First Act

Scene: The Octagon room at Sir Robert Chiltern’s house in Grosvenor Square.

The room is brilliantly lighted and full of guests [including the Viconte de Nanjac, the Duchess of Maryborough, and Mabel Chiltern]. At the top of the staircase stands Lady Chiltern, a woman of grave Greek beauty, about twenty- seven years of age. She receives the guests as they come up. [Mason stands in the background]. Over the well of the staircase hangs a great chandelier with wax lights, which illumine a large eighteenth- century French tapestry—representing the Triumph of Love, from a design by Boucher—that is stretched on the staircase well. On the right is the entrance to the music-room. The sound of a string quartet is faintly heard. The entrance on the left leads to other reception-rooms. Mrs Marchmont and Lady Basildon, two very pretty women, are seated together on a Louis Seize sofa. They are types of exquisite fragility. Their affectation of manner has a delicate charm. Watteau would have loved to paint them

Mrs Marchmont Going on° to the Hartlocks’ tonight, Olivia?

Lady Basildon I suppose so. Are you?

Mrs Marchmont Yes. Horribly tedious parties they give, don’t they?

Lady Basildon Horribly tedious! Never know why I go. Never know why I go anywhere.

Mrs Marchmont I come here to be educated.

Lady Basildon Ah! I hate being educated!

Mrs Marchmont So do I. It puts one almost on a level with the commercial classes, doesn’t it? But dear Gertrude Chiltern is always telling me that I should have some serious purpose in life. So I come here to try to find one.

Lady Basildon (looking round through her lorgnette) I don’t see anybody here tonight whom one could possibly call a serious purpose. The man who took me in to dinner talked to me about his wife the whole time.

Mrs Marchmont How very trivial° of him!

Lady Basildon Terribly trivial! What did your man talk about?

Mrs Marchmont About myself.

Lady Basildon (languidly) And were you interested?

Mrs Marchmont (shaking her head) Not in the smallest degree.

Lady Basildon What martyrs we are, dear Margaret!

Mrs Marchmont (rising) And how well it becomes us, Olivia!

They rise and go towards the music-room. The Vicomte De Nanjac, a young attaché known for his neckties° and his Anglomania, approaches with a low bow, and enters into conversation

Mason (announcing guests from the top of the staircase) Mr and Lady Jane Barford. Lord Caversham.

Enter Lord Caversham, an old gentleman of seventy, wearing the riband and star of the Garter.° A fine Whig type. Rather like a portrait by Lawrence

Lord Caversham Good evening, Lady Chiltern! Has my good-for-nothing young son been here?

Lady Chiltern (smiling) I don’t think Lord Goring has arrived yet.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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