Sunday, December 24, 2006
Act I, page 7
you could not possibly appreciate, lives at my place in the country, under the charge of her admirable governess, Miss Prism.
ALGY. (Rises) Where is that place the country, by the way?
JACK. That is nothing to you, dear boy. You are not going to be invited. I may tell you candidly that the place is not in Shropshire.
ALGY. I suspected that, my dear fellow. I have Bunburyed all over Shropshire on two separate occasions. Now go on. Why are you Ernest in town and Jack in the country?
JACK. My dear Algy, I don’t know if you will be able to understand my real motives. You are hardly serious enough. When one is placed in the position of guardian, one has to adopt a very high, moral tone on all subjects. It's one's duty to do so. And as a high moral tone can hardly be said to conduce very much to either one's health or happiness, in order to get up to town I have always pretended to have a younger brother of the name of Ernest, who lives in the Albany, and gets into the most dreadful scrapes. That, my dear young AIgy, is the whole truth, pure and simple.
ALGY. The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either. And modern literature a complete impossibility.
JACK. That wouldn’t be at all a bad thing.
ALGY. Literary criticism is not your forté, my dear fellow. Don’t try it. You should leave that to people who haven’t been at university. They do it so well in the daily papers. What you are is a Bunburyist. I was quite right in saying you were a Bunburyist. You are one of the most advanced Bunburyists I know.
JACK. What on earth do you mean?
ALGY. You have invented a very useful younger brother called Ernest, in order that you may be able to come up to town as often as you like. I have invented an invaluable permanent invalid called Bunbury, in order that I may go down into the country whenever I choose. Bunbury is perfectly invaluable. If it wasn't for Bunbury's extraordinary bad health, for instance, I wouldn't be able to dine with you at the Savoytonight, for I have been really engaged to Aunt Augusta for more than a week.
JACK. I haven't asked you to dine with me anywhere tonight.
ALGY. I know. You are absurdly careless about sending out invitations. It is very foolish of you. Nothing annoys people so much as not receiving invitations.
JACK. Any way, I can’t dine at the Savoy; I owe them about £700.
ALGY. Well, why on earth don’t you pay them? You’ve got heaps of money.
JACK. Yes, but Earnest hasn’t. Earnest is the sort of chap that never pays a bill.
ALGY. Then let us dine at The Carlton.
JACK. You had much better dine with your Aunt Augusta.
ALGY. I haven't the smallest intention of doing anything of the kind. To begin with, I dined there on Monday, and once a week is quite enough to dine with one's own relations. In the second place, whenever I do dine there I am always treated as if I’m a member of the family, and sent down with either no woman at all or two. In the third place, I know perfectly well who she will place me next to tonight. She will place me next to Mary Farquhar, who always flirts with her own husband across the dinner-table. That is not very pleasant. Indeed, it is not even decent- and that sort of thing is enormously on the increase. The amount of women in London who flirt with their own