An Ideal Husband

Oscar Wilde
Quotes

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Who on earth writes to him on pink paper? How silly to write on pink paper! It looks like the beginning of a middle-class romance. Romance should never begin with sentiment. It should begin with science and end with a settlement.

Mrs. Cheveley exclaims these observations to herself in Act III upon discovering Lady Chiltern's letter among Lord Goring's papers. Thematically, this passage is significant in that it condenses Mrs. Cheveley's philosophy of romance in the cleverly rhyming epigram, the "settlement" substituting for romance's "sentiment". Love is a science and aims toward material gain, subordinate to the gospels of power and wealth—a philosophy that privileges the domination of others over all else—Mrs. Cheveley learned from Baron Arnheim.

The passage is also significant as a commentary on the play itself. As discussed in the Context, An Ideal Husband adopts many of the conventions of the Victorian middle-class melodrama—the stolen letter being a foremost example. One might thus consider Mrs. Cheveley's jab at Lady Chiltern as referring to the play reliance on these conventions as well, Wilde mocking his own use of this stock device. Lady Chiltern's note is certainly "pink"—as in embarrassing—in both its melodramatic content ("I want you. I trust you. I am coming to you.") and generic nature even if the spectator sympathizes with her plight.