Dossier Pédagogique

Les Personages

 Décors et Costumes

 Le synopsis (English)

 Le synopsis (Français)



Oscar Wilde Biographie (English)

Auteurs contemporains

d'Oscar Wilde et ses prédécesseurs

Sites parlant de

The Importance Of Being Earnest

 Les Personages

A brief guide to the characters, in order of appearance : (notes in italics by director - Lucille O'Flanagan)



 Algernon Moncrieff (Algy)

 John Worthing (Jack)

 Lady Bracknell

 Gwendolen Fairfax

 Cecily Cardew

 Miss Prism

 Reverend Chasuble





Algernon's servant (altered to be a poorly paid female servant in our version)

"I have often observed that in married households the champagne is rarely of a first rate brand."



Algernon Moncrieff (Algy)

A young unmarried man, best friend of Jack, cousin to Gwendolen and nephew to Lady Bracknell. Although Algy comes from a "good" family, he has apparently many debts.

(Remember that Lady Bracknell married Lord Bracknell for his money. Her side of the family has a good name but not much money. Algy is eligible because he is upper class and attractive. He clearly enjoys himself).


"I really don't see anything romantic in proposing. It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why, one may be accepted. One usually is, I believe. Then the excitement is all over. The very essence of romance is uncertainty. If ever I get married, I'll certainly try to forget the fact."



 John Worthing (Jack)

The play's hero, was discovered as a baby in a handbag on Victoria Station and adopted by a wealthy benefactor, Sir Thomas Cardew. Sir Thomas later made Jack the guardian of his own young daughter, Cecily. Jack seems a respectable serious young man when staying at his country house, but Jack leads a double life by going to London under the name of Ernest. (Note : to be able to excuse himself from the country he pretends he has a brother called Ernest)


"When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the country one amuses other people. It is excessively boring."



Lady Bracknell

Mother to Gwendolen, aunt to Algernon, Lady Bracknell seems an aristocratic snob! (But you can decide how much she sympathises or not with the situation the two young couples find themselves in. She was young once. But she also needs Algy to make a 'good' match - for money. Being played by a man in our show in the strong English tradition).


". to be born, or at any rate bred, in a hand-bag, whether it had handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life that reminds one of the worst excesses of the French Revolution. It can hardly be regarded as an assured basis for a recognised position in good society."



Gwendolen Fairfax

Wealthy and aristocratic, Gwendolen is a sophisticated, fashionable and pretentious young lady. She is in love with Ernest (Jack) Worthing and his delightful name.


"I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train."



Cecily Cardew

Jack's young ward, Cecily, 18, has been brought up in the countryside. Lively and frank, she has a vivid imagination and romantic nature. She is in love with "Ernest", Jack's imaginary wicked younger brother, and falls in love with Algernon, believing him to be this very Ernest. When Cecily comes of age she will inherit her deceased father's considerable fortune, to become a very wealthy lady.


"I think that whenever one has anything unpleasant to say, one should always be quite candid."



Miss Prism

Cecily's nervous and pedantic governess, who many years before accidentally "lost" the baby that was to become Jack Worthing. She is secretly in love with Reverend Chasuble.


"In a moment of mental abstraction, for which I never can forgive myself, I deposited the manuscript in the basinette, and placed the baby in the hand-bag."



Reverend Chasuble

The vicar on Jack's country estate. Both young men will turn to him to be christened by the name of Ernest. Reverend Chasuble is secretly in love with Miss Prism.


"Were I fortunate enough to be Miss Prism's pupil, I would hang upon her lips"




For detailed character descriptions you can also try,






Le Synopsis (English)



Scene 1


The play begins in Algernon's rooms in Half Moon Street, London. Algernon is a young aristocratic man-about-town. "Algy" receives a visit from his best friend, Ernest Worthing. Algy has recently found Ernest's silver cigarette case and questions his friend about a mysterious inscription inside it: "From little Cecily, with her fondest love to her dear Uncle Jack." After much teasing from Algernon, Ernest is forced to admit that his real name is in fact John (or Jack for short). He is guardian to Cecily, an eighteen-year-old girl who lives in his house in the country. When in the country, he uses his real name, John Worthing, and pretends that he has a wastrel brother named Ernest, who lives in London. His "brother" supplies a ready excuse for frequent visits to London, and when John comes to the city for fun, he assumes the name of Ernest.


