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A Woman of No Importance

A Woman of No Importance is a play by Irish playwright Oscar Wilde. The play premièred on 19 April 1893 at London's Haymarket Theatre. Like Wilde's other society plays, it satirizes English upper-class society. It has been performed on stages in Europe and North America since his death in 1900.

Lord Illingworth
Sir John Pontefract
Lord Alfred Rufford
Mr. Kelvil, M.P.
The Ven. Archdeacon Daubeny, D.D.
Gerald Arbuthnot
Farquhar, Butler
Francis, Footman
Lady Hunstanton
Lady Caroline Pontefract
Lady Stutfield
Mrs. Allonby
Miss Hester Worsley
Alice, Maid
Mrs. Arbuthnot
Act I.  The Terrace at Hunstanton Chase.
Act II.  The Drawing-room at Hunstanton Chase.
Act III.  The Hall at Hunstanton Chase.
Act IV.  Sitting-room in Mrs. Arbuthnot’s House at Wrockley.
Time:  The Present.
Place:  The Shires.
The action of the play takes place within twenty-four hours.
Lessee and Manager: Mr. H Beerbohm Tree
April 19th, 1893
Lord Illingworth
Mr. Tree.

Sir John Pontefract
Mr. E. Holman Clark.

Lord Alfred Rufford
Mr. Ernest Lawford.

Mr. Kelvil, M.P.
Mr. Charles Allan.

The Ven. Archdeacon Daubeny, D.D.
Mr. Kemble.

Gerald Arbuthnot
Mr. Terry.

Farquhar (Butler)
Mr. Hay.

Francis (Footman)
Mr. Montague.

Lady Hunstanton
Miss Rose Leclercq.

Lady Caroline Pontefract
Miss Le Thière.

Lady Stutfield
Miss Blanche Horlock.

Mrs. Allonby
Mrs. Tree.

Miss Hester Worsley
Miss Julia Neilson.

Alice (Maid)
Miss Kelly.

Mrs. Arbuthnot
Mrs. Bernard-Beere.

