Lord Illingworth Ah! she is not modern, and to be modern is the only thing worth being nowadays. You want to be modern, dont you, Gerald? You want to know life as it really is. Not to be put off with any old-fashioned theories about life. Well, what you have to do at present is simply to fit yourself for the best society. A man who can dominate a London dinner-table can dominate the world. The future belongs to the dandy. It is the exquisites who are going to rule.
Gerald I should like to wear nice things awfully, but I have always been told that a man should not think too much about his clothes.
Lord Illingworth People nowadays are so absolutely superficial that they dont understand the philosophy of the superficial. By the way, Gerald, you should learn how to tie your tie better. Sentiment is all very well for the buttonhole. But the essential thing for a necktie is style. A well-tied tie is the first serious step in life.°
Gerald (laughing) I might be able to learn how to tie a tie, Lord Illingworth, but I should never be able to talk as you do. I dont know how to talk.
Lord Illingworth Oh! talk to every woman as if you loved her, and to every man as if he bored you, and at the end of your first season you will have the reputation of possessing the most perfect social tact.
Gerald But it is very difficult to get into society, isnt it?
Lord Illingworth To get into the best society, nowadays, one has either to feed people, amuse people, or shock peoplethat is all.°
Gerald I suppose society is wonderfully delightful!
Lord Illingworth To be in it is merely a bore. But to be out of it simply a tragedy. Society is a necessary thing. No man has any real success in this world unless he has got women to back him, and women rule society. If you have not got women on your side you are quite over. You might just as well be a barrister, or a stockbroker, or a journalist at once.
Gerald It is very difficult to understand women, is it not?
Lord Illingworth You should never try to understand them. Women are pictures.° Men are problems. If you want to know what a woman really meanswhich, by the way, is always a dangerous thing to dolook at her, dont listen to her.
Gerald But women are awfully clever, arent they?
Lord Illingworth One should always tell them so. But, to the philosopher, my dear Gerald, women represent the triumph of matter over mindjust as men represent the triumph of mind over morals.
Gerald How then can women have so much power as you say they have?
Lord Illingworth The history of women is the history of the worst form of tyranny the world has ever known. The tyranny of the weak over the strong. It is the only tyranny that lasts.
Gerald But havent women got a refining influence?
Lord Illingworth Nothing refines but the intellect.
Gerald Still, there are many different kinds of women, arent there?
Lord Illingworth Only two kinds in society: the plain and the coloured.°
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