Algernon is much amused and explains that he also pretends to have a friend named "Bunbury" who lives in the country and frequently is in ill health. Whenever Algernon wants to avoid an unwelcome social obligation, or just get away for the weekend, he makes an ostensible visit to his "sick friend." In this way Algernon can feign charity and dedication, while having the perfect excuse to get out of town. He calls this practice "Bunburying." (


Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Algernon's formidable aunt, Lady Bracknell, and his beautiful cousin, Gwendolen with whom Jack is passionately in love. On their arrival, Algernon agrees to distract Lady Bracknell so that his friend can propose to his cousin, the beautiful Gwendolen. Their plan is initially successful, and Jack meets with a positive response from Gwendolen to his proposal. There is just one problem: Gwendolen seems to love him only because she believes his name is Ernest, which she thinks is the most beautiful name in the world. Jack's difficulties increase when their tête-à-tête is ended by the appearance of the ferocious Lady Bracknell. She subjects him to a series of grilling questions about his suitability and family background. His initial responses are satisfactory, but when it transpires that Jack is a foundling who was discovered in a handbag at a railway station, Lady Bracknell is horrified. She refuses to consider the prospect of her daughter's marriage with such a man.


The scene ends as Gwendolen leaves Jack in despair, but promising to love him forever. Jack resolves to "kill off" his brother Ernest by pretending he has died of a severe chill whilst on a visit to Paris. He will then arrange to be christened by the name of Ernest himself. He still has to find a solution to the problem of his humble origins. Algernon meanwhile has become fascinated by Jack's description of his pretty ward, Cecily. Having overheard the address of Jack's country residence, Algy secretly resolves to visit the pretty Cecily by pretending to be the wicked younger brother, Ernest.


Comprehension: Have you understood?

Who is Algernon?

Who is Ernest?

What has Algernon recently found?

What is Ernest's real name?

Who is Cecily?

Where does Cecily live?

Who interrupts the conversation between the two friends?

What does Jack want to do?

Why does Gwendolen love Jack?

Why does Lady Bracknell not want Jack to marry her daughter?

What does Jack decide to do at the end of the scene?

What does Algernon decide to do at the end of the scene?


Comprehension: difficult vocabulary

To tease:taquiner, charrier, se moquer de

Wastrel: un propre à rien, une personne dépensière

Profligate: débauché, libertine, dissolu

To pretend, to feign : faire semblant de

Foundling: un enfant trouvé

Formidable: redoutable, impressionnant

Proposal: proposition, ou plus particulièrement, une demande en mariage

Christening, to be christened: baptême, se faire baptiser



Scene 2


The scene shifts to Jack's country residence where Cecily is taking lessons in the garden with her governess, Miss Prism. Cecily is more than a little bored of her German lessons, and when Dr Chasuble, the vicar, appears on a visit she rapidly suggests that he take Miss Prism for a walk in the garden.


Cecily is left alone, but is disturbed by Merriman, the butler, who announces the arrival of 'Ernest'. Ernest (Algernon in disguise) and Cecily very quickly become friends. She takes him into the house to visit the property.


Jack then arrives in the garden on an unexpected visit where he meets Dr Chasuble and Miss Prism. He is wearing mourning clothes and announces to them the sudden death due to a severe chill of his 'brother' Ernest. He takes advantage of Dr Chasuble's presence to arrange an appointment that afternoon for his christening. This impromptu baptism will enable him to change his name to Ernest to please Gwendolen.


After Dr Chasuble and Miss Prism's departure, Cecily and Algernon reappear in the garden. Jack is furious to see that his friend is pretending to be Ernest. While Cecily tries to bring about reconciliation between the two 'brothers', Jack asks Algernon to leave. He does not however reveal his true identity.


