejudiced, or, at any rate, misinformed.
Besides, Gertrude, public and private life are different things. They
have different laws, and move on different lines.
LADY CHILTERN. They should both represent man at his highest. I see no
difference between them.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Stopping .] In the present case, on a matter of
practical politics, I have changed my mind. That is all.
LADY CHILTERN. All!
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Sternly .] Yes!
LADY CHILTERN. Robert! Oh! it is horrible that I should have to ask you
such a questionóRobert, are you telling me the whole truth?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Why do you ask me such a question?
LADY CHILTERN. [ After a pause .] Why do you not answer it?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Sitting down .] Gertrude, truth is a very
complex thing, and politics is a very complex business. There are wheels
within wheels. One may be under certain obligations to people that one
must pay. Sooner or later in political life one has to compromise.
Every one does.
LADY CHILTERN. Compromise? Robert, why do you talk so differently
to-night from the way I have always heard you talk? Why are you changed?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I am not changed. But circumstances alter things.
LADY CHILTERN. Circumstances should never alter principles!
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. But if I told youó
LADY CHILTERN. What?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. That it was necessary, vitally necessary?
LADY CHILTERN. It can never be necessary to do what is not honourable.
Or if it be necessary, then what is it that I have loved! But it is not,
Robert; tell me it is not. Why should it be? What gain would you get?
Money? We have no need of that! And money that comes from a tainted
source is a degradation. Power? But power is nothing in itself. It is
power to do good that is fineóthat, and that only. What is it, then?
Robert, tell me why you are going to do this dishonourable thing!
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Gertrude, you have no right to use that word. I
told you it was a question of rational compromise. It is no more than
LADY CHILTERN. Robert, that is all very well for other men, for men who
treat life simply as a sordid speculation; but not for you, Robert, not
for you. You are different. All your life you have stood apart from
others. You have never let the world soil you. To the world, as to
myself, you have been an ideal always. Oh! be that ideal still. That
great inheritance throw not awayóthat tower of ivory do not destroy.
Robert, men can love what is beneath themóthings unworthy, stained,
dishonoured. We women worship when we love; and when we lose our
worship, we lose everything. Oh! donít kill my love for you, donít kill
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Gertrude!
LADY CHILTERN. I know that there are men with horrible secrets in their
livesómen who have done some shameful thing, and who in some critical
moment have to pay for it, by doing some other act of shameóoh! donít
tell me you are such as they are! Robert, is there in your life any
secret dishonour or disgrace? Tell me, tell me at once, tható
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. That what?
LADY CHILTERN. [ Speaking very slowly .] That our lives may drift
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Drift apart?
LADY CHILTERN. That they may be entirely separate. It would be better
for us both.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Gertrude, there is nothing in my past life that you
might not know.
LADY CHILTERN. I was sure of it, Robert, I was sure of it. But why did
you say those dreadful things, things so unlike your real self? Donít
let us ever talk about the subject again. You will write, wonít you, to
Mrs. Cheveley, and tell her that you cannot support this scandalous
scheme of hers? If you have given her any promise you must take it back,
that is all!
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Must I write and tell her that?
LADY CHILTERN. Surely, Robert! What else is there to do?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I might see her personally. It would be better.
LADY CHILTERN. You must never see her again, Robert. She is not a woman
you should ever speak to. She is not worthy to talk to a man like you.
No; you must write to her at once, now, this moment, and let your letter
show her that your decision is quite irrevocable!
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Write this moment!
LADY CHILTERN. Yes.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. But it is so late. It is close on twelve.
LADY CHILTERN. That makes no matter. She must know at once that she has
been mistaken in youóand that you are not a man to do anything base or
underhand or dishonourable. Write here, Robert. Write that you decline
to support this scheme of hers, as you hold it to be a dishonest scheme.
Yesówrite the word dishonest. She knows what that word means. [SIR
ROBERT CHILTERN sits down and writes a letter . His wife takes it up
and reads it .] Yes; that will do. [ Rings bell .] And now the
envelope. [ He writes the envelope slowly . Enter MASON.] Have this
letter sent at once to Claridgeís Hotel. There is no answer. [ Exit
MASON. LADY CHILTERN kneels down beside her husband , and puts her
arms around him .] Robert, love gives one an instinct to things. I feel
to-night that I have saved you from something that might have been a
danger to you, from something that might have made men honour you less
than they do. I donít think you realise sufficiently, Robert, that you
have brought into the political life of our time a nobler atmosphere, a
finer attitude towards life, a freer air of purer aims and higher
idealsóI know it, and for that I love you, Robert.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Oh, love me always, Gertrude, love me always!
LADY CHILTERN. I will love you always, because you will always be worthy
of love. We needs must love the highest when we see it! [ Kisses him
and rises and goes out .]
[SIR ROBERT CHILTERN walks up and down for a moment ; then sits down
and buries his face in his hands . The Servant enters and begins
pulling out the lights . SIR ROBERT CHILTERN looks up .]
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Put out the lights, Mason, put out the lights!
[ The Servant puts out the lights . The room becomes almost dark .
The only light there is comes from the great chandelier that hangs over
the staircase and illumines the tapestry of the Triumph of Love .]
Morning-room at Sir Robert Chilternís house .
[LORD GORING, dressed in the height of fashion , is lounging in an
armchair . SIR ROBERT CHILTERN is standing in front of the fireplace .
He is evidently in a state of great mental excitement and distress .
As the scene progresses he paces nervously up and down the room .]
LORD GORING. My dear Robert, itís a very awkward business, very awkward
indeed. You should have told your wife the whole thing. Secrets from
other peopleís wives are a necessary luxury in modern life. So, at
least, I am always told at the club by people who are bald enough to know
better. But no man should have a secret from his own wife. She
invariably finds it out. Women have a wonderful instinct about things.
They can discover everything except the obvious.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Arthur, I couldnít tell my wife. When could I have
told her? Not last night. It would have made a life-long separation
between us, and I would have lost the love of the one woman in the world
I worship, of the only woman who has ever stirred love within me. Last
night it would have been quite impossible. She would have turned from me
in horror . . . in horror and in contempt.
LORD GORING. Is Lady Chiltern as perfect as all that?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Yes; my wife is as perfect as all that.
LORD GORING. [ Taking off his left-hand glove .] What a pity! I beg
your pardon, my dear fellow, I didnít quite mean that. But if what you
tell me is true, I should like to have a serious talk about life with
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. It would be quite useless.
LORD GORING. May I try?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Yes; but nothing could make her alter her views.
LORD GORING. Well, at the worst it would simply be a psychological
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. All such experiments are terribly dangerous.
LORD GORING. Everything is dangerous, my dear fellow. If it wasnít so,
life wouldnít be worth living. . . . Well, I am bound to say that I think
you should have told her years ago.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. When? When we were engaged? Do you think she
would have married me if she had known that the origin of my fortune is
such as it is, the basis of my career such as it is, and that I had done
a thing that I suppose most men would call shameful and dishonourable?
LORD GORING. [ Slowly .] Yes; most men would call it ugly names. There
is no doubt of that.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Bitterly .] Men who every day do something of
the same kind themselves. Men who, each one of them, have worse secrets
in their own lives.
LORD GORING. That is the reason they are so pleased to find out other
peopleís secrets. It distracts public attention from their own.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. And, after all, whom did I wrong by what I did? No
LORD GORING. [ Looking at him steadily .] Except yourself, Robert.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ After a pause .] Of course I had private
information about a certain transaction contemplated by the Government of
the day, and I acted on it. Private information is practically the
source of every large modern fortune.
LORD GORING. [ Tapping his boot with his cane .] And public scandal
invariably the result.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Pacing up and down the room .] Arthur, do you
think that what I did nearly eighteen years ago should be brought up
against me now? Do you think it fair that a manís whole career should be
ruined for a fault done in oneís boyhood almost? I was twenty-two at the
time, and I had the double misfortune of being well-born and poor, two
unforgiveable things nowadays. Is it fair that the folly, the sin of
oneís youth, if men choose to call it a sin, should wreck a life like
mine, should place me in the pillory, should shatter all that I have
worked for, all that I have built up. Is it fair, Arthur?
LORD GORING. Life is never fair, Robert. And perhaps it is a good thing
for most of us that it is not.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Every man of ambition has to fight his century with
its own weapons. What this century worships is wealth. The God of this
century is wealth. To succeed one must have wealth. At all costs one
must have wealth.
LORD GORING. You underrate yourself, Robert. Believe me, without wealth
you could have succeeded just as well.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. When I was old, perhaps. When I had lost my
passion for power, or could not use it. When I was tired, worn out,
disappointed. I wanted my success when I was young. Youth is the time
for success. I couldnít wait.
LORD GORING. Well, you certainly have had your success while you are
still young. No one in our day has had such a brilliant success.
Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs at the age of fortyóthatís good
enough for any one, I should think.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. And if it is all taken away from me now? If I lose
everything over a horrible scandal? If I am hounded from public life?
LORD GORING. Robert, how could you have sold yourself for money?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Excitedly .] I did not sell myself for money. I
bought success at a great price. That is all.
LORD GORING. [ Gravely .] Yes; you certainly paid a great price for it.
But what first made you think of doing such a thing?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Baron Arnheim.
LORD GORING. Damned scoundrel!
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. No; he was a man of a most subtle and refined
intellect. A man of culture, charm, and distinction. One of the most
intellectual men I ever met.
LORD GORING. Ah! I prefer a gentlemanly fool any day. There is more to
be said for stupidity than people imagine. Personally I have a great
admiration for stupidity. It is a sort of fellow-feeling, I suppose.
But how did he do it? Tell me the whole thing.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Throws himself into an armchair by the
writing-table .] One night after dinner at Lord Radleyís the Baron began
talking about success in modern life as something that one could reduce
to an absolutely definite science. With that wonderfully fascinating
quiet voice of his he expounded to us the most terrible of all
philosophies, the philosophy of power, preached to us the most marvellous
of all gospels, the gospel of gold. I think he saw the effect he had
produced on me, for some days afterwards he wrote and asked me to come
and see him. He was living then in Park Lane, in the house Lord Woolcomb
has now. I remember so well how, with a strange smile on his pale,
curved lips, he led me through his wonderful picture gallery, showed me
his tapestries, his enamels, his jewels, his carved ivories, made me
wonder at the strange loveliness of the luxury in which he lived; and
then told me that luxury was nothing but a background, a painted scene in
a play, and that power, power over other men, power over the world, was
the one thing worth having, the one supreme pleasure worth knowing, the
one joy one never tired of, and that in our century only the rich
LORD GORING. [ With great deliberation .] A thoroughly shallow creed.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Rising .] I didnít think so then. I donít think
so now. Wealth has given me enormous power. It gave me at the very
outset of my life freedom, and freedom is everything. You have never
been poor, and never known what ambition is. You cannot understand what
a wonderful chance the Baron gave me. Such a chance as few men get.
LORD GORING. Fortunately for them, if one is to judge by results. But
tell me definitely, how did the Baron finally persuade you toówell, to do
what you did?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. When I was going away he said to me that if I ever
could give him any private information of real value he would make me a
very rich man. I was dazed at the prospect he held out to me, and my
ambition and my desire for power were at that time boundless. Six weeks
later certain private documents passed through my hands.
LORD GORING. [ Keeping his eyes steadily fixed on the carpet .] State
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Yes. [LORD GORING sighs , then passes his hand
across his forehead and looks up .]
LORD GORING. I had no idea that you, of all men in the world, could have
been so weak, Robert, as to yield to such a temptation as Baron Arnheim
held out to you.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Weak? Oh, I am sick of hearing that phrase. Sick
of using it about others. Weak? Do you really think, Arthur, that it is
weakness that yields to temptation? I tell you that there are terrible
temptations that it requires strength, strength and courage, to yield to.
To stake all oneís life on a single moment, to risk everything on one
throw, whether the stake be power or pleasure, I care notóthere is no
weakness in that. There is a horrible, a terrible courage. I had that
courage. I sat down the same afternoon and wrote Baron Arnheim the
letter this woman now holds. He made three-quarters of a million over
LORD GORING. And you?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I received from the Baron £110,000.
LORD GORING. You were worth more, Robert.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. No; that money gave me exactly what I wanted, power
over others. I went into the House immediately. The Baron advised me in
finance from time to time. Before five years I had almost trebled my
fortune. Since then everything that I have touched has turned out a
success. In all things connected with money I have had a luck so
extraordinary that sometimes it has made me almost afraid. I remember
having read somewhere, in some strange book, that when the gods wish to
punish us they answer our prayers.
LORD GORING. But tell me, Robert, did you never suffer any regret for
what you had done?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. No. I felt that I had fought the century with its
own weapons, and won.
LORD GORING. [ Sadly .] You thought you had won.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I thought so. [ After a long pause .] Arthur, do
you despise me for what I have told you?
LORD GORING. [ With deep feeling in his voice .] I am very sorry for
you, Robert, very sorry indeed.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I donít say that I suffered any remorse. I didnít.
Not remorse in the ordinary, rather silly sense of the word. But I have
paid conscience money many times. I had a wild hope that I might disarm
destiny. The sum Baron Arnheim gave me I have distributed twice over in
public charities since then.
LORD GORING. [ Looking up .] In public charities? Dear me! what a lot
of harm you must have done, Robert!
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Oh, donít say that, Arthur; donít talk like that!
LORD GORING. Never mind what I say, Robert! I am always saying what I
shouldnít say. In fact, I usually say what I really think. A great
mistake nowadays. It makes one so liable to be misunderstood. As
regards this dreadful business, I will help you in whatever way I can.
Of course you know that.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Thank you, Arthur, thank you. But what is to be
done? What can be done?
LORD GORING. [ Leaning back with his hands in his pockets .] Well, the
English canít stand a man who is always saying he is in the right, but
they are very fond of a man who admits that he has been in the wrong. It
is one of the best things in them. However, in your case, Robert, a
confession would not do. The money, if you will allow me to say so, is
. . . awkward. Besides, if you did make a clean breast of the whole
affair, you would never be able to talk morality again. And in England a
man who canít talk morality twice a week to a large, popular, immoral
audience is quite over as a serious politician. There would be nothing
left for him as a profession except Botany or the Church. A confession
would be of no use. It would ruin you.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. It would ruin me. Arthur, the only thing for me to
do now is to fight the thing out.
LORD GORING. [ Rising from his chair .] I was waiting for you to say
that, Robert. It is the only thing to do now. And you must begin by
telling your wife the whole story.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. That I will not do.
