remorse for your past conduct
They have been eating muffins. That looks like
audacious behavior that you have no right to
They’re looking at us. What
"Effrontery" is synonymous with "affront" (although "affront" could also be used as a verb); both come from the Latin word "frons" meaning "face." Gwendolen is not actually upset at the men looking at them. A couple of moments earlier, she and Cecily had been looking out the window at the men, and Gwendolen was annoyed that the men were not facing them. Being ignored is more of an effrontery to Gwendolen.
urgently needed; absolutely necessary
In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity is the
tendency to believe readily
His voice alone inspires one with absolute
"Credulity" is the noun form of "credulous" which means "showing a lack of judgment or experience"--this describes Cecily who believes that just the sound of Algernon's voice gives him credibility ("the quality of being believable or trustworthy"). Wilde has Cecily confuse "credulity" with "credibility" to show how credulous this eighteen-year-old country girl is.
impossible to surmount
Your Christian names are still an
make aware of
Apprised, sir, of my daughter’s sudden flight by her trusty maid, whose confidence I purchased by means of a small coin, I followed her at once by a luggage train.
But of course, you will clearly understand that all communication between yourself and my daughter must
cease immediately from this moment.
an abnormally gloomy or unhealthy state of mind
If so, he is well punished for his
Lady Bracknell's definition of "morbidity" here is an interest in social legislation. This statement reveals the aristocratic woman's lack of concern for the lower classes, as well as an unfeeling attitude towards the death of her nephew's friend (whom she may suspect is not real). The points about explosion and social legislation allude to revolutionary attempts to overthrow kings--the most famous in England being Guy Fawkes' Gunpowder Plot of 1605.
either end of a railroad or bus route
Until yesterday I had no idea that there were any families or persons whose origin was a
The joke here is partially due to the words "origin" and "terminus" which would be on opposite ends of a railroad route. But it also connects to Jack's true story of having been found in a handbag in a cloak-room of a railway station. Lady Bracknell is indirectly insulting Jack by using this opportunity, upon hearing of her nephew's engagement to Jack's ward, to question Cecily's origins.
Three addresses always inspire confidence, even in tradesmen. But what proof have I of their
a British lawyer who gives legal advice
Miss Cardew’s family
solicitors are Messrs. Markby, Markby, and Markby.
easy to perceive; especially clearly outlined
distinct social possibilities in your profile.
"Profile" here means "an outline of something, especially a face from the side" which is what Lady Bracknell is staring at as she makes this statement, which cannot possibly be an accurate profile ("analysis representing how something exhibits characteristics" or "a biographical sketch") of Cecily. Lady Bracknell sees what is distinctly in front of her, and her focus on the outline of a person's face emphasizes her lack of depth.
But I do not approve of
worthy of being recommended or suggested; prudent or wise
To speak frankly, I am not in favour of long engagements. They give people the opportunity of finding out each other’s character before marriage, which I think is never
intended to attract notice and impress others
Algernon is an extremely, I may almost say an ostentatiously, eligible young man.
arouse hostility or indifference in
Continuing his disgraceful deception, he succeeded in the course of the afternoon in
alienating the affections of my only ward.
happening at a time later than another time
subsequently stayed to tea, and devoured every single muffin.
not capable of being changed
My own decision, however, is
unalterable. I decline to give my consent.
attention and management implying responsibility for safety
Well, it will not be very long before you are of age and free from the restraints of
an increase by natural growth or addition
I see no reason why our dear Cecily should not be even still more attractive at the age you mention than she is at present. There will be a large
accumulation of property.
the quality or habit of adhering to an appointed time
I am not punctual myself, I know, but I do like
punctuality in others, and waiting, even to be married, is quite out of the question.
abstaining from sexual relations
Then a passionate
celibacy is all that any of us can look forward to.
overthrow by argument, evidence, or proof
They savour of the heretical views of the Anabaptists, views that I have completely
refuted in four of my unpublished sermons.
Dr. Chasuble scolds Jack for deciding against being rechristened and baptized (he no longer finds it necessary since Lady Bracknell refuses to allow him and Gwendolen to marry). In finding this attitude heretically similar to the Anabaptists who were persecuted for believing that one must believe in order to be baptized (therefore, rejecting infant baptisms), Dr. Chasuble is supporting baptism regardless of belief or practicality (which shows the superficiality of his religious beliefs).
marked by refinement in taste and manners
She is the most
cultivated of ladies, and the very picture of respectability.
be or come between
Interposing.] Miss Prism, Lady Bracknell, has been for the last three years Miss Cardew’s esteemed governess and valued companion.
draw back, as with fear or pain
[Catches sight of Lady Bracknell, who has fixed her with a stony glare. Miss Prism grows pale and
quails. She looks anxiously round as if desirous to escape.]
sudden shock or dismay that causes confusion
consternation. The Canon starts back in horror. Algernon and Jack pretend to be anxious to shield Cecily and Gwendolen from hearing the details of a terrible public scandal.]
extravagant or affected feeling or emotion
It contained the manuscript of a three-volume novel of more than usually revolting
large in the amount that can be contained
I had also with me a somewhat old, but
capacious hand-bag in which I had intended to place the manuscript of a work of fiction that I had written during my few unoccupied hours.
double in magnitude, extent, or intensity
It has stopped now. [The noise is
Lady Bracknell, I hate to seem
inquisitive, but would you kindly inform me who I am?
incapable of being retracted
Your decision on the subject of my name is
irrevocable, I suppose?
bestow or expend profusely
Every luxury that money could buy, including christening, had been
lavished on you by your fond and doting parents.
conspicuously or grossly unconventional or unusual
eccentric, I admit. But only in later years. And that was the result of the Indian climate, and marriage, and indigestion, and other things of that kind.
contrary, Aunt Augusta, I’ve now realised for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest.
Jack is contradicting the statement: "My nephew, you seem to be displaying signs of triviality" but he is doing so in an affectionate way that is also evident in their addressing each other "nephew" and "aunt" instead of "Mr. Worthing" and "Lady Bracknell" (which is also due to the revelation that Jack is the long-lost son of Lady Bracknell's sister). In contradicting the statement, Jack is emphasizing his new identity that will allow him to pursue his heartfelt devotion to Gwendolen.