Jack exits angrily and Cecily and 'Ernest' are left alone once again. They now get down to serious business and declare their love for each other. Cecily reveals that she has actually been engaged to Ernest for several months. Fascinated by the idea of the wicked younger brother, she had in fact invented an imaginary romance and engagement with him. She shows Algernon the different excerpts in her diary, where she has recorded the progress of this imaginary relationship. Unfortunately for Algernon, she also tells him of her attachment to the name of Ernest. Like Gwendolen, she does not feel she could love him if was not called by this particularly charming name. Algy leaves hurriedly for the church, determined also to organise his christening and change of name.


To add to the confusion, Gwendolen arrives in the hope of visiting Jack, who she still believes to be called Ernest. She meets Cecily in the garden, and the two girls are initially friendly. However, when they realize that they are both engaged to an 'Ernest' Worthing, they argue under a very thin veil of politeness which is eventually whisked aside altogether. The mystery of who is really engaged to 'Ernest' is revealed when Jack and Algy suddenly appear together. To the horror of Cecily and Gwendolen, the men's true identities are revealed and Jack is forced to confess that Ernest never actually existed. The two girls become firm friends again, united by their sense of betrayal. The scene ends as the two men argue, as they both wish to be christened by the name of Ernest.


Comprehension: Have you understood?


What is Cecily doing at the beginning of the scene?

Who visits Cecily?

Why is Jack wearing unusual clothes?

What does Jack arrange to do that afternoon?

Why is Jack angry with "Ernest"?

Who is Cecily in love with?

What does Algernon decide to do?

Why do Cecily and Gwendolen argue?


Comprehension: difficult vocabulary


Governess: gouvernante

Vicar: le vicaire, le prêtre

Butler:le major d'homme

Mourning: le deuil

A chill: un rhume après avoir attrapé froid

Appointment: un rendez-vous

Engagement: les fiançailles

Diary: agenda, mais aussi comme ici, un journal intime

Attachment: un attachement, une affection pour quelqu'un ou quelque chose

Romance: une histoire d'amour

Betrayal: la trahison



Scene 3


Gwendolen and Cecily's anger has dissipated, and they are willing to find excuses to forgive Jack and Algy. When the men reveal that they have each arranged to be christened by the name of "Ernest", the girls are touched by this "self-sacrifice", and forgive them. The lovers are reunited, but their plans are interrupted by the arrival of Lady Bracknell who has discovered her daughter's flight to the country and followed on a later train. Lady Bracknell is initially horrified to see her nephew Algernon in the arms of a young lady, but consents to their marriage when Jack explains that Cecily will receive a substantial income when she comes of age. Jack however, as Cecily's guardian, refuses to agree to the marriage unless Lady Bracknell accepts his own marriage to her daughter Gwendolen.


Neither Jack nor Lady Bracknell is prepared to change their mind. The problem is resolved when Lady Bracknell hears mention of Miss Prism whom, it seems, she has known in the past. Ominously, Lady Bracknell at once asks for the governess to be summoned to her presence. During an emotional scene, the plot is unravelled.


Miss Prism reveals that years before she was once governess in the family of Lady Bracknell's sister (Algernon's mother). Of an absent-minded nature, Miss Prism accidentally deposited the baby in her charge (Algernon's older brother) in her handbag in the place of a novel that she was writing. She left the novel in the baby's pram, and lost the handbag in the cloakroom of Victoria station. It was of course the very handbag in which Jack was found as a baby. The handbag is produced, Miss Prism verifies its authenticity, and Jack at last discovers his real identity. He is now able to marry Gwendolen, is reconciled with Algernon, who is in fact after all his younger brother, and to conclude, discovers that his real name is actually Ernest!


Comprehension: Have you understood?


Why do Gwendolen and Cecily forgive Jack and Algernon for pretending their name was Earnest?

Who arrives unexpectedly?

Why does Lady Bracknell agree to Cecily's marriage to Algernon?

Why does Jack refuse to give his consent to Cecily and Algernon's marriage?

What was Miss Prism's former job?

What did Miss Prism accidentally loose?

How is Jack's identity revealed and confirmed?

What is Jack's real name?