LORD GORING. Robert, believe me, you are wrong.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I couldnít do it. It would kill her love for me.
And now about this woman, this Mrs. Cheveley. How can I defend myself
against her? You knew her before, Arthur, apparently.
LORD GORING. Yes.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Did you know her well?
LORD GORING. [ Arranging his necktie .] So little that I got engaged to
be married to her once, when I was staying at the Tenbysí. The affair
lasted for three days . . . nearly.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Why was it broken off?
LORD GORING. [ Airily .] Oh, I forget. At least, it makes no matter.
By the way, have you tried her with money? She used to be confoundedly
fond of money.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I offered her any sum she wanted. She refused.
LORD GORING. Then the marvellous gospel of gold breaks down sometimes.
The rich canít do everything, after all.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Not everything. I suppose you are right. Arthur,
I feel that public disgrace is in store for me. I feel certain of it. I
never knew what terror was before. I know it now. It is as if a hand of
ice were laid upon oneís heart. It is as if oneís heart were beating
itself to death in some empty hollow.
LORD GORING. [ Striking the table .] Robert, you must fight her. You
must fight her.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. But how?
LORD GORING. I canít tell you how at present. I have not the smallest
idea. But every one has some weak point. There is some flaw in each one
of us. [ Strolls to the fireplace and looks at himself in the glass .]
My father tells me that even I have faults. Perhaps I have. I donít
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. In defending myself against Mrs. Cheveley, I have a
right to use any weapon I can find, have I not?
LORD GORING. [ Still looking in the glass .] In your place I donít
think I should have the smallest scruple in doing so. She is thoroughly
well able to take care of herself.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Sits down at the table and takes a pen in his
hand .] Well, I shall send a cipher telegram to the Embassy at Vienna,
to inquire if there is anything known against her. There may be some
secret scandal she might be afraid of.
LORD GORING. [ Settling his buttonhole .] Oh, I should fancy Mrs.
Cheveley is one of those very modern women of our time who find a new
scandal as becoming as a new bonnet, and air them both in the Park every
afternoon at five-thirty. I am sure she adores scandals, and that the
sorrow of her life at present is that she canít manage to have enough of
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Writing .] Why do you say that?
LORD GORING. [ Turning round .] Well, she wore far too much rouge last
night, and not quite enough clothes. That is always a sign of despair in
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Striking a bell .] But it is worth while my
wiring to Vienna, is it not?
LORD GORING. It is always worth while asking a question, though it is
not always worth while answering one.
[ Enter MASON.]
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Is Mr. Trafford in his room?
MASON. Yes, Sir Robert.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Puts what he has written into an envelope ,
which he then carefully closes .] Tell him to have this sent off in
cipher at once. There must not be a momentís delay.
MASON. Yes, Sir Robert.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Oh! just give that back to me again.
[ Writes something on the envelope . MASON then goes out with the
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. She must have had some curious hold over Baron
Arnheim. I wonder what it was.
LORD GORING. [ Smiling .] I wonder.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I will fight her to the death, as long as my wife
LORD GORING. [ Strongly .] Oh, fight in any caseóin any case.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ With a gesture of despair .] If my wife found
out, there would be little left to fight for. Well, as soon as I hear
from Vienna, I shall let you know the result. It is a chance, just a
chance, but I believe in it. And as I fought the age with its own
weapons, I will fight her with her weapons. It is only fair, and she
looks like a woman with a past, doesnít she?
LORD GORING. Most pretty women do. But there is a fashion in pasts just
as there is a fashion in frocks. Perhaps Mrs. Cheveleyís past is merely
a slightly dťcolletť one, and they are excessively popular nowadays.
Besides, my dear Robert, I should not build too high hopes on frightening
Mrs. Cheveley. I should not fancy Mrs. Cheveley is a woman who would be
easily frightened. She has survived all her creditors, and she shows
wonderful presence of mind.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Oh! I live on hopes now. I clutch at every chance.
I feel like a man on a ship that is sinking. The water is round my feet,
and the very air is bitter with storm. Hush! I hear my wifeís voice.
[ Enter LADY CHILTERN in walking dress .]
LADY CHILTERN. Good afternoon, Lord Goring!
LORD GORING. Good afternoon, Lady Chiltern! Have you been in the Park?
LADY CHILTERN. No; I have just come from the Womanís Liberal
Association, where, by the way, Robert, your name was received with loud
applause, and now I have come in to have my tea. [ To LORD GORING.]
You will wait and have some tea, wonít you?
LORD GORING. Iíll wait for a short time, thanks.
LADY CHILTERN. I will be back in a moment. I am only going to take my
LORD GORING. [ In his most earnest manner .] Oh! please donít. It is
so pretty. One of the prettiest hats I ever saw. I hope the Womanís
Liberal Association received it with loud applause.
LADY CHILTERN. [ With a smile .] We have much more important work to do
than look at each otherís bonnets, Lord Goring.
LORD GORING. Really? What sort of work?
LADY CHILTERN. Oh! dull, useful, delightful things, Factory Acts, Female
Inspectors, the Eight Hoursí Bill, the Parliamentary Franchise. . . .
Everything, in fact, that you would find thoroughly uninteresting.
LORD GORING. And never bonnets?
LADY CHILTERN. [ With mock indignation .] Never bonnets, never!
[LADY CHILTERN goes out through the door leading to her boudoir .]
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Takes LORD GORINGíS hand .] You have been a
good friend to me, Arthur, a thoroughly good friend.
LORD GORING. I donít know that I have been able to do much for you,
Robert, as yet. In fact, I have not been able to do anything for you, as
far as I can see. I am thoroughly disappointed with myself.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. You have enabled me to tell you the truth. That is
something. The truth has always stifled me.
LORD GORING. Ah! the truth is a thing I get rid of as soon as possible!
Bad habit, by the way. Makes one very unpopular at the club . . . with
the older members. They call it being conceited. Perhaps it is.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I would to God that I had been able to tell the
truth . . . to live the truth. Ah! that is the great thing in life, to
live the truth. [ Sighs , and goes towards the door .] Iíll see you
soon again, Arthur, shanít I?
LORD GORING. Certainly. Whenever you like. Iím going to look in at the
Bachelorsí Ball to-night, unless I find something better to do. But Iíll
come round to-morrow morning. If you should want me to-night by any
chance, send round a note to Curzon Street.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Thank you.
[ As he reaches the door , LADY CHILTERN enters from her boudoir .]
LADY CHILTERN. You are not going, Robert?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I have some letters to write, dear.
LADY CHILTERN. [ Going to him .] You work too hard, Robert. You seem
never to think of yourself, and you are looking so tired.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. It is nothing, dear, nothing.
[ He kisses her and goes out .]
LADY CHILTERN. [ To LORD GORING.] Do sit down. I am so glad you have
called. I want to talk to you about . . . well, not about bonnets, or
the Womanís Liberal Association. You take far too much interest in the
first subject, and not nearly enough in the second.
LORD GORING. You want to talk to me about Mrs. Cheveley?
LADY CHILTERN. Yes. You have guessed it. After you left last night I
found out that what she had said was really true. Of course I made
Robert write her a letter at once, withdrawing his promise.
LORD GORING. So he gave me to understand.
LADY CHILTERN. To have kept it would have been the first stain on a
career that has been stainless always. Robert must be above reproach.
He is not like other men. He cannot afford to do what other men do.
[ She looks at LORD GORING, who remains silent .] Donít you agree with
me? You are Robertís greatest friend. You are our greatest friend, Lord
Goring. No one, except myself, knows Robert better than you do. He has
no secrets from me, and I donít think he has any from you.
LORD GORING. He certainly has no secrets from me. At least I donít
LADY CHILTERN. Then am I not right in my estimate of him? I know I am
right. But speak to me frankly.
LORD GORING. [ Looking straight at her .] Quite frankly?
LADY CHILTERN. Surely. You have nothing to conceal, have you?
LORD GORING. Nothing. But, my dear Lady Chiltern, I think, if you will
allow me to say so, that in practical lifeó
LADY CHILTERN. [ Smiling .] Of which you know so little, Lord Goringó
LORD GORING. Of which I know nothing by experience, though I know
something by observation. I think that in practical life there is
something about success, actual success, that is a little unscrupulous,
something about ambition that is unscrupulous always. Once a man has set
his heart and soul on getting to a certain point, if he has to climb the
crag, he climbs the crag; if he has to walk in the mireó
LADY CHILTERN. Well?
LORD GORING. He walks in the mire. Of course I am only talking
generally about life.
LADY CHILTERN. [ Gravely .] I hope so. Why do you look at me so
strangely, Lord Goring?
LORD GORING. Lady Chiltern, I have sometimes thought that . . . perhaps
you are a little hard in some of your views on life. I think that . . .
often you donít make sufficient allowances. In every nature there are
elements of weakness, or worse than weakness. Supposing, for instance,
thatóthat any public man, my father, or Lord Merton, or Robert, say, had,
years ago, written some foolish letter to some one . . .
LADY CHILTERN. What do you mean by a foolish letter?
LORD GORING. A letter gravely compromising oneís position. I am only
putting an imaginary case.
LADY CHILTERN. Robert is as incapable of doing a foolish thing as he is
of doing a wrong thing.
LORD GORING. [ After a long pause .] Nobody is incapable of doing a
foolish thing. Nobody is incapable of doing a wrong thing.
LADY CHILTERN. Are you a Pessimist? What will the other dandies say?
They will all have to go into mourning.
LORD GORING. [ Rising .] No, Lady Chiltern, I am not a Pessimist.
Indeed I am not sure that I quite know what Pessimism really means. All
I do know is that life cannot be understood without much charity, cannot
be lived without much charity. It is love, and not German philosophy,
that is the true explanation of this world, whatever may be the
explanation of the next. And if you are ever in trouble, Lady Chiltern,
trust me absolutely, and I will help you in every way I can. If you ever
want me, come to me for my assistance, and you shall have it. Come at
once to me.
LADY CHILTERN. [ Looking at him in surprise .] Lord Goring, you are
talking quite seriously. I donít think I ever heard you talk seriously
LORD GORING. [ Laughing .] You must excuse me, Lady Chiltern. It wonít
occur again, if I can help it.
LADY CHILTERN. But I like you to be serious.
[ Enter MABEL CHILTERN, in the most ravishing frock .]
MABEL CHILTERN. Dear Gertrude, donít say such a dreadful thing to Lord
Goring. Seriousness would be very unbecoming to him. Good afternoon
Lord Goring! Pray be as trivial as you can.
LORD GORING. I should like to, Miss Mabel, but I am afraid I am . . . a
little out of practice this morning; and besides, I have to be going now.
MABEL CHILTERN. Just when I have come in! What dreadful manners you
have! I am sure you were very badly brought up.
LORD GORING. I was.
MABEL CHILTERN. I wish I had brought you up!
LORD GORING. I am so sorry you didnít.
MABEL CHILTERN. It is too late now, I suppose?
LORD GORING. [ Smiling .] I am not so sure.
MABEL CHILTERN. Will you ride to-morrow morning?
LORD GORING. Yes, at ten.
MABEL CHILTERN. Donít forget.
LORD GORING. Of course I shanít. By the way, Lady Chiltern, there is no
list of your guests in The Morning Post of to-day. It has apparently
been crowded out by the County Council, or the Lambeth Conference, or
something equally boring. Could you let me have a list? I have a
particular reason for asking you.
LADY CHILTERN. I am sure Mr. Trafford will be able to give you one.
LORD GORING. Thanks, so much.
MABEL CHILTERN. Tommy is the most useful person in London.
LORD GORING [ Turning to her .] And who is the most ornamental?
MABEL CHILTERN [ Triumphantly .] I am.
LORD GORING. How clever of you to guess it! [ Takes up his hat and
cane .] Good-bye, Lady Chiltern! You will remember what I said to you,
LADY CHILTERN. Yes; but I donít know why you said it to me.
LORD GORING. I hardly know myself. Good-bye, Miss Mabel!
MABEL CHILTERN [ With a little moue of disappointment .] I wish you were
not going. I have had four wonderful adventures this morning; four and a
half, in fact. You might stop and listen to some of them.
LORD GORING. How very selfish of you to have four and a half! There
wonít be any left for me.
MABEL CHILTERN. I donít want you to have any. They would not be good
LORD GORING. That is the first unkind thing you have ever said to me.
How charmingly you said it! Ten to-morrow.
MABEL CHILTERN. Sharp.
LORD GORING. Quite sharp. But donít bring Mr. Trafford.
MABEL CHILTERN. [ With a little toss of the head .] Of course I shanít
bring Tommy Trafford. Tommy Trafford is in great disgrace.
LORD GORING. I am delighted to hear it. [ Bows and goes out .]
MABEL CHILTERN. Gertrude, I wish you would speak to Tommy Trafford.
LADY CHILTERN. What has poor Mr. Trafford done this time? Robert says
he is the best secretary he has ever had.
MABEL CHILTERN. Well, Tommy has proposed to me again. Tommy really does
nothing but propose to me. He proposed to me last night in the
music-room, when I was quite unprotected, as there was an elaborate trio
going on. I didnít dare to make the smallest repartee, I need hardly
tell you. If I had, it would have stopped the music at once. Musical
people are so absurdly unreasonable. They always want one to be
perfectly dumb at the very moment when one is longing to be absolutely
deaf. Then he proposed to me in broad daylight this morning, in front of
that dreadful statue of Achilles. Really, the things that go on in front
of that work of art are quite appalling. The police should interfere.
At luncheon I saw by the glare in his eye that he was going to propose
again, and I just managed to check him in time by assuring him that I was
a bimetallist. Fortunately I donít know what bimetallism means. And I
donít believe anybody else does either. But the observation crushed
Tommy for ten minutes. He looked quite shocked. And then Tommy is so
annoying in the way he proposes. If he proposed at the top of his voice,
I should not mind so much. That might produce some effect on the public.
But he does it in a horrid confidential way. When Tommy wants to be
romantic he talks to one just like a doctor. I am very fond of Tommy,
but his methods of proposing are quite out of date. I wish, Gertrude,
you would speak to him, and tell him that once a week is quite often
enough to propose to any one, and that it should always be done in a
manner that attracts some attention.
LADY CHILTERN. Dear Mabel, donít talk like that. Besides, Robert thinks
very highly of Mr. Trafford. He believes he has a brilliant future
MABEL CHILTERN. Oh! I wouldnít marry a man with a future before him for
anything under the sun.
