Lady Bracknell may be one of Wilde’s, and indeed modern literature’s, most preposterous creations. Her ignorant and often absurd comments are a satire of Victorian aristocracy, making her the most quotable of the play’s characters. From Edith Evans’ notorious delivery to Judi Dench’s terrifying dominance, we all have our favourite Lady Bracknell lines. Here are our top 10 Lady Bracknell quotes from The Importance of Being Earnest; most of them come from the interview scene with Jack but there are many beautifully crafted one-liners dotted throughout the play.
1. ‘A handbag?’
2. ‘To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.’
3. ‘To be born, or at any rate bred, in a handbag, whether it has 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.’
4. ‘Indeed, no woman should ever be quite accurate about her age. It looks so calculating.’
5. ‘You can hardly imagine that I and Lord Bracknell would dream of allowing our only daughter – a girl brought up with the utmost care – to marry into a cloakroom, and form an alliance with a parcel?’
6. ‘The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately, in England at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.’
7. ‘When you do become engaged to someone, I, or your father, should his health permit him, will inform you of the fact. An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be. It is hardly a matter that she could be allowed to arrange for herself.’
8. ‘35 is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained 35 for years.’
9. ‘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 advisable.’
10. ‘Never speak disrespectfully of Society, Algernon. Only people who can’t get into it do that.’
What’s your favourite Lady Bracknell quote?