Comprehension: difficult vocabulary

To forgive: pardoner

Pretence: une feinte, une comédie

Flight: la fuite, ou dans d'autres contextes le vol (d'un oiseau ou d'un avion)

Nephew: le neveu

Substantial income: des revenus importants

Absent-minded: distrait

Novel: un roman

Pram: un landau

Cloakroom: les vestiaires, ou comme ici les toilettes (langage poli)



Question : What is the real family relationship between Gwendolen Bracknell and John (Jack/Earnest) Worthing ? Answer : 1st cousins (cousins germains).


Le Synopsis (Français)



Scene 1


La première scène se passe dans la chambre d'Algernon à Half Moon Street, Londres. Algernon est un jeune aristocrate qui aime profiter de la vie. 'Algy' reçoit la visite de son meilleur ami, Ernest Worthing. Algy a retrouvé l'étui à cigarettes d'Ernest et questionne son ami à propos de la mystérieuse inscription qu'il a découverte : 'de la part de la petite Cecily, avec tout son amour pour son cher oncle Jack.' Ernest cède aux taquineries d'Algernon et lui avoue que son véritable nom est John (jack est un surnom). Il est le tuteur de Cecily, une jeune fille de 18 ans qui vit chez lui à la campagne. Lorsqu'il est à la campagne il utilise son véritable nom, John Worthing, et prétend avoir un frère dissolu dont le nom est Ernest qui vit à Londres. Ce 'frère' est une excuse toute trouvée pour ses fréquentes visites à Londres, et quand John vient en ville, il prend le nom d'Ernest.


Algernon est tres amusé par l'histoire d'Ernest et explique que lui aussi prétend avoir un ami appelé 'Bunbury' qui vit à la campagne et qui est en mauvaise santé. Lorsque Algernon veut se soustraire à une obligation sociale malvenue, ou simplement prendre quelques jours de congés, il rend une prétendue visite à son ami malade. De cette façon Algernon peut prétendre être un homme charitable et dévoué tout en ayant une excuse parfaite pour partir de la ville. Il appelle cette pratique 'bunburying'.


Leur conversation est interrompue par l'arrivée de la tante et de la cousine d'Algernon, la redoutable Lady Bracknell et la magnifique Gwendolen de qui Jack est éperdument amoureux. À leur arrivée, Algernon accepte de distraire Lady Bracknell pour que son ami puisse demander en mariage la belle Gwendolen. Leur plan est tout d'abord couronné de succès et Gwendolen accepte la proposition de Jack. Il y a juste un problème : Gwendolen ne semble l'aimer que par ce qu'elle pense que son nom est Ernest, qui pour elle se trouve être le plus beau prénom du monde. Et les difficultés ne font que commencer pour Jack lorsque leur tête-à-tête est interrompu par l'arrivée de la terrifiante Lady Bracknell. Elle le soumet à un interrogatoire serré sur son aptitude à se marier et sur ses origines familiales. Ses premières réponses sont satisfaisantes, mais quand il ressort que Jack est un enfant trouvé découvert dans un sac à main près d'une station de chemin de fer, Lady Bracknell est horrifiée. Elle refuse de considérer la perspective du mariage de sa fille avec un tel homme.


À la fin de la scène Gwendolen quitte Jack au désespoir en lui promettant de l'aimer pour toujours. Jack décide 'd'éliminer' son frère Ernest en prétendant qu'il est mort de froid lors d'une visite à Paris. Il s'arrangera alors pour être lui-même baptisé Ernest, mais doit encore trouver une solution à son humble origine. Algernon, de son côté, a été fasciné par la description qu'a faite Jack de sa jolie pupille, Cecily. Ayant entendu l'adresse de la résidence de Jack, Algy décide secrètement de rendre une visite à la belle Cecily en prétendant être le jeune frère turbulent, Ernest.



Scene 2


La scène se passe dans la résidence de campagne de Jack où Cecily prend une leçon dans le jardin avec sa gouvernante, Miss Prism. Cecily est plus qu'ennuyée par ses leçons d'allemand et quand Dr Chasuble, le vicaire, apparaît pour une visite, elle lui suggère tres vite d'emmener Miss Prism pour une promenade dans le jardin.