LADY CHILTERN. Mabel!
MABEL CHILTERN. I know, dear. You married a man with a future, didnít
you? But then Robert was a genius, and you have a noble,
self-sacrificing character. You can stand geniuses. I have no character
at all, and Robert is the only genius I could ever bear. As a rule, I
think they are quite impossible. Geniuses talk so much, donít they?
Such a bad habit! And they are always thinking about themselves, when I
want them to be thinking about me. I must go round now and rehearse at
Lady Basildonís. You remember, we are having tableaux, donít you? The
Triumph of something, I donít know what! I hope it will be triumph of
me. Only triumph I am really interested in at present. [ Kisses LADY
CHILTERN and goes out ; then comes running back .] Oh, Gertrude, do
you know who is coming to see you? That dreadful Mrs. Cheveley, in a
most lovely gown. Did you ask her?
LADY CHILTERN. [ Rising .] Mrs. Cheveley! Coming to see me?
MABEL CHILTERN. I assure you she is coming upstairs, as large as life
and not nearly so natural.
LADY CHILTERN. You need not wait, Mabel. Remember, Lady Basildon is
MABEL CHILTERN. Oh! I must shake hands with Lady Markby. She is
delightful. I love being scolded by her.
[ Enter MASON.]
MASON. Lady Markby. Mrs. Cheveley.
[ Enter LADY MARKBY and MRS. CHEVELEY.]
LADY CHILTERN. [ Advancing to meet them .] Dear Lady Markby, how nice
of you to come and see me! [ Shakes hands with her , and bows somewhat
distantly to MRS. CHEVELEY.] Wonít you sit down, Mrs. Cheveley?
MRS. CHEVELEY. Thanks. Isnít that Miss Chiltern? I should like so much
to know her.
LADY CHILTERN. Mabel, Mrs. Cheveley wishes to know you.
[MABEL CHILTERN gives a little nod .]
MRS. CHEVELEY [ Sitting down .] I thought your frock so charming last
night, Miss Chiltern. So simple and . . . suitable.
MABEL CHILTERN. Really? I must tell my dressmaker. It will be such a
surprise to her. Good-bye, Lady Markby!
LADY MARKBY. Going already?
MABEL CHILTERN. I am so sorry but I am obliged to. I am just off to
rehearsal. I have got to stand on my head in some tableaux.
LADY MARKBY. On your head, child? Oh! I hope not. I believe it is most
unhealthy. [ Takes a seat on the sofa next LADY CHILTERN.]
MABEL CHILTERN. But it is for an excellent charity: in aid of the
Undeserving, the only people I am really interested in. I am the
secretary, and Tommy Trafford is treasurer.
MRS. CHEVELEY. And what is Lord Goring?
MABEL CHILTERN. Oh! Lord Goring is president.
MRS. CHEVELEY. The post should suit him admirably, unless he has
deteriorated since I knew him first.
LADY MARKBY. [ Reflecting .] You are remarkably modern, Mabel. A
little too modern, perhaps. Nothing is so dangerous as being too modern.
One is apt to grow old-fashioned quite suddenly. I have known many
instances of it.
MABEL CHILTERN. What a dreadful prospect!
LADY MARKBY. Ah! my dear, you need not be nervous. You will always be
as pretty as possible. That is the best fashion there is, and the only
fashion that England succeeds in setting.
MABEL CHILTERN. [ With a curtsey .] Thank you so much, Lady Markby, for
England . . . and myself. [ Goes out .]
LADY MARKBY. [ Turning to LADY CHILTERN.] Dear Gertrude, we just
called to know if Mrs. Cheveleyís diamond brooch has been found.
LADY CHILTERN. Here?
MRS. CHEVELEY. Yes. I missed it when I got back to Claridgeís, and I
thought I might possibly have dropped it here.
LADY CHILTERN. I have heard nothing about it. But I will send for the
butler and ask. [ Touches the bell .]
MRS. CHEVELEY. Oh, pray donít trouble, Lady Chiltern. I dare say I lost
it at the Opera, before we came on here.
LADY MARKBY. Ah yes, I suppose it must have been at the Opera. The fact
is, we all scramble and jostle so much nowadays that I wonder we have
anything at all left on us at the end of an evening. I know myself that,
when I am coming back from the Drawing Room, I always feel as if I hadnít
a shred on me, except a small shred of decent reputation, just enough to
prevent the lower classes making painful observations through the windows
of the carriage. The fact is that our Society is terribly
over-populated. Really, some one should arrange a proper scheme of
assisted emigration. It would do a great deal of good.
MRS. CHEVELEY. I quite agree with you, Lady Markby. It is nearly six
years since I have been in London for the Season, and I must say Society
has become dreadfully mixed. One sees the oddest people everywhere.
LADY MARKBY. That is quite true, dear. But one neednít know them. Iím
sure I donít know half the people who come to my house. Indeed, from all
I hear, I shouldnít like to.
[ Enter MASON.]
LADY CHILTERN. What sort of a brooch was it that you lost, Mrs.
MRS. CHEVELEY. A diamond snake-brooch with a ruby, a rather large ruby.
LADY MARKBY. I thought you said there was a sapphire on the head, dear?
MRS. CHEVELEY [ Smiling .] No, lady Markbyóa ruby.
LADY MARKBY. [ Nodding her head .] And very becoming, I am quite sure.
LADY CHILTERN. Has a ruby and diamond brooch been found in any of the
rooms this morning, Mason?
MASON. No, my lady.
MRS. CHEVELEY. It really is of no consequence, Lady Chiltern. I am so
sorry to have put you to any inconvenience.
LADY CHILTERN. [ Coldly .] Oh, it has been no inconvenience. That will
do, Mason. You can bring tea.
[ Exit MASON.]
LADY MARKBY. Well, I must say it is most annoying to lose anything. I
remember once at Bath, years ago, losing in the Pump Room an exceedingly
handsome cameo bracelet that Sir John had given me. I donít think he has
ever given me anything since, I am sorry to say. He has sadly
degenerated. Really, this horrid House of Commons quite ruins our
husbands for us. I think the Lower House by far the greatest blow to a
happy married life that there has been since that terrible thing called
the Higher Education of Women was invented.
LADY CHILTERN. Ah! it is heresy to say that in this house, Lady Markby.
Robert is a great champion of the Higher Education of Women, and so, I am
afraid, am I.
MRS. CHEVELEY. The higher education of men is what I should like to see.
Men need it so sadly.
LADY MARKBY. They do, dear. But I am afraid such a scheme would be
quite unpractical. I donít think man has much capacity for development.
He has got as far as he can, and that is not far, is it? With regard to
women, well, dear Gertrude, you belong to the younger generation, and I
am sure it is all right if you approve of it. In my time, of course, we
were taught not to understand anything. That was the old system, and
wonderfully interesting it was. I assure you that the amount of things I
and my poor dear sister were taught not to understand was quite
extraordinary. But modern women understand everything, I am told.
MRS. CHEVELEY. Except their husbands. That is the one thing the modern
woman never understands.
LADY MARKBY. And a very good thing too, dear, I dare say. It might
break up many a happy home if they did. Not yours, I need hardly say,
Gertrude. You have married a pattern husband. I wish I could say as
much for myself. But since Sir John has taken to attending the debates
regularly, which he never used to do in the good old days, his language
has become quite impossible. He always seems to think that he is
addressing the House, and consequently whenever he discusses the state of
the agricultural labourer, or the Welsh Church, or something quite
improper of that kind, I am obliged to send all the servants out of the
room. It is not pleasant to see oneís own butler, who has been with one
for twenty-three years, actually blushing at the side-board, and the
footmen making contortions in corners like persons in circuses. I assure
you my life will be quite ruined unless they send John at once to the
Upper House. He wonít take any interest in politics then, will he? The
House of Lords is so sensible. An assembly of gentlemen. But in his
present state, Sir John is really a great trial. Why, this morning
before breakfast was half over, he stood up on the hearthrug, put his
hands in his pockets, and appealed to the country at the top of his
voice. I left the table as soon as I had my second cup of tea, I need
hardly say. But his violent language could be heard all over the house!
I trust, Gertrude, that Sir Robert is not like that?
LADY CHILTERN. But I am very much interested in politics, Lady Markby.
I love to hear Robert talk about them.
LADY MARKBY. Well, I hope he is not as devoted to Blue Books as Sir John
is. I donít think they can be quite improving reading for any one.
MRS. CHEVELEY [ Languidly .] I have never read a Blue Book. I prefer
books . . . in yellow covers.
LADY MARKBY. [ Genially unconscious .] Yellow is a gayer colour, is it
not? I used to wear yellow a good deal in my early days, and would do so
now if Sir John was not so painfully personal in his observations, and a
man on the question of dress is always ridiculous, is he not?
MRS. CHEVELEY. Oh, no! I think men are the only authorities on dress.
LADY MARKBY. Really? One wouldnít say so from the sort of hats they
wear? would one?
[ The butler enters , followed by the footman . Tea is set on a small
table close to LADY CHILTERN.]
LADY CHILTERN. May I give you some tea, Mrs. Cheveley?
MRS. CHEVELEY. Thanks. [ The butler hands MRS. CHEVELEY a cup of tea
on a salver .]
LADY CHILTERN. Some tea, Lady Markby?
LADY MARKBY. No thanks, dear. [ The servants go out .] The fact is, I
have promised to go round for ten minutes to see poor Lady Brancaster,
who is in very great trouble. Her daughter, quite a well-brought-up
girl, too, has actually become engaged to be married to a curate in
Shropshire. It is very sad, very sad indeed. I canít understand this
modern mania for curates. In my time we girls saw them, of course,
running about the place like rabbits. But we never took any notice of
them, I need hardly say. But I am told that nowadays country society is
quite honeycombed with them. I think it most irreligious. And then the
eldest son has quarrelled with his father, and it is said that when they
meet at the club Lord Brancaster always hides himself behind the money
article in The Times . However, I believe that is quite a common
occurrence nowadays and that they have to take in extra copies of The
Times at all the clubs in St. Jamesís Street; there are so many sons who
wonít have anything to do with their fathers, and so many fathers who
wonít speak to their sons. I think myself, it is very much to be
MRS. CHEVELEY. So do I. Fathers have so much to learn from their sons
LADY MARKBY. Really, dear? What?
MRS. CHEVELEY. The art of living. The only really Fine Art we have
produced in modern times.
LADY MARKBY. [ Shaking her head .] Ah! I am afraid Lord Brancaster
knew a good deal about that. More than his poor wife ever did.
[ Turning to LADY CHILTERN.] You know Lady Brancaster, donít you, dear?
LADY CHILTERN. Just slightly. She was staying at Langton last autumn,
when we were there.
LADY MARKBY. Well, like all stout women, she looks the very picture of
happiness, as no doubt you noticed. But there are many tragedies in her
family, besides this affair of the curate. Her own sister, Mrs. Jekyll,
had a most unhappy life; through no fault of her own, I am sorry to say.
She ultimately was so broken-hearted that she went into a convent, or on
to the operatic stage, I forget which. No; I think it was decorative
art-needlework she took up. I know she had lost all sense of pleasure in
life. [ Rising .] And now, Gertrude, if you will allow me, I shall
leave Mrs. Cheveley in your charge and call back for her in a quarter of
an hour. Or perhaps, dear Mrs. Cheveley, you wouldnít mind waiting in
the carriage while I am with Lady Brancaster. As I intend it to be a
visit of condolence, I shanít stay long.
MRS. CHEVELEY [ Rising .] I donít mind waiting in the carriage at all,
provided there is somebody to look at one.
LADY MARKBY. Well, I hear the curate is always prowling about the house.
MRS. CHEVELEY. I am afraid I am not fond of girl friends.
LADY CHILTERN [ Rising .] Oh, I hope Mrs. Cheveley will stay here a
little. I should like to have a few minutesí conversation with her.
MRS. CHEVELEY. How very kind of you, Lady Chiltern! Believe me, nothing
would give me greater pleasure.
LADY MARKBY. Ah! no doubt you both have many pleasant reminiscences of
your schooldays to talk over together. Good-bye, dear Gertrude! Shall I
see you at Lady Bonarís to-night? She has discovered a wonderful new
genius. He does . . . nothing at all, I believe. That is a great
comfort, is it not?
LADY CHILTERN. Robert and I are dining at home by ourselves to-night,
and I donít think I shall go anywhere afterwards. Robert, of course,
will have to be in the House. But there is nothing interesting on.
LADY MARKBY. Dining at home by yourselves? Is that quite prudent? Ah,
I forgot, your husband is an exception. Mine is the general rule, and
nothing ages a woman so rapidly as having married the general rule.
[ Exit LADY MARKBY.]
MRS. CHEVELEY. Wonderful woman, Lady Markby, isnít she? Talks more and
says less than anybody I ever met. She is made to be a public speaker.
Much more so than her husband, though he is a typical Englishman, always
dull and usually violent.
LADY CHILTERN. [ Makes no answer , but remains standing . There is a
pause . Then the eyes of the two women meet . LADY CHILTERN looks
stern and pale . MRS. CHEVELEY seem rather amused .] Mrs. Cheveley, I
think it is right to tell you quite frankly that, had I known who you
really were, I should not have invited you to my house last night.
MRS. CHEVELEY [ With an impertinent smile .] Really?
LADY CHILTERN. I could not have done so.
MRS. CHEVELEY. I see that after all these years you have not changed a
LADY CHILTERN. I never change.
MRS. CHEVELEY [ Elevating her eyebrows .] Then life has taught you
LADY CHILTERN. It has taught me that a person who has once been guilty
of a dishonest and dishonourable action may be guilty of it a second
time, and should be shunned.
MRS. CHEVELEY. Would you apply that rule to every one?
LADY CHILTERN. Yes, to every one, without exception.
MRS. CHEVELEY. Then I am sorry for you, Gertrude, very sorry for you.
LADY CHILTERN. You see now, I was sure, that for many reasons any
further acquaintance between us during your stay in London is quite
MRS. CHEVELEY [ Leaning back in her chair .] Do you know, Gertrude, I
donít mind your talking morality a bit. Morality is simply the attitude
we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike. You dislike me. I
am quite aware of that. And I have always detested you. And yet I have
come here to do you a service.
LADY CHILTERN. [ Contemptuously .] Like the service you wished to
render my husband last night, I suppose. Thank heaven, I saved him from
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ Starting to her feet .] It was you who made him write
that insolent letter to me? It was you who made him break his promise?
