Item #15093 A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE. Oscar Wilde.


London: John Lane at the Sign of the Bodley Head, 1894. 16 pp ads dated March 1894. Original violet cloth decorated in gilt.

First Edition of Wilde's satirical play about upper-class social scandal, which consisted of 500 copies (so stated -- half as many copies as the following year's THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST). Wilde wrote this play for production by Herbert Beerbohm Tree (Max's elder brother), of the Theatre Royal in Haymarket, where it opened on 19 April 1893. The sophisticated Lord Illingworth has appointed young Gerald Arbuthnot to be his Secretary, but Gerald's mother, "a woman of no importance," guards a long-concealed secret that prompts her to advise her son to decline the appointment -- but is reluctant to say why... Mason quotes an April 1893 theatrical review: "...the scene between Lord Illingworth and Mrs. Arbuthnot at the end of the second act of this play [pp 76-82] is the most virile and intelligent -- yes, I mean it, the most intelligent -- piece of dramatic writing of our day." We won't divulge the secret here, but suffice it to say that by the end of the play, Lord Illingworth becomes a man of no importance. (During the rehearsal stage, Tree and then Wilde himself were approached by blackmailers who had acquired several "beautiful" letters written by Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas; Wilde ultimately resolved the problem to Tree's satisfaction, but copies of the letters also fell into the hands of Lord Queensberry (Alfred's father), with far greater consequences.)

The binding design, on both covers and on the spine, is by Charles Shannon. This is a very good copy -- some cover soil, light wear at the extremities, endpapers slightly cracked -- three problems that unfortunately are typical for this artfully-designed book; there is also light damage to the title leaf at the gutter. This copy bears the publisher's bookplate ("This book is now published by John Lane..."), which we have seen before with this book. Mason 364. Item #15093

Price: $650.00

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