Cecily, enfin seule, est dérangée par Merriman, le majordome, qui annonce l'arrivée d'un Ernest. 'Ernest' (Algernon déguisée) et Cecily deviennent tres rapidement amis. Elle l'invite à l'intérieur pour lui faire visiter la propriété.


Jack arrive à l'improviste dans le jardin où il rencontre Dr Chasuble et Miss Prism. Il porte un habit de deuil et leur annonce la mort de son 'frère' Ernest. Il profite de la présence du Dr Chasuble pour prendre un rendez-vous l'après-midi même en vu de son baptême. Ce baptême impromptu lui permettra de changer son nom pour plaire à Gwendolen.


Après le départ du Dr Chasuble et de Miss Prism, Cecily et Algernon réapparaissent dans le jardin. Jack est furieux d'apprendre que son ami se fait passer pour Ernest. Alors que Cecily tente de réconcilier les deux 'frères', Jack demande à Algernon de partir sans toutefois révéler sa véritable identité, puis, fâché, s'en va en laissant Cecily et 'Ernest' à nouveau seuls. Les choses deviennent sérieuses entre les deux amants qui se déclarent mutuellement leur amour. Cecily révèle qu'elle est en fait fiancée à Ernest depuis plusieurs mois. Fascinée par l'idée de ce frère débauché, elle a inventé une histoire d'amour imaginaire et des fiançailles. Elle montre à Algernon différents extraits de son journal où elle fait état des progrès de cette relation imaginaire. Malheureusement pour Algernon, elle lui avoue également son faible pour le nom d'Ernest. Comme Gwendolen elle aurait été incapable de l'aimer si son nom n'avait été aussi charmant. Algy part précipitamment pour l'église, déterminée lui aussi à se faire baptiser pour changer de nom.


Pour ajouter à la confusion, Gwendolen arrive dans l'espoir de rendre visite à Jack qui pour elle s'appelle toujours Ernest. Elle rencontre Cecily dans le jardin et les deux jeunes filles s'entendent tout d'abord à merveille. Quoi qu'il en soit, quand elles réalisent qu'elles sont toutes les deux fiancée à un Ernest Worthing la situation dégénère sous couvert d'une prétendue politesse. Le mystère est enfin éclairci par l'arrivée soudaine de Jack et Algy. Gwendolen et Cecily sont horrifiées d'apprendre la véritable identité des deux hommes et Jack est obligé de confesser qu'Ernest n'a jamais existé. Les liens entre les deux jeunes filles se resserrent d'autant plus qu'elle sont toutes les deux victimes de trahison. La scène se termine par une querelle entre les deux hommes qui souhaitent tous les deux se faire baptiser Ernest.


Scene 3


La scène se déroule quelques instants plus tard à l'intérieur de la propriété de Jack. La colère de Gwendolen et de Cecily s'est dissipée et toutes les deux cherchent des excuses à Jack et à Algy pour les pardonner. Lorsque les deux hommes leur apprennent qu'ils se sont tous les deux arrangés pour se faire baptiser Ernest, les jeunes filles sont touchées par leur sens du sacrifice et décident de leur pardonner leurs fautes. Les amants sont à nouveau réunis, mais leur idylle est tres vite interrompue par l'arrivée de Lady Bracknell qui a découvert la petite escapade de sa fille. Lady Bracknell est tout d'abord horrifiée de voir son neveu Algernon dans les bras d'une jeune femme, mais consent à leur mariage quand Jack lui explique que Cecily recevra une substantielle somme d'argent à sa majorité. Quoi qu'il en soit, Jack, en tant que tuteur de Cecily, refuse de donner son accord pour ce mariage tant que Lady Bracknell n'aura pas consenti au sien.


Ni Jack ni Lady Bracknell ne semble vouloir changer d'avis. Le problème est résolu lorsque Lady Bracknell entend parler de Miss Prism qui, semble-t-il, est une de ses vieilles connaissances. D'un ton sinistre Lady Bracknell demande à ce que la gouvernante lui soit amenée immédiatement. Lors d'une scène émouvante, l'intrigue est révélée.