LADY CHILTERN. Yes.
MRS. CHEVELEY. Then you must make him keep it. I give you till
to-morrow morningóno more. If by that time your husband does not
solemnly bind himself to help me in this great scheme in which I am
LADY CHILTERN. This fraudulent speculationó
MRS. CHEVELEY. Call it what you choose. I hold your husband in the
hollow of my hand, and if you are wise you will make him do what I tell
LADY CHILTERN. [ Rising and going towards her .] You are impertinent.
What has my husband to do with you? With a woman like you?
MRS. CHEVELEY [ With a bitter laugh .] In this world like meets with
like. It is because your husband is himself fraudulent and dishonest
that we pair so well together. Between you and him there are chasms. He
and I are closer than friends. We are enemies linked together. The same
sin binds us.
LADY CHILTERN. How dare you class my husband with yourself? How dare
you threaten him or me? Leave my house. You are unfit to enter it.
[SIR ROBERT CHILTERN enters from behind . He hears his wifeís last
words , and sees to whom they are addressed . He grows deadly pale .]
MRS. CHEVELEY. Your house! A house bought with the price of dishonour.
A house, everything in which has been paid for by fraud. [ Turns round
and sees SIR ROBERT CHILTERN.] Ask him what the origin of his fortune
is! Get him to tell you how he sold to a stockbroker a Cabinet secret.
Learn from him to what you owe your position.
LADY CHILTERN. It is not true! Robert! It is not true!
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ Pointing at him with outstretched finger .] Look at
him! Can he deny it? Does he dare to?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Go! Go at once. You have done your worst now.
MRS. CHEVELEY. My worst? I have not yet finished with you, with either
of you. I give you both till to-morrow at noon. If by then you donít do
what I bid you to do, the whole world shall know the origin of Robert
[SIR ROBERT CHILTERN strikes the bell . Enter MASON.]
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Show Mrs. Cheveley out.
[MRS. CHEVELEY starts ; then bows with somewhat exaggerated politeness
to LADY CHILTERN, who makes no sign of response . As she passes by
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN, who is standing close to the door , she pauses for
a moment and looks him straight in the face . She then goes out ,
followed by the servant , who closes the door after him . The husband
and wife are left alone . LADY CHILTERN stands like some one in a
dreadful dream . Then she turns round and looks at her husband . She
looks at him with strange eyes , as though she were seeing him for the
first time .]
LADY CHILTERN. You sold a Cabinet secret for money! You began your life
with fraud! You built up your career on dishonour! Oh, tell me it is
not true! Lie to me! Lie to me! Tell me it is not true!
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. What this woman said is quite true. But, Gertrude,
listen to me. You donít realise how I was tempted. Let me tell you the
whole thing. [ Goes towards her .]
LADY CHILTERN. Donít come near me. Donít touch me. I feel as if you
had soiled me for ever. Oh! what a mask you have been wearing all these
years! A horrible painted mask! You sold yourself for money. Oh! a
common thief were better. You put yourself up to sale to the highest
bidder! You were bought in the market. You lied to the whole world.
And yet you will not lie to me.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Rushing towards her .] Gertrude! Gertrude!
LADY CHILTERN. [ Thrusting him back with outstretched hands .] No,
donít speak! Say nothing! Your voice wakes terrible memoriesómemories
of things that made me love youómemories of words that made me love
youómemories that now are horrible to me. And how I worshipped you! You
were to me something apart from common life, a thing pure, noble, honest,
without stain. The world seemed to me finer because you were in it, and
goodness more real because you lived. And nowóoh, when I think that I
made of a man like you my ideal! the ideal of my life!
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. There was your mistake. There was your error. The
error all women commit. Why canít you women love us, faults and all?
Why do you place us on monstrous pedestals? We have all feet of clay,
women as well as men; but when we men love women, we love them knowing
their weaknesses, their follies, their imperfections, love them all the
more, it may be, for that reason. It is not the perfect, but the
imperfect, who have need of love. It is when we are wounded by our own
hands, or by the hands of others, that love should come to cure usóelse
what use is love at all? All sins, except a sin against itself, Love
should forgive. All lives, save loveless lives, true Love should pardon.
A manís love is like that. It is wider, larger, more human than a
womanís. Women think that they are making ideals of men. What they are
making of us are false idols merely. You made your false idol of me, and
I had not the courage to come down, show you my wounds, tell you my
weaknesses. I was afraid that I might lose your love, as I have lost it
now. And so, last night you ruined my life for meóyes, ruined it! What
this woman asked of me was nothing compared to what she offered to me.
She offered security, peace, stability. The sin of my youth, that I had
thought was buried, rose up in front of me, hideous, horrible, with its
hands at my throat. I could have killed it for ever, sent it back into
its tomb, destroyed its record, burned the one witness against me. You
prevented me. No one but you, you know it. And now what is there before
me but public disgrace, ruin, terrible shame, the mockery of the world, a
lonely dishonoured life, a lonely dishonoured death, it may be, some day?
Let women make no more ideals of men! let them not put them on alters and
bow before them, or they may ruin other lives as completely as youóyou
whom I have so wildly lovedóhave ruined mine!
[ He passes from the room . LADY CHILTERN rushes towards him , but the
door is closed when she reaches it . Pale with anguish , bewildered ,
helpless , she sways like a plant in the water . Her hands ,
outstretched , seem to tremble in the air like blossoms in the mind .
Then she flings herself down beside a sofa and buries her face . Her
sobs are like the sobs of a child .]
The Library in Lord Goringís house . An Adam room . On the right is
the door leading into the hall . On the left , the door of the
smoking-room . A pair of folding doors at the back open into the
drawing-room . The fire is lit . Phipps , the butler , is arranging
some newspapers on the writing-table . The distinction of Phipps is his
impassivity . He has been termed by enthusiasts the Ideal Butler . The
Sphinx is not so incommunicable . He is a mask with a manner . Of his
intellectual or emotional life , history knows nothing . He represents
the dominance of form .
[ Enter LORD GORING in evening dress with a buttonhole . He is
wearing a silk hat and Inverness cape . White-gloved , he carries a
Louis Seize cane . His are all the delicate fopperies of Fashion .
One sees that he stands in immediate relation to modern life , makes it
indeed , and so masters it . He is the first well-dressed philosopher
in the history of thought .]
LORD GORING. Got my second buttonhole for me, Phipps?
PHIPPS. Yes, my lord. [ Takes his hat , cane , and cape , and
presents new buttonhole on salver .]
LORD GORING. Rather distinguished thing, Phipps. I am the only person
of the smallest importance in London at present who wears a buttonhole.
PHIPPS. Yes, my lord. I have observed that,
LORD GORING. [ Taking out old buttonhole .] You see, Phipps, Fashion is
what one wears oneself. What is unfashionable is what other people wear.
PHIPPS. Yes, my lord.
LORD GORING. Just as vulgarity is simply the conduct of other people.
PHIPPS. Yes, my lord.
LORD GORING. [ Putting in a new buttonhole .] And falsehoods the truths
of other people.
PHIPPS. Yes, my lord.
LORD GORING. Other people are quite dreadful. The only possible society
PHIPPS. Yes, my lord.
LORD GORING. To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance,
PHIPPS. Yes, my lord.
LORD GORING. [ Looking at himself in the glass .] Donít think I quite
like this buttonhole, Phipps. Makes me look a little too old. Makes me
almost in the prime of life, eh, Phipps?
PHIPPS. I donít observe any alteration in your lordshipís appearance.
LORD GORING. You donít, Phipps?
PHIPPS. No, my lord.
LORD GORING. I am not quite sure. For the future a more trivial
buttonhole, Phipps, on Thursday evenings.
PHIPPS. I will speak to the florist, my lord. She has had a loss in her
family lately, which perhaps accounts for the lack of triviality your
lordship complains of in the buttonhole.
LORD GORING. Extraordinary thing about the lower classes in Englandóthey
are always losing their relations.
PHIPPS. Yes, my lord! They are extremely fortunate in that respect.
LORD GORING. [ Turns round and looks at him . PHIPPS remains
impassive .] Hum! Any letters, Phipps?
PHIPPS. Three, my lord. [ Hands letters on a salver .]
LORD GORING. [ Takes letters .] Want my cab round in twenty minutes.
PHIPPS. Yes, my lord. [ Goes towards door .]
LORD GORING. [ Holds up letter in pink envelope .] Ahem! Phipps, when
did this letter arrive?
PHIPPS. It was brought by hand just after your lordship went to the
LORD GORING. That will do. [ Exit PHIPPS.] Lady Chilternís
handwriting on Lady Chilternís pink notepaper. That is rather curious.
I thought Robert was to write. Wonder what Lady Chiltern has got to say
to me? [ Sits at bureau and opens letter , and reads it .] ĎI want
you. I trust you. I am coming to you. Gertrude.í [ Puts down the
letter with a puzzled look . Then takes it up , and reads it again
slowly .] ĎI want you. I trust you. I am coming to you.í So she has
found out everything! Poor woman! Poor woman! [ Pulls out watch and
looks at it .] But what an hour to call! Ten oíclock! I shall have to
give up going to the Berkshires. However, it is always nice to be
expected, and not to arrive. I am not expected at the Bachelorsí, so I
shall certainly go there. Well, I will make her stand by her husband.
That is the only thing for her to do. That is the only thing for any
woman to do. It is the growth of the moral sense in women that makes
marriage such a hopeless, one-sided institution. Ten oíclock. She
should be here soon. I must tell Phipps I am not in to any one else.
[ Goes towards bell ]
[ Enter PHIPPS.]
PHIPPS. Lord Caversham.
LORD GORING. Oh, why will parents always appear at the wrong time? Some
extraordinary mistake in nature, I suppose. [ Enter LORD CAVERSHAM.]
Delighted to see you, my dear father. [ Goes to meet him .]
LORD CAVERSHAM. Take my cloak off.
LORD GORING. Is it worth while, father?
LORD CAVERSHAM. Of course it is worth while, sir. Which is the most
LORD GORING. This one, father. It is the chair I use myself, when I
LORD CAVERSHAM. Thank ye. No draught, I hope, in this room?
LORD GORING. No, father.
LORD CAVERSHAM. [ Sitting down .] Glad to hear it. Canít stand
draughts. No draughts at home.
LORD GORING. Good many breezes, father.
LORD CAVERSHAM. Eh? Eh? Donít understand what you mean. Want to have
a serious conversation with you, sir.
LORD GORING. My dear father! At this hour?
LORD CAVERSHAM. Well, sir, it is only ten oíclock. What is your
objection to the hour? I think the hour is an admirable hour!
LORD GORING. Well, the fact is, father, this is not my day for talking
seriously. I am very sorry, but it is not my day.
LORD CAVERSHAM. What do you mean, sir?
LORD GORING. During the Season, father, I only talk seriously on the
first Tuesday in every month, from four to seven.
LORD CAVERSHAM. Well, make it Tuesday, sir, make it Tuesday.
LORD GORING. But it is after seven, father, and my doctor says I must
not have any serious conversation after seven. It makes me talk in my
LORD CAVERSHAM. Talk in your sleep, sir? What does that matter? You
are not married.
LORD GORING. No, father, I am not married.
LORD CAVERSHAM. Hum! That is what I have come to talk to you about,
sir. You have got to get married, and at once. Why, when I was your
age, sir, I had been an inconsolable widower for three months, and was
already paying my addresses to your admirable mother. Damme, sir, it is
your duty to get married. You canít be always living for pleasure.
Every man of position is married nowadays. Bachelors are not fashionable
any more. They are a damaged lot. Too much is known about them. You
must get a wife, sir. Look where your friend Robert Chiltern has got to
by probity, hard work, and a sensible marriage with a good woman. Why
donít you imitate him, sir? Why donít you take him for your model?
LORD GORING. I think I shall, father.
LORD CAVERSHAM. I wish you would, sir. Then I should be happy. At
present I make your motherís life miserable on your account. You are
heartless, sir, quite heartless.
LORD GORING. I hope not, father.
LORD CAVERSHAM. And it is high time for you to get married. You are
thirty-four years of age, sir.
LORD GORING. Yes, father, but I only admit to thirty-twoóthirty-one and
a half when I have a really good buttonhole. This buttonhole is not . . .
LORD CAVERSHAM. I tell you you are thirty-four, sir. And there is a
draught in your room, besides, which makes your conduct worse. Why did
you tell me there was no draught, sir? I feel a draught, sir, I feel it
LORD GORING. So do I, father. It is a dreadful draught. I will come
and see you to-morrow, father. We can talk over anything you like. Let
me help you on with your cloak, father.
LORD CAVERSHAM. No, sir; I have called this evening for a definite
purpose, and I am going to see it through at all costs to my health or
yours. Put down my cloak, sir.
LORD GORING. Certainly, father. But let us go into another room.
[ Rings bell .] There is a dreadful draught here. [ Enter PHIPPS.]
Phipps, is there a good fire in the smoking-room?
PHIPPS. Yes, my lord.
LORD GORING. Come in there, father. Your sneezes are quite
LORD CAVERSHAM. Well, sir, I suppose I have a right to sneeze when I
LORD GORING. [ Apologetically .] Quite so, father. I was merely
LORD CAVERSHAM. Oh, damn sympathy. There is a great deal too much of
that sort of thing going on nowadays.
LORD GORING. I quite agree with you, father. If there was less sympathy
in the world there would be less trouble in the world.
LORD CAVERSHAM. [ Going towards the smoking-room .] That is a paradox,
sir. I hate paradoxes.
LORD GORING. So do I, father. Everybody one meets is a paradox
nowadays. It is a great bore. It makes society so obvious.
LORD CAVERSHAM. [ Turning round , and looking at his son beneath his
bushy eyebrows .] Do you always really understand what you say, sir?
LORD GORING. [ After some hesitation .] Yes, father, if I listen
LORD CAVERSHAM. [ Indignantly .] If you listen attentively! . . .
Conceited young puppy!
[ Goes off grumbling into the smoking-room . PHIPPS enters .]
LORD GORING. Phipps, there is a lady coming to see me this evening on
particular business. Show her into the drawing-room when she arrives.
PHIPPS. Yes, my lord.
LORD GORING. It is a matter of the gravest importance, Phipps.
PHIPPS. I understand, my lord.
LORD GORING. No one else is to be admitted, under any circumstances.
PHIPPS. I understand, my lord. [ Bell rings .]
LORD GORING. Ah! that is probably the lady. I shall see her myself.
