The Importance of Being Earnest.
A Trivial Comedy for Serious People by the Author of Lady Windermere's Fan.London: Leonard Smithers and Co, 1899 Stock Code: 145568
First edition, number 131 of 1,000 copies. The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde's last play, opened to great acclaim on Valentine's Day 1895 but was withdrawn after Wilde's failed libel suit against Lord Queensbury led to his arrest.
The subsequent "utter social destruction of Wilde" (ODNB) meant that the play was not published in book form until February 1899, after Wilde's release from prison. Richard Ellmann comments that Smithers's handsome editions of Earnest and An Ideal Husband "brought Wilde a little money". The play was issued in this standard edition, a large paper edition of 100 copies, and 12 copies on Japanese vellum, most of which the author presented to his few loyal friends.
Square octavo. Original pale purple cloth, title to spine in gilt, gilt floral motifs from designs by Charles Shannon to spine and covers, untrimmed.
Trace of prior bookseller's cataloguing pasted to front pastedown. Neat contemporary ownership inscription of H. H. Aris. Spine cocked and browned, slight bumps and nicks to spine ends, touch of wear to tips, a couple of faint marks to otherwise fresh cloth, light foxing to contents; a very good copy.
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