The Importance of Being Earnest


Often considered the wittiest play in the English language, The Importance of Being Earnest has thrilled audiences for nearly one hundred and fifty years with undiminished sparkle, wit, and bite. Many of Wilde’s famous epigrams are uttered by the memorable characters in this comedy of mistaken identities. But the perfectly phrased social satire packs a velvet-gloved punch. Can we break with the hypocrisies of respectable society to reveal our authentic selves and find happiness? This elegant new edition includes a timeline of Wilde’s life, and Ulrich Baer’s accessible afterword that identifies the play’s major themes and its relevance for twenty-first century audiences, along with commentary by George Bernard Shaw and Mary McCarthy.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was an Irish poet, novelist, critic and playwright who rose to global fame in the 1880s as a larger-than-life public persona through his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray and his enormously popular social comedies, An Ideal Husband, A Woman of No Importance, and Lady Windermere’s Fan. After two sensational trials he was sentenced to two years of hard labor in prison for having relations with men, which ruined his reputation and career. Today Wilde is celebrated as a courageous crusader for free expression, queer love, and anyone oppressed by hypocritical conventions.

Ulrich Baer holds a BA from Harvard and a PhD from Yale. A widely published author, he is University Professor at New York University, and has been awarded Guggenheim, Getty, and Alexander von Humboldt fellowships. He is the author of books on poetry, photography, and cultural politics, and the editor and translator of Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Dark Interval, Letters on Life, and Letters to a Young Poet. He hosts leading writers and artists in talks about big ideas on the Think About It podcast. In the Warbler Press Contemplations series, he has published: Nietzsche, Rilke, Dickinson, Wilde, and Shakespeare on Love.

“Oscar Wilde: A rebel in the name of beauty.”
—Thomas Mann

“Truth is rarely pure and never simple.”
—from the play

Price: $8.95 (paperback); $2.99 (ebook)
Pages: 107
Book dimensions: 5.25 x .3 x 8 inches
Published: August 1, 2020
978-1-7355151-2-0 (paperback)
978-1-7355151-3-7 (ebook)