[ Just as he is going towards the door LORD CAVERSHAM enters from the
LORD CAVERSHAM. Well, sir? am I to wait attendance on you?
LORD GORING. [ Considerably perplexed .] In a moment, father. Do
excuse me. [LORD CAVERSHAM goes back .] Well, remember my
instructions, Phippsóinto that room.
PHIPPS. Yes, my lord.
[LORD GORING goes into the smoking-room . HAROLD, the footman shows
MRS. CHEVELEY in . Lamia-like , she is in green and silver . She
has a cloak of black satin , lined with dead rose-leaf silk .]
HAROLD. What name, madam?
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ To PHIPPS, who advances towards her .] Is Lord
Goring not here? I was told he was at home?
PHIPPS. His lordship is engaged at present with Lord Caversham, madam.
[ Turns a cold , glassy eye on HAROLD, who at once retires .]
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ To herself .] How very filial!
PHIPPS. His lordship told me to ask you, madam, to be kind enough to
wait in the drawing-room for him. His lordship will come to you there.
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ With a look of surprise .] Lord Goring expects me?
PHIPPS. Yes, madam.
MRS. CHEVELEY. Are you quite sure?
PHIPPS. His lordship told me that if a lady called I was to ask her to
wait in the drawing-room. [ Goes to the door of the drawing-room and
opens it .] His lordshipís directions on the subject were very precise.
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ To herself ] How thoughtful of him! To expect the
unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect. [ Goes towards the
drawing-room and looks in .] Ugh! How dreary a bachelorís drawing-room
always looks. I shall have to alter all this. [PHIPPS brings the lamp
from the writing-table .] No, I donít care for that lamp. It is far too
glaring. Light some candles.
PHIPPS. [ Replaces lamp .] Certainly, madam.
MRS. CHEVELEY. I hope the candles have very becoming shades.
PHIPPS. We have had no complaints about them, madam, as yet.
[ Passes into the drawing-room and begins to light the candles .]
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ To herself .] I wonder what woman he is waiting for
to-night. It will be delightful to catch him. Men always look so silly
when they are caught. And they are always being caught. [ Looks about
room and approaches the writing-table .] What a very interesting room!
What a very interesting picture! Wonder what his correspondence is like.
[ Takes up letters .] Oh, what a very uninteresting correspondence!
Bills and cards, debts and dowagers! Who on earth writes to him on pink
paper? How silly to write on pink paper! It looks like the beginning of
a middle-class romance. Romance should never begin with sentiment. It
should begin with science and end with a settlement. [ Puts letter
down , then takes it up again .] I know that handwriting. That is
Gertrude Chilternís. I remember it perfectly. The ten commandments in
every stroke of the pen, and the moral law all over the page. Wonder
what Gertrude is writing to him about? Something horrid about me, I
suppose. How I detest that woman! [ Reads it .] ĎI trust you. I want
you. I am coming to you. Gertrude.í ĎI trust you. I want you. I am
coming to you.í
[ A look of triumph comes over her face . She is just about to steal
the letter , when PHIPPS comes in .]
PHIPPS. The candles in the drawing-room are lit, madam, as you directed.
MRS. CHEVELEY. Thank you. [ Rises hastily and slips the letter under a
large silver-cased blotting-book that is lying on the table .]
PHIPPS. I trust the shades will be to your liking, madam. They are the
most becoming we have. They are the same as his lordship uses himself
when he is dressing for dinner.
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ With a smile .] Then I am sure they will be perfectly
PHIPPS. [ Gravely .] Thank you, madam.
[MRS. CHEVELEY goes into the drawing-room . PHIPPS closes the door and
retires . The door is then slowly opened , and MRS. CHEVELEY comes
out and creeps stealthily towards the writing-table . Suddenly voices
are heard from the smoking-room . MRS. CHEVELEY grows pale , and
stops . The voices grow louder , and she goes back into the
drawing-room , biting her lip .]
[ Enter LORD GORING and LORD CAVERSHAM.]
LORD GORING. [ Expostulating .] My dear father, if I am to get married,
surely you will allow me to choose the time, place, and person?
Particularly the person.
LORD CAVERSHAM. [ Testily .] That is a matter for me, sir. You would
probably make a very poor choice. It is I who should be consulted, not
you. There is property at stake. It is not a matter for affection.
Affection comes later on in married life.
LORD GORING. Yes. In married life affection comes when people
thoroughly dislike each other, father, doesnít it? [ Puts on LORD
CAVERSHAMíS cloak for him .]
LORD CAVERSHAM. Certainly, sir. I mean certainly not, air. You are
talking very foolishly to-night. What I say is that marriage is a matter
for common sense.
LORD GORING. But women who have common sense are so curiously plain,
father, arenít they? Of course I only speak from hearsay.
LORD CAVERSHAM. No woman, plain or pretty, has any common sense at all,
sir. Common sense is the privilege of our sex.
LORD GORING. Quite so. And we men are so self-sacrificing that we never
use it, do we, father?
LORD CAVERSHAM. I use it, sir. I use nothing else.
LORD GORING. So my mother tells me.
LORD CAVERSHAM. It is the secret of your motherís happiness. You are
very heartless, sir, very heartless.
LORD GORING. I hope not, father.
[ Goes out for a moment . Then returns , looking rather put out ,
with SIR ROBERT CHILTERN.]
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. My dear Arthur, what a piece of good luck meeting
you on the doorstep! Your servant had just told me you were not at home.
LORD GORING. The fact is, I am horribly busy to-night, Robert, and I
gave orders I was not at home to any one. Even my father had a
comparatively cold reception. He complained of a draught the whole time.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Ah! you must be at home to me, Arthur. You are my
best friend. Perhaps by to-morrow you will be my only friend. My wife
has discovered everything.
LORD GORING. Ah! I guessed as much!
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Looking at him .] Really! How?
LORD GORING. [ After some hesitation .] Oh, merely by something in the
expression of your face as you came in. Who told her?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Mrs. Cheveley herself. And the woman I love knows
that I began my career with an act of low dishonesty, that I built up my
life upon sands of shameóthat I sold, like a common huckster, the secret
that had been intrusted to me as a man of honour. I thank heaven poor
Lord Radley died without knowing that I betrayed him. I would to God I
had died before I had been so horribly tempted, or had fallen so low.
[ Burying his face in his hands .]
LORD GORING. [ After a pause .] You have heard nothing from Vienna yet,
in answer to your wire?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Looking up .] Yes; I got a telegram from the
first secretary at eight oíclock to-night.
LORD GORING. Well?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Nothing is absolutely known against her. On the
contrary, she occupies a rather high position in society. It is a sort
of open secret that Baron Arnheim left her the greater portion of his
immense fortune. Beyond that I can learn nothing.
LORD GORING. She doesnít turn out to be a spy, then?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Oh! spies are of no use nowadays. Their profession
is over. The newspapers do their work instead.
LORD GORING. And thunderingly well they do it.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Arthur, I am parched with thirst. May I ring for
something? Some hock and seltzer?
LORD GORING. Certainly. Let me. [ Rings the bell .]
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Thanks! I donít know what to do, Arthur, I donít
know what to do, and you are my only friend. But what a friend you
areóthe one friend I can trust. I can trust you absolutely, canít I?
[ Enter PHIPPS.]
LORD GORING. My dear Robert, of course. Oh! [ To PHIPPS.] Bring some
hock and seltzer.
PHIPPS. Yes, my lord.
LORD GORING. And Phipps!
PHIPPS. Yes, my lord.
LORD GORING. Will you excuse me for a moment, Robert? I want to give
some directions to my servant.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Certainly.
LORD GORING. When that lady calls, tell her that I am not expected home
this evening. Tell her that I have been suddenly called out of town.
PHIPPS. The lady is in that room, my lord. You told me to show her into
that room, my lord.
LORD GORING. You did perfectly right. [ Exit PHIPPS.] What a mess I
am in. No; I think I shall get through it. Iíll give her a lecture
through the door. Awkward thing to manage, though.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Arthur, tell me what I should do. My life seems to
have crumbled about me. I am a ship without a rudder in a night without
LORD GORING. Robert, you love your wife, donít you?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I love her more than anything in the world. I used
to think ambition the great thing. It is not. Love is the great thing
in the world. There is nothing but love, and I love her. But I am
defamed in her eyes. I am ignoble in her eyes. There is a wide gulf
between us now. She has found me out, Arthur, she has found me out.
LORD GORING. Has she never in her life done some follyósome
indiscretionóthat she should not forgive your sin?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. My wife! Never! She does not know what weakness
or temptation is. I am of clay like other men. She stands apart as good
women doópitiless in her perfectionócold and stern and without mercy.
But I love her, Arthur. We are childless, and I have no one else to
love, no one else to love me. Perhaps if God had sent us children she
might have been kinder to me. But God has given us a lonely house. And
she has cut my heart in two. Donít let us talk of it. I was brutal to
her this evening. But I suppose when sinners talk to saints they are
brutal always. I said to her things that were hideously true, on my
side, from my stand-point, from the standpoint of men. But donít let us
talk of that.
LORD GORING. Your wife will forgive you. Perhaps at this moment she is
forgiving you. She loves you, Robert. Why should she not forgive?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. God grant it! God grant it! [ Buries his face in
his hands .] But there is something more I have to tell you, Arthur.
[ Enter PHIPPS with drinks .]
PHIPPS. [ Hands hock and seltzer to SIR ROBERT CHILTERN.] Hock and
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Thank you.
LORD GORING. Is your carriage here, Robert?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. No; I walked from the club.
LORD GORING. Sir Robert will take my cab, Phipps.
PHIPPS. Yes, my lord. [ Exit .]
LORD GORING. Robert, you donít mind my sending you away?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Arthur, you must let me stay for five minutes. I
have made up my mind what I am going to do to-night in the House. The
debate on the Argentine Canal is to begin at eleven. [ A chair falls in
the drawing-room .] What is that?
LORD GORING. Nothing.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I heard a chair fall in the next room. Some one
has been listening.
LORD GORING. No, no; there is no one there.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. There is some one. There are lights in the room,
and the door is ajar. Some one has been listening to every secret of my
life. Arthur, what does this mean?
LORD GORING. Robert, you are excited, unnerved. I tell you there is no
one in that room. Sit down, Robert.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Do you give me your word that there is no one
LORD GORING. Yes.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Your word of honour? [ Sits down .]
LORD GORING. Yes.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Rises .] Arthur, let me see for myself.
LORD GORING. No, no.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. If there is no one there why should I not look in
that room? Arthur, you must let me go into that room and satisfy myself.
Let me know that no eavesdropper has heard my lifeís secret. Arthur, you
donít realise what I am going through.
LORD GORING. Robert, this must stop. I have told you that there is no
one in that roomóthat is enough.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Rushes to the door of the room .] It is not
enough. I insist on going into this room. You have told me there is no
one there, so what reason can you have for refusing me?
LORD GORING. For Godís sake, donít! There is some one there. Some one
whom you must not see.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Ah, I thought so!
LORD GORING. I forbid you to enter that room.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Stand back. My life is at stake. And I donít care
who is there. I will know who it is to whom I have told my secret and my
shame. [ Enters room .]
LORD GORING. Great heavens! his own wife!
[SIR ROBERT CHILTERN comes back , with a look of scorn and anger on his
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. What explanation have you to give me for the
presence of that woman here?
LORD GORING. Robert, I swear to you on my honour that that lady is
stainless and guiltless of all offence towards you.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. She is a vile, an infamous thing!
LORD GORING. Donít say that, Robert! It was for your sake she came
here. It was to try and save you she came here. She loves you and no
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. You are mad. What have I to do with her intrigues
with you? Let her remain your mistress! You are well suited to each
other. She, corrupt and shamefulóyou, false as a friend, treacherous as
an enemy evenó
LORD GORING. It is not true, Robert. Before heaven, it is not true. In
her presence and in yours I will explain all.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Let me pass, sir. You have lied enough upon your
word of honour.
[SIR ROBERT CHILTERN goes out . LORD GORING rushes to the door of the
drawing-room , when MRS. CHEVELEY comes out , looking radiant and
much amused .]
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ With a mock curtsey ] Good evening, Lord Goring!
LORD GORING. Mrs. Cheveley! Great heavens! . . . May I ask what you
were doing in my drawing-room?
MRS. CHEVELEY. Merely listening. I have a perfect passion for listening
through keyholes. One always hears such wonderful things through them.
LORD GORING. Doesnít that sound rather like tempting Providence?
MRS. CHEVELEY. Oh! surely Providence can resist temptation by this time.
[ Makes a sign to him to take her cloak off , which he does .]
LORD GORING. I am glad you have called. I am going to give you some
MRS. CHEVELEY. Oh! pray donít. One should never give a woman anything
that she canít wear in the evening.
LORD GORING. I see you are quite as wilful as you used to be.
MRS. CHEVELEY. Far more! I have greatly improved. I have had more
LORD GORING. Too much experience is a dangerous thing. Pray have a
cigarette. Half the pretty women in London smoke cigarettes. Personally
I prefer the other half.
MRS. CHEVELEY. Thanks. I never smoke. My dressmaker wouldnít like it,
and a womanís first duty in life is to her dressmaker, isnít it? What
the second duty is, no one has as yet discovered.
LORD GORING. You have come here to sell me Robert Chilternís letter,
MRS. CHEVELEY. To offer it to you on conditions. How did you guess
LORD GORING. Because you havenít mentioned the subject. Have you got it
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ Sitting down .] Oh, no! A well-made dress has no
LORD GORING. What is your price for it?
MRS. CHEVELEY. How absurdly English you are! The English think that a
cheque-book can solve every problem in life. Why, my dear Arthur, I have
very much more money than you have, and quite as much as Robert Chiltern
has got hold of. Money is not what I want.
LORD GORING. What do you want then, Mrs. Cheveley?
MRS. CHEVELEY. Why donít you call me Laura?
LORD GORING. I donít like the name.
MRS. CHEVELEY. You used to adore it.
LORD GORING. Yes: thatís why. [MRS. CHEVELEY motions to him to sit
down beside her . He smiles , and does so .]
MRS. CHEVELEY. Arthur, you loved me once.
LORD GORING. Yes.
MRS. CHEVELEY. And you asked me to be your wife.
LORD GORING. That was the natural result of my loving you.
MRS. CHEVELEY. And you threw me over because you saw, or said you saw,
poor old Lord Mortlake trying to have a violent flirtation with me in the
conservatory at Tenby.
