in a rich manner
The room is
luxuriously and artistically furnished.
an asset of special worth or utility
I don’t play accurately—any one can play accurately—but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my
Algernon is both punning and ironical here because "forte" is a direction in music that means to play loudly, which he did, but he did not play the piano well, so it is not his forte. Additionally, the sentence is a reversal of the purpose of a musical direction, since the volume in which one plays often emphasizes emotions, but Algernon declares that his special, tenderly romantic emotions are what direct him in his inaccurate but worth-hearing piano-playing.
attribute it to the superior quality of the wine, sir. I have often observed that in married households the champagne is rarely of a first-rate brand.
In blaming marriage for the decreased quality of champagne (thus attributing the good supply of liquor to Algernon's bachelorhood), Lane diverts his employer's attention away from the fact that he and other servants drank several bottles. Here, and later when he lies to prevent his employer from getting in trouble with his aunt about the missing cucumber sandwiches, Lane shows an attribute ("a construct distinguishing objects or individuals") of agreeable cleverness.
the outcome of an event
I have only been married once. That was in
consequence of a misunderstanding between myself and a young person.
lacking spirit or liveliness
Algernon. [Languidly.] I don’t know that I am much interested in your family life, Lane.
without rigor or strictness
Lane’s views on marriage seem somewhat
to a degree exceeding normal or proper limits
When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the country one amuses other people. It is
to an exceedingly great extent or degree
immensely you must amuse them!
Why such reckless
extravagance in one so young?
form or compose
The Divorce Court was specially invented for people whose memories are so curiously
Jack is responding to Algernon's statements: "The very essence of romance is uncertainty. If ever I get married, I’ll certainly try to forget the fact." "Constituted" is also a curious adjective to describe a memory that seeks to forget, but Jack uses it as a pun that connects to the legal procedures that formed and inform Divorce Court.
reflect deeply on a subject
Oh! there is no use
speculating on that subject. Divorces are made in Heaven--
devout or heartfelt
You answer to the name of Ernest. You look as if your name was Ernest. You are the most earnest-looking person I ever saw in my life.
In addition to being a pun on the chosen name of Jack's alter ego, "earnest" means "characterized by a firm, humorless belief in one's opinions" (which describes Jack as he explains the reason for his two names), "devout, heartfelt" (which describes Jack's feelings for Gwendolen), and "not distracted by anything unrelated to the goal" (which can describe Jack's decisions about being christened).
someone who is incapacitated by a chronic illness or injury
I have invented an invaluable permanent
invalid called Bunbury, in order that I may be able to go down into the country whenever I choose.
"Invalid" also means not valid ("well-grounded in logic or truth or having legal force")--this is a fitting description of Bunbury because 1) he's not real; 2) it's a ridiculous-sounding name, especially in comparison to Jack's lie about an "Ernest"; 3) he always seems to get sick at the most inconvenient times for others; 4) Algernon cannot use Bunbury to avoid paying his bills.
cause to act in a specified manner
induce me to part with Bunbury, and if you ever get married, which seems to me extremely problematic, you will be very glad to know Bunbury.
abounding in or given to pompous or aphoristic moralizing
Jack. [Sententiously.] That, my dear young friend, is the theory that the corrupt French Drama has been propounding for the last fifty years.
believing the worst of human nature and motives
For heaven’s sake, don’t try to be
cynical. It’s perfectly easy to be
Jack, about to propose to Gwendolen, does not want to hear Algernon's cynical views on marriage, which include the point that "in married life three is company and two is none." In trying to dismiss the theory, Jack connects it to the corrupt French Drama, which is actually more ironic than cynical of the Irish playwright, since Wilde was fluent in French, spent time in Paris, and wrote a play in French that could not be produced on the English stage because it was about Biblical characters.
the deletion of objectionable parts from a literary work
I’m sure the programme will be delightful, after a few
expurgations. French songs I cannot possibly allow. People always seem to think that they are improper, and either look shocked, which is vulgar, or laugh, which is worse.
Within the play, "expurgation" is used by Lady Bracknell to refer to changes she might want to make in the musical program that Algernon has planned for her reception. Outside the play, Wilde could be referring to the work he had to do (the play originally had 4 acts) to make it an appropriate yet mocking fit for the Victorian audience.
a platform raised to give prominence to the person on it
The fact is constantly mentioned in the more expensive monthly magazines, and has reached the provincial
pulpits, I am told; and my ideal has always been to love some one of the name of Ernest.
highly abstract and overly theoretical
Ah! that is clearly a
metaphysical speculation, and like most
metaphysical speculations has very little reference at all to the actual facts of real life, as we know them.
known widely and usually unfavorably
Besides, Jack is a
notorious domesticity for John!
lying down; in a position of comfort or rest
Rise, sir, from this semi-recumbent posture. It is most indecorous.
"Indecorous" means "not in keeping with accepted standards of what is right or proper in polite society"--this adjective does not entirely describe the nature of Jack's semi-recumbent posture; while it may seem improper to the intruding Lady Bracknell, in Gwendolen's eyes, it is the position she wants Jack in and she wants him to get it right, as other men, like her brother, have tried to do through practice.
easily broken or damaged or destroyed
Ignorance is like a
delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone.
a natural or acquired habit or characteristic tendency
The late Mr. Thomas Cardew, an old gentleman of a very charitable and kindly
disposition, found me, and gave me the name of Worthing, because he happened to have a first-class ticket for Worthing in his pocket at the time.
a manner that is generally disrespectful
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.
a petty misdeed
As for the particular locality in which the hand-bag was found, a cloak-room at a railway station might serve to conceal a social
indiscretion—has probably, indeed, been used for that purpose before now—but it could hardly be regarded as an assured basis for a recognised position in good society.
a feeling of righteous anger
[Lady Bracknell sweeps out in majestic
a three-legged metal stand for supporting a cooking vessel
Oh, Gwendolen is as right as a
"Right as a trivet" means "in perfect state or health" which according to Jack, means Gwendolen has agreed to marry him. This is an odd analogy for a man in love, especially in contrast to the one comparing Gwendolen's mother to a monstrous female creature in Greek mythology. The word "trivet" sounds funny and has echoes of the play's subtitle: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People.
so lacking in interest as to cause mental weariness
Relations are simply a
tedious pack of people, who haven’t got the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die.
characteristic of those who treat others with arrogance
Jack. [In a very patronising manner.] My dear fellow, the truth isn’t quite the sort of thing one tells to a nice, sweet, refined girl. What extraordinary ideas you have about the way to behave to a woman!
unrestrained by convention or morality
What about the
a loss of consciousness from the lack of oxygen in the brain
I’ll say he died in Paris of
difficult to understand
The simplicity of your character makes you exquisitely
incomprehensible to me.
infer from incomplete evidence
[Lane presents several letters on a salver to Algernon. It is to be
surmised that they are bills, as Algernon, after looking at the envelopes, tears them up.]
beyond reasonable limits
[Algernon is laughing immoderately.] What on earth are you so amused at?