Book reviews

Posts tagged ‘Oscar Wilde’

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

I was delighted when I spun The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde for The Classics Club’s most recent spin. I expected fun and frivolity and that’s what I got.

Straight up, I’m going to expose my ignorance by admitting that I was surprised to learn that this story was written as a play. I had expected it to be a short story.

I expect that most people are familiar with the story of Jack Worthing, an orphan who was adopted as a baby by a wealthy man after being found in a handbag at a train station. For those of you who aren’t, picture Jack as a young Colin Firth.

Jack is mad about a pretty young thing, Gwendolen, who feels as if she could only love a man named Ernest, so of course Jack calls himself Ernest to win her heart. When Gwendolen’s cousin Algernon wants to know why ‘Ernest’ also goes by the name of Jack, Jack admits that he is called Jack by his young ward, Cecily, in the country. Cecily, on the other hand, believes that Jack has a good-for-nothing brother called Ernest, who lives in London.

Gwendolen accepted Jack’s proposal, believing that his name was Ernest, but Gwendolen’s aunt, Lady Bracknell, refused to give her permission because Jack has no known relations.

Filled with curiosity about Jack/Ernest, Algernon went to Jack’s country estate and met Jack’s ward, Cecily, with whom he fell in love. She believed him to be her Uncle Jack’s brother Ernest and fell in love with him, much to Jack’s irritation. To further complicate things, Gwendolen and Lady Bracknell also turn up at Jack’s estate, where Jack and Algernon are both planning to be christened later that day as ‘Ernest.’

The story is untangled to everyone’s satisfaction by the end of the story, which finishes with three very happy couples. Read this for yourself to find out who the third happy couple are!

The Importance of Being Earnest was book nine for my Classics Club challenge to read 50 classics before my challenge end date of 26 August 2023.

The Model Millionaire by Oscar Wilde


Happy Saint Patrick’s Day. I’ve been re-reading Oscar Wilde’s works recently, and decided that a review of his short story, The Model Millionaire, is perfect for today. The Model Millionaire has exactly the type of fairy-tale type plot which most people hope will happen to them, and goodness knows, anything can happen today.

The main character is the delightful and charming Hughie Erskine. He is handsome and kind, not very ambitious or clever, but is liked by everyone. Hughie is in love with Laura Merton, but because they are both poor, they cannot marry. Even Laura’s father, Colonel Merton quite likes Hughie, but as he recognises the couple cannot live on love alone, he tells Hughie to come back when he has ten thousand pounds of his own.

One fine day Hughie drops in to visit an artist friend and finds him painting a portrait of a beggar. Hughie feels sorry for the beggar and when the artist momentarily leaves the studio, gives the beggar a sovereign, even though it means that Hughie himself will have to walk everywhere for the next few weeks because he won’t be able to afford a hansom cab.

The ending is pure fairy-tale. The model for the portrait turned out to be one of the richest men in Europe, who had a whim to be painted in the guise of a beggar (I don’t feel as if I am giving anything away here, because the story’s title is so obvious). Hughie is mortified once he finds out.

Every sentence in this story could only have been written by Oscar Wilde. His distinctive charm is evident from the very first sentence, “Unless one is wealthy there is no use in being a charming fellow.” Hughie has a short-lived crack at working on the Stock Exchange, “but what was a butterfly to do among bulls and bears?” Or, the millionaire is so rich that; “He has a house in every capital, dines off gold plate, and can prevent Russia going to war when he chooses.”

If you haven’t read The Model Millionaire, I’ve attached a link below. The story is very short, but it is as delightful and as amusing as anything else Oscar Wilde has written. It will also leave you feeling as if good things happen to people who are blessed with true kindness.


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