Miss Prism nous apprend qu'il y a bien longtemps elle a été gouvernante dans la famille de la sour de Lady Bracknell (la mère d'Algernon). D'une nature distraite, Miss Prism avait accidentellement déposé le bébé dont elle avait la charge (le frère aîné d'Algernon) dans son sac à main à la place du roman qu'elle venait d'écrire. Elle avait laissé le roman dans le landau du bébé et perdu le sac à main dans les toilettes de la station Victoria. Il s'agissait bien sur du sac à main dans lequel Jack fut retrouvé bébé. Le sac à main lui est alors montré, Miss Prism confirme son authenticité et Jack découvre enfin sa véritable identité. Il peut maintenant se marier avec Gwendolen, il est réconcilié avec Algernon qui se trouve être son jeune frère, et pour conclure, il réalise que son véritable nom est Ernest !




Oscar Wilde Biographie










Family  Oscar Wilde's father, William Wilde was a well-travelled doctor who was knighted in 1864 for his services as medical advisor to the Irish Census. A philanthropist, in 1844 he founded (and financed) St Mark's Opthalmic Hospital to care for the Dublin's poor. Oscar's mother, Jane Francesca Elgee, was a gifted woman who wrote revolutionary poems under the pseudonym of "Speranza" for a weekly Irish newspaper. She was an accomplished linguist whose translation of Wilhelm Meinhold's gothic horror novel, "Sidonia the Sorceress" would have been read by Oscar.


Born on October 16 1854, real name - Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wilde had an older brother, William, and a younger sister, Emily Francesca, who died from a fever at the age of ten.


When Oscar's father died in 1876, the family was left in financial difficulties. The family was supported financially by Henry, William's oldest and illegitimate son.


Education  Oscar's high school education took place at the Portora Royal School at Enniskillen. He was an excellent student who was awarded top prize two years running for his work on the classics (Latin and Greek). He also won a second prize for drawing.


1871 - 1874 Trinity College Dublin

Oscar was given a Royal School Scholarship to attend Trinity College in Dublin. While there, he won first place in his classics examinations in 1872 and was given a Foundation Scholarship. His brilliance continued, and in his final year at Trinity, he was awarded the college's Berkeley Gold Medal for Greek and obtained a Demyship scholarship to Magdalen College in Oxford.


Magdalen College, Oxford University

Oscar's academic success continued at Oxford where he received a First Class degree in his exams. He also won the Newdigate prize for his poem, "Ravenna". Adult Life  After graduation, Oscar lived in London with his friend Frank Miles, a popular high society portrait painter. Oscar's first collection of poetry, "¨Poems" was published in 1881. It was not an overwhelming success with critics, but brought attention to Oscar's writing career.


During this period he became notorious for his outrageous dress. His velvet coats, knee breeches, black silk stockings, flowing shirts and ties as well as his jewel-topped cane and lavender-coloured gloves frequently provoked the conservative middle class in which he lived.


He was a pioneer of celebrity, whose friends and contemporaries included Aubrey Beardsley, Lillie Langtry, James McNeill Whistler, Sir Max Beerbohm and Ada Leverson.


1881-1882 Oscar spent nearly a year on a lecture tour of the United States where he gave over 140 lectures on aesthetics.


Whilst in the United States, he met major American authors such as Henry Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Walt Whitman. Oscar's play "Vera" was to be staged in New York the following year.


After touring America, Oscar spent three months in Paris, where he wrote a blank-verse tragedy that had been commissioned by an actress who later turned it down. After his stay in Paris, Oscar went on a lecture tour of Britain and Ireland.


Marriage  Oscar married Constance Lloyd, the daughter of a prominent barrister, on May 29, 1884. Like Oscar's mother, Constance was a well-educated, independent minded woman, and able to speak several European languages. The couple had two sons: Cyril in 1885 and Vyvyan in 1886.


From 1887 - 1889 Oscar worked at the Woman's World magazine in order to support his family.


Literary success  Collections of children's stories

"The Happy Prince and Other Tales" (1888), and "The House of Pomegranates" (1892).


Novel "The Picture of Dorian Gray", Oscar's only novel was first published in an American magazine in 1890. The story was published in book form the following year after Oscar had expanded the work. In Victorian England, this novel shocked public and critics alike, due to its homoerotic undertones.


