The Importance of Being Earnest

A Trivial Comedy for Serious People by the Author of Lady Windermere's Fan

WILDE, Oscar

SIGNED BY WILDE

WILDE, Oscar The Importance of Being Earnest A Trivial Comedy for Serious People by the Author of Lady Windermere's Fan

Smithers, 1899.

First edition, deluxe, large paper issue. Number 40 of 100 copies signed by Wilde. Square octavo. Original pale purple cloth, gilt lettered spine, gilt floral motifs from designs by Charles Shannon on spine and covers, untrimmed, housed in a custom-made chemise and quarter morocco slipcase. A fine copy, bright and crisp with no fading or mentionable wear. Slight offsetting to the endpapers as usual, but internally fresh. An exceptional copy.

Wilde's comic masterpiece and the play for which, ultimately, he became best known, was written in 1894 following the success of Lady Windermere's Fan and A Woman of No Importance. The Importance of Being Earnest was an artistic breakthrough for Wilde, something between self-parody and a deceptively flippant commentary on the dramatic genre in which Wilde had already had so much success.
The play opened to great acclaim on Valentine's Day 1895 but was withdrawn after Wilde's failed libel suit against Lord Queensbury led to his arrest and imprisonment. The subsequent "utter social destruction of Wilde" (ODNB) meant that the play was not published in book form until February 1899, after Wilde's release from prison. Richard Ellmann comments that Smithers's handsome editions of Earnest and An Ideal Husband "brought Wilde a little money". Wilde's signature on the limitation leaf poignantly reflects his mental state after the shattering nature of his recent experiences, concluding dramatically with a firmly executed oblique downwards stroke.

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