Lawn in front of the terrace at Hunstanton.
[Sir John and Lady Caroline Pontefract, Miss Worsley, on chairs under large yew tree.]
Lady Caroline.  I believe this is the first English country house you have stayed at, Miss Worsley?
Hester.  Yes, Lady Caroline.
Lady Caroline.  You have no country houses, I am told, in America?
Hester.  We have not many.
Lady Caroline.  Have you any country?  What we should call country?
Hester.  [Smiling.]  We have the largest country in the world, Lady Caroline.  They used to tell us at school that some of our states are as big as France and England put together.
Lady Caroline.  Ah! you must find it very draughty, I should fancy.  [To Sir John.]  John, you should have your muffler.  What is the use of my always knitting mufflers for you if you won’t wear them?
Sir John.  I am quite warm, Caroline, I assure you.
Lady Caroline.  I think not, John.  Well, you couldn’t come to a more charming place than this, Miss Worsley, though the house is excessively damp, quite unpardonably damp, and dear Lady Hunstanton is sometimes a little lax about the people she asks down here.  [To Sir John.]  Jane mixes too much.  Lord Illingworth, of course, is a man of high distinction.  It is a privilege to meet him.  And that member of Parliament, Mr. Kettle—
Sir John.  Kelvil, my love, Kelvil.
Lady Caroline.  He must be quite respectable.  One has never heard his name before in the whole course of one’s life, which speaks volumes for a man, nowadays.  But Mrs. Allonby is hardly a very suitable person.
Hester.  I dislike Mrs. Allonby.  I dislike her more than I can say.
Lady Caroline.  I am not sure, Miss Worsley, that foreigners like yourself should cultivate likes or dislikes about the people they are invited to meet.  Mrs. Allonby is very well born.  She is a niece of Lord Brancaster’s.  It is said, of course, that she ran away twice before she was married.  But you know how unfair people often are.  I myself don’t believe she ran away more than once.
Hester.  Mr. Arbuthnot is very charming.
Lady Caroline.  Ah, yes! the young man who has a post in a bank.  Lady Hunstanton is most kind in asking him here, and Lord Illingworth seems to have taken quite a fancy to him.  I am not sure, however, that Jane is right in taking him out of his position.  In my young days, Miss Worsley, one never met any one in society who worked for their living.  It was not considered the thing.
Hester.  In America those are the people we respect most.
Lady Caroline.  I have no doubt of it.
Hester.  Mr. Arbuthnot has a beautiful nature!  He is so simple, so sincere.  He has one of the most beautiful natures I have ever come across.  It is a privilege to meet him.
Lady Caroline.  It is not customary in England, Miss Worsley, for a young lady to speak with such enthusiasm of any person of the opposite sex.  English women conceal their feelings till after they are married.  They show them then.
Hester.  Do you, in England, allow no friendship to exist between a young man and a young girl?
[Enter Lady Hunstanton, followed by Footman with shawls and a cushion.]
Lady Caroline.  We think it very inadvisable.  Jane, I was just saying what a pleasant party you have asked us to meet.  You have a wonderful power of selection.  It is quite a gift.
Lady Hunstanton.  Dear Caroline, how kind of you!  I think we all do fit in very nicely together.  And I hope our charming American visitor will carry back pleasant recollections of our English country life.  [To Footman.]  The cushion, there, Francis.  And my shawl.  The Shetland.  Get the Shetland.  [Exit Footman for shawl.]
[Enter Gerald Arbuthnot.]
Gerald.  Lady Hunstanton, I have such good news to tell you.  Lord Illingworth has just offered to make me his secretary.
Lady Hunstanton.  His secretary?  That is good news indeed, Gerald.  It means a very brilliant future in store for you.  Your dear mother will be delighted.  I really must try and induce her to come up here to-night.  Do you think she would, Gerald?  I know how difficult it is to get her to go anywhere.
Gerald.  Oh!  I am sure she would, Lady Hunstanton, if she knew Lord Illingworth had made me such an offer.
[Enter Footman with shawl.]
Lady Hunstanton.  I will write and tell her about it, and ask her to come up and meet him.  [To Footman.]  Just wait, Francis.  [Writes letter.]
Lady Caroline.  That is a very wonderful opening for so young a man as you are, Mr. Arbuthnot.
Gerald.  It is indeed, Lady Caroline.  I trust I shall be able to show myself worthy of it.
Lady Caroline.  I trust so.
Gerald.  [To Hester.]  You have not congratulated me yet, Miss Worsley.
Hester.  Are you very pleased about it?
Gerald.  Of course I am.  It means everything to me—things that were out of the reach of hope before may be within hope’s reach now.
Hester.  Nothing should be out of the reach of hope.  Life is a hope.
Lady Hunstanton.  I fancy, Caroline, that Diplomacy is what Lord Illingworth is aiming at.  I heard that he was offered Vienna.  But that may not be true.
Lady Caroline.  I don’t think that England should be represented abroad by an unmarried man, Jane.  It might lead to complications.
Lady Hunstanton.  You are too nervous, Caroline.  Believe me, you are too nervous.  Besides, Lord Illingworth may marry any day.  I was in hopes he would have married lady Kelso.  But I believe he said her family was too large.  Or was it her feet?  I forget which.  I regret it very much.  She was made to be an ambassador’s wife.
Lady Caroline.  She certainly has a wonderful faculty of remembering people’s names, and forgetting their faces.
Lady Hunstanton.  Well, that is very natural, Caroline, is it not?  [To Footman.]  Tell Henry to wait for an answer.  I have written a line to your dear mother, Gerald, to tell her your good news, and to say she really must come to dinner.
[Exit Footman.]
Gerald.  That is awfully kind of you, Lady Hunstanton.  [To Hester.]  Will you come for a stroll, Miss Worsley?
Hester.  With pleasure.  [Exit with Gerald.]
Lady Hunstanton.  I am very much gratified at Gerald Arbuthnot’s good fortune.  He is quite a protégé of mine.  And I am particularly pleased that Lord Illingworth should have made the offer of his own accord without my suggesting anything.  Nobody likes to be asked favours.  I remember poor Charlotte Pagden making herself quite unpopular one season, because she had a French governess she wanted to recommend to every one.
Lady Caroline.  I saw the governess, Jane.  Lady Pagden sent her to me.  It was before Eleanor came out.  She was far too good-looking to be in any respectable household.  I don’t wonder Lady Pagden was so anxious to get rid of her.
Lady Hunstanton.  Ah, that explains it.
Lady Caroline.  John, the grass is too damp for you.  You had better go and put on your overshoes at once.
Sir John.  I am quite comfortable, Caroline, I assure you.
Lady Caroline.  You must allow me to be the best judge of that, John.  Pray do as I tell you.
[Sir John gets up and goes off.]
Lady Hunstanton.  You spoil him, Caroline, you do indeed!
[Enter Mrs. Allonby and Lady Stutfield.]
[To Mrs. Allonby.]  Well, dear, I hope you like the park.  It is said to be well timbered.
Mrs. Allonby.  The trees are wonderful, Lady Hunstanton.
Lady Stutfield.  Quite, quite wonderful.
Mrs. Allonby.  But somehow, I feel sure that if I lived in the country for six months, I should become so unsophisticated that no one would take the slightest notice of me.
Lady Hunstanton.  I assure you, dear, that the country has not that effect at all.  Why, it was from Melthorpe, which is only two miles from here, that Lady Belton eloped with Lord Fethersdale.  I remember the occurrence perfectly.  Poor Lord Belton died three days afterwards of joy, or gout.  I forget which.  We had a large party staying here at the time, so we were all very much interested in the whole affair.
Mrs. Allonby.  I think to elope is cowardly.  It’s running away from danger.  And danger has become so rare in modern life.
Lady Caroline.  As far as I can make out, the young women of the present day seem to make it the sole object of their lives to be always playing with fire.
Mrs. Allonby.  The one advantage of playing with fire, Lady Caroline, is that one never gets even singed.  It is the people who don’t know how to play with it who get burned up.
Lady Stutfield.  Yes; I see that.  It is very, very helpful.
Lady Hunstanton.  I don’t know how the world would get on with such a theory as that, dear Mrs. Allonby.
Lady Stutfield.  Ah!  The world was made for men and not for women.

Source: Wikipedia

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