Plays "Lady Windermere's Fan," opened in February 1892. This was Oscar's first play: its success established him as a leading playwright.


"A Woman of No Importance" (1893)

"An Ideal Husband" (1895)

"The Importance of Being Earnest" (1895)


Downfall  1891: Oscar met Lord Alfred 'Bosie' Douglas, the third son of the Marquis of Queensberry. They became lovers. In 1895: Oscar sued Bosie's father for libel in response to the Marquis' accusation of Oscar's homosexuality, at the time a crime. Oscar himself withdrew the case when the Marquis threatened to call witnesses who would testify against Oscar. Instead, Oscar found himself facing a trial for gross indecency. He went ahead with the trial but was convicted and sentenced to two years hard labour. His marriage collapsed: Constance fled to Switzerland with her children where they lived under the name of Holland. She died in 1898.


Oscar was declared bankrupt and his house and belongings were auctioned off to pay debts. Many friends abandoned him and his plays closed in the theatres within four months. From his position as a leading London playwright he had fallen to the position of convicted criminal and had suffered public humiliation.


Prison and exile  Oscar wrote "De Profundis" while in prison: an essay on faith and spirituality. After his release he wrote the poem "The Ballad of Reading Gaol." This was his response to the suffering he underwent while in gaol.


Apart from a brief reunion with Bosie, Oscar spent most of the rest of his short life wandering the continent, staying with friends or in cheap hotels under the name of Sebastian Melmoth. He never regained literary success.


Oscar Wilde died in Paris on November 30th 1900 from cerebral meningitis.




Oscar Wilde and Irish Politics  Personal note from Lucille O'Flanagan (Director)


Oscar never really involved himself in the difficult relationship between Ireland and Britain. His lectures included one on 'THE IRISH POETS OF 1848' which would have included the work of his mother. During his long lecture tour of America, some Irish-American journalists criticised Oscar for his lack of involvement, saying he was "phrasing about beauty while a hideous tyranny overshadows his native land."


However whilst Oscar was thus touring America, a nationalist group in Ireland called the 'Invincibles' murdered the Chief Secretary Lord Cavendish and his assistant in The Phoenix Park, Dublin on the 6 May 1882.


Wilde had met Cavendish at one or more dinner parties and was called upon for his opinion on the nationalist group and their murderous actions. Oscar Wilde is quoted as saying "when liberty comes with hands dabbled in blood it is hard to shake hands with her," and then went on "we forget how much England is to blame. She is reaping the fruit of seven centuries of injustice."


Personal note which might interest some of you :


Joe Brady (of the Invincibles), who was later hanged for the murders, was my great uncle !



Auteurs contemporains d'Oscar Wilde et ses prédeccesseurs



1801  Walter Scott, Ballads

1802  William Wordsworth, "Preface to Lyrical Ballads."

1803  Thomas Chatterton ,Works Matthew Gregory Lewis (posthumous)

1804  Williamn Blake, Jerusalem

1805  Walter Scott, Lay of the Last Minstrel

1808  [Goethe, Faust (Part 1)]

1809  London exhibition of paintings by William Blake

1810  Walter Scott, Lady of the Lake

1812  George Gordon, Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (I & 11).

1813  Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice ,Percy Byshhe Shelley, Queen Mab

1814  Walter Scott, Waverley

1816  Percy Byshhe Shelley, "Alastor" Jane Austen, Emma

1817  John Keats, Poems. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria ,Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine founded

1818  John Keats, Endymion Mary Shelley, Frankenstein,Walter Scott, Rob Roy

1819  Walter Scott, Ivanhoe

1820  John Keats, "Lamia," "Isabella," "The Eve of St. Agnes," and other poems Percy Byshhe Shelley,Prometheus Unbound

1821  John Keats dies ,Percy Byshhe Shelley, "Adonais" and Defence of Poetry, Thomas DeQuincey, Confessions of an Opium    Eater

1822  Shelley drowns near Lerici, Italy, Charles Lamb, Essays of Elia

1823  SGoerge Gordon Lord Byron, Don Juan

1824  Byron dies near Missilonghi, Greece. Thomas Carlyle transl. of Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship

1826  [James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans]