LORD GORING. I am under the impression that my lawyer settled that
matter with you on certain terms . . . dictated by yourself.
MRS. CHEVELEY. At that time I was poor; you were rich.
LORD GORING. Quite so. That is why you pretended to love me.
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ Shrugging her shoulders .] Poor old Lord Mortlake, who
had only two topics of conversation, his gout and his wife! I never
could quite make out which of the two he was talking about. He used the
most horrible language about them both. Well, you were silly, Arthur.
Why, Lord Mortlake was never anything more to me than an amusement. One
of those utterly tedious amusements one only finds at an English country
house on an English country Sunday. I donít think any one at all morally
responsible for what he or she does at an English country house.
LORD GORING. Yes. I know lots of people think that.
MRS. CHEVELEY. I loved you, Arthur.
LORD GORING. My dear Mrs. Cheveley, you have always been far too clever
to know anything about love.
MRS. CHEVELEY. I did love you. And you loved me. You know you loved
me; and love is a very wonderful thing. I suppose that when a man has
once loved a woman, he will do anything for her, except continue to love
her? [ Puts her hand on his .]
LORD GORING. [ Taking his hand away quietly .] Yes: except that.
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ After a pause .] I am tired of living abroad. I want
to come back to London. I want to have a charming house here. I want to
have a salon. If one could only teach the English how to talk, and the
Irish how to listen, society here would be quite civilised. Besides, I
have arrived at the romantic stage. When I saw you last night at the
Chilternsí, I knew you were the only person I had ever cared for, if I
ever have cared for anybody, Arthur. And so, on the morning of the day
you marry me, I will give you Robert Chilternís letter. That is my
offer. I will give it to you now, if you promise to marry me.
LORD GORING. Now?
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ Smiling .] To-morrow.
LORD GORING. Are you really serious?
MRS. CHEVELEY. Yes, quite serious.
LORD GORING. I should make you a very bad husband.
MRS. CHEVELEY. I donít mind bad husbands. I have had two. They amused
LORD GORING. You mean that you amused yourself immensely, donít you?
MRS. CHEVELEY. What do you know about my married life?
LORD GORING. Nothing: but I can read it like a book.
MRS. CHEVELEY. What book?
LORD GORING. [ Rising .] The Book of Numbers.
MRS. CHEVELEY. Do you think it is quite charming of you to be so rude to
a woman in your own house?
LORD GORING. In the case of very fascinating women, sex is a challenge,
not a defence.
MRS. CHEVELEY. I suppose that is meant for a compliment. My dear
Arthur, women are never disarmed by compliments. Men always are. That
is the difference between the two sexes.
LORD GORING. Women are never disarmed by anything, as far as I know
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ After a pause .] Then you are going to allow your
greatest friend, Robert Chiltern, to be ruined, rather than marry some
one who really has considerable attractions left. I thought you would
have risen to some great height of self-sacrifice, Arthur. I think you
should. And the rest of your life you could spend in contemplating your
LORD GORING. Oh! I do that as it is. And self-sacrifice is a thing that
should be put down by law. It is so demoralising to the people for whom
one sacrifices oneself. They always go to the bad.
MRS. CHEVELEY. As if anything could demoralise Robert Chiltern! You
seem to forget that I know his real character.
LORD GORING. What you know about him is not his real character. It was
an act of folly done in his youth, dishonourable, I admit, shameful, I
admit, unworthy of him, I admit, and therefore . . . not his true
MRS. CHEVELEY. How you men stand up for each other!
LORD GORING. How you women war against each other!
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ Bitterly .] I only war against one woman, against
Gertrude Chiltern. I hate her. I hate her now more than ever.
LORD GORING. Because you have brought a real tragedy into her life, I
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ With a sneer .] Oh, there is only one real tragedy in
a womanís life. The fact that her past is always her lover, and her
future invariably her husband.
LORD GORING. Lady Chiltern knows nothing of the kind of life to which
you are alluding.
MRS. CHEVELEY. A woman whose size in gloves is seven and three-quarters
never knows much about anything. You know Gertrude has always worn seven
and three-quarters? That is one of the reasons why there was never any
moral sympathy between us. . . . Well, Arthur, I suppose this romantic
interview may be regarded as at an end. You admit it was romantic, donít
you? For the privilege of being your wife I was ready to surrender a
great prize, the climax of my diplomatic career. You decline. Very
well. If Sir Robert doesnít uphold my Argentine scheme, I expose him.
LORD GORING. You mustnít do that. It would be vile, horrible, infamous.
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ Shrugging her shoulders .] Oh! donít use big words.
They mean so little. It is a commercial transaction. That is all.
There is no good mixing up sentimentality in it. I offered to sell
Robert Chiltern a certain thing. If he wonít pay me my price, he will
have to pay the world a greater price. There is no more to be said. I
must go. Good-bye. Wonít you shake hands?
LORD GORING. With you? No. Your transaction with Robert Chiltern may
pass as a loathsome commercial transaction of a loathsome commercial age;
but you seem to have forgotten that you came here to-night to talk of
love, you whose lips desecrated the word love, you to whom the thing is a
book closely sealed, went this afternoon to the house of one of the most
noble and gentle women in the world to degrade her husband in her eyes,
to try and kill her love for him, to put poison in her heart, and
bitterness in her life, to break her idol, and, it may be, spoil her
soul. That I cannot forgive you. That was horrible. For that there can
be no forgiveness.
MRS. CHEVELEY. Arthur, you are unjust to me. Believe me, you are quite
unjust to me. I didnít go to taunt Gertrude at all. I had no idea of
doing anything of the kind when I entered. I called with Lady Markby
simply to ask whether an ornament, a jewel, that I lost somewhere last
night, had been found at the Chilternsí. If you donít believe me, you
can ask Lady Markby. She will tell you it is true. The scene that
occurred happened after Lady Markby had left, and was really forced on me
by Gertrudeís rudeness and sneers. I called, oh!óa little out of malice
if you likeóbut really to ask if a diamond brooch of mine had been found.
That was the origin of the whole thing.
LORD GORING. A diamond snake-brooch with a ruby?
MRS. CHEVELEY. Yes. How do you know?
LORD GORING. Because it is found. In point of fact, I found it myself,
and stupidly forgot to tell the butler anything about it as I was
leaving. [ Goes over to the writing-table and pulls out the drawers .]
It is in this drawer. No, that one. This is the brooch, isnít it?
[ Holds up the brooch .]
MRS. CHEVELEY. Yes. I am so glad to get it back. It was . . a present.
LORD GORING. Wonít you wear it?
MRS. CHEVELEY. Certainly, if you pin it in. [LORD GORING suddenly
clasps it on her arm .] Why do you put it on as a bracelet? I never
knew it could he worn as a bracelet.
LORD GORING. Really?
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ Holding out her handsome arm .] No; but it looks very
well on me as a bracelet, doesnít it?
LORD GORING. Yes; much better than when I saw it last.
MRS. CHEVELEY. When did you see it last?
LORD GORING. [ Calmly .] Oh, ten years ago, on Lady Berkshire, from
whom you stole it.
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ Starting .] What do you mean?
LORD GORING. I mean that you stole that ornament from my cousin, Mary
Berkshire, to whom I gave it when she was married. Suspicion fell on a
wretched servant, who was sent away in disgrace. I recognised it last
night. I determined to say nothing about it till I had found the thief.
I have found the thief now, and I have heard her own confession.
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ Tossing her head .] It is not true.
LORD GORING. You know it is true. Why, thief is written across your
face at this moment.
MRS. CHEVELEY. I will deny the whole affair from beginning to end. I
will say that I have never seen this wretched thing, that it was never in
[MRS. CHEVELEY tries to get the bracelet off her arm , but fails .
LORD GORING looks on amused . Her thin fingers tear at the jewel to no
purpose . A curse breaks from her .]
LORD GORING. The drawback of stealing a thing, Mrs. Cheveley, is that
one never knows how wonderful the thing that one steals is. You canít
get that bracelet off, unless you know where the spring is. And I see
you donít know where the spring is. It is rather difficult to find.
MRS. CHEVELEY. You brute! You coward! [ She tries again to unclasp the
bracelet , but fails .]
LORD GORING. Oh! donít use big words. They mean so little.
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ Again tears at the bracelet in a paroxysm of rage ,
with inarticulate sounds . Then stops , and looks at LORD GORING.]
What are you going to do?
LORD GORING. I am going to ring for my servant. He is an admirable
servant. Always comes in the moment one rings for him. When he comes I
will tell him to fetch the police.
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ Trembling .] The police? What for?
LORD GORING. To-morrow the Berkshires will prosecute you. That is what
the police are for.
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ Is now in an agony of physical terror . Her face is
distorted . Her mouth awry . A mask has fallen from her . She it ,
for the moment , dreadful to look at .] Donít do that. I will do
anything you want. Anything in the world you want.
LORD GORING. Give me Robert Chilternís letter.
MRS. CHEVELEY. Stop! Stop! Let me have time to think.
LORD GORING. Give me Robert Chilternís letter.
MRS. CHEVELEY. I have not got it with me. I will give it to you
LORD GORING. You know you are lying. Give it to me at once. [MRS.
CHEVELEY pulls the letter out , and hands it to him . She is horribly
pale .] This is it?
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ In a hoarse voice .] Yes.
LORD GORING. [ Takes the letter , examines it , sighs , and burns it
with the lamp .] For so well-dressed a woman, Mrs. Cheveley, you have
moments of admirable common sense. I congratulate you.
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ Catches sight of LADY CHILTERNíS letter , the cover
of which is just showing from under the blotting-book .] Please get me a
glass of water.
LORD GORING. Certainly. [ Goes to the corner of the room and pours out
a glass of water . While his back is turned MRS. CHEVELEY steals
LADY CHILTERNíS letter . When LORD GORING returns the glass she
refuses it with a gesture .]
MRS. CHEVELEY. Thank you. Will you help me on with my cloak?
LORD GORING. With pleasure. [ Puts her cloak on .]
MRS. CHEVELEY. Thanks. I am never going to try to harm Robert Chiltern
LORD GORING. Fortunately you have not the chance, Mrs. Cheveley.
MRS. CHEVELEY. Well, if even I had the chance, I wouldnít. On the
contrary, I am going to render him a great service.
LORD GORING. I am charmed to hear it. It is a reformation.
MRS. CHEVELEY. Yes. I canít bear so upright a gentleman, so honourable
an English gentleman, being so shamefully deceived, and soó
LORD GORING. Well?
MRS. CHEVELEY. I find that somehow Gertrude Chilternís dying speech and
confession has strayed into my pocket.
LORD GORING. What do you mean?
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ With a bitter note of triumph in her voice .] I mean
that I am going to send Robert Chiltern the love-letter his wife wrote to
LORD GORING. Love-letter?
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ Laughing .] ĎI want you. I trust you. I am coming to
[LORD GORING rushes to the bureau and takes up the envelope , finds is
empty , and turns round .]
LORD GORING. You wretched woman, must you always be thieving? Give me
back that letter. Iíll take it from you by force. You shall not leave
my room till I have got it.
[ He rushes towards her , but MRS. CHEVELEY at once puts her hand on
the electric bell that is on the table . The bell sounds with shrill
reverberations , and PHIPPS enters .]
MRS. CHEVELEY. [ After a pause .] Lord Goring merely rang that you
should show me out. Good-night, Lord Goring!
[ Goes out followed by PHIPPS. Her face it illumined with evil
triumph . There is joy in her eyes . Youth seems to have come back to
her . Her last glance is like a swift arrow . LORD GORING bites his
lip , and lights his a cigarette .]
Same as Act II .
[LORD GORING is standing by the fireplace with his hands in his
pockets . He is looking rather bored .]
LORD GORING. [ Pulls out his watch , inspects it , and rings the
bell .] It is a great nuisance. I canít find any one in this house to
talk to. And I am full of interesting information. I feel like the
latest edition of something or other.
[ Enter servant .]
JAMES. Sir Robert is still at the Foreign Office, my lord.
LORD GORING. Lady Chiltern not down yet?
JAMES. Her ladyship has not yet left her room. Miss Chiltern has just
come in from riding.
LORD GORING. [ To himself .] Ah! that is something.
JAMES. Lord Caversham has been waiting some time in the library for Sir
Robert. I told him your lordship was here.
LORD GORING. Thank you! Would you kindly tell him Iíve gone?
JAMES. [ Bowing .] I shall do so, my lord.
[ Exit servant .]
LORD GORING. Really, I donít want to meet my father three days running.
It is a great deal too much excitement for any son. I hope to goodness
he wonít come up. Fathers should be neither seen nor heard. That is the
only proper basis for family life. Mothers are different. Mothers are
darlings. [ Throws himself down into a chair , picks up a paper and
begins to read it .]
[ Enter LORD CAVERSHAM.]
LORD CAVERSHAM. Well, sir, what are you doing here? Wasting your time
as usual, I suppose?
LORD GORING. [ Throws down paper and rises .] My dear father, when one
pays a visit it is for the purpose of wasting other peopleís time, not
LORD CAVERSHAM. Have you been thinking over what I spoke to you about
LORD GORING. I have been thinking about nothing else.
LORD CAVERSHAM. Engaged to be married yet?
LORD GORING. [ Genially .] Not yet: but I hope to be before lunch-time.
LORD CAVERSHAM. [ Caustically .] You can have till dinner-time if it
would be of any convenience to you.
LORD GORING. Thanks awfully, but I think Iíd sooner be engaged before
LORD CAVERSHAM. Humph! Never know when you are serious or not.
LORD GORING. Neither do I, father.
[ A pause .]
LORD CAVERSHAM. I suppose you have read The Times this morning?
LORD GORING. [ Airily .] The Times? Certainly not. I only read The
Morning Post . All that one should know about modern life is where the
Duchesses are; anything else is quite demoralising.
LORD CAVERSHAM. Do you mean to say you have not read The Times leading
article on Robert Chilternís career?
LORD GORING. Good heavens! No. What does it say?
LORD CAVERSHAM. What should it say, sir? Everything complimentary, of
course. Chilternís speech last night on this Argentine Canal scheme was
one of the finest pieces of oratory ever delivered in the House since
LORD GORING. Ah! Never heard of Canning. Never wanted to. And did . . .
did Chiltern uphold the scheme?
LORD CAVERSHAM. Uphold it, sir? How little you know him! Why, he
denounced it roundly, and the whole system of modern political finance.
