Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband
Oscar Wilde wrote An Ideal Husband in 1895, during the decade known as the “Yellow” or “Naughty Nineties”, a movement with its roots in dandyism and decadence, the twilight years of England’s Victorian era, reflecting decay and scandal . Some biographers suggest that Wilde might have been inspired by a number of events which occurred in his private life, to write this play , as it is the case for the dandified character of Lord Goring, which one could say is the double of Wilde himself, and who will maybe incarnate the figure of the ideal husband.As the stage notes from Act III indicate, Lord Goring is in “immediate relation” to modern life, making and mastering it. An Ideal Husband emphasizes Lord Goring’s modernity by opposing him to his father, Lord Caversham, who is still living the old fashion way, in a number of dialogues, which appear to be comic, when we notice the radical opposition of thinking of the two characters. The meeting of the two produces a clash between the old fashioned and the modern thinking. This is seen in the first part of the third act, in which there is a conversation between Lord Gorging and his father, who came to speak about the importance of getting married, and the fact he can not go one living only for pleasure.
LORD CAVERSHAM: […] Want to have a serious conversation with you, sir.LORD GORING: My dear father! At this hour?LORD CAVERSHAM: Well, sir, it is only ten o’clock. What is your objection to the hour? I think the hour is an admirable hour!LORD GORING: Well, the fact is, father, this is not my day for talking seriously. I am very sorry, but it is not my day.LORD CAVERSHAM: What do you mean, sir?LORD GORING: During the season, fath…
…the walls of his room at Oxford in the 1870s, Wilde hung pictures of Cardinal Manning of England and Pope Pius IX, two ardent defenders of Catholic orthodoxy. Wilde regarded both men as heroes. More impressive is a letter Wilde wrote as a young man to his friend W.W. Ward in which his Catholicism seems near to full blossom. He wrote about what he called the “beauty and necessity” of the
Incarnation. That central belief of Christianity helped humanity “grasp at the skirts of the Infinite,” Wilde declared. “Since [the birth of] Christ the dead world has woken up from sleep. Since him we have lived.” There is therefore strong evidence of Christianmoralism in Wilde’s texts. However, my reading of “An ideal husband” gives me a much stronger picture of Lord Goring as a “Dandy” although, throughout the text, there is this dualism between “dandyism and moralism”.