Act I, page 12
the fact. An engagement should always come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be. It is hardly a matter that she should be allowed to arrange for herself. And now I have a few questions to put to you, Mr. Worthing. And while I am making these inquiries, you, Gwendoline, will wait for me below in the carriage.
GWENDOLINE. (Reproachfully) Mamma!
LADY BRACKNELL. (Severely) In the carriage, Gwendoline! (GWENDOLINE and JACK blow kisses to each other behind LADY BRACKNELL's back. LADY BRACKNELL looks vaguely about as if she cannot understand what the noise is; finally turns) Gwendoline, the carriage!
GWENDOLINE. Yes, Mamma. (Exits.)
LADY BRACKNELL. (Sits.) You can take a seat, Mr. Worthing. (Looks in her pocket for notebook and pencil.)
JACK. Thank you, Lady Bracknell. I prefer standing.
LADY BRACKNELL. (Pencil and notebook in hand) I feel bound to tell you that you are not down on my list of eligible young men; although I have the same list as the dear Duchess of Bolton has. We work together, in fact. However, I am quite ready to enter your name, should your answers be what a really affectionate mother requires. Do you smoke?
JACK. Well, yes, I must admit I smoke.
LADY BRACKNELL. I am glad to hear it. A man should always have an occupation of some kind. There are far too many idle men in London as it is. How old are you?
LADY BRACKNELL. A very good age to be married at. I have always been of opinion that a man who desires to get married should either know everything or nothing. Which do you know?
JACK. I know nothing, Lady Bracknell.
LADY BRACKNELL. I am pleased to hear it. I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate, exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom has gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately, in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenors Square. What is your income?
JACK. Between seven and eight thousand a year.
LADY BRACKNELL. (Makes a note in her book) In land or in investments?
JACK. In investments, chiefly.
LADY BRACKNELL. That is satisfactory. What between the duties expected of one during one's lifetime and the duties exacted from one after one's death, land has ceased to be either a profit or a pleasure. It gives one position and prevents one from keeping it up. That's all that can be said about land.
JACK. I have a country house, with some land, of course, attached to it; about fifteen hundred acres, I believe, but I don't depend on that for my real income. As far as I can see, the poachers are the only people who make anything out of it.