This speech is the turning-point in his career, as The Times points
out. You should read this article, sir. [ Opens The Times.] ĎSir
Robert Chiltern . . . most rising of our young statesmen . . . Brilliant
Orator . . . Unblemished career . . . Well-known integrity of character
. . . Represents what is best in English public life . . . Noble contrast
to the lax morality so common among foreign politicians.í They will
never say that of you, sir.
LORD GORING. I sincerely hope not, father. However, I am delighted at
what you tell me about Robert, thoroughly delighted. It shows he has got
LORD CAVERSHAM. He has got more than pluck, sir, he has got genius.
LORD GORING. Ah! I prefer pluck. It is not so common, nowadays, as
LORD CAVERSHAM. I wish you would go into Parliament.
LORD GORING. My dear father, only people who look dull ever get into the
House of Commons, and only people who are dull ever succeed there.
LORD CAVERSHAM. Why donít you try to do something useful in life?
LORD GORING. I am far too young.
LORD CAVERSHAM. [ Testily .] I hate this affectation of youth, sir. It
is a great deal too prevalent nowadays.
LORD GORING. Youth isnít an affectation. Youth is an art.
LORD CAVERSHAM. Why donít you propose to that pretty Miss Chiltern?
LORD GORING. I am of a very nervous disposition, especially in the
LORD CAVERSHAM. I donít suppose there is the smallest chance of her
LORD GORING. I donít know how the betting stands to-day.
LORD CAVERSHAM. If she did accept you she would be the prettiest fool in
LORD GORING. That is just what I should like to marry. A thoroughly
sensible wife would reduce me to a condition of absolute idiocy in less
than six months.
LORD CAVERSHAM. You donít deserve her, sir.
LORD GORING. My dear father, if we men married the women we deserved, we
should have a very bad time of it.
[ Enter MABEL CHILTERN.]
MABEL CHILTERN. Oh! . . . How do you do, Lord Caversham? I hope Lady
Caversham is quite well?
LORD CAVERSHAM. Lady Caversham is as usual, as usual.
LORD GORING. Good morning, Miss Mabel!
MABEL CHILTERN. [ Taking no notice at all of LORD GORING, and
addressing herself exclusively to LORD CAVERSHAM.] And Lady Cavershamís
bonnets . . . are they at all better?
LORD CAVERSHAM. They have had a serious relapse, I am sorry to say.
LORD GORING. Good morning, Miss Mabel!
MABEL CHILTERN. [ To LORD CAVERSHAM.] I hope an operation will not be
LORD CAVERSHAM. [ Smiling at her pertness .] If it is, we shall have to
give Lady Caversham a narcotic. Otherwise she would never consent to
have a feather touched.
LORD GORING. [ With increased emphasis .] Good morning, Miss Mabel!
MABEL CHILTERN. [ Turning round with feigned surprise .] Oh, are you
here? Of course you understand that after your breaking your appointment
I am never going to speak to you again.
LORD GORING. Oh, please donít say such a thing. You are the one person
in London I really like to have to listen to me.
MABEL CHILTERN. Lord Goring, I never believe a single word that either
you or I say to each other.
LORD CAVERSHAM. You are quite right, my dear, quite right . . . as far
as he is concerned, I mean.
MABEL CHILTERN. Do you think you could possibly make your son behave a
little better occasionally? Just as a change.
LORD CAVERSHAM. I regret to say, Miss Chiltern, that I have no influence
at all over my son. I wish I had. If I had, I know what I would make
MABEL CHILTERN. I am afraid that he has one of those terribly weak
natures that are not susceptible to influence.
LORD CAVERSHAM. He is very heartless, very heartless.
LORD GORING. It seems to me that I am a little in the way here.
MABEL CHILTERN. It is very good for you to be in the way, and to know
what people say of you behind your back.
LORD GORING. I donít at all like knowing what people say of me behind my
back. It makes me far too conceited.
LORD CAVERSHAM. After that, my dear, I really must bid you good morning.
MABEL CHILTERN. Oh! I hope you are not going to leave me all alone with
Lord Goring? Especially at such an early hour in the day.
LORD CAVERSHAM. I am afraid I canít take him with me to Downing Street.
It is not the Prime Minsterís day for seeing the unemployed.
[ Shakes hands with MABEL CHILTERN, takes up his hat and stick , and
goes out , with a parting glare of indignation at LORD GORING.]
MABEL CHILTERN. [ Takes up roses and begins to arrange them in a bowl on
the table .] People who donít keep their appointments in the Park are
LORD GORING. Detestable.
MABEL CHILTERN. I am glad you admit it. But I wish you wouldnít look so
pleased about it.
LORD GORING. I canít help it. I always look pleased when I am with you.
MABEL CHILTERN. [ Sadly .] Then I suppose it is my duty to remain with
LORD GORING. Of course it is.
MABEL CHILTERN. Well, my duty is a thing I never do, on principle. It
always depresses me. So I am afraid I must leave you.
LORD GORING. Please donít, Miss Mabel. I have something very particular
to say to you.
MABEL CHILTERN. [ Rapturously .] Oh! is it a proposal?
LORD GORING. [ Somewhat taken aback .] Well, yes, it isóI am bound to
say it is.
MABEL CHILTERN. [ With a sigh of pleasure .] I am so glad. That makes
the second to-day.
LORD GORING. [ Indignantly .] The second to-day? What conceited ass
has been impertinent enough to dare to propose to you before I had
proposed to you?
MABEL CHILTERN. Tommy Trafford, of course. It is one of Tommyís days
for proposing. He always proposes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, during the
LORD GORING. You didnít accept him, I hope?
MABEL CHILTERN. I make it a rule never to accept Tommy. That is why he
goes on proposing. Of course, as you didnít turn up this morning, I very
nearly said yes. It would have been an excellent lesson both for him and
for you if I had. It would have taught you both better manners.
LORD GORING. Oh! bother Tommy Trafford. Tommy is a silly little ass. I
MABEL CHILTERN. I know. And I think you might have mentioned it before.
I am sure I have given you heaps of opportunities.
LORD GORING. Mabel, do be serious. Please be serious.
MABEL CHILTERN. Ah! that is the sort of thing a man always says to a
girl before he has been married to her. He never says it afterwards.
LORD GORING. [ Taking hold of her hand .] Mabel, I have told you that I
love you. Canít you love me a little in return?
MABEL CHILTERN. You silly Arthur! If you knew anything about . . .
anything, which you donít, you would know that I adore you. Every one in
London knows it except you. It is a public scandal the way I adore you.
I have been going about for the last six months telling the whole of
society that I adore you. I wonder you consent to have anything to say
to me. I have no character left at all. At least, I feel so happy that
I am quite sure I have no character left at all.
LORD GORING. [ Catches her in his arms and kisses her . Then there is
a pause of bliss .] Dear! Do you know I was awfully afraid of being
MABEL CHILTERN. [ Looking up at him .] But you never have been refused
yet by anybody, have you, Arthur? I canít imagine any one refusing you.
LORD GORING. [ After kissing her again .] Of course Iím not nearly good
enough for you, Mabel.
MABEL CHILTERN. [ Nestling close to him .] I am so glad, darling. I
was afraid you were.
LORD GORING. [ After some hesitation .] And Iím . . . Iím a little over
MABEL CHILTERN. Dear, you look weeks younger than that.
LORD GORING. [ Enthusiastically .] How sweet of you to say so! . . .
And it is only fair to tell you frankly that I am fearfully extravagant.
MABEL CHILTERN. But so am I, Arthur. So weíre sure to agree. And now I
must go and see Gertrude.
LORD GORING. Must you really? [ Kisses her .]
MABEL CHILTERN. Yes.
LORD GORING. Then do tell her I want to talk to her particularly. I
have been waiting here all the morning to see either her or Robert.
MABEL CHILTERN. Do you mean to say you didnít come here expressly to
propose to me?
LORD GORING. [ Triumphantly .] No; that was a flash of genius.
MABEL CHILTERN. Your first.
LORD GORING. [ With determination .] My last.
MABEL CHILTERN. I am delighted to hear it. Now donít stir. Iíll be
back in five minutes. And donít fall into any temptations while I am
LORD GORING. Dear Mabel, while you are away, there are none. It makes
me horribly dependent on you.
[ Enter LADY CHILTERN.]
LADY CHILTERN. Good morning, dear! How pretty you are looking!
MABEL CHILTERN. How pale you are looking, Gertrude! It is most
LADY CHILTERN. Good morning, Lord Goring!
LORD GORING. [ Bowing .] Good morning, Lady Chiltern!
MABEL CHILTERN. [ Aside to LORD GORING.] I shall be in the
conservatory under the second palm tree on the left.
LORD GORING. Second on the left?
MABEL CHILTERN. [ With a look of mock surprise .] Yes; the usual palm
[ Blows a kiss to him , unobserved by LADY CHILTERN, and goes out .]
LORD GORING. Lady Chiltern, I have a certain amount of very good news to
tell you. Mrs. Cheveley gave me up Robertís letter last night, and I
burned it. Robert is safe.
LADY CHILTERN. [ Sinking on the sofa .] Safe! Oh! I am so glad of
that. What a good friend you are to himóto us!
LORD GORING. There is only one person now that could be said to be in
LADY CHILTERN. Who is that?
LORD GORING. [ Sitting down beside her .] Yourself.
LADY CHILTERN. I? In danger? What do you mean?
LORD GORING. Danger is too great a word. It is a word I should not have
used. But I admit I have something to tell you that may distress you,
that terribly distresses me. Yesterday evening you wrote me a very
beautiful, womanly letter, asking me for my help. You wrote to me as one
of your oldest friends, one of your husbandís oldest friends. Mrs.
Cheveley stole that letter from my rooms.
LADY CHILTERN. Well, what use is it to her? Why should she not have it?
LORD GORING. [ Rising .] Lady Chiltern, I will be quite frank with you.
Mrs. Cheveley puts a certain construction on that letter and proposes to
send it to your husband.
LADY CHILTERN. But what construction could she put on it? . . . Oh! not
that! not that! If I inóin trouble, and wanting your help, trusting you,
propose to come to you . . . that you may advise me . . . assist me . . .
Oh! are there women so horrible as that . . .? And she proposes to send
it to my husband? Tell me what happened. Tell me all that happened.
LORD GORING. Mrs. Cheveley was concealed in a room adjoining my library,
without my knowledge. I thought that the person who was waiting in that
room to see me was yourself. Robert came in unexpectedly. A chair or
something fell in the room. He forced his way in, and he discovered her.
We had a terrible scene. I still thought it was you. He left me in
anger. At the end of everything Mrs. Cheveley got possession of your
letteróshe stole it, when or how, I donít know.
LADY CHILTERN. At what hour did this happen?
LORD GORING. At half-past ten. And now I propose that we tell Robert
the whole thing at once.
LADY CHILTERN. [ Looking at him with amazement that is almost terror .]
You want me to tell Robert that the woman you expected was not Mrs.
Cheveley, but myself? That it was I whom you thought was concealed in a
room in your house, at half-past ten oíclock at night? You want me to
tell him that?
LORD GORING. I think it is better that he should know the exact truth.
LADY CHILTERN. [ Rising .] Oh, I couldnít, I couldnít!
LORD GORING. May I do it?
LADY CHILTERN. No.
LORD GORING. [ Gravely .] You are wrong, Lady Chiltern.
LADY CHILTERN. No. The letter must be intercepted. That is all. But
how can I do it? Letters arrive for him every moment of the day. His
secretaries open them and hand them to him. I dare not ask the servants
to bring me his letters. It would be impossible. Oh! why donít you tell
me what to do?
LORD GORING. Pray be calm, Lady Chiltern, and answer the questions I am
going to put to you. You said his secretaries open his letters.
LADY CHILTERN. Yes.
LORD GORING. Who is with him to-day? Mr. Trafford, isnít it?
LADY CHILTERN. No. Mr. Montford, I think.
LORD GORING. You can trust him?
LADY CHILTERN. [ With a gesture of despair .] Oh! how do I know?
LORD GORING. He would do what you asked him, wouldnít he?
LADY CHILTERN. I think so.
LORD GORING. Your letter was on pink paper. He could recognise it
without reading it, couldnít he? By the colour?
LADY CHILTERN. I suppose so.
LORD GORING. Is he in the house now?
LADY CHILTERN. Yes.
LORD GORING. Then I will go and see him myself, and tell him that a
certain letter, written on pink paper, is to be forwarded to Robert
to-day, and that at all costs it must not reach him. [ Goes to the
door , and opens it .] Oh! Robert is coming upstairs with the letter in
his hand. It has reached him already.
LADY CHILTERN. [ With a cry of pain .] Oh! you have saved his life;
what have you done with mine?
[ Enter SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. He has the letter in his hand , and is
reading it . He comes towards his wife , not noticing LORD GORINGíS
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. ĎI want you. I trust you. I am coming to you.
Gertrude.í Oh, my love! Is this true? Do you indeed trust me, and want
me? If so, it was for me to come to you, not for you to write of coming
to me. This letter of yours, Gertrude, makes me feel that nothing that
the world may do can hurt me now. You want me, Gertrude?
[LORD GORING, unseen by SIR ROBERT CHILTERN, makes an imploring sign
to LADY CHILTERN to accept the situation and SIR ROBERTíS error .]
LADY CHILTERN. Yes.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. You trust me, Gertrude?
LADY CHILTERN. Yes.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Ah! why did you not add you loved me?
LADY CHILTERN. [ Taking his hand .] Because I loved you.
[LORD GORING passes into the conservatory .]
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Kisses her .] Gertrude, you donít know what I
feel. When Montford passed me your letter across the tableóhe had opened
it by mistake, I suppose, without looking at the handwriting on the
envelopeóand I read itóoh! I did not care what disgrace or punishment was
in store for me, I only thought you loved me still.
LADY CHILTERN. There is no disgrace in store for you, nor any public
shame. Mrs. Cheveley has handed over to Lord Goring the document that
was in her possession, and he has destroyed it.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Are you sure of this, Gertrude?
LADY CHILTERN. Yes; Lord Goring has just told me.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Then I am safe! Oh! what a wonderful thing to be
safe! For two days I have been in terror. I am safe now. How did
Arthur destroy my letter? Tell me.
LADY CHILTERN. He burned it.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I wish I had seen that one sin of my youth burning
to ashes. How many men there are in modern life who would like to see
their past burning to white ashes before them! Is Arthur still here?