1829  Thomas Carlyle, "Signs of the Times"

1830  Alfred Tennyson, Poems Chiefly Lyrical

1831  Alfred Tennyson, Poems

1833  Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus

1836  Charles Dickens, Pickwick Papers

[Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Nature"]

1837  Thomas Carlyle, French Revolution [Nathaniel Hawthorne, Twice Told Tales]

1838  Lady Guest, Mabinogion

1839  Shelley, . Poetical Works (posthumous)

1841  Punch begins publication Thomas Carlyle, On Heroes and Hero-Worship

1842  Robert Browning, Dramatic Lyrics Alfred Tennyson, Poems, Mudie establishes the Circulating Library

Thomas B. Macauley, Lays of Ancient Rome

1843  Wordsworth appointed Poet Laureate. John Ruskin, Modern Painters (1).

1845  [E. A. Poe, Tales of Mystery and Imagination

1846  George Eliot, translation of Strauss's Life of Jesus ,Ruskin, Modern Painters (II)

1847  Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights ,Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre, William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair

1848  Dante Gabriel Rosetti, William Holman Hunt, and John Everett Millais form the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

1849  [Henry David Thoreau, "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience"]

1850  Alfred Tennyson, In Memoriam ,William Wordsworth dies and The Prelude published. Tennyson appointed Poet Laureate ,[Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter] Arthur Hugh Clough, Dipsychus

1851  John Ruskin, Stones of Venice (through 1853). [Herman Melville, Moby Dick]

1852  Matthew Arnold, Empedocles on Etna ,John Henry Newman, The Idea of a University

1854  Charles Dickens, Hard Times, [Henry David Thoreau, Walden] Coventry Patmore, The Angel in the House, . Part 1

1855  Robert Browning, Men and Women Alfred Tennyson, Maud and Other Poems ,Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, North and South [Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass] [Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Hiawatha] Harriet Martineau, Autobiography

1856  William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine

1857  Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit ,Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown's Schooldays, Anthony Trollope,Barchester Towers

[Gustave Flaubert,Madame Bovary] [Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs de Mal]

1858  John Ruskin, "Traffic", Anthony Trollope, Doctor Thorne , William Morris, The Defence of Guenevere

1859  Tennyson, Idylls of the King, George Meredith, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, Edward Fitzgerald, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, John Stuart, Mill On Liberty, Samuel Smiles, Self-Help , Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species

1860  John Ruskin, Unto This Last, George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss

1861  [H.C. Andersen, Fairy Tales] Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

1862  Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market and Other Poems. Text -- Overview George Meredith. Modern Love [Victor Hugo, Les Miserables]

1864  Matthew Arnold, "The Function of Criticism at the Present Time." John Henry Newman, Apologia pro vita sua

1865  Lewis CarrolI, Alice in Wonderland [Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace]

1866  Algernon Charles Swinburne, Poems and Ballads , First Series. [Fyodor Dostoyevski, Crime and Punishment]

1868  Robert Browning, The Ring and the Book

1869  Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Holy Grail and Other Poems John Stuart Mill, The Subjection of Women Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy

1870  Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Poems

1873  Walter Pater, The Renaissance John Stuart Mill Autobiography (posthumous)

1874  Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd

1875  Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now

1878  Thomas Hardy, Return of the Native

1879  [Henrik Ibsen, A Doll's House] George Meredith, The Egoist

1881  D. G. Rossetti, Ballads and Sonnets [Ibsen, Ghosts]

[Henry James, Portrait of a Lady]

1883  Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island

1884  [Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn]

1888  Rudyard Kipling, Plain Tales from the Hills

1890  Rudyard Kipling, Barrack-Room Ballads

[Henrik Ibsen, Hedda Gabler]

1891  Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes W. B. Yeats, Ernest Dowson, and Lionel Johnson form The Rhymers' Club.

1894  The Yellow Book (includes Max Beerbohm and Aubrey Beardsley). Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Books

1895  Oscard Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

W. B. Yeats, Poems

1896  Anton Chekhov, The Seagull

1898  Thomas Hardy, Wessex Poems George Bernard Shaw, Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant

1899  [Anton Chekhov, Uncle Vanya]

1900  Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim [Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie]