On 2 March 1895, Punch magazine published a satirical parody of Oscar Wilde’s play, The Importance of Being Earnest, which had opened to huge acclaim at the St. James’s Theatre a fortnight earlier. Ada Leverson was the author of THE ADVISABILITY OF NOT BEING BROUGHT UP IN A HANDBAG, which she subtitled ‘A Trivial Tragedy for Wonderful People’. A close friend to Wilde, she had recorded her impressions of opening night. Her pitch-perfect parodies of his work are affectionate yet hilarious and this was to be the last of them.
THE ADVISABILITY OF NOT BEING BROUGHT UP IN A HANDBAG: A Trivial Tragedy for Wonderful People
(Fragment found between the St. James’s and Haymarket Theatres).
Aunt Augusta (an Aunt).
Cousin Cicely (a Ward).
Algy (a Flutterpate).
Dorian (a Button-hole).
The Duke of Berwick.
Time—The other day. The Scene is in a garden, and begins and ends with relations.
Algy (eating cucumber-sandwiches). Do you know, Aunt Augusta, I am afraid I shall not be able to come to your dinner to-night, after all. My friend Bunbury has had a relapse, and my place is by his side.
Aunt Augusta (drinking tea). Really, Algy! It will put my table out dreadfully. And who will arrange my music?
Dorian. I will arrange your music, Aunt Augusta. I know all about music. I have an extraordinary collection of musical instruments. I give curious concerts every Wednesday in a long latticed room, where wild gipsies tear mad music from little zithers, and I have brown Algerians who beat monotonously upon copper drums. Besides, I have set myself to music. And it has not marred me. I am still the same. More so, if anything.
Cicely. Shall you like dining at Willis’s with Mr. Dorian to-night, Cousin Algy?
Algy (evasively). It’s much nicer being here with you, Cousin Cicely.
Aunt Augusta. Sweet child! I see distinct social probabilities in her profile. Mr. Dorian has a beautiful nature. And it is such a blessing to think that he was not brought up in a handbag, like so many young men of the present day.
Algy. It is such a blessing, Aunt Augusta, that a woman always grows exactly like her aunt. It is such a curse that a man never grows exactly like his uncle. It is the greatest tragedy of modern life.
Dorian. To be really modern one should have no soul. To be really mediæval one should have no cigarettes. To be really Greek——
[The Duke of Berwick rises in a marked manner, and leaves the garden.
Cicely (writes in her diary, and then reads aloud dreamily). “The Duke of Berwick rose in a marked manner, and left the garden. The weather continues charming.” …