LADY CHILTERN. Yes; he is in the conservatory.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I am so glad now I made that speech last night in
the House, so glad. I made it thinking that public disgrace might be the
result. But it has not been so.
LADY CHILTERN. Public honour has been the result.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I think so. I fear so, almost. For although I am
safe from detection, although every proof against me is destroyed, I
suppose, Gertrude . . . I suppose I should retire from public life? [ He
looks anxiously at his wife .]
LADY CHILTERN. [ Eagerly .] Oh yes, Robert, you should do that. It is
your duty to do that.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. It is much to surrender.
LADY CHILTERN. No; it will be much to gain.
[SIR ROBERT CHILTERN walks up and down the room with a troubled
expression . Then comes over to his wife , and puts his hand on her
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. And you would be happy living somewhere alone with
me, abroad perhaps, or in the country away from London, away from public
life? You would have no regrets?
LADY CHILTERN. Oh! none, Robert.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Sadly .] And your ambition for me? You used to
be ambitious for me.
LADY CHILTERN. Oh, my ambition! I have none now, but that we two may
love each other. It was your ambition that led you astray. Let us not
talk about ambition.
[LORD GORING returns from the conservatory , looking very pleased with
himself , and with an entirely new buttonhole that some one has made for
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Going towards him .] Arthur, I have to thank you
for what you have done for me. I donít know how I can repay you.
[ Shakes hands with him .]
LORD GORING. My dear fellow, Iíll tell you at once. At the present
moment, under the usual palm tree . . . I mean in the conservatory . . .
[ Enter MASON.]
MASON. Lord Caversham.
LORD GORING. That admirable father of mine really makes a habit of
turning up at the wrong moment. It is very heartless of him, very
[ Enter LORD CAVERSHAM. MASON goes out .]
LORD CAVERSHAM. Good morning, Lady Chiltern! Warmest congratulations to
you, Chiltern, on your brilliant speech last night. I have just left the
Prime Minister, and you are to have the vacant seat in the Cabinet.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ With a look of joy and triumph .] A seat in the
LORD CAVERSHAM. Yes; here is the Prime Ministerís letter. [ Hands
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Takes letter and reads it .] A seat in the
LORD CAVERSHAM. Certainly, and you well deserve it too. You have got
what we want so much in political life nowadaysóhigh character, high
moral tone, high principles. [ To LORD GORING.] Everything that you
have not got, sir, and never will have.
LORD GORING. I donít like principles, father. I prefer prejudices.
[SIR ROBERT CHILTERN is on the brink of accepting the Prime Ministerís
offer , when he sees wife looking at him with her clear , candid eyes .
He then realises that it is impossible .]
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I cannot accept this offer, Lord Caversham. I have
made up my mind to decline it.
LORD CAVERSHAM. Decline it, sir!
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. My intention is to retire at once from public life.
LORD CAVERSHAM. [ Angrily .] Decline a seat in the Cabinet, and retire
from public life? Never heard such damned nonsense in the whole course
of my existence. I beg your pardon, Lady Chiltern. Chiltern, I beg your
pardon. [ To LORD GORING.] Donít grin like that, sir.
LORD GORING. No, father.
LORD CAVERSHAM. Lady Chiltern, you are a sensible woman, the most
sensible woman in London, the most sensible woman I know. Will you
kindly prevent your husband from making such a . . . from taking such
. . . Will you kindly do that, Lady Chiltern?
LADY CHILTERN. I think my husband in right in his determination, Lord
Caversham. I approve of it.
LORD CAVERSHAM. You approve of it? Good heavens!
LADY CHILTERN. [ Taking her husbandís hand .] I admire him for it. I
admire him immensely for it. I have never admired him so much before.
He is finer than even I thought him. [ To SIR ROBERT CHILTERN.] You
will go and write your letter to the Prime Minister now, wonít you?
Donít hesitate about it, Robert.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ With a touch of bitterness .] I suppose I had
better write it at once. Such offers are not repeated. I will ask you
to excuse me for a moment, Lord Caversham.
LADY CHILTERN. I may come with you, Robert, may I not?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Yes, Gertrude.
[LADY CHILTERN goes out with him .]
LORD CAVERSHAM. What is the matter with this family? Something wrong
here, eh? [ Tapping his forehead .] Idiocy? Hereditary, I suppose.
Both of them, too. Wife as well as husband. Very sad. Very sad indeed!
And they are not an old family. Canít understand it.
LORD GORING. It is not idiocy, father, I assure you.
LORD CAVERSHAM. What is it then, sir?
LORD GORING. [ After some hesitation .] Well, it is what is called
nowadays a high moral tone, father. That is all.
LORD CAVERSHAM. Hate these new-fangled names. Same thing as we used to
call idiocy fifty years ago. Shanít stay in this house any longer.
LORD GORING. [ Taking his arm .] Oh! just go in here for a moment,
father. Third palm tree to the left, the usual palm tree.
LORD CAVERSHAM. What, sir?
LORD GORING. I beg your pardon, father, I forgot. The conservatory,
father, the conservatoryóthere is some one there I want you to talk to.
LORD CAVERSHAM. What about, sir?
LORD GORING. About me, father,
LORD CAVERSHAM. [ Grimly .] Not a subject on which much eloquence is
LORD GORING. No, father; but the lady is like me. She doesnít care much
for eloquence in others. She thinks it a little loud.
[LORD CAVERSHAM goes out into the conservatory . LADY CHILTERN
LORD GORING. Lady Chiltern, why are you playing Mrs. Cheveleyís cards?
LADY CHILTERN. [ Startled .] I donít understand you.
LORD GORING. Mrs. Cheveley made an attempt to ruin your husband. Either
to drive him from public life, or to make him adopt a dishonourable
position. From the latter tragedy you saved him. The former you are now
thrusting on him. Why should you do him the wrong Mrs. Cheveley tried to
do and failed?
LADY CHILTERN. Lord Goring?
LORD GORING. [ Pulling himself together for a great effort , and
showing the philosopher that underlies the dandy .] Lady Chiltern, allow
me. You wrote me a letter last night in which you said you trusted me
and wanted my help. Now is the moment when you really want my help, now
is the time when you have got to trust me, to trust in my counsel and
judgment. You love Robert. Do you want to kill his love for you? What
sort of existence will he have if you rob him of the fruits of his
ambition, if you take him from the splendour of a great political career,
if you close the doors of public life against him, if you condemn him to
sterile failure, he who was made for triumph and success? Women are not
meant to judge us, but to forgive us when we need forgiveness. Pardon,
not punishment, is their mission. Why should you scourge him with rods
for a sin done in his youth, before he knew you, before he knew himself?
A manís life is of more value than a womanís. It has larger issues,
wider scope, greater ambitions. A womanís life revolves in curves of
emotions. It is upon lines of intellect that a manís life progresses.
Donít make any terrible mistake, Lady Chiltern. A woman who can keep a
manís love, and love him in return, has done all the world wants of
women, or should want of them.
LADY CHILTERN. [ Troubled and hesitating .] But it is my husband
himself who wishes to retire from public life. He feels it is his duty.
It was he who first said so.
LORD GORING. Rather than lose your love, Robert would do anything, wreck
his whole career, as he is on the brink of doing now. He is making for
you a terrible sacrifice. Take my advice, Lady Chiltern, and do not
accept a sacrifice so great. If you do, you will live to repent it
bitterly. We men and women are not made to accept such sacrifices from
each other. We are not worthy of them. Besides, Robert has been
LADY CHILTERN. We have both been punished. I set him up too high.
LORD GORING. [ With deep feeling in his voice .] Do not for that reason
set him down now too low. If he has fallen from his altar, do not thrust
him into the mire. Failure to Robert would be the very mire of shame.
Power is his passion. He would lose everything, even his power to feel
love. Your husbandís life is at this moment in your hands, your
husbandís love is in your hands. Donít mar both for him.
[ Enter SIR ROBERT CHILTERN.]
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Gertrude, here is the draft of my letter. Shall I
read it to you?
LADY CHILTERN. Let me see it.
[SIR ROBERT hands her the letter . She reads it , and then , with a
gesture of passion , tears it up .]
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. What are you doing?
LADY CHILTERN. A manís life is of more value than a womanís. It has
larger issues, wider scope, greater ambitions. Our lives revolve in
curves of emotions. It is upon lines of intellect that a manís life
progresses. I have just learnt this, and much else with it, from Lord
Goring. And I will not spoil your life for you, nor see you spoil it as
a sacrifice to me, a useless sacrifice!
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Gertrude! Gertrude!
LADY CHILTERN. You can forget. Men easily forget. And I forgive. That
is how women help the world. I see that now.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Deeply overcome by emotion , embraces her .] My
wife! my wife! [ To LORD GORING.] Arthur, it seems that I am always to
be in your debt.
LORD GORING. Oh dear no, Robert. Your debt is to Lady Chiltern, not to
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. I owe you much. And now tell me what you were
going to ask me just now as Lord Caversham came in.
LORD GORING. Robert, you are your sisterís guardian, and I want your
consent to my marriage with her. That is all.
LADY CHILTERN. Oh, I am so glad! I am so glad! [ Shakes hands with
LORD GORING. Thank you, Lady Chiltern.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ With a troubled look .] My sister to be your
LORD GORING. Yes.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Speaking with great firmness .] Arthur, I am
very sorry, but the thing is quite out of the question. I have to think
of Mabelís future happiness. And I donít think her happiness would be
safe in your hands. And I cannot have her sacrificed!
LORD GORING. Sacrificed!
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Yes, utterly sacrificed. Loveless marriages are
horrible. But there is one thing worse than an absolutely loveless
marriage. A marriage in which there is love, but on one side only;
faith, but on one side only; devotion, but on one side only, and in which
of the two hearts one is sure to be broken.
LORD GORING. But I love Mabel. No other woman has any place in my life.
LADY CHILTERN. Robert, if they love each other, why should they not be
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Arthur cannot bring Mabel the love that she
LORD GORING. What reason have you for saying that?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ After a pause .] Do you really require me to
LORD GORING. Certainly I do.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. As you choose. When I called on you yesterday
evening I found Mrs. Cheveley concealed in your rooms. It was between
ten and eleven oíclock at night. I do not wish to say anything more.
Your relations with Mrs. Cheveley have, as I said to you last night,
nothing whatsoever to do with me. I know you were engaged to be married
to her once. The fascination she exercised over you then seems to have
returned. You spoke to me last night of her as of a woman pure and
stainless, a woman whom you respected and honoured. That may be so. But
I cannot give my sisterís life into your hands. It would be wrong of me.
It would be unjust, infamously unjust to her.
LORD GORING. I have nothing more to say.
LADY CHILTERN. Robert, it was not Mrs. Cheveley whom Lord Goring
expected last night.
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. Not Mrs. Cheveley! Who was it then?
LORD GORING. Lady Chiltern!
LADY CHILTERN. It was your own wife. Robert, yesterday afternoon Lord
Goring told me that if ever I was in trouble I could come to him for
help, as he was our oldest and best friend. Later on, after that
terrible scene in this room, I wrote to him telling him that I trusted
him, that I had need of him, that I was coming to him for help and
advice. [SIR ROBERT CHILTERN takes the letter out of his pocket .]
Yes, that letter. I didnít go to Lord Goringís, after all. I felt that
it is from ourselves alone that help can come. Pride made me think that.
Mrs. Cheveley went. She stole my letter and sent it anonymously to you
this morning, that you should think . . . Oh! Robert, I cannot tell you
what she wished you to think. . . .
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. What! Had I fallen so low in your eyes that you
thought that even for a moment I could have doubted your goodness?
Gertrude, Gertrude, you are to me the white image of all good things, and
sin can never touch you. Arthur, you can go to Mabel, and you have my
best wishes! Oh! stop a moment. There is no name at the beginning of
this letter. The brilliant Mrs. Cheveley does not seem to have noticed
that. There should be a name.
LADY CHILTERN. Let me write yours. It is you I trust and need. You and
LORD GORING. Well, really, Lady Chiltern, I think I should have back my
LADY CHILTERN. [ Smiling .] No; you shall have Mabel. [ Takes the
letter and writes her husbandís name on it .]
LORD GORING. Well, I hope she hasnít changed her mind. Itís nearly
twenty minutes since I saw her last.
[ Enter MABEL CHILTERN and LORD CAVERSHAM.]
MABEL CHILTERN. Lord Goring, I think your fatherís conversation much
more improving than yours. I am only going to talk to Lord Caversham in
the future, and always under the usual palm tree.
LORD GORING. Darling! [ Kisses her .]
LORD CAVERSHAM. [ Considerably taken aback .] What does this mean, sir?
You donít mean to say that this charming, clever young lady has been so
foolish as to accept you?
LORD GORING. Certainly, father! And Chilternís been wise enough to
accept the seat in the Cabinet.
LORD CAVERSHAM. I am very glad to hear that, Chiltern . . . I
congratulate you, sir. If the country doesnít go to the dogs or the
Radicals, we shall have you Prime Minister, some day.
[ Enter MASON.]
MASON. Luncheon is on the table, my Lady!
[MASON goes out .]
MABEL CHILTERN. Youíll stop to luncheon, Lord Caversham, wonít you?
LORD CAVERSHAM. With pleasure, and Iíll drive you down to Downing Street
afterwards, Chiltern. You have a great future before you, a great
future. Wish I could say the same for you, sir. [ To LORD GORING.]
But your career will have to be entirely domestic.
LORD GORING. Yes, father, I prefer it domestic.
LORD CAVERSHAM. And if you donít make this young lady an ideal husband,
Iíll cut you off with a shilling.
MABEL CHILTERN. An ideal husband! Oh, I donít think I should like that.
It sounds like something in the next world.
LORD CAVERSHAM. What do you want him to be then, dear?
MABEL CHILTERN. He can be what he chooses. All I want is to be . . . to
be . . . oh! a real wife to him.
LORD CAVERSHAM. Upon my word, there is a good deal of common sense in
that, Lady Chiltern.
[ They all go out except SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. He sinks in a chair ,
wrapt in thought . After a little time LADY CHILTERN returns to look
for him .]
LADY CHILTERN. [ Leaning over the back of the chair .] Arenít you
coming in, Robert?
SIR ROBERT CHILTERN. [ Taking her hand .] Gertrude, is it love you feel
for me, or is it pity merely?
LADY CHILTERN. [ Kisses him .] It is love, Robert. Love, and only
love. For both of us a new life is beginning.
* * * * *
* * * * *
THE NORTHUMBERLAND PRESS, NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE
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